Three little words

This letter was sent by our Chairman to Derby, Leicester, Nottingham and Burton on Trent papers.

The government is introducing the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill and many Europhiles have acquired a new-found zeal for the principle of parliamentary scrutiny. They say the Bill gives “Henry VIII” powers to the government to strike out legislation which has come to us from the EU.

This is the height of hypocrisy. The European Communities Act 1972 was voted through by MPs who had not had a chance to see the treaty to which they were agreeing. Nigel Spearing (Labour), the last MP to speak against it, complained that Parliament was “signing a blank cheque”.

The treaty of accession to the EEC had been signed under royal prerogative without any parliamentary scrutiny at all. The 1972 Bill made the terms of the treaty enforcible in British law. It said that all European law – past, present and to come – would immediately become binding in its entirety “without further enactment” by our Parliament. This is the settlement of subjection which advocates of EU membership have maintained and supported ever since.

It was an Enabling Act, transferring responsibility for our laws out of democratic control – more gradual but not dissimilar in kind to the one which Hitler used to nullify the German parliament. Twelve years before, the Lord Chancellor Lord Kilmuir had written to Edward Heath to say that Parliament would have to become accustomed to being a rubber stamp, if we joined the EEC. That was kept an official secret for thirty years.

Governments of all parties have since promiscuously overused the device of Statutory Instruments to bypass effective parliamentary scrutiny and debate. So there is every reason to reform parliamentary procedures, now we are getting our country back. However, the least hint of filibustering by Europhiles under the cloak of a pretended concern for the dignity and powers of Parliament should be seen for the fraud that it is and disregarded. The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill must go through in a timely way, or we will never see a return to any proper, democratic accountability at all. Parliament can always kick out a government here – something we never could do with the European Commission.

Yours faithfully,

Edward Spalton

The Miller’s Tale – part 4. The tale concludes

(Some of the links are quite long. So you may wish to read straight through and then go back to any which interest you)

IMAGINE a country where there are empty shelves in the shops, rampant inflation and shortages of basic supplies, where the electricity is frequently interrupted and rationed, where you cannot get a job in most industries or public services unless you have a membership card of an officially recognised trade union. This is not some banana republic or Eastern European “People’s Democracy” but Britain in the early Seventies around the time we joined the EEC.  When Sir Emrys Jones, formerly a top civil servant in the Ministry of Agriculture and newly appointed Principal of the Royal Agricultural College Cirencester, visited the Society of Feed Technologists  shortly after we  joined, he had more pressing questions for us than we had for him. Where could he get a reliable supply of toilet paper? “Our Victorian drains block solid after a week of the Daily Mail” he said.

Following the financial crisis of 1967 when Prime Minister Harold Wilson devalued the pound (including “the pound in our pocket” which, he assured us, was unaffected) , he and the Foreign Secretary George Brown went to see General De Gaulle about joining the EEC as a possible means of improving Britain’s exports. De Gaulle was not sympathetic but he was ousted after the riots of 1968 and the new President, M. Pompidou, was not only more sympathetic but badly needed somebody to pay for the Common Agricultural Policy which was hugely advantageous to French peasant farmers. So, with the new Conservative government of Edward Heath, it was a matter of “cometh the hour, cometh the mug”, as the Americans say. Heath was a fanatical believer in the European project.  The taxpayer and housewife would pay dearly for his ambition.

The Labour party membership in the meantime had hardened its opinion against the EEC  for reasons amply stated by Nigel Spearing MP in this video.

Nigel was the last MP to speak against the EEC treaty in the crucial debate.  Some 69 Labour MPs defied their party whip to vote in favour of the EEC, which gave the Heath government its narrow majority to join. That was 1972 . As this is all so long ago and memory tends to compress events, I have made the following timeline of some of the most  significant..

1970    June                Conservative Edward Heath wins general election with a majority of thirty

1971    January          First British soldier is killed in Northern Ireland.

November      National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) starts overtime ban

1972    January          Miners begin national strike. Fourteen people killed by British soldiers during “Bloody Sunday” in Londonderry

February        Thousands of miners and others led by Arthur Scargill picket Saltley Coke depot in Birmingham and force its closure in spite of hundreds of police.

