22 March 2002

Seminar wont cover the cash issues – Curry

By FWreporters

DOWNING Street talks hosted by Tony Blair will not result in immediate funding for all recommendations in the policy commission report on the future of farming, Sir Donald Curry has warned

The Prime Minister has invited Sir Donald, who chaired the 10-man commission, to address the meeting at Downing Street on Tues, Mar 26 which will also be attended by DEFRA secretary Margaret Beckett.

The guest list also includes industry representatives and officials from other stakeholder organisations with an interest in the future of food and farming. The meeting is expected to last for several hours.

The seminar will take place almost two years to the day since the Downing Street farm summit where Tony Blair unveiled a Strategy for Agriculture and announced a £203m aid package.

Speaking to FARMERS WEEKLY Sir Donald said the big issues of funding would not be resolved until the spending review in July.

The report made over 100 recommendations which it estimated would cost the Treasury £500m over three years.

But Sir Donald added: "I am hoping this will be government giving formal endorsement to the report and an indication of support to a number of recommendations in it."

The reports most controversial proposal was that the government should increase the modulation rate across the UK to 10% in 2004.

But Sir Donald said he was encouraged with the support he had felt since the reports release in January and said he was quite pleased with the progress which had been made so far. "I didnt expect we would have made huge progress by now as everyone has to digest it," he pointed out.

A DEFRA spokesman confirmed the seminar would be a "working meeting" and not one at which the government gave its full response to the document.

But a document released by the department on Wednesday (Mar 20) stated that DEFRA was looking to carry forward the ideas put forward by the commission.

"Together, we will define a lasting strategy for competitive and sustainable farming and food industries to be launched in the autumn," it said. &#42

The document, Working for the Essentials of Life, also said in future the governments role in farming would be "reduced and different". &#42