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Rural Economy

Volume 508: debated on Thursday 25 March 2010

19. What steps his Department is taking together with other Government Departments to strengthen the rural economy. (324069)

Rural economies are as diverse and, on average, as strong as their urban counterparts. All parts of Government are committed to supporting rural economies through mainstream departmental programmes. Those include £3.9 billion-worth of support to businesses and communities, from 2007 to 2013, from the rural development programme for England, as well as maintaining rural post offices through a £150 million annual network grant and providing £2.6 million in European recovery programme support for rural community broadband.

Given that list of activities, why does the Minister think that the rural advocate, Stuart Burgess, said in his latest report that

“the future viability of our rural communities is at risk if young people are unable to live and work”

in our rural areas?

The rural advocate, who was, of course, appointed by the Prime Minister, was absolutely right to point out those concerns. I, too, represent a rural constituency, and it is clear to me that young people are being forced to move out because there is a lack of affordable homes in rural communities. Local authorities have to work with Government and other people within rural communities to provide that housing, but that simply is not happening.