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The Countryside Alliance's ten-point agenda raises ten issues which ...
The Countryside Alliance's ten-point agenda raises ten issues which

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

communities and to avoid creating divisions in the countryside.

'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

are making.

'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.

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