21 September 1999
Aid package — what the papers say
By Donald MacPhail
NEWS of the governments £500 million farming aid package has been overshadowed by the continuation of the beef-on-the-bone ban in a number of todays papers.
Agriculture minister Nick Brown revealed yesterday that he favoured lifting the two-year ban on cuts such as T-bone steaks and ribs.
But medical officers in Northern Ireland and newly-devolved Scotland and Wales refused to agree with recommendations from their English counterpart.
It was therefore decided to retain the beef-on-the-bone ban until it could be lifted simultaneously across the UK .
The Times makes the story its front-page lead, describing it as “the most graphic example of the capacity of devolution to backfire on the Government”.
The “disarray in Government” overshadowed the aid package, adds the paper.
A bullish Daily Mail claims: “The immediate return of beef to English dinner tables is being denied only because of Tony Blairs devolution policy.”
And The Guardian talks of the lifting of the ban being “thwarted” by the devolved bodies.
The Financial Times takes a more positive view, highlighting the ministers pledge to lift the beef-on-the-bone ban.
In its lead story, The Daily Telegraph chooses to focus primarily on the aid package, saying farmers welcome the aid, which includes £150m of new money.
This contrasts with coverage in The Times which says the package “fails to pacify farmers”.
The Independent speculates that “the Governments renewed nervousness about the rural community” will have helped Mr Brown secure the cash for the aid package.
In its editorial The Guardian says the government cannot decide if rural culture is “inherently more worthy” than other sectors where “the chill winds of market forces are allowed to blow unchecked”.
It claims the aid package is an “ad-hoc” arrangement to “buy time” while “painful restructuring of the rural economy proceeds apace”.
The most sympathetic coverage of the aid package comes from The Express. Its front-page headline describes the cash as “Too little, too late”.
Coverage includes a two-page spread outlining the plight of many in farming, and The Express editorial says further support is required.
It calls for Mr Brown to “dig a lot deeper into his pocket” and “take a long hard look at the bureaucracy and regulations surrounding the industry”.