Digby Jones, director general of the CBI, made a lot of new friends this week with his fiery ­ and very funny ­ speech to the National Farmers' Union annual dinner. Jones pointed out that the country was forgetting the plight of its farmers, who he claimed were earning the equivalent of £1 an hour ­ compared with a national minimum wage of £4 an hour. And he launched a broadside against the unnecessary red tape and taxation that was harming all business ­ not just farming. Jones was not impressed by Whitehall, saying he had quickly realised from his dealings with government that "Yes Minister was not a comedy but a training film". But he saved his best bon mots for Brussels and its ill judged legislation. "The European Commission thinks it can throw out directives like it is Christmas Day," said Jones, before turning to the possibility of legislation that will govern the way farm equipment is used. "I can't believe that someone has come up with a directive about sitting on a tractor," said Jones, "When you are earning £1 an hour that's probably the only thrill you get." Agriculture minister Nick Brown was wearing his well practised look of inscrutability throughout the speech ­ and managed to hide most of his smiles at Jones' gags. But when the traditional hymn singing started the minister (whose anti fox hunting views are well known) scarpered. Could this have something to do with the fact the assembled farmers were due to sing the famous fox hunting ditty John Peel? One farmer thought so... "Where's the minister?" he shouted at the end. Where indeed. {{COUNTERPOINT }}