15 March 2001
Lib-Dems launch rural manifesto

By Isabel Davies

THE Liberal Democrats have launched their rural manifesto – despite the possibility that the General Election will be postponed because of foot-and-mouth.

The document, A Fair Deal for Rural England, promises immediate help in the form of compensation for consequential losses because of the disease.

It also sets out plans to establish an early-retirement scheme to help tenant farmers who have few assets get out of the industry.

This should also be tied to a new-entrant scheme so that it overcomes the “locked in/locked out” problem, says the document.

Lib-Dem agriculture spokesman Colin Breed said: “An early-retirement scheme linked to the new-entrant scheme for tenant farmers will revitalise the industry.”

Party leader Charles Kennedy pledged that the Lib-Dems would put the countryside and its concerns at the heart of their agenda.

“Britain needs a strong rural economy centred on agriculture, and we have the policies to achieve that,” he said.

The document suggests that farm support payments should be organised through a single Countryside Management Contract to reduce form-filling.