Countryside Policy

Oral Answers to Questions — Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons at 1:44 pm on 10th November 1999.

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Photo of Mr Lawrie Quinn Mr Lawrie Quinn Labour, Scarborough and Whitby 1:44 pm, 10th November 1999

What proposals she has to develop a cross—departmental policy for the countryside. [96785]

Photo of Dr Mo Mowlam Dr Mo Mowlam Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Cabinet Office

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced today that I am to chair a new Cabinet Committee to co-ordinate the Government's policies affecting rural areas, although my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister will take the lead on the rural White Paper.

Photo of Mr Lawrie Quinn Mr Lawrie Quinn Labour, Scarborough and Whitby

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her new place on the Front Bench and on being appointed to chair that important Committee. Many of my rural constituents believe that we need to move forward from joined-up thinking to the joined-up action that I am confident that my right hon. Friend will promote on her vital new Committee.

Photo of Dr Mo Mowlam Dr Mo Mowlam Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Cabinet Office

I thank my hon. Friend for those comments. The Committee had its first meeting this morning. Joined-up government is beginning to work well. I assure him that we shall reverse the legacy left to us by the Tory Government. To see how they destroyed rural communities we only have to look at bus services. Before we came to power, only one parish in four had any bus services. With the money that we have put into local bus services, that situation is beginning to change. As our integrated transport policy moves forward in January, there will be further change. We have given incentives to many of the post offices and small shops that would have closed, like many before them under the previous Administration, to protect the sense of community in rural areas that focuses on local post offices.

Those are two good examples of Tory neglect. One final difference between us and the previous Administration is shown by the fact that between 1983 and 1997 they closed 30 small schools a year. We have given help so that small schools in rural areas not only survive, but have their standards protected.

Photo of Mr Ian Bruce Mr Ian Bruce Conservative, South Dorset

Now that she is in her new post, will the right hon. Lady do something about the extraordinary situation relating to fox hunting? The Home Office has suggested that we are going to do away with it, while the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has suggested to farmers that the best way to get rid of fallen stock is to call in the hunt to deal with the situation. Surely that is an excellent example of how joined up the Government are not.

Photo of Dr Mo Mowlam Dr Mo Mowlam Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Cabinet Office

Back in November 1997, the House of Commons voted overwhelmingly in favour of a ban, but the Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Foster) ran out of time. Ministers are now actively considering ways of taking the matter forward, and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will be making an announcement shortly.