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'ONLY THE CONSERVATIVES CAN PRESERVE THE RURAL WAY OF LIFE'

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Statement by Tony Baldry, minister of state for agriculture and director of the Conservative rural campaign, speaki...
Statement by Tony Baldry, minister of state for agriculture and director of the Conservative rural campaign, speaking today at Hereford Cattle Market, where he outlined Labour's threat to rural Britain and village life. He was campaigning with Hereford candidate, Colin Shepherd.

He said:

'Village life and rural traditions are under threat from Labour. Labour's policies would lead to the death of the rural economy, increasing rural crime, and undermine the rural way of life.

'Labour would introduce a national minimum wage, putting impossible

burdens on small businesses and leading to job losses throughout rural Britain.

'The village shop, set to receive a new boost with a 50 per cent reduction in business rates under the Conservatives, would become a thing of the past, and even the village pub would be badly hit. Their minimum wage would add 7p to the price of a pint, and close many of our best loved village pubs.

'Labour would grant a right to roam over the countryside, giving legal access to farmland. This would be a charter for an increase in rural crime, and cause tension and ill feeling in our villages.

'But most incredibly, Labour and the Lib Dems have refused to support the new police powers which allow action against the excesses of New Age Travellers, and hunt saboteurs.

'Labour and the Lib Dems are determined to ban hunting. We believe that this should be a matter for individual choice, and appreciate that such a ban would destroy the jobs of the tens of thousands of rural people which depend on local hunts. It would also criminalise a pastime enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people across Britain.

'At the height of the beef crisis it was the Conservatives who stood behind the farming industry - providing£3.5 billion worth of support. It is also the Conservatives who are best placed to get the beef ban lifted - we are currently pressing the EU to do just that.

'The Conservative Party is committed to preserving and promoting the heritage and traditions of rural Britain. We have introduced policies to safeguard village life, support the farming industry, and protect the rural environment. Our 'Rural Campaign' is addressing the concerns that many people have about the future of rural communities, as well as setting a positive agenda for the future.

'Every voter in rural Britain has a simple choice - between a Conservative Party that wants to work with rural communities and a Labour government that would seek to stamp its urban values on the countryside.

'Only the Conservatives are committed to preserving and protecting the rural way of life.'

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