Miners’ strike ends with total NUM victory.

March             Westminster government takes direct rule over Northern Ireland

July                 Secret talks between government and IRA

October          European Communities Act 1972 receives Royal Assent.

1973    January          U.K. joins the European Economic Community

October          Egypt invades Israeli-occupied Sinai. Beginning of oil crisis

November      NUM starts another overtime ban

1974    January          Government imposes “three day week” to ration electricity

February        Another strike by NUM. Heath calls general election – “Who governs Britain?” The electors decide not him.

March             Labour forms government without a majority. Ends three day week.

October          Prime Minister Harold Wilson calls general election to win a majority. Wins a majority of three.  SNP wins 30% of vote in Scotland.

November      IRA murders 21 people in Birmingham pub bombings

1975    February        Margaret Thatcher defeats Edward Heath to become Conservative leader.

June                Referendum on continued EEC membership. Pro Europeans win by 67 to 33 per cent

August            Inflation rate hits almost 27%

November      Queen and Prime Minister officially open North Sea oil pipeline.

1976    March             Harold Wilson resigns as Prime Minister

April               Replaced by Jim Callaghan

August            Strike begins at Grunwick photo processing works in London

September      The pound sinks in value against the dollar. Chancellor Dennis Healey turns back at Heathrow from journey to IMF meeting. Prime Minister warns Labour conference “The cosy world is gone”. Healey says he will ask the IMF for the biggest loan it has ever granted.

November      In London the IMF delegation demands huge cuts in public expenditure as condition of loan. Healey argues for smaller cuts. Majority of cabinet oppose all cuts.

Nov –Dec        Callaghan  & Healey persuade cabinet and IMF to accept smaller cuts.

Loan granted.

1977    March             Government negotiates lib-Lab pact to ensure government majority.

June                First mass picket at Grunwick. Fighting between police and pickets.

July                 Postal workers boycott Grunwick mail.

National Association for Freedom (now the Freedom Associatin) secretly collects and distributes Grunwick mail.

1978    January          Inflation below 10% for first time since 1973

July                 End of Lib-Lab pact.  Grunwick strikers admit defeat.

August            Conservative launch “Labour isn’t working” poster campaign

Opinion polls move in favour of Labour

September      PM Callaghan, having toyed with the idea, decides against Autumn election. His policy is to keep wage rises to 5%

November      Unions defy government guidelines for wage increases and strike for  higher pay. “Winter of Discontent” begins

1979    January          PM Callaghan goes to Caribbean for international conference and holiday. On his return, the Sun summarises his response as “Crisis? What crisis?”

Jan-Feb          Peak of strike wave all over country. Dead unburied, rubbish uncollected.

Supermarket shelf stocks run low as lorry drivers stop deliveries.

March               Strikes peter out. Government proposals for devolution defeated in referendum. SNP withdraws support for government which loses a vote of no confidence. General election called for May

May                Conservatives under Mrs. Thatcher win with majority of 43 votes. Liberal vote collapses. Labour slightly increases its vote.

 

There were also several movements which started in this decade and gained influence subsequently. The legalisation of homosexuality in 1967 cleared the way for the aggressive Gay Liberation movement which now dominates government policy from primary school upwards and diversified into transgender ideology. The feminist movement gathered strength  around the same time, eventually leading to the killing of millions of unborn children, as a matter of reproductive health and lifestyle choice. Prompted by increasing immigration, the National Front rose to some prominence but was largely eclipsed by the end of the decade.

This Private Eye cover gives some idea of the country’s financial state and the problems faced by Chancellor Dennis Healey.

