25 April 2001
Blair set to abolish MAFF

By FWi staff

TONY Blair has decided to abolish the Ministry of Agriculture and appoint a Senior Cabinet minister to head a rural affairs department, claims The Times.

The newspaper says that defence Secretary Geoff Hoon is favourite to head the new department, with a brief to fundamentally reform farming.

Mr Hoon is a trusted lieutenant of the Prime Minister and has co-ordinated meeting on the foot-and-mouth in Mr Blairs absence, reports The Times.

A casualty would be Agriculture Minister Nick Brown, whose failure to persuade farmers leaders to accept vaccination is said to have angered Mr Blair.

The negotiating strength of the farming lobby would be weakened with some aspects of farming shared among other departments, says the newspaper.

It predicts that responsibility for food production would transfer to the Department of Trade and Industry.

Competition policy and the relationship between farmers, processors and supermarkets would go to The Treasury, it suggests.

On Tuesday (24 April) the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) called for MAFF to be scrapped and replaced by a new rural ministry.

Meanwhile, the Daily Express accuses MAFF of being guilty of complacency and not really knowing what it was doing.

It says ministers have no idea how many sheep have been moved and where they have gone, casting doubts on claims that the disease is under control.

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