[Mr Jim Hood in the Chair]
My other point is relevant to those of us who live near the England-Wales border. If we are to have development in rural areas, roads and efficient transport links are important. Between England and Wales there are at least three or four places where the advent of devolution has meant that projects have not gone forward. On the England-Wales border between Shrewsbury and Welshpool in my constituency a bad stretch of road is hugely inhibiting development, but because it is cross-border and committing money to its improvement is not a priority for the west midlands highways authority, the work cannot go ahead. We have to focus on Welsh and English Governments working together to overcome problems that inhibit development.
Rural Wales is a beautiful place, and that beauty is a great economic driver. To take full advantage of it, however, we must recognise its value and consider a wide definition of tourism rather than just the traditional ones. Where I live, in the village of Bettws there is a hatchery—a game shooting development—which employs 100 people. It is amazing. The income that shooting brings into Montgomeryshire and rural Wales is absolutely enormous—many tens of millions of pounds.
Last week I visited a new fish pass in Felindre near Llanidloes, which people might say is a small development; it cost £152,000, and was built by the Environment Agency, but it has hugely increased the size of the salmon spawning area in Wales. The Welsh salmon fishing industry contributes £150 million to the economy. The fish pass is a small development. It fits in. It is beautiful to look at and has a massive economic benefit. It is not just public authorities that are doing such things. On the same day, I called in on an osprey observation point close by. Nora and Monty, two ospreys that arrived many years ago, came back last week. I was the 350th person to visit that day, and 700 people had visited during the previous weekend. When the ospreys nest and have chicks, visitor numbers will increase. The development is a huge economic driver because of all the people coming in. I see
Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire, Liberal Democrat)
It is a great pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Mr Hood. I congratulate Simon Hart on securing the debate. I have fond memories of his constituency. Back in 1999, I stood in the first Assembly elections and managed to come fifth. The good people of his constituency
were not ready for me then, but I enjoyed the experience and the fantastic countryside there.
The hon. Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire has made the topic of this conversation deliberately wide, and Members have taken advantage of that. I want to mention one or two issues that perhaps have not been covered. First, I congratulate the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on its determined efforts to eradicate bovine TB in this country, which I know are appreciated by the farming people here. They do not bear comparison, however, with what is happening in Wales, where the farmers are almost despairing about what can be done to alleviate their problems.
I want to talk a little about financial services in rural areas. I have recently had the honour of introducing two debates in this Chamber on the closure of banks in rural areas, which is an important issue because rural communities want to attract not only tourists but businesses, and without banking facilities that can be difficult. I think that not just in rural areas or in Wales but more widely, the relationship between small businesses and banks has never been at a lower ebb.
Mark Williams (Ceredigion, Liberal Democrat)
Will my hon. Friend also reflect on the banks’ usual retort when asked about the diminishing number of branches, which is that online banking is a growing occurrence? In some parts of our constituencies that is not a reality because we have no broadband at all, let alone the superfast type.
Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire, Liberal Democrat)
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend, and it is not only the absence of broadband. Sometimes, older people do not have the facility or the aptitude to take advantage of online banking, so we still need the face-to-face presence and advice that bank customers greatly value.
The issue also goes a little further. Today, I was sad to see that the number of complaints about banks made by small businesses to the Financial Ombudsman Service has gone up by 10% in the past year. It is only very small businesses that can use the ombudsman facility, so we have a number of such businesses being badly treated by their banks. For instance, not only are overdraft or loan requests turned down but the terms and conditions of such facilities are changed midway through. The Government once again need to sit down with the banks and say, “If we are all in this together and we are going for growth, you have to play your part.”
I think that the Government sometimes do not really understand the structure of business in this country. Whenever they trumpet support for business they talk about reducing corporation tax. That is much valued, but out of the nearly 4 million businesses in England only one third are incorporated, so the other two thirds will not benefit from the reduction in the tax, and the £100,000 reduction in capital allowances will particularly weigh on businesses that pay their tax through self-assessment—sole traders and partners.
