7 October 1999
‘Gwyther misled us over calves’

WELSH farmers have accused their controversial agriculture minister of “leading them up the garden path” over plans for a calf-processing scheme.

But the Farmers Union of Wales (FUW), which opposed the appointment of vegetarian Christine Gwyther as Welsh Assembly agriculture minister, stops short of calling for her resignation.

This comes after Ms Gwyther met European Union farm commissioner Franz Fischler yesterday to discuss a Wales-only dairy calf processing aid scheme for unwanted bull calves.

Mr Fischler said a request for such a scheme could only come from Westminster, and that has been ruled out by the UK government.

“A lot of farmers will feel disappointed and feel were led up garden path by Ms Gwyther,” Alun Owen of the FUW told Radio 4s Farming Today programme.

“We are disappointed. The Welsh assembly voted for the scheme, the date slipped, and now we see following discussion in Europe it is highly unlikely it will materialise.

“She was determined that we should go it alone. There were suspicions that it wouldnt be easy to implement unilaterally, but all along we were told that it was possible.

“We do feel that Ms Gwyther has let the industry down.”

But Mr Owen said the union would “reserve judgement” on whether to call for Ms Gwythers resignation until the outcome of the situation was clarified.

And he had some praise for Ms Gwythers work: “We do appreciate now that in the context of the crisis she has attempted to do her utmost to help the industry.

“What we must now judge is whether her best is good enough and whether she has misled the industry.”

While agreeing the affair had shown the limitations of the Welsh Assemblys powers, Mr Owen said the assembly had brought attention to the crisis and tried to find solutions.