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Economic Downturn (Rural Economy)

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 10th December 2009.

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Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield 10:30 am, 10th December 2009

What recent assessment he has made of the effect of the economic downturn on the rural economy.

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Photo of Dan Norris Dan Norris Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

While the economic downturn is having an impact in both urban and rural areas, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs analysis of data from other Government Departments and the regional development agencies suggests that, when compared with the economy in urban areas, the picture in rural England so far has been more positive.

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Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

Is the Minister aware that some 200,000 people living in rural areas do not have bank accounts; that mainstream banking facilities in rural areas are closing; that pubs, post offices and schools are closing; and that in some areas, village halls are closing because they cannot be maintained? Will the Minister and his Department undertake a review of the position of rural areas as a result of what has been happening recently, not least the recession?

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Photo of Dan Norris Dan Norris Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

That is a very important issue, as I know from my own constituency. In June 2009, the Department for Work and Pensions, which is the lead Department for financial inclusion, and the Commission for Rural Communities jointly published a report on financial inclusion in rural areas, "Rural Money Matters", which found that rural areas did not appear to fare worse than urban areas, although it suggested that analysis on a smaller scale would be likely to identify smaller pockets of significant hardship. I am certainly concerned to keep an eye on that.

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