Colin Breed, MP for South East Cornwall & the Liberal Democrat shadow minister for Agriculture & Rural Affairs I have been advocating the creation of a Department of Rural Affairs for some time now. Why? The case for reform has been plain since the advent of the Food Standards Agency, but foot and mouth has forced the issue. As soon as the disease is controlled we must abolish MAFF and establish a more integrated approach, which recognises the interdependence at the heart of successful business in the countryside. The foot and mouth epidemic is having an enormous effect on livelihoods and on businesses throughout both affected and unaffected areas of Britain. While the greatest effects are in rural areas, some urban areas are also suffering. Aside from agriculture, tourism is the industry most obviously affected, but there are many hidden victims of this disastrous outbreak including small shops, filling stations, post offices and public houses. For many of these businesses, food sales have, over recent years, grown to make up a significant proportion of their total turnover. Whether it is pub food for regulars or pasties and sandwiches for walkers from local shops, or for motorists from petrol stations, all are now suffering depleted sales. This will mean knock-on effects for all those food suppliers and processors, large and small, national and local, which rely on supplying these outlets. In this way the economic aspects of the foot and mouth disaster will stretch beyond our rural areas. However, smaller, rural businesses in particular are facing difficulties and already for some the future is hanging in the balance. The reliance of such businesses on agriculture for produce, and on tourism for boosting sales, has meant foot and mouth has been a double whammy. The machinery of government is based on an artificial separation between the interests of agriculture in MAFF and the interests of the rest of rural Britain and its dependents. A Department of Rural Affairs would remove these divisions. {{NEWS }}