21 June 2002

German move anger

OPPOSITION parties have slammed the appointment of Mike German, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the Welsh Assembly, as minister for rural development and Europe.

The move came after police said charges would not be laid against Mr German after a lengthy investigation, which looked into alleged misuse of a corporate credit card during his previous employment with the Welsh Joint Education Committee.

He was immediately reinstated as deputy first minister of the Assemblys Labour Lib-Dem coalition and offered a modified rural affairs portfolio, in which the emphasis will be on rural regeneration rather than agricultural policy.

Tory leader Nick Bourne said the appointment was bad news for Welsh agriculture. Peter Rogers, the partys agricultural spokesman, went further describing it as destabilising, and a political stitch-up designed to satisfy the Liberal Democrats.

"He has no experience of the subject and he will be struggling to come to terms with it at a time when the industry urgently needs action," said Mr Rogers.

&#8226 David Lidington has replaced Peter Ainsworth as shadow DEFRA secretary. &#42