MPs pledge to get to the heart of rural debate

THE CHAIRMAN of a new parliamentary watchdog committee has demanded “frank” debates to get to the heart of the issues that are inhibiting the growth of rural businesses.

Conservative MP for York Outer, Julian Sturdy. Picture: Mike Cowling

York Outer’s Conservative MP Julian Sturdy has been elected chairman of a new all-party parliamentary group launched this week to champion the 540,000-plus rural businesses across England and Wales, which together contribute more than £200billion to the economy.

MPs representing a range of constituencies across the country will sit on the new committee, and through their debates they will make recommendations to government regarding its policy decisions.

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After the group’s first meeting in the Houses of Parliament, Mr Sturdy said: “Rural businesses are the lifeblood of our countryside communities and they make a vital contribution to the national economy. I am delighted to have been elected chair of this important new group and I hope that by working together, members from all parties will champion the cause of rural business.

“We need to have a frank and open discussion about the challenges such countryside organisations face and work towards delivering practical solutions that will improve sustainable growth and opportunities for rural businesses.”

The CLA, which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses, will be supporting the group as secretariat.

CLA president Henry Robinson said: “We look forward to working with the MPs and Peers who form the group as they champion the businesses that drive the rural economy.”

The group will next meet when Parliament reconvenes after the summer recess, and will focus on promoting sustainability in the rural business community.

Key issues for discussion will include how planning policy can deliver growth, what steps can be taken to ensure countryside enterprises have access to the necessary skills, training, and education services, and whether devolution will provide rural communities with greater decision-making powers.