Wednesday, 05 September 2012 22:25

Boost rural economy, Defra urged

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Boost rural economy, Defra urged

THE new ministerial team at Defra has been urged to revitalise Britain's ailing rural economy.

Newly appointed Defra secretary Owen Paterson should push through Defra's agenda for revitalising the rural economy, said the Country Land and Business Association.

"As MP for North Shropshire and former agriculture spokesman from 2003-5, Mr Paterson will understand the Defra brief very well," said CLA president Harry Cotterell.

"Now the CLA would like to see him vigorously implement the good policy work started under his predecessor, and present a bold vision for our industry in Defra's forthcoming Rural Statement."

The rural statement – due to outline the government's commitment to the countryside – has been delayed twice already this year.

It is expected to be published by the end of September, probably as soon as this week.

Mr Cotterell said the Mr Paterson had "undoubted qualities" to be the new Defra secretary and should waste no time in grasping the nettle on the key issues.

Mr Paterson was one of three new ministers appointed at Defra in a government reshuffle on Tuesday (4 September).

The others are junior Defra minister David Heath (Lib Dem); and parliamentary under secretary Lord de Mauley (Con).

The reshuffle came less than a month after the Rural Economy Index warned of a significant drop in confidence and investment among rural businesses.

Investment for non-agricultural businesses remained a significant issue, it said. Confidence in the farming sector had also dropped.

Non-agricultural businesses saw investment fall by 15% from -2% in the first quarter of 2012 to -17% in the second quarter.

Confidence among the farming sector for the next 12 months has fallen by 25% from +26% to +1% over the same period.

The Rural Economy Index (REI) is jointly published by the Country Land and Business Association with consultants Smiths Gore.

Barney White-Spunner, executive chairman of the Countryside Alliance, described Mr Paterson's new role as a "great appointment" for the countryside.

"Owen Paterson has consistently shown as a rural MP and shadow minister for fisheries and food a real understanding of the issues facing the countryside, farming and rural people."

His past achievements included actively campaigning to support and protect the Post Office network, said Sir Barney.

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