Rural Proofing

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 30th January 2003.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Conservative, Romford 11:30 am, 30th January 2003

If she will make a statement on the rural proofing of legislation.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Just over two years ago, the rural White Paper made the commitment that all relevant Government policy developments would be rural-proofed. Legislation is included within that definition. I am pleased to say that our colleagues across Government are increasingly working productively with us on the rural agenda.

Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Conservative, Romford

The Minister will be aware that the Countryside Agency reported on 11 April 2002 that progress in the vital area of rural proofing had been very slow. He will also know that a further report prepared last October has not been published. Why is that so, and does the policy remain integral to Government thinking on rural policy?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Last year's report indicated that a lot of progress had been made, but that there was a great deal more to be done. I agreed with that judgment at the time. The report prepared halfway through the year was intended to help accelerate the process in Departments and was not meant to take the place of the annual report, which will come out this year. I hope that that will demonstrate the progress that has been made by Departments across Government. I work closely with the Government's rural-advocate, Ewen Cameron who chairs the Countryside Agency, and we have met colleagues across Government to accelerate the process.

Photo of Bob Blizzard Bob Blizzard Labour, Waveney

When my right hon. Friend next does some rural proofing, will he rural-proof the roll-out of broadband? The rural parts of my constituency simply do not have access to broadband, which is crucial to developing the kind of new small businesses that are vital to regenerating the rural economy. For a long time, my constituency suffered poor transport infrastructure with narrow, winding roads. It seems now that the same is happening with the electronic roads—

Photo of Colin Breed Colin Breed Liberal Democrat, South East Cornwall

Will the Minister give us some assistance as to what is happening at present on rural proofing for broadband?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

May I answer both that question and the one put by my hon. Friend Mr. Blizzard? The Government have recognised the importance of broadband and the need to rural-proof the delivery of broadband in this country. I am pleased by the way in which colleagues at the Department of Trade and Industry and in the rural development agencies—