23 February 1998
Support Countryside March, urges Hague

TORY leader William Hague writes in The Daily Telegraph that next Sundays Countryside March should be supported by all who wish to take responsibility for their own lives.

He says farmers feel neglected by the Government and that small businesses in country areas have been badly hit by the dismantling of the Rural Development Commission.

He raises the issues of “green-top” milk, the right to roam and the beef-on-the-bone ban. He claims the Government is ignorant of life in the countryside.

Eric Bettleheim, the man who thought up the march, is interviewed in The Daily Telegraph. He says: “In my opinion this will be the biggest voluntary movement of people in this country since D-Day.

At least 100,000 people are expected to protest about the Governments attitude towards rural areas. It will follow this Fridays third reading of Michael Fosters anti-foxhunting bill.

Matt Ridley writes in The Daily Telegraph Britain has the most regulated, bureaucratised and centralised countryside in the world. He says the Government pursues a central planning strategy for the countryside that has long been abandoned elsewhere.

He points to the role played by rural quangos with power over private individuals. He says, for example: “If you own a farm, you cannot dig a pond or plant a copse without consulting at least one of the following: MAFF, EN, EH, JNCC, ITE, EEA, FC, CC, LPA, DETR, or RDC. He says only field sports have escaped what he calls “this nationalisation”, which is why they thrive. Now they are in danger of being banned.

  • The Daily Telegraph 23/02/98 page 20, page 26 (City Diary), page 34
  • The Financial Times 23/02/98 page 7, page 42
  • The Guardian 23/02/98 page 7