15 May 1998
Jack back on the case of Cunninghams missing millions
By Boyd Champness
THE ongoing argument between Michael Jack, shadow agriculture minister, and Dr Jack Cunningham, agriculture minister, over the 1997 MAFF budget has raised its ugly head again.
Several weeks ago, Mr Jack in the House of Commons accused the Government of underspending the 1997 MAFF budget by £139 million. He also said the Government planned to underspend this years budget by a further £46m.
Accusing the Government of cheating struggling farmers by not spending the money allocated, Mr Jack said his argument was backed up by figures in MAFFs own annual report.
But Dr Cunningham refuted the claims saying the underspent money referred to the Intervention Boards budget and that he was not at liberty to reshuffle the money into other areas. He accused Mr Jack of displaying “an astonishing ignorance of the basic principles of Government accounting.”
“Indeed, this is all the more astonishing in view of your own experience as both an Agriculture and Treasury Minister under the previous administration,” Dr Cunningham added.
Not to be outdone, Mr Jack circulated a press release today (Friday) saying: “You can always tell when youve hit a Ministers sensitive spot when they start attacking you with insults and claiming you do not understand whats going on.”
He said the bottom line was Treasury expected MAFF to spend £3,756m last year and it only ended up spending £3,617m. And this year MAFF only planned to spend £3,365m which was £46m under budget.
“No doubt the chief secretary to the Treasury, seeing the figures, said thanks Jack and pocketed the difference,” Mr Jack said.
Mr Jack said the money could have been used to secure additional agrimonetary compensation from the European Commission.