17 August 2001

Inquiry bodies are under fire

THE governments commission into the future of food and farming is under fire following claims that it involves too many people from single-issue pressure groups.

The government has named seven out of the nine people who will work with chairman Sir Don Curry, a farmer and former chairman of the Meat and Livestock Commission. The list includes representatives from the RSPB, National Trust, National Consumer Council, Unilever and Sainsburys but only two other farmers.

Reg Haydon, chairman of the Tenant Farmers Association, said: "Given the small number of individuals appointed to the Commission I am amazed at the proportion coming from single issue pressure groups. It does not appear that there was much, advanced thought used in deciding the make up of the Commission."

Michael Hart, chairman of the Small and Family Farms Alliance, said the commission looked biased towards retail and conservation and wouldnt address the real issues facing producers. "There are no average British family farmers on this team."

But Ian Gardiner, deputy director general of the NFU, said: "Inevitably this commission has a broad sweep. The question is whether they can gel and make it work." &#42

The National Consumer Council said it was happy with the group. But chairman Deirdre Hutton voiced reservations about the appointment of Sir Don Curry as committee chairman because he is a farmer. "The commission is both timely and welcome but we would have preferred its chairman to be independent from the food and farming industries."

Sir Don acknowledged that there were "advantages and disadvantages" to his appointment. But he added: "It has also been said that although some people would prefer an independent chairman, at least I do not have to spend three months trying to understand the issues involved."

The list of members is Sir Don Curry (chairman); Sainburys chief executive Sir Peter Davis, Ian Ferguson of Unilever, Deirdre Hutton from the National Consumer Council, Helen Browning, farmer and chairman of the Soil Association, Fiona Reynolds of the National Trust, Graham Wynne of the RSPB, and Lincolnshire cereal and vegetable grower Mark Tinsley.