Thursday, 13 May 2010

Welcome, Caroline Spelman

Caroline Spelman, the MP for Meriden, is the new secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. As it so happens, I was with some Defra civil servants yesterday and they were intrigued about what the outcome might be.

Nick Herbert was the shadow spokesperson, but I was not greatly impressed by some of his comments: indeed, I even thought of writing to him and offering some advice! There was speculation that a Lib Dem might get the post and it has been suggested that one of the junior posts in the department will go to the Lib Dems.

Caroline Spelman has a background with big sugar. She worked for the British Sugar Corporation and held the sugar commodities post at NFU. She also worked for the International Federation of Beet Growers in Paris. I have had some dealings with big sugar myself and I know they are serious players.

Her appointment will no doubt be welcomed by the barley barons in East Anglia and the NFU. Farmers felt that Defra until Labour had become the Department for the Elimination of Farming and Rural Activity. I do think that there are some issues on which they have legitimate grievances, for example the failures of the Rural Payments Agency and policy paralysis on bovine TB.

Against a background of public expenditure restraint which will hit a department like Defra hard, the new ministerial term faces a challenging time. I wish the new team well. The excellent civil servants at Nobel House whom I had the privilege of working with last year are also in my thoughts. I am confident that they will respond to the challenge well, as the British civil service always does.


Ciraric said...

I was lucky enough to grab an autograph from Spellman at a dinner she spoke at.

A month later she was fired as Party Chairman, and I nearly through it out. Maybe I'll fish it back out...

Sidcup Cynic said...

If Caroline 'Nannygate' Spelman was big in sugar, then why is she not obese like the rest of us that are addicted to the evil white stuff?

Sugarbeet farmers should do well. How do I grow it and what grants would I get?

Wyn Grant said...

Politicians come back from the dead quite often. She also had quite serious expenses problems, but all is forgiven. I don't think she consumes much sugar herself. I don't think you can grow sugar beet in your back garden in Sidcup. First, you have to have massive 'tackle' as it is a really deep and heavy root crop. Then because it is very heavy you need a processing plant nearby. The subsidies are smaller than they were, but sugar beet farmers negotiated a new deal recently. Once I was invited to be 'inspirational' speaker at a big sugar confernce in Budapest. It was a very odd experience.