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Rural Economy

Volume 455: debated on Wednesday 24 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking to support tourism in rural areas; and what assessment he has made of the effect of cuts in spending to inland waterways on rural economies. (116286)

The regional development agencies (RDAs) in England were given the strategic lead for tourism in the regions, and have been tasked with ensuring the appropriate delivery structures are in place. Their remit includes rural areas as well as urban. Defra contributes to the RDA ‘single pot’ to support such activity. VisitBritain was established as the national lead tourism marketing organisation, promoting the UK overseas, and England domestically, including rural areas.

A high quality environment is a key part of the visitor experience in rural areas and Defra has a wide range of policies which support this including agri-environment schemes, landscape conservation and waterways. Defra sponsors the three major navigation authorities—British Waterways, the Environment Agency and the Broads Authority. It provides them with financial support in their important work of maintaining and improving canals and waterways. The Government recognise that waterways act as a catalyst for regeneration. For example, British Waterways has around 1,500 miles of rural waterways and has been involved with over £10 billion of waterside regeneration. In 2006-007, the in-year cut to Defra's navigation bodies will have no demonstrable effect on rural economies.