Monday, November 9, 1998 Published at 13:48 GMT
Brown: Let me get on with my job
Nick Brown down on the farm
Agriculture Minister Nick Brown has said he was "moved and touched" by the support shown to him following his announcement at the weekend that he was gay.
Speaking during an official visit to farmers in Devon - his first since the news of his private life emerged - Mr Brown said everybody had been "very kind and supportive" since his announcement.
The cabinet minister was forced to publicly state he was homosexual after a former partner approached a Sunday newspaper to sell his story about their relationship.
"I am very moved and touched by their support and the kindness that has been shown to me," Mr Brown said during his farm visit.
The revelations on Sunday about 48-year-old Mr Brown's sexuality inevitably overshadowed the start of the cabinet minister's two-day visit to farms in the region.
Earlier he said he would not be adding anything to the "very full statement" he issued about his private life on Sunday.
"I want to get on with being farm minister," he said before tramping round Leonard Bartlett's Markhams Farm at Alphington.
Mr Brown said the farming industry faced "enormous difficulties" and he was working very hard to get the beef ban lifted - he hoped to make an announcement soon - and secure the long-term future of farming.
"I do not want to say anything more about my private life or get embroiled in long arguments about it," he said. "I do not want to say anything more about it at all."
Shortly before the visit Anthony Gibson, regional director of the National Farmers' Union, described as "a load of silly nonsense" the issue of Mr Brown's private life.
"We are not interested in the minister's private life. We are interested in his public role as minister of agriculture and what he is going to do to drag agriculture out of the worst crisis we have had for 60 years."
He added: "We are adult broad minded people. The minister's orientation makes absolutely no difference whatsoever to his performance as a politician."
On the rest of his tour of the West Country Mr Brown is due to meet farming leaders from Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.
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