Monday, 04 October 2010 21:26

Tories slam Labour's rural record

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Spelman: Labour neglected rural Britain Spelman: Labour neglected rural Britain

DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman has accused Labour of neglecting key rural services during its 13 years in government.

Rural communities, businesses and farmers were all neglected by Labour, she told the Conservative Party Conference on Monday (4 October).

Demand for food was set to increase by 70% over the next 40 years, Mrs Spelman told delegates in Birmingham.

“It’s the food and farming industry which has to face these challenges. But they were neglected under the last government.

“Not just them, but the whole rural way of life – with the loss of post offices, buses and other key services.”

The Tory Party would put right Labour wrongs, said Mrs Spelman.

“Labour left a legacy where both farmers and rural businesses have no access to the internet,” she said.

“And not just them, but a whole generation of children disadvantaged simply because they can’t log on.

“That’s why we’re determined to tackle this digital divide.

“The fact is Labour has run our rural areas down. Frankly we’ve got to make up for lost time.”

Mrs Spelman’s full speech can be seen here.

Shadow DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn dismissed it as all talk and little action.

“Caroline Spelman seems to have left the facts behind in her London office,” said Mr Benn.

“In the last decade, crime in rural areas fell and new businesses started up.”

Labour had a plan to get high speed broadband rolled out across Britain by 2012, he added.

This target was revised by the coalition government until the end of the current parliament - effectively delaying it by three years until 2015.

Mr Benn, who served as DEFRA secretary from 2007-10, said Labour had put food and farming at the heart of the economy.

The Labour government had devised the country’s first food strategy in 60 years and set up plans for a supermarket ombudsman, he said.

“At the moment her department talks tough, but we see little action and no vision for rural Britain at all.”

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