The shortages were personally inconvenient rather than catastrophic although the cumulative  effects on an already weak economy were considerable. There were some nasty incidents when supplies ran out but people were mostly good humoured. Sugar ran short. My late sister Sue did not have a sweet tooth and used very little sugar. Yet even she stocked up with several bags “to be on the safe side”. So did millions of others and the shops were suddenly bare. Then a story got round that salt was in short supply and the same thing happened. There are millions of tons of salt under Cheshire but what ran out was retail packaging – and so the shop shortage became real.

Our firm was buying salt in ten ton loads for animal feed without the slightest problem at the time, so I brought a half hundredweight bag home which lasted us for years. We did have our own business problem with packaging though. We had just launched a product range with different coloured bags (blue, yellow and white) but suddenly could only get white. So we had to alter the design and get coloured stripes printed on the bags to match the leaflets and presentation.

This has all faded in the public memory now but it was real enough at the time, as these recollections show

“THE GREAT GRAIN ROBBERY”

No sooner had we got used to the higher prices and bureaucracy of the Common Agricultural Policy than all commodity prices went crazy. For several years as a goodwill gesture  the Americans had offered the Soviet Union a facility to buy wheat at a subsidised price. The Russians had not taken very much until the Summer of 1972 when, through American agents, they very quietly bought a massive quantity. The agents did not alert the authorities and quietly pocketed the subsidy, said to be around 300 million dollars.

The winter of 1972/73 was unusually cold in Russia and there was little snow cover, so all the autumn-sown wheat crop was killed and deliveries became urgent in 1973. The  world price of wheat doubled and more. My recollection is that the price went from around £45 per ton before joining the EEC to around £60 on joining and then zoomed up to a peak of around £200 . Most other commodities were similarly affected in the panic. It was a hectic time to obtain supplies and keep pace with prices. There was a prices and incomes policy too, which meant you were not supposed to put up your prices until your actual material costs increased. But there was no ban on reselling cheaply bought raw materials,  taking the profit, buying in new material at the higher market price and putting up your product price. So it was fairly ineffective.

CLIMATE CHANGE – GLOBAL COOLING!

We were unaware at the time that there was strong scientific opinion that the output of soot and smoke from factory chimneys was blocking sunlight and causing global cooling. Some of the scientists who were keenest to freeze us then are amongst the keenest to fry us now with global warming!

The CIA produced a report saying  “Scientists are confident that, unless man is able to effectively modify the climate then Canada, the European part of the Soviet Union and major areas of northern China will again be covered with 100 to 200 feet of ice and snow…”

“…early in the 1970s a series of adverse climatic anomalies occurred. The world snow and ice cover increased by at least 10 to 15 per  cent. … Nothing like this has happened in the last hundred years” .

The CIA also reported  that climate science was developing a “successful climatic prediction model” and that “scientific consensus” endorsed it. Sound familiar, doesn’t it? But this was all built around global cooling!

THE EUROPEAN FOOD SITUATION

It is a quirk of history that the first few years of our EEC membership made less difference to food prices because the inflationary effects of the CAP were masked by the huge hike in world prices. Generally speaking,  those in favour of independence damned the inflationary effect whilst pro-Europeans thought that our membership of the EEC gave us greater food security. Everybody in parliament would remember food rationing which only ended in 1954.

In the debate on the agricultural white paper of 1975, Margaret Thatcher said

We are the most vulnerable country with our need for food imports. Therefore it is vital that we secure access to  continuous and good sources of food supply. In some years supplies from the continent will be more expensive; in other years they will be cheaper. But the great benefit is access and the greater stability of supplies”  (Hansard 1024)

In those days  she thought that Europe was the place to be. It was a panicky time and many felt that  coming together with the European countries made us more secure. It was psychologically rather  like the American pioneers pulling their covered wagons into a circle.

Because of our dependency on imported food, it is still as true today as when Kipling wrote of the Big Steamers bringing us the produce of empire. He made the case that the mighty Royal Navy of those days needed reinforcement   to protect that trade.

“For the bread that you eat and the biscuits you nibble,

The sweets that you suck and the joints that you carve,

They are brought to you daily by All Us Big Steamers

And if anyone hinders our coming you’ll starve!”

