The son of a Protestant farmer, he attended St Columba's College, Dublin and Trinity College, Dublin where was known as a student radical and member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Graduating with an honours degree in modern history, he contemplated becoming a journalist. Sacked from De La Rue, he decided to marry his university sweetheart.
Her father Alec Horsley agreed, on condition that Haskins joined the family business, Yorkshire-based Northern Dairies. After working on a dairy farm in Ireland, Haskins joined the company in 1962. Haskins foresaw the huge demand for good-quality prepared meals, and turned the company into Northern Foods, whose brands include Ski yoghurt and Bowyers sausages, while Marks and Spencer are the company's largest customer for ready meals. Haskins became a director in 1967, Deputy Chairman in 1974 and Chairman from 1980 to 2002.
Ennobled as a life peer with the title Baron Haskins, of Skidby, in the County of the East Riding of Yorkshire on 25 July 1998, during 2001 Haskins became UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's 'rural tsar' at the height of the foot and mouth disease epidemic. In August 2005, it was revealed that Haskins had donated £2,500 to the campaign of Scottish Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, Danny Alexander. Following investigation, Haskins was expelled from the Labour party for this action. He now sits as a crossbencher.
He has also been Chairman of the Better Regulation Task Force and a member of the New Deal Task Force. A pro-European, he was a leading member of the Britain in Europe campaign, the House of Lords European Sub-Committee, and is a former Chairman of the European Movement. He is a fellow board member of Yorkshire Forward and also Chairman of the Council of the Open University.
Haskins lives at a large farm in Skidby.
- essay 26
- "Northern Foods". Corporate Watch. Retrieved 2008-04-28.
- "Pastures new for milk man turned rural tsar". The Guardian. November 18, 2001. Retrieved 2008-04-28.
- The London Gazette: . 30 July 1998. Retrieved 27 June 2009.
- "Labour peer expelled for donation". BBC News. 23 September 2005. Retrieved 2006-11-02.
- "Lord Haskins on the EU constitution". BBC News. 28 October 2004. Retrieved 2008-04-28.
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