The Countryside

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:35 pm on 1st December 1999.

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Photo of Viscount Bledisloe Viscount Bledisloe Crossbench 6:35 pm, 1st December 1999

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord would like to visit the group of farmers I postulated and tell them what changes could be made to remedy the situation. I shall be interested to receive a copy of his speech to them.

There is constant talk of diversification. There is a limit to which one can do that. God forbid, but let us suppose that we double the number of golf courses and caravan parks in this country. They would take up a minute proportion of the area being farmed and benefit very few farmers.

What is frequently forgotten is that farming now produces so much more food than it used to because after the war a very deliberate decision was taken that this country would never again be as dependent on imported food as it was during the war. At that time this country was very nearly brought to its knees not through military defeat, but because of the sheer difficulty of importing food. It may be thought that that policy is out of date. I have never heard any government say that they have consciously resiled from it. They would be brave to do so.

The urban view is that other industries have gone into decline and that is bad luck. Factories have to be shut and something else has to be done. One cannot shut the countryside. In many urban minds I believe there is a view of a blissful countryside returning to its natural idyllic condition, unfarmed and looking very much as it does at the moment, but with a plethora of beautiful flora and fauna. That is ignorant rubbish. If farming were no longer to take place, most of the countryside would revert to impenetrable scrub, devoid of beauty, impossible of access and very short of flora and fauna of any kind. We would then be left with a situation where farmers have to be re-employed at vast expense, and with no self-satisfaction, to keep the countryside in a manner which the urban dweller would like. That is not a possible or desirable solution. It is necessary that people appreciate these facts if the countryside is to have a future.