20 January 2000
Government considers new ministry
by Isabel Davies
A SENIOR Cabinet minister has confirmed that the government is still considering setting up a new ministry for the countryside.
But cabinet co-ordinator Mo Mowlam did not say whether the Ministry of Agriculture would be abolished if a new ministry was introduced.
The door is still open for a Department of Rural Affairs, Ms Molam told MPs at the House of Commons on Thursday (20 January 2000).
Answering questions from a Commons committee, Ms Molam said the idea was not, not under consideration. The door is still open, it is not closed.
Some organisations believe a Department of Rural Affairs affectionately referred to as DORA should replace the Ministry of Agriculture.
Ms Mowlam was giving evidence as part of the environment select committees inquiry into the forthcoming Rural White Paper.
The paper, due to be released later this year, is widely expected to set out the governments radical vision for the future of rural Britain.
Invited to appear in her capacity as chairman of the ministerial group on rural affairs, Ms Molam said it was not the committees role to come up with policy.
The committee has no formal role of policy input into the Rural White Paper.
Ms Mowlam said she believed her role was to co-ordinate government policy and drive government departments to work closer together.
Her involvement in the Rural White Paper should be remembered as a minister who helped rural communities to live as they want wanted.
At the same time, Ms Mowlam said she wanted to make sure that it was not off-limits for other people who wanted to come into the countryside.
Also giving evidence to the committee were members of the Performance and Innovation Unit which produced the recent Rural Economies report.
Although the report, published last month, is not a statement of government policy it is expected to provide the framework for the White Paper.
Greg Wilkinson, team leader for the project, said there would be opportunities for farmers who focused on segments of the market like the demand for organics.
Mr Wilkinson said he believed strong demand for organic food was likely to be a long term trend rather than a fad which lasted only a couple of years.