On the role of independent filling stations, one operator in Sennybridge in my constituency has brought me evidence that the wholesale operation of the petrol supply chain is concentrated in a small number of hands, which could lead to difficulties with competition and access. He has sent information to the Office of Fair Trading, and I will send a copy to the Minister.
This is a dangerous situation. Many of our independent filling stations have already closed, and if the process continues, a lot more could do so.
I am looking at the time, Mr Hood. The clock says that I have spoken for 11 minutes already, so I am not sure how much longer I have.
Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire, Liberal Democrat)
I commend the legislation introduced in England by the Government on small businesses’ right to buy. I point to two examples in my constituency. The Shoemakers’ Arms, a pub in Pentre Bach that was closed, has been taken over by the local community and is now flourishing. The community in Llanbadarn Fynydd have done the same with their village shop and filling station. Those are examples not of short-termism but of sustained success. They show what communities can do if given the opportunity.
I promised to mention the traditional makers of cider in my speech, so I will do so in the last 10 seconds. For goodness’ sake, do not let us push them out of business in trying to deal with alcohol abuse in our society.
Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton, Conservative)
It is a great pleasure to serve under you, Mr Hood. I congratulate my hon. Friend Simon Hart on securing this debate on rural poverty and the rural countryside.
We must talk up the countryside, because we are sometimes victims of our own success. One reason why house prices are so high in the countryside is that people who come on holiday to Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and other places—they even venture into Wales occasionally—retire there. Of course, we welcome retired people, but they do drive up the price of houses. Then people who work in the countryside, where wages are usually about 12% to 15% lower, have great difficulty buying properties. That is why affordable homes and planning are important. We must enable local villages, hamlets and communities to have affordable homes. I would like not only affordable homes but shared ownership, which gives people a chance to buy a share in a property and later, perhaps, to buy the whole property. It allows more people into home ownership.
Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire, Conservative)
Is my hon. Friend aware that the average age in rural communities is seven years older than in urban communities? Is it not an option for exception sites—I will be pushing for my parishes in North West Leicestershire—to provide retirement bungalows for people— with qualifications? Often, a widow or widower who has lived in the village all their life may own a large family house. They no longer require all that space, but they do not want to lose their friends and relations in the village. If they moved to a retirement bungalow, they could free up a house so that a new family could move into the village.
Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton, Conservative)
I agree with my hon. Friend. Managing housing stock effectively is absolutely right. We need a supply of retirement bungalows so that people can
move out of three or four-bedroom houses and live in their own area. I am a great believer in encouraging people to move, not browbeating them. It is essential to have such housing in an area.
I congratulate the Minister on what the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been doing about red tape in farming and agriculture. We want to extend that beyond farming to all small businesses. We are a nation of shopkeepers and small businesses, and nowhere are they more essential than in the countryside. We need much less regulation so that businesses can thrive.
Food prices are rising. Although many people might not welcome that, it is a stimulus to the countryside in many respects. It stimulates not only agriculture but food processing. I would welcome the Government announcement that we hope for in the Queen’s Speech of a grocery trade adjudicator to ensure that the right proportion of the prices that we pay in shops returns to those who produce and process the food. That is absolutely essential.
I know that I will not make myself entirely popular with those who represent constituencies involved with the oil industry when I say that what has driven up the price of petrol at the pumps is the fact that crude oil prices have risen. If crude oil prices have risen globally, the companies are making vast profits, because their investment has not increased. We should tap into that a little more in order to reduce fuel prices in the countryside. Fuel is not a luxury; it is a necessity. I do not care how much money the Government invest in rural bus services; in many places in my constituency, if one waited for a bus, it would never come, and if it came, it would probably be going in the wrong direction. That might be facetious, but it is absolutely true. We must face up to the reality that in many small rural areas, bus companies will never run efficiently. Where we can make that happen, we must, but we need to consider it.
Tourism is hugely valued and is linked with agriculture and the countryside, and we must help it. I welcome the Government money for that in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.
Jason McCartney (Colne Valley, Conservative)
I return to the start of my hon. Friend’s speech, which is positive about our rural communities. I agree that they are absolutely thriving. Over the Easter period, I visited an engineering business in my constituency that is expanding so fast—it has 70 workers now—that it cannot find premises. We have 11 micro-breweries in my Yorkshire constituency, and a new dye house—so there is lots of vibrancy in our rural communities.
Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton, Conservative)
I welcome my hon. Friend’s comments. I want to ensure that we do not leave this debate thinking that everything in the countryside is doom and gloom. There is much going on. That leads me to broadband and superfast broadband. The Government have invested £30 million in Devon and Somerset. We want to ensure that that delivers broadband to isolated areas as well, so that the easiest areas to get at are not picked off and the rest left. That is essential.
My final point involves school funding. Devon is 247th in the league; it is among the least funded in the country. We talk about fairness. I am not griping or grouching. We need fair delivery of funding throughout the country. Rural schools are small and cost more to run, so we need a fairer system.
I welcome this debate. The presence of Members from all parties shows how strongly we feel that the rural community deserves great support.
Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore, Labour)
It is a pleasure to serve under your stewardship, Mr Hood. I congratulate Simon Hart—whose constituency might, sadly, disappear, like many others—on securing this debate. It is a fine opportunity to ask the Minister for an update on the Government’s progress or otherwise towards sustainable rural communities.
I congratulate all the Members who have made speeches and interventions; I am afraid that to mention them all would take my whole contribution, but they include the hon. Members for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, for Arfon (Hywel Williams), for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart), for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes), for South East Cornwall (Sheryll Murray), for Montgomeryshire (Glyn Davies), for Brecon and Radnorshire (Roger Williams) and for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish). They spoke splendidly on behalf of their constituents and about constituency matters. I particularly want to mention Ian Paisley, who introduced a new concept to the parliamentary lexicon: an island off an island off an island. That is an extreme example of rurality.
The Minister and others here today will undoubtedly have received a sound schooling in the classics and will be familiar with the words of the esteemed Roman poet Virgil, who wrote 2,000 years ago—I apologise in advance for my limited Latin—“Quo moriture ruis?”, or
“Whither art thou rushing to destruction?”
At times in recent months, this Government, intent on the destruction of rural relationships built up over many years and of the countryside itself, have seemed to epitomise Virgil’s question. They have been seen to support rural communities only in the same way that Herod supported juvenile population control.
I refer of course to the national planning policy framework and its rushed, appallingly crass and ill-thought-out proposals for development. It seemed that the countryside, our green belt, our precious natural environment and our communities were set for destruction in a free for all, profit-driven rampage of executive homes, whereas the crying need in rural areas is for a range of homes, especially affordable homes for local people. The situation is worsening under this Government.
Concerns have been publicly and forcibly expressed by local authorities throughout the land, including Conservative-controlled authorities in the constituencies of the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Andrew Stunell, the Minister for Housing and Local Government, Grant Shapps and, for good measure, the Chancellor himself. The sorts of organisation that one would be
happy to take home to meet one’s mother, such as the National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, suddenly found themselves in complete opposition to the Government and vilified by them. It is not often that the National Trust is painted as a pinko, lefty, subversive group, but ConservativeHome, that megaphone for Tory tendencies on the web—if that is not mixing my technologies—described it as
“some demented Marxist agitprop outfit”,
“our position is right. I think this idea that creating a presumption in favour of sustainable development is somehow a massive erosion of the ability to conserve, is—”.
The Minister then used an expletive that was deleted from reports. It was a vernacular term that I believe to be mid-18th century slang derived from the German for “balls.”
Those same Ministers have been forced by their own MPs and the voice of middle England into a series of humiliating U-turns. What was a seeming rush to destruction—not just of the countryside, but of the self-styled party of the countryside—has been barely rescued from disaster at the last moment. That is just one U-turn fiasco, which followed hot on the heels of the forestry sell-off fiasco. My advice to the Government and to Ministers is to think things through. If there are too many U-turns, the Government, not to mention the public, will not know which way they are facing on any issue.
I thank the hon. Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire again for giving the Under-Secretary the opportunity to make clear where the Government stand on key areas of support for rural communities. Local enterprise partnerships have been noted for their variable quality and for their scant attention in many areas to rural economic development and farming. Does the Under-Secretary agree with those concerns and, if so, what is he doing about it?
