26 September 2000
Don’t ignore rural vote, warns CLA

By FWi staff

A LANDOWNERS leader has warned the Government that, with 300 rural seats up for grabs, it cannot afford to ignore the concerns of country people.

Speaking at a Labour Party Conference fringe meeting, Country Landowners Association president Anthony Bosanquet said the rural situation was grave.

He told an audience, which included farm ministers Nick Brown, Elliot Morley and Baroness Hayman, that this had not improved in the past year.

“There are alarm bells ringing across the countryside,” said Mr Bosanquet.

“Meltdown in the hills is in prospect; in the dairy sector farmers are quitting in increasing numbers.

“The Governments own commitment to environmental management schemes appears to have gone cold – payments for Countryside Stewardship have just been cut.”

Mr Bosanquet said the government had a chance before the election to ensure its actions were based on an informed understanding of the countryside.

He said he hoped the Rural White Paper – which the Government promises really will come out soon – would not make the situation worse.

“I hope that the Rural White Paper will show that the government has listened to the concerns of those who live and work in the countryside.

“If it reflects the views of those who live within the M25, it will not be well received in the countryside.”

Mr Brown said the Government would be spending more than ever on support for the hills as hill farmers would have access to the extra funds going into the rural development regulation.

The move from headage to area payments was the right thing to do and there should be no going back, he insisted.