The same goes for cross-channel container ships and ro-ro  ferries today.

OUR BUSINESS SITUATION THEN

For the first years of our EEC membership, our firm was comparatively rather fortunately placed. We were somewhat insulated from the worst effects of inflation because our farmer customers were. Their prices, fixed by the EEC, rose automatically each year.  As a food supplier, we were exempt from the restrictions of the three day week.

We could use electricity whenever it was available. It meant working some odd hours, as it was often switched off in the daytime. So all of us who were fit worked on production and packing at night when it was necessary. When there were strikes, there were arrangements with the unions that food supplies would not be interrupted or “blacked”. So our lorries were not stopped and things were much easier for us than for many businesses.  Nonetheless it was extremely strenuous, keeping up with the rapidly changing situation  and ensuring continuity of supplies.

THE 1975 REFERENDUM

I was by no means overjoyed  to hear of this, much as I disliked the EEC. I thought it would mean unpicking all the work we had done to comply with the European system and we had plenty to do as it was and were pretty tired doing it. I think  my father somewhat typified the deep Tory sentiments of our family. “I don’t like this Europe business” he said “There’s something about it doesn’t smell right”. He paused for a few seconds and added “But that man Wedgewood Benn’s against it, so there must be some good in it” !

Talking to people about it in later years, I found this was a very common attitude. With Enoch Powell and Tony Benn both campaigning to leave, moderate people from either side of the political divide felt rather than thought that the “No” campaign was “extremist”. And, of course, the “Yes” campaign was massively better funded and professionally slick. We did not know the extent to which the press and the BBC were micro-managed.

So I guess we all voted “No” with a sense of duty rather than burning enthusiasm and expectation.  We did not know it but the “Yes” vote would sign a sort of slow  death warrant for our firm’s most profitable product – our baby calf food, Cal-O-Lac. (see previous episode).

“A FUNDAMENTAL RENEGOTIATION”

Like David Cameron in more recent years, Harold Wilson promised a thorough-going renegotiation of our relationship with the EEC. Of course, he got nothing of the sort – but rather more than was offered to David Cameron. Wilson was able to help our New Zealand friends with increased quotas of butter and lamb and he got certain other concessions which helped to reduce the inflationary effects of the high European prices for food. It was an unintentional consequence of this which so badly affected us – but only because of our failure to recognise and adapt to the situation.

The EEC operated a sort of book-keeping currency, called “the unit of account”. It was somewhat like the euro but without banknotes. To complicate matters there were different exchange rates for agricultural products, called “green currencies”. Harold Wilson wanted to reduce the high cost of EEC food imports and agreed to an adjustment of these. The effect was that continental animal feed manufacturers could ship and sell similar products to our baby calf food Cal-O-Lac at around the cost of our raw materials. This put us at a great disadvantage. We had a well respected product and an efficient plant but, however hard we tried, we would not be able to match the continental competition on price.. As I was responsible for sales, I got blamed for the decline in business. My father had retired and my  uncles, nearing retirement age themselves,  just thought I should be working harder. Of course, it was no use expecting a European  treaty to be altered on our account.

The obvious thing would have been to get our Dutch friends to make our product, close down our own plant and become a warehouse and distributor. A few people in the mill would have lost their jobs and we could have met the competition. But older people did not think like that in those days. We were British and made a British product- a good one too!

So the trade continued to dwindle and I continued to get the blame. I formulated other products, such as flavourings for animal feed which were not affected by the EEC policy and could see a market for liquid flavours which would be more effective if sprayed on the outside of the feed  pellets rather than mixed into them as a powder.  But my uncles were not interested.  So, after five dispiriting, depressing years, I decided to leave and started my own business in 1981.  With the encouragement and help of my wife Ellen, it was pleasingly successful and kept us through the next turbulent years.

But I was no longer a miller, grinding wheat, barley and oats. I was now a specialist manufacturer of feed flavours.. So I think this is the point at which my Miller’s Tale draws to its close.

