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Business Leaders' Forum

Food industry is still MPs' whipping boy

By Gary Scattergood , 04-Feb-2013
Last updated on 05-Feb-2013 at 11:39 GMT

Despite politicians promoted in last year's government reshuffle quickly grasping the key issues in food and drink, MPs are still using the sector as a "whipping boy" over public health issues, say its bosses.

Speaking at Food Manufacture's Business Leaders' Forum last month, director general of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) Melanie Leech, deputy presidents of the National Farmers Union (NFU) Meurig Raymond and executive director at the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink Justine Fosh said they were seeing signs of progress following David Cameron's September reshuffle.

While the NFU was "sorely disappointed" that Jim Paice lost his post at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), new environment secretary Owen Paterson had hit the ground running, said Raymond.

Genetic modification

"He has done well with the Groceries Code Adjudicator, which we have been campaigning for over the past 10 years and it has been great to hear him explain the need to embrace bio technology and GM [genetic modification]."

Leech said the challenge now for politicians was to develop policies that would help the industry.

She also claimed political support often disappeared when health issues were raised, leaving the sector as the "whipping boy".

Despite this, it had "been blessed" with junior ministers. Leech cited Paice and his successor David Heath, but questioned whether Paterson's "megaphone diplomacy", was always an effective approach.

Over at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Fosh told the event, sponsored by legal firm Stephenson Harwood, business improvement specialist Applied Acumen and recruitment expert Goldteam, that new skills minister Matthew Hancock was more concerned with outcomes than his predecessor John Hayes.

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