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Duke of Westminster

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST:

Well as well as wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth there's been some practical action this past week, several newspapers have set up funds, Prince Charles announced he was donating half a million pounds to help stricken farmers, he was swiftly followed by the Duke of Westminster who's matching the donation with a half a million of his own and he's here right now, we're delighted to say. Gerald what was it about the farmer's plight, the countryside's plight that moved you to action?

DUKE OF WESTMINSTER:

I think it was a number of things, I lived through the 1967 crisis and we had very major welfare problems then and it's¿

DAVID FROST:

You suffered then did you?

DUKE OF WESTMINSTER:

We suffered, we lost all our herds and of course Cheshire, Derbyshire and around there were very much the epicentre of the foot and mouth crisis in '67 and there was no doubt that this crisis was getting out of control and because we are the practitioners of the agriculture industry, you know we live on the land, we own the land, we manage the land, we live on the land and we so we have a very close affinity, not only to the land but the people who work on it.

DAVID FROST:

At the moment your, your animals are healthy are they, at the moment, how¿

DUKE OF WESTMINSTER:

I'm touching wood every morning¿we have an outbreak now within 20 miles and part of the estate is now within an exclusion zone, the north part of the estate so it's drawing nearer. There is, for those of us who have to live amongst this, I mean we are in a state of siege, all movement has stopped, people don't go to other people's houses, gates are locked, we are in a state of siege and if you look at some of our upland farmers in particular there is an isolation there, which happens in any event, let alone without this cancellation of a life because their lives have suddenly had a curtain drawn down in front of them and they're living alone and they're living in isolation and it is only right and proper that we actually should respond to this. I mean we are a very small part of the overall population, we live and work on 80 per cent of the UK land mass but we are only what? Three per cent, but we're a very important three per cent and the very interesting thing is that this donation, my own donation and indeed the Prince of Wales' donation, it has kicked off a, an extraordinary series of events which the British public are responding to, a very interesting one in Yorkshire was a businessman who had made his money in something totally unrelated to the agricultural industry, lived in a beautiful house overlooking the Yorkshire Dales, heard about the Prince of Wales' donation, wrote out a cheque immediately for £5,000 and encouraged his business associates to do exactly the same thing. So I think we've, we've started something, we must keep it going.

DAVID FROST:

And did you and Prince Charles work it out together as it were, talk about it?

DUKE OF WESTMINSTER:

We talked about it because we, being again as I say practitioners in the whole of the farming industry and the land management industry, yes we did talk about it and we talked about it the night before in fact that he actually announced his donation. So we didn't talk about it just for this specific interest, we talk about it in the wider interests as well, not just now but before and indeed after.

DAVID FROST:

And is there anything more that could be done at the moment, or like the culling anything less I suppose, that could be done, you're talking about this three per cent of people in this country, the ones who are suffering in isolation as it were, is there anything more that could be done, do you think, that should be done?

DUKE OF WESTMINSTER:

Well I think farmers are an intensely proud breed of people, they don't like to admit that they've got troubles and I would ask the farmers themselves to use what is becoming available to them, so much of the hardship is caused within the countryside because farmers are too proud, they don't want to be seen to be in a degree of difficulty. What we can do is provide the, we can provide the facilities, we can provide the support but it must be used and it must be used not because of the farmer himself but because of his wife and because of his children and his wider family.

DAVID FROST:

And in fact in this particular situation they need, they need that help and so on, do you think we have under-estimated our farmers for years?

DUKE OF WESTMINSTER:

Yes we have, I mean the farmers have been the guardians of our countryside, I mean I have played my small part in it but it is the farming people who actually have been the guardians of our countryside and what I find hugely refreshing about this particular situation where so many people are now recognising, not only that our farming industry is a crucial part of our way of life, but also that they need support. I mean I know that St James' Palace switchboard has been jammed, my own switchboard has been jammed, we're receiving £25 here and there from people who say we want to support our farmers, now it's very important that big donations are made, like mine, like the Prince of Wales' and indeed the Royal Bank of Scotland who gave a million pounds, but also we don't want to stop people giving because the British people are incredibly generous when they perceive that there is a real need.

DAVID FROST:

And is, would you say at this moment that it is under control, Gerald, or would you say that we don't know, there's no end in sight?

DUKE OF WESTMINSTER:

I can't in all honesty and I'm not here to criticise government policy or whatever, but I cannot in all honesty look you in the eye and say that it is under control. Having been, as I say, through the '67 foot and mouth outbreak it is not under control and I know that you'll be hearing later from the Chief Vet and others but it is quite clear that it is out of control and it is not just a crisis, David, it is a national crisis, it is affecting us all and I think we really must look at it in that sense because it's not just isolated outbreaks like the '67 outbreak, it is all over the country, Scotland, Northern Ireland there's been one case, but it is a national crisis and we must face it in that, in those terms.

DAVID FROST:

Gerald thank you very much for being with us this morning.

DUKE OF WESTMINSTER:

Thank you very much.

DAVID FROST:

We appreciate that, thank you very much indeed to the Duke of Westminster.

END.

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