As a post script, readers might like to enjoy this song by the Strawbs. Dating (appropriately) from 1973, it reminded everyone that we were now “Part of the Union”!

A letter from our Chairman: the white elephant regional fire control centre

Sir, The Origin of the White Elephant Regional Fire Control Centres

Chris Williamson MP seems to have rather a selective memory about this massive waste of money in all regions of England, not just at Castle Donington. It was actually part of John Prescott’s plan to balkanise England into Euro-regions to match the devolution in Scotland and Wales.

The whole of Britain would be divided into bite-sized regions of around 5 million people which would be easier for the EU to digest. The intention was that we should gradually cease to feel British or English and become happy East Midlanders and Europeans. As Nick Clegg was pleased to tell everyone, England did not exist on EU maps.

Scotland and Wales are EU regions. Many EU grants were administered at regional level and could be manipulated through the EU Council of the Regions to remake the country to the EU model. As we always paid more into the EU than we got out, officials and politicians were essentially to be bribed with laundered British money to remodel our country to an alien pattern.

John Prescott had set up unelected regional assemblies and the fire control centres were an attempt to give them something to administer. The project was opposed by the Fire Brigades Union, as the regions were grotesquely oversized for operators to have adequate local knowledge to direct fire engines swiftly. Nonetheless, the money was spent.

The next step was to prove that there was a popular demand for the project which was sold as “bringing government closer to the people”. The fraud was detected by the people of the North East of England. Far from looking enviously to the doings in Edinburgh, they decisively rejected the idea of an elected regional assembly in a referendum, as “A White Elephant”.

In other parts of the country, Church of England bishops were persuaded to chair campaigns called “Constitutional Conventions” to pretend that there was a popular demand for the scheme. They were aided by the political activist Canon Kenyon Wright from Scotland. With vigorous resistance from alert local campaigners, as well as the example set by the electors of the North East, these officially sponsored groups simply faded away to deserved oblivion.

All that is left is the debt and continuing cost and a lesson about allowing insidious foreign forms of government into our country. Perhaps David Davis should demand a rebate from the EU?

Yours faithfully

Edward Spalton

(As a background note:- a number of these centres have been built across the country and continue to be rented but have never been used – ES)

 

 

A letter from our Chairman – EU rules caused Grenfell fire

This letter was sent to the Derby Telegraph by our Chairman, Edward Spalton on 10th July 2017 in response to yet more misleading propaganda from the ardent europhile Mr C.N. Westerman

Sir,

Mr.C.N. Westerman attributes the tragic fire in the Grenfell tower to a peculiarly British and Conservative lack of regulation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Following a fire in a tower block in Knowsley in 1989, the British Building Research Establishment was asked to devise a means of preventing a recurrence.

They decided that this should be a “whole system test”, covering all the materials on the outside of the building to see how they inter-acted when used together. Following another similar fire in Scotland, the House of Commons recommended in 2000 (during the Labour government) that this “whole system” test, British Standard BS 8414, should be adopted.

But it was overruled by the EU with its own inadequate test – a European standard EN 13501,which became mandatory in 2002. This was again under a Labour government but it did not matter what party was in power, as EU law always trumps British law. That is the basis of the whole institution. Parliament is powerless against it, as long as we remain in the EU.

The other factor, driving the use of inflammable insulation material, was the EU’s obsession with better insulation to to combat global warming. All that mattered was the “thermal efficiency” – and none was more efficient than the polyisocyanurate used in Celotex, the plastic insulation chosen in 2014 for Grenfell. If the Grenfell installation had been tested under BS 8414, it would not have been used.

Whilst we are in the EU, we cannot enforce that standard.

Similar fires have occurred in Germany and this is reported in the EUReferendum.com blog. The author is not just another Eurosceptic but Dr. Richard North, a highly qualified former Environmental Health Officer with a relevant diploma in fire precautions. He has published many detailed articles on this topic but Mr Westerman and others might find this particular one an enlightening beginning.

