28 March 2000
Bishops call on Blair for action

By FWi staff

THREE bishops, with other churchmen, have written to Tony Blair ahead of this weeks farming summit urging him to tackle the farming crisis.

On Thursday (30 March) the Prime Minister will meet farmers representatives from across the country to discuss the situation.

The Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Rev Michael Langrish, who organised the letter, said farmers representatives felt Mr Blair was “genuinely listening” to them.

But he added that recent statements from the Prime Minister suggested “simplistic solutions” and did not reflect the complexity of the situation.

Mr Blair was accused of lacking understanding when he urged farmers to diversify and embrace new technology, and claimed many rural dwellers enjoyed a better quality of life than urban counterparts.

The letter says: “We urge the government to deal, as a matter of urgency, not simply with palliative measure for the immediate crisis, but also with the underlying issue about the place of farms, farmers and the countryside in the lives of everyone, and not just those who live in rural areas.”

It has also been signed by Anglican Bishop Bill Ind of Truro, and Roman Catholic Bishop Christopher Budd, of Plymouth.

Other signatories include Lieut Col David Lambert-Gorwyn, south-west divisional commander of the Salvation Army; the Rev Stephen Dawes, representing the Methodist church in Cornwall; and Baptist minister the Rev Jonathan Edwards.

The Church has been vocal in its support for farmers during the current crisis.

Last month, the Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Rev John Oliver, led prayers with protesting pig farmers at Parliament Square to coincide with a visit from a delegation of the General Synod.

At the General Synod, bishops called for better labelling, less red tape and the introduction of an early retirement scheme.

And earlier this month former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Runcie – himself a former amateur pig breeder – wrote a newspaper article in support of British pig farmers.