18 January 2001
MPs set up rural forum

By FWi staff

FORTY-FIVE politicians have attended the launch in London of an all-party group of MPs set up to tackle the problems of rural Britain.

The All Party Group for the Countryside has the support of all three major parties, and is designed to get to the heart of the real rural agenda.

David Curry, farming columnist and Conservative MP for Skipton and Ripon, was elected as the groups chairman on Thursday (18 January).

Mr Curry was shadow agriculture minister from June to November 1997. He is currently chairman of the House of Commons Agriculture Select Committee.

Colin Breed, Liberal Democrat rural affairs spokesman, and Bob Blizzard, Parliamentary Private Secretary to Baroness Hayman, were elected vice-chairmen.

The new group aims to provide a useful forum for both MPs and Lords to discuss rural issues with important voices from outside parliament.

Over the coming year it will invite a number of high-profile organisations and representatives to discuss specific aspects of the rural agenda.

The group hopes to raise the level of the rural debate inside Parliament.

Ewen Cameron, chairman of the Countryside Agency which advises the government on rural issues, said he was pleased to see the group formed.

“The countryside looks set to remain high on the political agenda for some time yet and in the run-up to the next general election,” he said.

“Too often policies have been made from the perspective of the majority, with policy-makers implementing what are essentially urban solutions.”

More often than not, the problem lies in a lack of understanding or a lack of any thought at all about the countryside, said Mr Cameron.