4 October 1999
Row over plans to abolish MAFF

PLANS to abolish the Ministry of Agriculture in favour of a new countryside department have provoked a row in Whitehall, reports The Times.

It says that Nick Brown, Agriculture Minister, is fighting to keep control of farmers interests and the £3 billion subsidies from the common agricultural policy (CAP).

He is said to believe that farming should be the crucial element of a countryside department and that there should be no justification for a separate ministry without it.

Some senior ministers are in favour of a more radical approach.

This would see the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) hived off to the department of trade and industry, or the treasury.

The Cabinet Offices performance and innovation unit has been reviewing the ministry, and backs a new department to co-ordinate cross-government rural issues.

Its draft report argues that agriculture should be treated in the same way as any other business.

It recommends, for example, that business rates should apply to agricultural land.

The report in The Times says the Prime Minister is unhappy about the image of MAFF, which he sees as a monolithic department representing producers instead of consumers.