Trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt ­ remember her, she's the lady who sent Ben Gill purple with rage by sitting on the code of practice ­ is promising us a "more businesslike" DTI. Not before time. Of course, cynics, with past experiences in mind, will dismiss this as another headline-grabbing wheeze from the visionaries who deliver government New Labour-style, and one which will never happen in practice. But among the whackier ideas from our Patricia's desk is the notion that all her department's senior civil servants should spend one week a year with a business to gain a greater insight into what makes the world of industry tick. This idea has great merit, and it's one which other departments are already quietly taking up. But as the BRC urged this week, there's a case for a Minister of Retailing, so why not include senior ministers in the process? We may not see Margaret Beckett up to her elbows in muck at a Suffolk pig farm, Larry Whitty topping up the dairy cabinet at a Kwik Save in Accrington or even Elliott Morley managing a sewage plant. But the notion is a perfect extension to the new FDF/DEFRA initiative where ministry folk visit food manufacturers, and the sterling work done by IGD when it walked ministers along the food chain. The eagerly awaited report of the Commission on the Future of Farming and Food suggests there will be some very serious talking between the government and the chain in 2002. And there are still rumours that not everyone down Whitehall way ­ especially within the dark corridors of the Treasury ­ sees the need for a strong UK farming and food production base. Predictably, this concerns, nay even scares, senior figures along the chain. Sadly we are still hearing about batty environmental fundamentalists bending Tony Blair's ear on the subject. So the chain should unite and invite even more policymakers to come out into the real world to help dispel some of their misconceptions about the food business. Clive Beddall, Editor {{LETTERS }}