Our policy is, and continues to be, to protect green belt land and land of environmental importance. There is no question of allowing uncontrolled development in the countryside.
Will the Secretary of State acknowledge that people in agriculture and people interested in rural use share a widespread anxiety about a vacuum in the Government's policy? Will he confirm the existence of an interdepartmental committee on alternative land use and rural employment, and will he give us an undertaking that the endeavours of that committee will eventually be published?
The Government will make such policy statements as they wish in their own good time. Wherever there is a policy vacuum it is likely that the Liberal party will try to fill it at the same time as the SDP, with the disastrous result of a collision in the middle.
May I remind my right hon. Friend that established green belt land represents less than 20 per cent. of England's countryside? Is that not all the more reason for asserting that the Government will protect those green belts, and for reminding any political party which thinks that the green belts should be breached that such belts command widespread support? In the words three years ago of the Select Committee on the Environment, the green belts should be regarded as sacrosanct.
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that we must preserve the green belt. We have no intention whatever of departing from past policies about that. We do not, as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) advocates from the Opposition Front Bench, believe that we should have green lungs with development running up to them on the green belt. We entirely reject that policy.
Does the Minister accept that tinkering with planning controls is no substitute for a proper strategy for rural economic development? Will he now answer the question put to him by the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood)? Is there a Cabinet Committee studying alternative land use and rural employment? If there is, what is it doing?
As the two hon. Gentlemen are from Scottish constituencies, it is difficult to know whether these questions should properly be addressed to the Secretary of State for Scotland. If the Government wish to make proposals, as I am sure they will from time to time, on how best to promote and preserve the rural economy, they will do so in their own good time. I make it clear that we have no proposals for re-rating agricultural land, which is apparently the policy of the SDP.
Will my right hon. Friend pay special attention in rural planning to places where schools are full and there is no capital available to build new ones? That should cause an infrastructure interdiction in just the same way as sewerage capacity or water supply.
Capital allocations for education are matters for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. These matters should form part of the structure plan or, in due course, I hope, the district plan that the district will produce. Of course, planning considerations are relevant.