17 November 1995

Rural white paper under fire from Opposition peers

By Liz Mason

OPPOSITION peers have criticised the governments failure to set firm policy and spending targets in its rural white paper.

Speaking during a House of Lords debate, Labour peer Lord Carter said the paper was "long on analysis and short on commitment".

"What we actually have is a document of 146 pages with beautifully produced words and pictures confirming in terms the governments deeply-held belief in rural motherhood and apple pie."

Continuing the gastronomic theme, Lib Dem peer Lord Beaumont told Lords that the white paper had been described as the "longest unpriced menu in the world".

He said the document "should be gone through with a fine-toothed comb and targets set and produced to Parliament before too long".

The Bishop of Southwark said public expenditure was the only way to properly reward farmers and landowners for "the enormous environmental blessings that they bring to the nation".

The brutal truth was that the white papers excellent objectives cost money and, without the political will to make resources available through the tax system, it would be a dead duck, he warned.

Junior environment minister Earl Ferrers made no apology for the unpriced menu. Enormous sums of money are being spent on the countryside but government is suggesting a redirection of effort. "To suggest that all this will tot up to a large bill of extra money is entirely wrong. It is the wrong way to look at this document."