5 July 2002

Tory leader says farming is low Labour priority

TORY party leader, Iain Duncan Smith, accused the government of regarding farming as a low priority, during his tour of the Royal Show on the opening day.

Mr Duncan Smith said he was completely disenchanted by the governments attitude towards the industry.

"I am deeply sceptical of this government. Farming is at the bottom of its priorities, only just behind defence, as far as I can make out," he told farmers weekly.

"Farming is in crisis. It is a genuine crisis and more and more people are leaving the land but the government has nothing to say about agriculture. Farmers are at the bottom of the pecking order."

Mr Duncan Smith said there were good things in the policy commissions report on the future of farming and food, but he was concerned that it would not get the necessary funding. "I do not anticipate too much," he said of the spending review, which is due to be completed in mid-July and will set departmental spending for the next three years.

The other main problem with the policy commission report was that so much was dependent on what happened with CAPreform.

"The government seems to talk a lot about CAP reform, but so far, we have seen little in terms of what they want or whether they have any chance of getting it.

"I know there is a huge battle going on in Europe about CAP reform at the moment, with countries like Germany, France and Austria refusing to see any change, so there are some very big arguments to be had and the government seems to have no route map through that at all."

Two government inquiries into the foot-and-mouth crisis are due to report mid-month, but Mr Duncan Smith said the government should still hold a public inquiry.

"The government is hiding at the moment and it needs to come out and publicly give us that inquiry," he said. &#42

Disenchanted…Iain Duncan Smith accused the government of regarding farming as a low priority.