17 May 2001
Tories slam Labour election pledges

By FWi staff

THE Conservatives have slammed Labours election pledges for the countryside, which include plans to set up a Department for Rural Affairs.

Tory agriculture spokesman Tim Yeo challenged Labours manifesto claim that it had provided 1.35 billion in short-term relief for farmers.

Mr Yeo said agriculture minister Nick Brown should provide a full and detailed breakdown of the figure. He added:

“Unless Labour can justify their manifesto claim, farmers will just assume that this is as fraudulent as the aid announcements they made in Government.

“Labour have let down farmers at every stage of this crisis, and it is plain that they do not care whether farming survives as an important British industry.”

Referring to Labours promise to set up a Department of Rural Affairs, Mr Yeo said farmers needed new policies, rather than a new ministry.

A Tory spokeswoman added: “It doesnt really matter what the plaque outside the building says, the Labour Party doesnt care about the countryside.”

Labours manifesto stops short of saying that the Ministry of Agriculture will be abolished. But it is difficult to see how the beleaguered ministry can survive.

A Labour adviser confirmed that MAFF will be replaced. He said: “It has been something Mr Brown has been wanting to do for some time.”

MAFF civil servants said they were upbeat about the proposed change.

But farmers face arguing their case within a department which will have responsibility for other areas of rural policy competing for the same resources.

The department would also oversee the governments rural tourism and environmental policies as well as agriculture.

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