14 August 2001
New broom Haskins sweeps in

By FWi staff

THE controversial Labour peer chosen by Tony Blair to reform agriculture after foot-and-mouth has started his new job.

Rural recovery co-ordinator Lord Haskins is meeting a task force in Cumbria as he begins a six-week review of how the area can recover from the virus.

The Financial Times says the peer will question banks lending to farms and tourism businesses in Cumbria on their plans to support the area.

But even before starting the job, the chairman of Northern Foods enraged many farmers with his outspoken criticism of the industry

He believes half the countrys farms will disappear within 20 years and that British farmers are mollycoddled by subsidy and less enterprising than the French.

The peer predicts a future where farmers will milk cows in the morning, “go to work on a BMW assembly line”, and then milk their cows in the evening.

In response, farmers leaders in Wales have invited Lord Haskins to spend a day on a farm to see at first hand the problems they face.

The Farmers Union of Wales hopes a visit will stop the peer, who it dubs the “farm Tsar”, from engaging in “megaphone diplomacy” and attacking farmers.

FUW president Bob Parry said Welsh farmers have always been prepared to diversify in a bid to boost their meagre earnings by embracing various projects.

“But to suggest that they ignore their animal welfare duties by rushing to do the milking in the morning, rushing to work on a production line, and then rushing home to do the milking again beggars belief.”

“By spending a day on a traditional Welsh family farm he would see what life on such a holding is really like and to witness the effect of his unhelpful remarks.”

The Daily Mail says Lord Haskins has already come under pressure to step down after attacks on views known to be held by Prince Charles.

The Daily Express says Lord Haskins dismissed as “rubbish” Prince Charless claims that the average farm income is just 100 a week.

In an editorial the Express says farmers need encouragement not put-downs. “A little more diplomacy would have gone a long way.”

Mail columnist Simon Heffer says Lord Haskins remarks “are only to be expected”, as his livelihood has depended on “exploiting farmers and driving down their prices”.

The Daily Telegraph says Downing Street has distanced itself from the controversial peer following his comments.

A spokesman for Downing Street said Lord Haskins was “independent”, suggesting that he did not speak for the government, says The Telegraph.

In an editorial The Independent says it is becoming “increasingly clear that Lord Haskins is running the countryside”.

His criticism of a reliance on subsidies has injected a much-needed element of economic realism into the debate, it claims.

“As Lord Haskins has hinted and as the most realistic members of the farming community must agree, we cannot go on as we are.”

  • Financial Times, 14 August, 2001, page 4
  • The Independent, 14 August, 2001, page 8, Review page 43
  • The Daily Telegraph, 14 August, 2001, page 10
  • Daily Express, 14 August, 2001, page 4
  • Daily Mail, 14 August, 2001, page 7, 13

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