26 October 1999
Meacher ‘listening’ to Alliance

MICHAEL MEACHER, the environment minister, yesterday tried to cool the mood of the pro-hunting lobby with a soothing overture that the government was “in listening mode”.

Meacher chose the first countryside conference of the Countryside Alliance to make the remark.

His attendance alone was seen by many as a testament to the governments intention of healing the rift between it and the rural lobby.

He assured the conference that it was “absolutely not” the governments intention to “ride roughshod over the minorities”.

He was also critical of Labour MPs who refuse to meet pro-hunt supporters at constituency surgeries.

The minister made clear that the government was considering all aspects of countryside policy for inclusion in the rural white paper.

John Jackson, chairman of the Alliance, said the organisation had become “a broad-based political movement” which would campaign on issues including jobs, homes and farming.