Axing some agencies and commissions is necessary but losing others is silly, says Tim Lang

No-one can accuse the government of sitting on its hands. Big Society, Small State. Already some interest groups who brayed ideologically for cuts now see they'll be affected.

Axing Regional Development Agencies can be presented as either ending unnecessary government or lifting a rare counterweight to London-centred economics.

Withdrawing Defra funding from the Sustainable Development Commission is sad for me after four years as a Commissioner helping inject some joined-up thinking into food government. Will Defra really focus on sustainability without prodding and advice?

To close the 40-year-old Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution is plain silly. When politicians claim their policies are evidence-based , remember this tiny body pioneered good scientific advice in government. In 2005, for instance, it embarrassed the FSA (among others) for advising consumers to eat fish while fish stocks are in a dire state.

Few in retailing even noticed last week's abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board. Just why are food trades low-waged? Minimum wage legislation should protect the worst (unless that goes) but AWB's end will probably curtail attempts to raise the wages of higher-skilled labour just when more people need to be attracted into farming and growing.

Some announcements deserve support. Defra's draft structure plan out last week aims for zero waste (easy to say, hard to deliver), reforming CAP (ditto), and reinvigorated UK farming. But the secretary of state's support for rural renaissance is hard in tight times, as she noted at last week's launch of Prince Charles' Countryside Fund at St James's Palace. Pray, how does cutting farm wage safety nets fit rural renaissance?

Labelling is apple pie and motherhood territory, but most consumers don't use labels. The real value of labels is encouraging factory or kitchen recipe change. Addressing New Labour's Smith Institute, Caroline Spelman promised to "work with industry to introduce clearer food labelling, showing consumers which country meat and dairy products came from".

It's all about choice. "Let's make it easy for people" sounds good and implies a desired direction of travel. The reality is different. Labelling, alas, doesn't yet capture what's needed. Interesting times.

Tim Lang is professor of food policy at City University.