From the Eastern Daily Press, Tuesday, February 27, 2001.
Silence as agriculture is crippled.
A few days ago you published a letter from Sir Paul Hawkins in which he rightly bemoaned the fact that in this "modern" age no one is ever seen to stand up for British agriculture.
Sir Paul is right to raise the matter. Even in a county as agricultural as Norfolk, and even after the series of absolute catastrophes that have befallen this industry, not one of Norfolk's MPs - either Labour or Conservative - has spoken out, offered help or ideas for relief from the catalogue of disasters that has befallen this industry. It remains and always will be one of Britain's most vital and strategically important industries.
The catalogue of disasters that has now brought British farming to its knees is immense. Food scares, BSE, rhizomania, the cruelty of the high value of the pound, swine fever, ever more crippling bureaucracy, the absolute dominance of the supermarkets, British legislation that penalises British producers and helps promote imported produce, globalisation, and an utter lack of understanding of rural issues ,by both the Labour and Conservative parties have all delivered the catastrophe we now face in the countryside.
Now the industry has to cope with the greatest horror of all - an outbreak of foot and mouth disease that will for many prove the final straw. And still those elected to represent Norfolk and all other rural areas in Britain remain silent.
Since it is quite clear this terrible disease arrived in Britain in imported meat products from South Africa or Botswana, why is no one demanding a halt to the import of meat products into Britain and Europe? Halting the source of the infection is surely the very first action that should have been put in place.
As importantly, the Government must immediately outline a full compensation package, not just to those whose herds must now be destroyed, but for those whose markets and cash-flows are now being destroyed.
The truth, and the reason Sir Paul Hawkins even had to ask his question, is that Norfolk's politicians of either party have been gagged and become entirely the products of the central controls and spin of Conservative Central Office and Labour's Millbank Tower.
We no longer have politicians of either main party that represent us and speak out for us "independently". Today they, both Conservative and Labour, are wholly controlled from London, know little about the countryside or the agricultural industry and are too scared to say anything without "permission" - even on an issue as important as this outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.
Letter from Brian Fox [EDP 8th April 2001]
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