are very clearly at the heart of government policies and priorities,
rural affairs minister Alun Michael said today. And he called on the
Alliance to work with ministers and other organisations to help rural
'Earlier this year we established the Rural Affairs Forum, on which
the Countryside Alliance has a seat. Indeed the Alliance welcomed its
establishment and has been given the opportunity to be involved in
several of the active working groups. I urge them to help us make it
a success rather than diverting energy into yet another new
organisation', said Mr Michael.
'The Alliance has also had a seat at the table for the public
hearings of expert evidence on hunting with dogs, which they and the
two other umbrella groups, the Campaign for the Hunted Animal and the
Middle Way Group, helped to devise. I can certainly tell them that my
conclusions will be based on what we heard - on the evidence and the
principles clearly set out in my statement to the House of 21 March.
'On all other issues set out on the Alliance's agenda for action, the
government is already taking a lead. Alliance leaders know that I
have demonstrated my willingness to work with them for the good of
rural communities. Adding a further body, with the further
bureaucracy this would entail, will surely delay the good progress we
'The government will make a formal response to the Alliance's
statement shortly, but it must be understood that we seek to govern
for the whole country and for every community. I appeal to those who
want to promote the interests of rural communities to recognise the
needs and problems faced by urban communities and not to give
credence to the misconception of an urban rural divide. In reality
they are interdependent - we need each other'.
1. The Rural White Paper, published November 2000, set out the
government's vision for a living, working, protected and vibrant
countryside. It includes proposals to help town and parish councils
to develop a new role and give communities an opportunity to help
shape their future; to ensure rural needs are taken into account it
proposed rural proofing, which is now carried out annually by the
Countryside Agency; it reports that the British Crime Survey shows
that levels of general crime and fear of crime are significantly
lower in rural than in urban areas, but says there is no 'acceptable'
level of crime and sets out the government's determination to tackle
crime and fear of crime wherever it exists.
2. The Spending Review 2002 set, for the first time, a rural Public
Service Agreement which commits defra to reducing the gap in
productivity between the less well performing areas and the English
average, and to improving the accessibility of services for rural
people. For the first time too, that White Paper set out a range of
commitments from other government departments to deliver key services
in rural areas and to ensure that rural people benefit from the extra
resources delivered through the review.
3. Mr Michael set out on 21 March in a statement to the
house of commons the way in which he proposes to enable parliament
reach a conclusion on the contentious issue of hunting with dogs. He
would bring forward proposals based on the two key principles of
cruelty and utility highlighted by the Burns report. The minister has
stressed throughout the subsequent six months consultation period
that his proposals will be based on evidence. On September 9, 10 and
11 the Countryside Alliance took part in hearings of expert evidence
on hunting with dogs, arranged by the minister with their help, and
that of the two other hunting umbrella groups, the Campaign for the
Protection of the Hunted Animal and the Middle Way Group. At the end
of the hearings, Mr Michael commented: 'The future of hunting with
dogs should not be decided on personal taste, but on evidence of the
principles of whether or not it is serving an effective purpose in
managing wildlife and whether it is more or less cruel than the
alternative methods currently available'.
4. The Rural Affairs Forum met for the first time on 9 January 2002.
It was established to represent all aspects of rural opinion, and all
English regions, at the heart of government.