Former Food Safety Minister Jeff Rooker has
been given a lucrative new post as head of a quango
Labour is embroiled in a 'jobs for the peers' row after appointing senior
party figures to posts carrying huge salaries running powerful Quangos.
The former Labour MP and minister Jeff Rooker, now Lord Rooker, has just
been nominated to the job of chairman of the Food Standards Agency.
The job, which is in the gift of the Department of Health, carries a
£60,000 salary for just two days a week for a four year term.
Lord Rooker would be a controversial appointment because he has a history
as a cheerleader for GM food while a Government minister.
He is just one of a number of Labour Quangocrats who are cashing in
through huge salaries to run key Government advisory bodies.
Just last week, Baroness Andrews, a former adviser to
Neil Kinnock and Labour minister in the
House of Lords, became chairman of English Heritage on £45,000 for 1.7
days a week.
Last year, the former Culture Secretary, Lord Chris Smith, was named
chairman of the Environment Agency on £102,000 a year for a three day week.
Separately, the former Labour General Secretary and minister Lord Larry
Whitty, is paid £48,000 a year for a three day week to run Consumer Focus,
the official consumer protection watchdog.
These jobs carry enormous power and will ensure Labour figures maintain a
grip on the reins of major public institutions regardless of what happens at
the General Election next year.
Whitehall insists that each of these jobs was advertised and candidates
chosen following an open competition.
However, in most cases, Labour ministers have the final say and it seems
remarkable that only senior party figures are considered suitable.
The Conservatives challenged the Government policy of making political
appointments to supposedly independent advisory bodies.
Shadow Treasury Minister,
Greg Hands said: 'The whole point of these independent agencies is that
they should be independent of Government, yet many are full of recent
'Paying them big sums from public money makes it a bitter pill to
Critics suggested appointing Lord Rooker is a particularly controversial
move, given his past record as a minister at DEFRA, the Department for
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
He has been a cheerleader for GM farming and food. As head of the FSA
would be in a strong position to force the controversial technology down the
throats of an unwilling nation.
As recently as last year, the peer has accused GM critics of being
'ignorant' and 'anti-science'.
FSA committees make recommendations to the Government and the EU on the
approval of GM crops and food.
Pete Riley of GM Freeze said: 'The choice of Baron Rooker would be
entirely inappropriate given his outspoken support of GM crops in the past.
'The FSA needs a head who will champion the interests of consumers and
bring fresh insights and approaches on the GM issue.
'An ex-minister, who will bring with him a set of discredited policies
and ideas, cannot be the right choice for this important post.'
Lord Rooker was at DEFRA when it was running a pesticide safety approval
regime that a High Court judge has concluded failed to properly protect the
Campaigners demonstrated to the court there was evidence of real harm
caused to individuals by the chemical spraying. However, Lord Rooker, made a
number of statements denying the existence of this evidence.
The peer's appointment is not guaranteed. He will first have to be
questioned by MPs on the
Health Select committee before a final decision is made by new Health
Secretary, Andy Burnham.