The Government profess localism in every breath, so will the Under-Secretary guarantee that in the provision of housing on farms, local planning authorities will be given the flexibility to allow generational succession, in recognition of the worrying age profile of active farmers and the need to do everything possible to encourage new entrants? In response to the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire, who made a good speech, it is a question of attitudinal changes on the ground and of positivism towards the development of agricultural holdings. The Welsh Government have delivered such localism. Will the Westminster coalition Government do the same?
In every other breath, Ministers from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs profess the critical need to enhance food security for the UK, so will the Under-Secretary explain why food production does not feature in the core principles of the national planning policy framework?
Rural living and working have many advantages, particularly if remote working and advances in remote communications can be harnessed. What assessment has the Under-Secretary made of the brake placed on rural economic development by the emerging digital divide, whereby the expansion potential of rural businesses is frequently inhibited, the productivity of home workers
is affected, and farmers have difficulty completing online forms because of broadband not-spots and slow broadband speeds? In that respect, I commend the
“Battling for broadband” campaign. Is the Under-Secretary worried about the potential for a growing digital divide between superfast urban areas and super-slow remote rural economies? The latter could benefit so much more from good broadband access.
When I was a DEFRA Minister, I had the privilege of visiting tremendous communities and people who had come together to save their village shop, pub or library, or who had filled a transport gap by creating diverse community transport schemes. Increasingly, local people are being asked to do more and more to sustain the vitality of their communities, but since this Government came to power, support from regional development authorities has been lost because they were unceremoniously scrapped, the community-owned pubs support programme has been cut and local authority budgets are under pressure. As has been said, cuts to local authority funding hit rural communities hardest, because of the added cost of provision of services in rural areas. What are the Government doing against that stark backdrop to help a greater proportion of communities to save their pubs, shops, banks, post offices, libraries and other services?
More than 4 million UK households—the majority of them in rural areas—are off the main gas grid and rely on heating oil, liquefied petroleum gas, solid fuels, mains electricity and microgeneration. The average cost of heating a typical three-bedroom home in the UK can be 50% higher when using heating oil, and as much as 100% higher when using LPG rather than mains gas. What are the Government doing to support home owners in our rural communities, who are more exposed to household poverty because of rising off-grid costs?
May I ask the Under-Secretary when or whether we will see firm proposals on petrol pricing in rural areas? He and his colleagues spoke eloquently and regularly about the issue in opposition, yet the very selective trials in the Inner and Outer Hebrides, the islands in the Clyde, the Northern Isles and the Isles of Scilly, which offered a discount that was described at the time by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury as
“terrific news for communities which have long suffered the effects of high fuel costs”,
are already jeopardised by the overall rising cost of fuel, which threatens to wipe out the discount. That view is not mine, but that of the Chief Secretary’s Lib Dem comrade, Mr Carmichael. It is indeed “terrific news”, but I do not anticipate it appearing on Lib Dem fliers.
What has happened to wider plans on rural petrol pricing? Are they just another victim of the Chancellor’s relentless, one-eyed focus on deficit reduction above growth? What assessment has the Under-Secretary made of the impact on rural petrol retailers and of the warnings of Brian Madderson, chairman of Retail Motor Industry Petrol, the forecourt association, that with rural petrol already up to 8p a litre more expensive than at urban stations because of delivery costs, up to 250 of the current 1,900 rural forecourts could close in less than a decade, leaving “petrol deserts”? Does the Under-Secretary take that threat seriously and, if so, what specific discussions has he had with Ministers at the Department of Energy
and Climate Change, who have direct responsibility for ensuring adequate coverage of petrol stations for strategic purposes across the UK?
A fifth of all bus services in England face the axe this year, thanks to the Government’s cuts to funding for local bus services. The issue is affecting the elderly and the young, increasing social isolation and impacting negatively on employment and training opportunities. Indeed, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Norman Baker is emphatically earning a deserved reputation as the Beeching of the buses.
