HARD-working, responsible families are being told how to run their lives by an interfering, inner-city Government.

That was NFU president Ben Gill's view of British life, whe he spoke at Darlington NFU's harvest dinner.

Mr Gill was at Headlam Hall Hotel last Friday for a dinner well attended by guests from Darlington and surrounding branches, despite heavy rain and floods.

Mr Gill attacked what he saw as Britain's nanny-state culture. Populist politicians over-reacted to food hygiene scares and disasters, such as the Selby rail crash, by producing endless regulations, he said. Britain had more than many countries - yet the public had become ignorant of the most basic food hygiene rules.

In contrast, European countries often had less red tape and placed more responsibility on individuals and families.

"That's what's going wrong. The concept of family responsibility has gone out the window. Even family conversations have gone out the window," he said. "We've got an inner-city Government telling us how to run our lives. It's dreadful that the country (the people) does not feel able to reply by saying parents should have responsibility."

On another serious point, he said climate change was the biggest threat facing the world, and he highlighted one farmer who received both flood and drought relief simultaneously.

However, there was hope. Agriculture could help tackle weather change and, by 2010, he expected 12m hectares of crops would be planted to soak up harmful carbion dioxide emissions. He urged farmers to embrace change and reap success for their hard work.

Darlington branch chairman Joe Dods also spoke about the ups and downs of farming. He highlighted the beef served by the hotel, saying British beef was the best in the world.

Recalling the end of the foot-and-mouth crisis, he insinuated that contiguous culling was part of a secret policy to reduce Britain's overall livestock numbers. "If Defra had listened to us, the disease might have been stamped out quicker. Or was that not the plan?"

Regarding livestock marts, he said: "They've reopened but are under threat. We must support them." He said the Government's 20-day-rule on animal movements was restricting businesses unfairly, while meat imports continued to flood in.

"If Tony's gang tell us to stop trading for 21 days, to prevent foot-and-mouth returning, why have they not stopped imports of suspect meat and illegal imports? I hear they (Customs and Excise) have got two new sniffer dogs - two - to cover the ports!"

Mr Dods also spoke about difficulties in dairy, pig and cereal farming, saying British grain prices were the lowest in the northern hemisphere, after the Ukraine.

Nonetheless, he did not want to dwell on problems. If farmers stood together under the NFU, their interests would be fought for. He praised the organisation for its services.

Darlington office staff were thanked, including group secretary Richard Watts, plus branch members and county leaders.