Beckett nets £500m to revive farming

By Andrew Grice
Friday 24 January 2014 04:05
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Margaret Beckett has won her battle to prise £500m from the Treasury to implement a blueprint for reviving the British farming industry.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary has persuaded Gordon Brown to announce a boost to her department's budget when he unveils his comprehensive spending review on Monday.

The Chancellor will promise that the £500m, to be injected over three years, will allow the Government to implement in full the report by Sir Donald Curry on the future of farming, which was commissioned after the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Tony Blair has cancelled a visit to the Midlands today to take part in last-minute negotiations between the Treasury and Whitehall departments. With the health, education, defence and agriculture budgets believed to have been agreed, the Home Office is thought to be the main department yet to strike a deal with the Treasury. David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, is expected to seek Mr Blair's support for his bid for a huge increase in funds for prisons, asylum and the police.

Home Office and Treasury sources predicted a settlement would be reached without a repeat of the row between Mr Blunkett and Mr Brown before the Budget in April.

With a £40bn rise in health spending already announced, Mrs Beckett's department had faced a tight squeeze. But a Whitehall source disclosed: "Margaret Beckett has played a shrewd game. She formed her bid on measures to regenerate the rural economy, playing into the Chancellor's agenda to boost productivity."

The Commission on Farming and Food recommended sweeping changes to rescue an "unsustainable" agricultural industry from economic and environmental collapse. It said farming was "serving nobody well" and suggested a switch in subsidies from production to support for the countryside.

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