Lord Haskins, Labour peer and founder of the multi-million pound Northern Foods empire, has championed the need for cheap food to be available for the poor in Britain.

Attacking notions that people should pay more for safe food, Haskins told the Guardian: “It’s facetious to say we can all afford to spend more on our food. Cheap food is vital to millions of poor people in Britain who spend a big proportion of their income on it.”

Haskin’s increasing influence over the reform of the common agricultural policy has angered critics who claim his business self-interest will prevent unbiased judgements. In particular the green movement has criticised his belief that a return to traditional or organic farming methods is unviable.

“I understand the issue about a conflict of interest,” he said: “But if the government wants a problem looking at, it can either go to someone like an independent lawyer and spend years getting a bureaucratic response, or go to someone who knows something about it. Unfortunately the people who know something about it are in the industry.

“The test, therefore, is to make sure I don’t abuse my position and push a vested interest point of view. It is a dilemma which I am always aware of,” he added.