Rural ministry reactions vary

06 March 1998

Rural ministry reactions vary

GROWING support from MPs for a new department of agriculture and rural affairs has prompted a mixed reaction from industry bodies.

More than 50 MPs, including members of the agricultural select committee, have signed a motion proposing that rural areas should be represented by one ministry.

It adds that the new government department could then ensure that an integrated rural policy was developed which recognised the special needs and problems of the rural communities.

Environment minister Michael Meacher also gave credence to the formation of a new department at the Countryside March, where he said rural issues needed a single, dedicated centre.

The Country Landowners Association added their support suggesting that English Nature, the Countryside Commission and Rural Development Commission could be removed from the department of environment, transport and the regions and merged with MAFFs remaining responsibilities after its interest in food safety had been transferred to the Food Standards Agency.

But a Council for the Protection of Rural England official said it was opposed to a single department covering all rural issues because this could drive a wedge between urban and rural populations.

An NFU official said that any new department should be formed around agriculture in recognition of its role in the countryside. And be designated a senior ministry post to make strong representations in EU debates.

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