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Monday, 6 August, 2001, 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK
Profile: Lord Haskins
Slaughtered animals
Lord Haskins faces a mammoth task
The appointment of Lord Haskins to oversee a recovery programme for areas hit by foot-and-mouth is likely to come as little comfort for beleaguered farmers.

The Irish-born Labour peer has made no secret of his belief that the number of farms in the UK would be cut in half within 20 years arguing that "farms will get bigger and that's a good thing".

Lord Haskins
Lord Haskins: A farmer and campaigner
A critic of subsidies, Lords Haskins is no stranger to controversy, being a strong advocate of the euro and one of Labour's rich business friends.

As chairman of the highly successful Northern Foods he has been drawn into the row over genetically-modified produce, withdrawing it from his firm's ingredients amid public concern over the technology in 1999.

Born in Dublin, Christopher Haskins grew up in County Wicklow as part of a farming family.

After graduating from Trinity College, Dublin, he eventually found himself working at Ford in Dagenham.

Rapid rise

In 1962, after marrying the chairman's daughter, he joined Northern Foods and rose through the company's ranks.

He become chairman himself in 1986 and non-executive chairman in 1998, by which time the company had grown in stature to become, among other things, a prominent supplier to Marks and Spencer.

Lord Haskins owns an 800 acre farm in East Yorkshire that is managed by his eldest son and wife.

We should be a little bit less enthusiastic about rushing into introducing regulations ahead of other countries in Europe

Lord Haskins in red tape report
He has said that "at heart I am a farmer who is also a campaigner and I find myself enthralled by the farms of two of my sons, and stimulated by the challenge and immaturity of the process of government".

However, since Labour's 1997 landslide election victory, and after he was granted his peerage in 1998, there have been no shortage of jobs.

Whether leading the drive to cut down on business red tape, or in his new role, Lord Haskins' growing prominence shows that he is a man whom the prime minister trusts.

But then he has long had the ear of Labour leaders - from Mr Blair's immediate predecessors John Smith and Neil Kinnock and beyond.

Not that they have always been grateful.

Expulsion attempt

In the 1960s the party tried to expel him - he made some outspoken comments about the then leader Hugh Gaitskell - only to discover he was not a paid-up member.

More recently, as the Better Regulation Taskforce Chairman, Lord Haskins has embarrassed Labour government ministers with outspoken comments on issues ranging from food policy to law and order.

Not that farmers will take much comfort from his willingness to challenge fashionable beliefs - his willingness to challenge longstanding agricultural practices is just as clear.

See also:

12 Jul 01 | Business
Regulators seen as too bureaucratic
17 Jul 01 | UK Politics
End wasteful subsidies - Beckett
09 Jun 99 | The Company File
Northern Foods bows to GM pressure
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