22 October 2001
Union denies backing Haskins

By Isabel Davies

FARM leaders have denied that they recommended that Lord Haskins should be given the job of devising the governments rural recovery plan.

Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett made the suggestion as she addressed the House of Commons last Thursday (18 October).

“I should also like to share with the House a piece of information of which I have just been reminded,” she told MPs.

“Lord Haskins was in fact recommended as the person to conduct the study by the NFU in Cumbria.”

A National Farmers Union spokeswoman insisted that the union had not recommended any one person for the role.

But she admitted that a list of around 10 names – including that of Lord Haskins – had been discussed on an unofficial basis.

However, the spokeswoman added: “We were never asked and never officially recommended anyone.”

The appointment of the Northern Foods chairman as “countryside tsar” in the summer prompted fury among the farming community.

The FARMERS WEEKLY letters page was filled with correspondence from producers angered by his suggestion that they take part-time jobs.

They also claimed it was wrong that their future had been placed in the hands of someone whose company stood to profit from cheap food.