Yours faithfully

 

Edward Spalton

 

Photo by Ben Sutherland

Negotiating Independence – a letter from our Chairman

The letter below, written by our Chairman, Edward Spalton, was recently published in the Derby Telegraph.

Sir,

Like D.G. Betts (30 June), I am keen to be out of the EU and have been since 1972 when I began to discover the ulterior motives and bad faith by the Europeans and by our own government, surrounding our accession to membership.

Negotiations were nearly complete when the EEC (as it then was) suddenly introduced the Common Fisheries Policy, demanding that our waters should become a “common resource” for all member countries to share. Prime Minister Edward heath knew that there was no legal provision in the Rome Treaty for such a policy but went along with it nonetheless. He also misinformed Parliament that British fishermen’s interests would be protected. The result was ecological catastrophe for our seas and fish stocks, economic catastrophe for our fishermen and a massive financial loss to our country’s balance of payments..

This was one reason why Tony Blair wrote in his 1983 election manifesto “We”ll negotiate a withdrawal from the EEC which has drained our natural resources and destroyed jobs”. What a pity he never kept his word!

It is a complex business to right the wrongs of forty four years, so it will require negotiation which take time. Under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, a two year period is allowed. During that time we are still full participating members but we do not sit on both sides of the table during the withdrawal negotiations. We can hardly be buyer and seller at the same time! That is reasonable enough.

Paragraph 4 of Article 50 states “….the member of the European Council or of the Council (of Ministers) representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the Council in the decision concerning it…” That is why our representatives are excluded those meetings – but only from those meetings.

For everything else, we continue full members until (Paragraph 2) “The treaties shall cease to apply from the date of the entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification, unless the European Council in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period”.

Almost uniquely this is one EU document which is both short and clear – but the negotiations to get the right deal will be very complex indeed.

Yours faithfully,

 

Edward Spalton

 

The Miller’s Tale – Episode 3

(1)  A BLAST FROM THE PAST –

I mentioned that my father had devised a milk replacer food for baby calves. It was government policy during the war and for a long time afterwards that as much milk as possible should go fresh to the consumer. This preserved the maximum nutrition and vitamin content.  Synthetic vitamin supplements were not available. All raw materials and foodstuffs were in short supply and generally rationed. So a product which allowed the farmer to sell more of his milk for human consumption was officially favoured. When raw materials were available, it could be sold without ration coupons at a cost which was a fraction of the price the farmer would get for his milk. In April 1944,  our firm registered the trade mark CAL-O-LAC for this product. It was my mother’s idea.   So our  small firm went on to produce a significant proportion of this niche  product nationally ..

The artist’s impression of the Ashbourne Road Mill appeared in the 1953 Coronation edition of the Derbyshire Advertiser and you can see a logo of a calf drinking out of a bucket but the artist omitted the word “Cal-O-Lac” from beneath it. . That is the trade mark as I remember it, after  father employed a London  advertising agent to improve the image.

So I was very surprised when my son Charles recently found this advertisement for Cal-O-Lac on the internet (a snip at £150!) . I think my mother may have designed it too. She was very artistic. It must be from the early post-war era when things were opening up a little but austerity was still prevalent. I can remember being taken to the first post-war agricultural show in 1947 but don’t recall this style of advert.

(2) JANUARY 1973  – “GOING INTO EUROPE ”

We were well-prepared for the changeover to the new policy. Although the European Communities Act 1972 did not receive Royal Assent until October 1972, MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries & Food) had prepared us well, so we entered the strange new world on January 1st 1973 where prices of key ingredients were fixed politically and our profitability would depend on collecting the EEC subsidy for making wheat and milk powder unfit for human consumption by incorporating them into animal feedingstuffs.

This was an extremely prosperous time for farming. It went on unfettered for twelve years. Prices were fixed at levels to keep small French peasant farmers happy and our much larger, more efficient farms could scarcely avoid doing very well indeed. The EEC guaranteed to buy everything they could produce and this created the grain, beef, butter and milk powder mountains – more than we could “denature”(the technical term) in animal feed. So it was dumped at even lower prices on the world market, putting farmers in the Commonwealth and Third World out of business.

