15 May 1998

Attack on minister gets loud applause at FUWs meeting

By Robert Davies

A SCATHING attack on farm minister, Jack Cunningham, brought thunderous applause at the Farmers Union of Waless annual meeting.

Bob Parry, president, accused Dr Cunningham of being insensitive, and disinterested in the worst crisis in farming since the Second World War. He had, the meeting at Aberystwyth was told, thrown a few crumbs to an industry that was starving to death.

"My message to Dr Cunning-ham is to start acting like a minister of agriculture, and stop behaving like Gordon Browns lapdog, whose only task is to guard the purse strings of the Treasury," said Mr Parry.

"We are witnessing a tragedy of enormous proportions unfolding in the countryside. The government seems unwilling to recognise the importance that farming plays in rural Wales, where one in five jobs is dependent on the industry."

The prime ministers vision of a united Britain rang hollow one year on from the election. Blairs Britain was not a united nation. It was split down the middle, town versus country, with the countryside getting a tough deal, he said.

Farming incomes in Wales were in free-fall. It was a disgrace that almost £564m of EU agri-money compensation had been forfeited. The £416m still available belonged to UK farmers and must be claimed.

"I would like to pay tribute to farmers who have taken part in various peaceful protests. The industry is united in fighting a common cause and the public are squarely behind us. Why wont the government listen?

"Farmers may not have glamour. We may lack the Cool Britannia tag, but without us there would be no home-produced food on the nations plates. Mr Blair must be reminded of this basic fact, before it is too late for us all."

Bob Parry applauded the farmers who took part in peaceful protests.