Steeple Bumpstead
Agricultural Discussion Society

Established 1929

Newsletter March 2000

February saw us sitting down to our annual supper meeting in the village hall. The evening was our usual format but this year we actually paid the speaker. He was Chris Taylor who is a solicitor so it is no surprise that he had to be paid for his time. It was also the event that launched our website. Yes we have moved into the new millennium in more ways than one! It is at and if there are any other Bumpstead organisations on the net I will gladly put the links to them on ours.

Many years ago (before my time) the first dinner was at the Rose & Crown in Haverhill. John Suckling often told me how there was total chaos when some of the guests could not sit in the groups that they would have preferred because seats had already been “bagged” by those who had arrived earlier. Ever since then a table plan has been organised by the chairman and secretary so everyone knows where to sit. This is a pretty thankless task because it proves the old saying about “being able to please all the people all of the time”! Some years it seems that “some of the people some of the time“ would be a good result. Judging by the noise of people chattering we must have got the seating plan almost right this year. In fact we seemed to take a long time to eat the meal. It did not bother me because I was enjoying it, but I think that the caterers may have been getting a bit fidgety as time moved on.

For our March meeting we had another solicitor to speak. Richard Barker specialises in agricultural law and especially cases relating to Europe and the C.A.P.. Richard spends much of his time prowling the corridoors of power in Brussels and indulging in long lunches with those in control of the Common Agricultural Policy. It is amazing to hear him talk of how the European Commission is an example of “open government”. Agriculture and Environment are the two departments that affect farming the most. Richard says that he, or any one of us, can jump on a plane to Brussels and knock on the door of either of these departments and they are keen to listen to real people who are at the sharp end of the industry, whether it be about a problem with existing legislation, or suggestions about new legislation which is being drafted.

I am sure you have all heard the adage that the Germans make the rules, the French and Italians ignore the rules and the British enforce them. This is very true and our Ministry of Agriculture are very strict and sometimes even seem to enforce rules that were never made in the first place. Of course they always blame Europe. Apparently if the spirit of the law is not being followed by our MAFF it is possible to get the commission on our side and MAFF have to back down. Richard has had some notable successes in this field.

Richard was an excellent speaker and very knowledgeable about Europe, he brought with him an equally good colleague; Sally Stanyer, to help the discussion and he did not charge us a penny. What was I saying about solicitors earlier? This must be the exception that proves the rule!

Stephen Graves (Secretary)

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