London lobby shows strength of countryside lobby

02 March 1998

London lobby shows strength of countryside lobby

THE Government last night offered a series of concessions to rural Britain after the Countryside March brought 250,000-284,500 people to London.

Described as the biggest protest since the CND marches of the early 1980s, the Government was obviously shaken by the level of disdain from country voters.

Country people turned out to protest against issues including the hunting with dogs bill, the beef export ban, the beef-on-the-bone ban, the strength of the pound on agricultural exports, cheap food imports, right to roam, and the urbanisation of rural Britain.

March organisers, The Countryside Alliance said the event had re-established the rural lobby as a major force in British politics. It even hinted it might run candidates at the next general election.

Mr Michael Meacher, environment minister, indicated to LWTs Dimbleby programme that Michael Fosters hunting with dogs Bill was likely to fail due to the Governments refusal to support it.

The Guardian reports the government was trying to broker a compromise last night on foxhunting. The deal could involve drawing up a code of conduct and licensing hunts on condition they observe it.

Mr Meacher, the only minister to take part in the march, mooted the possibility of a tax to discourage development of greenbelt areas and a new effort to reclaim contaminated land.

Ministers confirmed that the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) would be revamped into a department of rural affairs to give rural communities a stronger voice in the Cabinet.

But the favoured name for the ministry, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, has gone down badly with the focus groups. They associate the name with “nookie in the bluebell woods”, according to one insider.

The Independent said a countryside ministry would be created in time for the first cabinet reshuffle expected before the end of July.

  • Financial Times 02/03/98 page 1, page 7, page 21 (Observer)

  • The Scotsman 02/03/98 page 1, page 24, page 18 (Notebook)

  • The Independent 02/03/98 page 4, page 5

  • The Times 02/03/98 page 1, pages 2, page 3, page 21 (Leader)

  • The Guardian 02/03/98 page 1, page 4, page 5, page 17 (Leader)

  • The Daily Telegraph 02/03/98 page 1, page 2, page 3, page 20 (Charles Moore), page 21 (Editorial)

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