The Countryside

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:10 pm on 1st December 1999.

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Photo of Baroness Hayman Baroness Hayman Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) 7:10 pm, 1st December 1999

My Lords, it has been an enormously wide debate, reflecting the range of issues that are involved, as the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, said, when we conjure up an image of the countryside. We have dealt with a great many matters agricultural. But, equally, we have dealt with matters of social deprivation, the environment, education, transport and crime. That emphasises the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, and the noble Countess, Lady Mar, that this is not an area in which we can or should polarise or suggest that the interests of one group of people are diametrically opposed to, are different from or do not coincide with the views of their fellow citizens who may live in different parts of the country.

I was thinking about how I would respond to the right reverend Prelate on the issue of market towns. I am sure that that issue will be touched on in the rural White Paper because of the importance of market towns to the rural economy. But, equally, they are urban areas and the urban White Paper, which has been developed in tandem and in parallel with the rural White Paper, must recognise how we can make those thriving urban centres ones to which the rural population can relate.

Perhaps I may deal with one or two of the minor matters. I feel that I should reassure the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. I was worried about his protected rabbit warren when I first heard of it. I am reliably informed that the proposal from English Heritage--it is only a proposal--is to designate a medieval structure built by people for rabbit farming rather than by rabbits for rabbits to live in. So there will perhaps be something to preserve.