As our farmer customers – with a guaranteed market for everything they could produce – were doing well, so did we. Not a few people asked why I was grumbling about it. “Because it’s wrong” was my answer. The housewife and the taxpayer were paying far more to make food dear than the taxpayer had previously paid to keep a secure supply of  home-grown food.

(3)  THE NEW OFFICIALS

The new system needed careful supervision to make sure that people were not cheating – claiming the “denaturing” subsidy and then selling the wheat or milk powder back as human food at full price.  So a new breed of official was required. One sensible thing which MAFF did was to invite a number of people from the trade to become civil servants and supervise the inspectors.. They had done the same  when wartime controls were introduced and it gave us some confidence that officialdom would understand its task.

As ours was one of the first mills to be fully equipped, we had an arranged visitation by twelve of the new inspectors who were being trained. They came from all sorts of previous jobs within the civil service and this was the first time many had seen the feed milling process.  Eventually one was assigned as our regular inspector, a man whose previous experience was entirely clerical or administrative.

He was very awkward and ill-mannered. He managed to upset everybody from the mill foreman to the girls in the office. So eventually I phoned up the supervisor, a man from the trade who often wore rather flamboyant bow ties and matching pocket handkerchiefs. “ I say, can you call your dog off?” I asked “This chap’s upsetting everybody”.

“Leave it to me, dear boy” he said and we got a replacement inspector, a man who had worked in the real world as a pest control officer. He had a couple of grand Jack Russell Terriers in the back of his car. I knew instantly that we would hit it off.

He was efficient, meticulous and rigorous in going about his business. After about three months, he said “I am going to show you something and, if you say you’ve seen it, I will deny it completely”.  He showed the reports of the previous man who had convinced himself that we were crooks, cheating the system – but he couldn’t put his finger on it and that had driven him crackers. The report was an Official Secret which we were not entitled to see. If acted upon, it could have ruined our business. Our subsidy could have been held up for months, destroying our cash flow,  and we would not have known why. “I know this isn’t right” he said “I am going to write another report now. You won’t see that” and we never had any problems after that.  This was the sort of conduct people expected of MAFF. As a department it enjoyed the deserved confidence of the farming community and industry.

The Old Order Changes

Probably the most individually influential of its civil servants was Sir Emrys Jones, who was chief adviser to the Minister from 1967 to 1973. I can’t remember a Minister of Agriculture having a “special adviser” – a party political appointment – in those days. Sir Emrys enjoyed the confidence of five of them regardless of party – Christopher Soames, John Hare, Fred Peart, Jim Prior and Cledwyn Hughes.  Sir Emrys was very much a muddy boots and hands-on civil servant, who spent as little time in Whitehall as possible. He came from a hill farming family in Wales, as did quite a number of senior MAFF civil servants in those days. We sometimes called them “The Taffia”. They were formidable.

I only got to know him after he resigned in 1973 in despair at the introduction  of the European Common Agricultural Policy which, he said, would cause farmers to grow “the wrong crops in the wrong places at the wrong times”.  He came to talk to a group of us feed technologists just after he had started as Principal of the Royal Agricultural College Cirencester. I asked him how he liked his new job. “Man” he said “If it wasn’t for the bloody students and the bloody governors, the job would be bloody perfect!” His enthusiasm was infectious.

A  similar character  from Wales was appointed to enforce  the new regulations to control the use of medicines in animal feeds. As with our introduction to the CAP, the guidance and information were first class. He placed a great emphasis on the co-operation and help which they wanted to  extend to the trade. His authoritative summing up suggested a non-conformist Chapel  background. “ But if you stray from the paths of righteousness, be sure we will find you out – and our vengeance will be terrible!” It was said with a twinkle of humour – like the glint of sunshine on steel. Their successors were more of the inflexible, humourless, tickbox variety, like the first inspector of the new breed we had chanced to meet.

COMING SHORTLY – MR WILSON’S “FUNDAMENTAL RENEGOTIATION”