Headlines: June 18th, 2001

Indications from the first few days of the new Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are that the new department will try to do much more than patch together the environment portfolio with the duties of the old Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF).The new Secretary of State Margaret Beckett appears to be going for a much more radical approach, in which civil servants and those who worked with predecessor bodies can expect to see a good deal of change.

In the Department’s newly published aims the ‘environment’ is listed as the first priority, with thriving rural economies and communities next, followed by wildlife and countryside preservation, and lastly the concerns of a farming and food industry, with an emphasis on a sustainable future.

Major tasks the Department has set for itself are to integrate the environment into policies across Government and internationally, to continue to seek international agreements on climate change, to promote better use of natural resources, preserve wildlife and set the future direction of the rural economy largely according to the blueprint set out in the Rural White Paper.

Eradicating FMD, and fishing policies, come lower down the list of objectives.

There’s also a promise of a change in approach for the old MAFF, which had a reputation as one of the more traditional of departments.

There’s much talk of joint working with other departments and with outside groups, new flexibility and innovation, with focus on quality performance and delivery.