17 August 2001
Haskins targets Devon and Yorkshire

By Alistair Driver

LORD HASKINS, the Labour peer asked by Tony Blair to rejuvenate rural areas hit by foot-and-mouth disease, is to visit Devon and North Yorkshire.

The Northern Foods chairman has pledged to help ease short-term cashflow problems crippling farmers after he embarked on a six-week review.

He will spend two days a week on rural recovery work before reporting back to the Prime Minister and the government at the end of September.

“The immediate issue of concern over the next few weeks is cashflow. I am going to find out how serious the problem is and what can be done about it.”

This could involve helping people in worst-hit areas access government and European Union funds currently denied to them because of red tape.

Lord Haskins met representatives from farming, local government and the tourist industry while in Cumbria last Mon (13 August).

He is due to return to the area on Monday and Tuesday (20-21 August) where he is set to meet farmers and other rural businesspeople face-to-face.

“Small farms in Cumbria are already diverse and I suspect the trend will continue. But the enterprise has got to come from the people there.”

Although his remit is limited to England, Lord Haskins has upset producers in Wales where there are many small family farms.

The Farmers Union of Wales said it hoped a visit to Wales would stop the Labour peer from engaging in what it described as “megaphone diplomacy”.