20 September 1996

CLAto quiz all 3 Parties on policies

LANDOWNERS will be looking for assurances on common agricultural policy, help for rural businesses, more details on public access and a commitment to fight for the UKs farming industry in the BSE crisis at the three Party conference fringe meetings, which begin next week.

All three party farm spokesmen – Paul Tyler, Liberal Democrat (Sept 23); Gavin Strang, Labour (Sept 30) and Douglas Hogg, Conservative (October 9) – will be speaking and answering CLA members questions at the fringe meetings.

Nick Way, CLA political adviser, said landowners were concerned about the Liberal Democrats leanings towards modulation of CAP support, which would severely hit UK agricultures larger farms.

Energy tax

Other issues to be brought up at next weeks Brighton conference will include the partys proposals for a car-borne energy tax, which the CLA argues will disadvantage rural motorists, and the greenfield development tax, which could stymie rural development. Proposals to give more planning clout to parish councils are also opposed.

The modulation issue will also be one of the key issues targeted at the Labour fringe meeting in Blackpool, though there are other concerns surrounding public access, the setting up of a food standards agency and restrictive environmental regulations.

Labours policy on the right to roam seems to have eased in recent months, but the CLA will be putting forward its own system of voluntary landowner arrangements developed in its Access 2000 policy document.

Commenting on the food standards agency proposals, Mr Way said there were too many questions left unanswered such as its accountability and how it would cover thewhole food chain.

BSE is set to dominate the Conservative fringe meeting in Bournemouth, where the CLA will continue to call for the abandonment of the selective cull and base its decisions on scientific evidence.

However, Mr Way said the CLA would have plenty to say about the progress of the Rural White Paper.

Tony McDougal

"We want to make sure they are not just talking about cutting expenditure but will maintain its spending commitment on countryside stewardship and the agri-environment package."

The CLA also wants the Conservative Party to give positive clear direction on planning policy guidelines (PPG 7) in the countryside to boost rural jobs, and to adopt its rural business unit option, allowing landowners to treat all their land-based activities as one trading business for tax purposes.