8 June 2001
Nick Brown to go in reshuffle?

By FWi staff

SPECULATION is growing that the Labour Government will announce a new Department of Rural Affairs within hours of securing a second term.

And rumour is rife that Agriculture Minister Nick Brown will be a casualty of the manifesto pledge to bring rural affairs under an over-arching department.

Tony Blair led his party to a landslide General Election victory on Thursday (07 June) and expected to announce his new cabinet later in the day.

Labour lost only a handful of seats, while the Tories failed to make any headway, and the LibDems added to their tally. Labour is expected to have a 167 seat majority.

A National Farmers Union spokeswoman acknowledged that the prospect of a new department and a new minister were uppermost in the unions thoughts.

“The priority for us now is to get the full details of the Department of Rural Affairs which was announced in the manifesto,” she said.

“We are also awaiting details of whether a new Secretary of State for this department will be appointed today.

“We intend to work hard with whoever gets the job to ensure that farmers best interests are served,” she added.

While Mr Brown has worked closely with farmers leaders, he has been criticised for his handling of the foot-and-mouth and swine-fever outbreaks and the French ban on British beef.

Mr Brown is a close ally of Chancellor Gordon Brown, a former rival to Tony Blair for the party leadership.

When Mr Brown boycotted French produce in 1999, significantly, his stance was not supported by Mr Blair.

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