Clause 17 - Commission for Rural Communities

Part of Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:15 am on 23rd June 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Colin Breed Colin Breed Shadow Minister, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs 9:15 am, 23rd June 2005

That is certainly a similar subject, but perhaps my experience in Cornwall is somewhat different, as it now marks the closest thing to a one-party state that we have, since all five Members of Parliament are Liberal Democrats and we control the county council. The voices of the people there have made it clear what they are looking for and what they require, which perhaps are not the Government’s current policies.

At the beginning of the Countryside Agency’s operations, it really understood the idea of rural-proofing. Very early on, it made some very good cases about health services and the retention of our community hospitals. If we had lost those community hospitals, which was certainly a danger at one stage, our current services in rural areas would have been much poorer. So, at the initial stage, the Countryside Agency did some valuable work.

Do not get me wrong—there is a job for rural-proofing. I believe, however, that it is the responsibility of the Department. The Department is there, in Government, to try to put the case for rural communities. If it is unable to do that, it does not matter how many other people advise it on what is happening. If, at the end of the day, Ministers in DEFRA are unable effectively to ensure that Government policy reflects the needs of rural communities, all the advice and all the rural-proofing advocates in the world will not change the situation.