Welcome for 'real influence and clout' in the Cabinet Food industry leaders welcomed the appointment of Margaret Beckett as secretary of state at the new Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. British Retail Consortium general secretary Bill Moyes said: "Margaret Beckett is very experienced and has held a series of senior posts in Labour. She will be an influential voice on behalf of the food industry. We look forward to working with her." Food and Drink Federation president and Nestlé chairman and ceo Peter Blackburn said: "She is a very able and well respected senior politician. We are pleased the department will be headed by someone with real influence and clout." NFU president Ben Gill said: "She is a political heavyweight and her appointment is a positive step forward. She will be a strong representative in the Cabinet." But there was a mixed reaction to the amalgamation of food, rural affairs, animal welfare and environmental issues in the new department. Gill said the NFU had been calling for rural affairs and environmental issues to be combined with food in a single ministry, because they were all interlinked. "It means if there is a conflict it can be argued out within the department, rather than with other ministers in the Cabinet. "Of course that could be a potential problem as well, but we will just have to make sure that we present our case well." Blackburn said he was pleased the new department would "keep the food chain together, after the speculation a few months ago that it would be broken up". But Moyes warned: "Food is not just about the countryside." He pointed out the industrial nature of food processing, and that food requires transport, and suggested: "There are a number or areas where possible conflict could arise between the environment and food." Gill said he was unconcerned that neither "farming" nor "agriculture" featured in the title of the new ministry. He said: "It was far more important that food' was there. We are the first part of the food chain." He also pointed out that farming was covered by a department of rural affairs in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Moyes dismissed fears that food might be downgraded in importance by the new government. He said: "The fuel crisis last year demonstrated to the government just how important the food chain and food retailers are, and how any disruption can have a very rapid impact." Blackburn said: "Food is a key issue and no government can afford not to address it." {{NEWS }}