9 May 1997

Broad welcome for Labours priorities

By Tony McDougal

LABOURS key commitments to improve damaged European relations and boost consumer confidence in food have been welcomed across the farming sector.

Sir David Naish, NFU president, said his main hope was that the UK would continue to work to achieve a level playing field within the EU. He said he was pleased Labour was also concentrating on food safety and consumer confidence, saying food security was vital to the success of the UKs farming industry.

The size of Labours majority surprised Sir David, but as a result, the Party now held far more rural seats than any time since the 1945 election and no longer represented only an urban electorate.

Speaking at the Notts County Show, Newark, he suggested the Party should use its 179-seat majority to enable the new farm minister to spend more time in Brussels and get to know other EU farm ministers over a glass of wine.

Ewen Cameron, Country Landowners Association president, said the organisation was happy to work with Labour, but set out a 10-point action plan to renew the countryside.

Mr Cameron said he wanted Labour to introduce a rural business unit tax option, cut red tape on rural business, ensure adequate water resources, reform the regime for compulsory purchase of land and ensure that local authorities were given enough funding to meet the higher costs of public services in rural areas.

George Dunn, Tenant Farmers Association chief executive, said he hoped Labour would address the plight of new entrants, continue to back county council smallholding estates and place tenants within CAP reform.

"With the redirection of CAP payments towards environmental and rural development, we are concerned that tenants are being excluded from receiving grants by landlords," he said.

Single issue lobby groups such as the Ramblers Association have demanded that Labour takes up its commitment to make a new law for freedom to roam over mountain, moorland and common land.

Paul Tyler, Lib Dem rural affairs spokesman, who is tipped for promotion in the Partys reshuffle, with Brecon and Radnor MP Richard Livsey his likely successor, has written to farm minister, Jack Cunningham, to remind him of Labours commitment to withdraw organophosphate licences.

Dr Cunningham, who carried out his doctorate at Durham University on OP compounds, said he knew how noxious OP compounds were, but stressed he would make no immediate decision. &#42