Northern Foods Plc: Influence / Lobbying

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When it comes to wielding influence, one can only gawp in admiration at Lord Haskins dedication to forwarding his own and his company’s agenda. This man must just love meetings…

Labour Party Interests

[30] He has given the Labour Party donations of £5,000 a year since 1992 (with an extra £14,000 in 1997). In March 2001, he gave £10,000 to the Labour Party.

Government Interests

He has advised both UK and Irish Governments on agricultural, economic and environmental policy options, and in 1998 accepted two part-time positions with the British Government as Chairman of the Better Regulation Task Force which is an unpaid position requiring eight days a month work. He is also on the New Deal Task Force.

In October 2001, he announced his forthcoming departure from the Better Regulation Task Force. He presented his last annual report in his typical outspoken style with an attack on Britain's "inherently autocratic, inflexible and remote" regulatory culture[31].

As head of this Task Force, he has advocated the legalisation of cannabis, the BBC to take advertising, the Church of England to be disestablished and the country's main sporting bodies dumped[32]. He has also advocated 24 hour drinking[33]. He has called on the Government to rethink the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) that allows the interception of emails[34].

Lord Macdonald, the Cabinet Office minister, said the taskforce had played "a vital role in keeping government on its toes". It has published 22 reports, with 300 recommendations for changes, of which only eight have been rejected. However, critics say much of its success is based on Lord Haskins' closeness to Tony Blair and his long-standing influence as a leading business supporter of the New Labour project[35].

He is also a member of the Board of the Yorkshire and the Humber Regional Development Agency (‘Yorkshire Forward’).

In August 2001, Haskins was appointed by Tony Blair as unpaid Rural Recovery Co-ordinator supported by the Rural Task Force Secretariat in DEFRA and by staff in the Government Office of the North-West. His role: to help local authorities and agencies stimulate economic recovery in Cumbria, and other areas worst hit by foot-and-mouth. This report was published on 18th October 2001. See Corporate Crimes section.

Other Political Appointments

1991-92 the Irish Government’s Industrial Policy Review Group (Culliton Report); 1992–94 the Independent Commission on Social Justice; 1995–96 Waldegrave Committee on C.A.P. Reform 1996–97 the Hampel Committee on Corporate Governance; 1995–98 the UK Government’s Round Table on Sustainable Development, 1996–99 a member of the CBI President's Committee.

He is patron of the Whitehall and Industry Group (WIG). This is an independent, not-for-profit (!) organisation, founded in 1984 to promote better understanding between industry and government. WIG organises company attachments in government departments. Haskins was presumably instrumental in ensuring the Northern Foods placement in MAFF[36].

He was appointed to the Board of Directors of Lawes Agricultural Trust Company Limited in 1999. This is a charity and company limited by guarantee attached to the Rothampsted Research Station, part of the Institute of Arable Crop Research.

He is currently a Trustee of the Blairite think tank Demos, The Civil Liberties Trust and The Legal Assistance Trust. He is a council member of ‘Make Votes Count’ and the campaign patron of Mansfield College, Oxford. He is a Member of the Court of the University of Hull.

He is keenly pro-European and pro Britain’s swift acceptance of the Euro. He is on the Advisory Board of the 'Britain in Europe', and influential pro Europe think tank, making a donation to them of £5000 or more during 1999-2000[37].

Farming interests

Haskin’s farm in Yorkshire is managed by an independent farming company along with his eldest son, Paul and his wife, Gilda. The farm belongs to his wife’s family.

In an article in the Daily Express (16th August), he revealed that this farm receives some £60,000 a year in subsidies. The following day (17th August), the Daily Mail revealed that the Haskins farm was running a £500,000 overdraft. His son’s 250-acre dairy farm in Ireland is also supported by subsidies[38].

Other political projects

On 17 July 2001, the Foreign Policy Centre launched "The Future of European Rural Communities" - a 9 month project into the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy to be led by Lord Haskins[39]. It will take evidence from European experts across the political spectrum including former Irish Taioseach John Bruton and former British Environment Secretary John Gummer.

The Foreign Policy Centre was launched in 1998 by Tony Blair and Robin Cook and is funded by the likes of BP, Rio Tinto and Diageo[40]. It seems fairly evident that Haskin’s vision for CAP reform will favour trade liberalisation. It will favour cheap imports for food manufacturers and processors from outside the European Union, more corporate owned mega-farms, more power to the supermarkets over suppliers and the end of small farming as anything other than a part-time hobby for the wealthy.


In 1999 he received an honorary degree from Leeds Metropolitan University.

In 2000 he was awarded an honorary degree from Cranfield University at Silsoe in Bedfordshire for his work in the food industry. Ben Gill received an honorary degree at the same time. Sean Rickard, former chief economist of the NFU and another key pro-agribusiness and anti-small farms evangelist, is a professor at Cranfield School of Management.



[30] [31] ‘Taskforce chief attacks regulatory culture’ by Kevin Brown. The Financial Times 18/10/01. [32] Legalise cannabis, says Labour adviser By Matt Wells The Guardian July 4th 2000 [33] [34] See FT article footnote 24 [35] ibid. [36] [37] [38] ‘Haskins farm £500,000 in red’ by FWi staff 17 August 2001 [39] [40]