Nick Brown More money for farmers?

28 July 1998

Nick Brown — More money for farmers?

By FWi staff

FARM leaders are to push for financial aid from new Agriculture Minister Nick Brown, amid speculation that Chancellor Gordon Brown could loosen the Governments purse-strings.

Farm leaders want to get down to business as soon as possible. NFU officials have already pledged to pursue with renewed vigour their claim for the agri-monetary compensation denied them outgoing agriculture minister Jack Cunningham.

“Much of farmings difficulty can be placed at the door of the strong Pound,” said NFU leader Ben Gill. “This is an issue which the whole of the Government – not just the new minister – must address as a matter of urgency.”

Sterlings strength has sucked in imports of cheap food and made UK farm exports uncompetitive. The NFU is seeking an estimated £960m in available compensation from the European Union.

But the NFU could face an uphill battle. About 75% of any money granted by Brussels must be met from UK Government coffers and agriculture has already had its budget cut for the next three years in the recent spending review.

NFU officials are also aware that Nick Brown was made Agriculture Minister for his negotiation skills, rather than any sympathy towards farmers. His urban constituency in the north-east of is largely bereft of any links with agriculture.

Nevertheless, many are hoping Mr Browns close connections with Chancellor Gordon Brown could result in a change of heart from the Government.

Nick Brown backed Gordon Browns 1994 bid for the Labour Party leadership, and the Chancellor may now be willing to look favourably on any request made by his old political ally.

But he will first have to overcome opposition from Stephen Byers, the new Chief Secretary of the Treasury, who has the task of making sure all departments abide by the new rules.

Outgoing agriculture minister Jack Cunningham will also be keeping a close eye on any unnecessarily close ties between the two Browns in the cabinet.

Dr Cunninghams new role as the Governments enforcer gives him wide-ranging powers to ensure that all departmental briefs are followed to the letter.

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