9 May 1997

Large majority will make NFU lobbying harder

LABOURS huge majority in parliament will make the NFUs lobbying job more difficult, according to Richard Macdonald, NFU director general.

A government majority of 179 would make life tough for all lobby groups because Labour could govern without worrying too much about outside pressure.

And the expected change in emphasis, with more importance attached to consumers, partic-ularly on food issues meant the NFU would have to work harder to keep farmers interests at the centre of future debates.

But, he insisted, there was much to be optimistic about. "There is the opportunity for a fresh start. So on issues where we got bogged down with the previous government, we can start again. That includes much of the beef work and also green £ compensation, we were going nowhere with the last government on that," he said.

The NFU leaders were due to meet new farm minister, Jack Cunningham, for the first time yesterday (Thur).

Their priorities included green £ compensation, the beef ban, and the lack of common EU standards on specified bovine material, and the use of meat and bonemeal in animal feed.

Set-aside rates and animal transport rules were next on the list. Then, in the slightly longer term, talks on CAP reform.

Mr Macdonald expected a much more positive attitude towards Europe from a Labour government. And that was good news for talks on the beef ban. "There is no question that large parts of Europe were not motivated to move quickly in the past because they thought the Conservative government was not sympathetic, and even openly hostile, to Europe.

"I have detected for some months now there has been a sense of waiting in large parts of Europe for a new government." &#42