[Robert Key in the Chair] — Affordable Housing (Rural Areas)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:47 am on 3rd November 2009.

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Photo of Barbara Follett Barbara Follett Minister of State (the East of England), Regional Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (the East of England), Department for Communities and Local Government 10:47 am, 3rd November 2009

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Key. I congratulate Tim Farron on securing the debate and on giving us an opportunity to air this vitally important subject once again in this Chamber. He obviously belongs to the William Cowper school of thought; like the poet, he believes that man made the town, but God made the country, but he extends that to the assertion that God made his constituency and did not seem to have much of a hand in any of the other 645 in the country. I will not argue about that here, as Grant Shapps and I both inhabit extremely beautiful constituencies and would be prepared to argue that point outside.

I do not intend to talk much about the vitally important subject of the rural economy, mainly because the debate is about affordable housing, but I know how the two interlock and how important businesses are to rural economies, as my hon. Friend Mr. Drew mentioned. I know that not only as a constituency MP, but as Minister for the East of England, which has significant rural representation. In that role, I would like to counsel the hon. Members for Welwyn Hatfield, and for Westmorland and Lonsdale, not to discard completely regional spatial strategies, which have their role. The Taylor report rightly pointed out that we need to keep track of the impact of those strategies on rural areas. Indeed, a report on that impact is shortly to be published.