This Government are out of touch with the reality of rural lives, rural jobs and businesses, and rural services. [ Interruption. ]
Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore, Labour)
Thank you, Mr Hood. Has DEFRA or the Under-Secretary made any assessment of the wider national impact of the withdrawal of Government support for UK-wide programmes, and of the deep, fast cuts agenda on rural communities? Will he confirm that all the cuts have a disproportionate effect on rural areas? Closures of court houses in small rural towns affect not only the individual, but local law firms. Will the NHS Commissioning Board take into account rurality when allocating resources? How does the much-vaunted—at least by the Lib Dems—pupil premium take into account the extra challenges of rural school provision? Costs for access to jobs and benefits advice and training are usually between 10% and 20% higher for those in rural areas. Any diminution in services or increased travel to work as a result of fewer job opportunities will worsen the effect, as will closures of Sure Start centres and poor access to child care and so on.
The Under-Secretary is a member of a Government who are out of touch. Their policies are incoherent, as Baroness Warsi said on “Newsnight” last night. Nothing epitomises this out-of-touch Government more than what has become known infamously as the pasty tax. I pay tribute to the campaigning stance of local papers such as the Western Morning News, which has highlighted the potential impact on jobs and the economy in places such as Cornwall and the south-west. I ask the Under-Secretary directly, for the record: what representations did he or other DEFRA Ministers make to the Treasury on behalf of the food production sector and workers in Cornwall and elsewhere? Will he intervene to set the record straight? Were any representations made—a meeting, a letter or an e-mail?
I began my speech with a reference to Virgil, cautioning the impetuous against the dangers of undue haste and rushing headlong to destruction. I can only guess that this Conservative-led, Lib Dem-partnered Government are pinning their future on another of the Latin poet and philosopher’s maxims:
“Hope on, and save yourself for prosperous times.”
Richard Benyon (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Natural Environment and Fisheries), Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Newbury, Conservative)
I think that we all enjoyed the comedy act put on by the
hon. Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies). Listening to the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman talking about rural matters is the absolute epitome of incoherence, which was a word that he used. It reminded me of the Judean People’s Front sitting around asking, “What have the Romans ever done for us?”
I thank my hon. Friend Simon Hart for giving me this great opportunity to talk about some of the things that the coalition is doing for rural areas. I pay tribute to him for securing the debate and for the powerful speech that he made.
I will put on the record the ambition that DEFRA Ministers and the Government have for rural communities. If someone who is elderly, sick, mentally ill, out of work or on a low income lives in a rural community, the problems imposed by rurality are increased by isolation. Those are obvious points that we all understand. Therefore, the Government’s policy must recognise that and ensure that we are delivering services fairly and equally, so that the rurality in which that those people live does not adversely discriminate against their circumstances.
There has been talk of the sense of victimhood being felt by those who live in the countryside. That is legitimate to an extent because one might see a village that in every other sense looks idyllic, but there may be three or four homes—or 30 or 40 in a larger village—that contain people who are suffering deprivation, which is less visible than in a gritty city environment. We have to be nuanced, clever and careful, and focus our policies like a laser beam on helping those people.
That is one side of the issue, but the other side is equally important if we want to raise the aspirations of those who are suffering deprivation. We need to have a positive view of how the countryside can provide a driver for the economy of the country, and we need an uplifting view of the contribution that rural communities and the rural economy can play. That is the view we in this Government have. An idyllic, rural landscape is not just about the trees, the fields and the beauty that we see; it is about the noises of activity, business and life. It is also about children playing in a village school yard, a shop that is operating and, if we can roll out broadband, a creative industry operating out of a set of redundant farm buildings. That is what a true rural landscape is about.
For too long, Governments have imposed policy on rural areas using what the Americans call an “inside the beltway”—or within the M25—mentality. The view has been that if something is right for inside the M25 or within an urban setting, it must be right for the countryside. That is why the previous Government lost the faith of those living in the countryside and why it is ridiculous to hear the hon. Member for Ogmore, who is better than the speech he just made, try to pretend that somehow rural communities were better before.
In the short time I have left, I will try to address as many points made in the excellent contributions to the debate as I can. DEFRA is the rural champion within the Government. Our role is to help Departments understand the rural context and the issues that face rural businesses and communities. We have set up the rural communities policy unit right at the heart of DEFRA to encourage Departments to ensure that their policies and programmes meet rural needs and interests.
