Productivity: Rural Areas

Part of RAF Valley: Funding and Employment – in Westminster Hall at 5:17 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of John Howell John Howell Conservative, Henley 5:17 pm, 14th October 2020

The issue has been looked at in considerable detail by the Council of Europe, across the wider Europe that it is responsible for. One of the things that has come out of that is that, while we may want to see rural areas as one block, they are actually quite diverse. Many rural areas are some of the most prosperous in this country. In many there is a shift to a new rural economy with reduced dependency on land-based activities and a more diversified economy. What we need to do in those areas is support entrepreneurship and innovation. In my constituency, at Culham, which is the UK’s centre for fusion activities, we are bringing in many exciting new international companies and setting up a centre for apprenticeships that can operate across the whole area and carry on quite significant scientific activities. That all depends on access to technology and connectivity. A number of hon. Members have already mentioned the issue of broadband, and I completely agree about that.

There is a demographic issue that we all, I think, are concerned with—that rural areas should be the home not just of retired people but of young people who are innovative and out there, and who are getting on with making the areas where they live prosperous and quite strong. If I had time I would quote from the OECD, which has also looked at the area in question. That would reinforce what I have said about the need to value innovation and entrepreneurship in taking forward the prosperity we want in rural areas.