The Countryside

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:47 pm on 1st December 1999.

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Photo of Earl Ferrers Earl Ferrers Conservative 7:47 pm, 1st December 1999

My Lords, as the noble Baroness discovered from the noise around the Chamber as she sat down, she has done a remarkably good job with great style, understanding and charm. It has not been an easy subject to cover; it has been wide and it is impossible to try to brief oneself for every eventuality. I add my thanks and congratulations to the noble Baroness on what she has done.

I also thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. One point which came out clearly is that agriculture and the countryside are in a bad state, a state of depression and anxiety. It must be addressed. The noble Baroness understands the problem and I hope that she can get her colleagues in government to present themselves in such a manner that people in the countryside believe the Government do care. I do not like to say so, but at the moment people in the countryside do not believe that the Government understand or care. I hope that they will do their best to make their understanding come over better.

I was glad that the two right reverend Prelates took part in the debate. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lichfield made a sensitive and human speech, saying that he had seen the anxieties of people faced with having to get rid of their homes and businesses and sometimes not being able to provide money for their pensions. The right reverend Prelate might meet those problems more than other people.

I am also grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham for participating in the debate. I was sorry that he was bullied by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, who accused him of trying to leave early. It is true that there is a convention that one stays to the end. Equally, the noble Baroness, quite rightly, said she understood if, for various reasons, people had to leave. However, the poor right reverend Prelate is sitting here having missed his train with a task to undertake early tomorrow. It is all the fault of the Liberal Democrats.

I was glad to have the opportunity to hear three government Back-Benchers, the noble Lords, Lord Haskel, Lord Harrison and Lord Davies of Coity. They said that they had come from the towns. That is good because the countryside encompasses not just the countryside. People in the towns participate in the countryside and it is of importance to them. It is also important that we have a contribution from them. The only point I sought to make was that, since the Government intend to undertake some substantial measures in the country, whether it be fox-hunting, fur-farming or access to the countryside, I would have thought that we would have had contributions from some noble Lords on the government Back-Benches who live in the countryside, know about these matters and would back up the noble Baroness. As it was, she was left rather bereft of such assistance, albeit supported vigorously by her urban counterparts.

I am grateful to noble Lords for having taken part in the debate. It has given us the opportunity to discuss a wide section of an important part of the countryside, and I hope that the Government will take note of what has happened. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.