That unit has been in operation for a year and is engaging effectively at an early stage in the development of policy across the Government.
Ian Paisley rightly referred to rural proofing. That is a subject for a debate in itself and is something we are taking seriously in our cross-Government role of ensuring that policies are not just considered within the beltway and that the impact on rural areas is understood.
The RCPU is working hard to engage proactively and communicate with rural communities and their representative organisations and to stimulate debate about rural needs and propose solutions. That work is critical to ensuring that evidence and intelligence from our rural stakeholders informs Government policy and its delivery. After the debate, I will attend the first annual meeting of the new rural and farming network, which involves chairs of all the rural and farming networks that we have set up around the country coming to meet Ministers. That is a welcome change and something that Lord Taylor, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and I thought up in opposition. We have now implemented the initiative right across England, so that there is a real direct connection to Ministers and a two-way street of communication. We can therefore ask those involved how policies are working in their area, and they can tell us about their problems as well. Those new networks are a welcome and important addition to communication and to trying to ensure that rural communities do not feel isolated and not listened to, as they have undoubtedly been in the past.
We also work closely with Action with Communities in Rural England, so that the Government benefit from regular access to up-to-date local intelligence about rural areas and from talking to experts who can offer practical advice on the design and delivery of programmes and policies. The RCPU also regularly meets the Rural Coalition, which is under Lord Teverson’s chairmanship, to facilitate strategic input into key policy areas across the Government.
On ensuring that policy is connected, let us consider one example of why the previous Government got it wrong. The Rural Payments Agency encouraged farmers to fill in their forms online. A lot of farmers live in areas where there is lamentable or no broadband signal, so they ended up having to take their forms down to the pub on a memory stick to download their data to the RPA. That is one of many past examples of how not to do policy, and it also shows why broadband is so important.
Let us consider broadband in the wider context. Broadband is much more than just a deliverer of jobs; it is about social inclusion. In this debate, we have talked about health, education and skills and about wanting to get more young people living and working in our rural communities. Broadband is about providing opportunities for those young people. However, it is also about an elderly person being able to shop online and someone being able to have access to information that can improve their needs if they are, for example, out of work.
It should be—and it will be and it is—our absolute ambition to ensure that someone who lives in a remote part of, for example, the constituency of my hon. Friend Rory Stewart can set up and run a creative industry requiring a fast
broadband speed as easily someone in one of our cities. That is our ambition. DEFRA has rolled out a rural broadband fund to try to get to those hardest-to-reach groups. Wonderful work has been done, not least in my hon. Friend’s constituency, which I visited recently. I saw the enthusiasm among local people to work with Broadband Delivery UK and other agencies to make sure that the roll-out of broadband is working. I entirely understand that when we make a bold announcement, people might feel frustrated and start to ask, “When is it going to happen? When will you start to deliver it?” Our commitment to have the best broadband across the country by 2015 is on track and it is important that we continue to maintain DEFRA’s role in reaching the hardest-to-reach groups of people. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend Mr Spencer when he talked about broadband being the fourth utility.
My hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire who initiated the debate asked whether we could make sure that the Government are doing things not to the countryside but for the countryside. That is how we see ourselves in DEFRA. We are a team of Ministers with a real commitment, and we are driving the issue forward with key groups of people, such as the RCPU, so that we can make a difference to how people live.
In the minute that I have left, I want to cover health care. Under the Health and Social Care Act 2012, there is a commitment—a duty—on NHS commissioning boards to prevent health inequalities in local areas, which is a concern for a lot of people. For example, it is much easier to deliver stroke care therapies in a large city than in rural areas, where doing so is more expensive. That is just one example of Government policy. We want to ensure, working across the Government, that we propose effective policies in rural areas.
Many hon. Members made other points, but I am afraid that I am running out of time. I want to give this commitment. What we are talking about in supporting rural communities is both a positive, optimistic view and the need to recognise that there are very serious problems. We will need to have frequent conversations in the House about how successful—