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Uplands Policy Review

Volume 525: debated on Thursday 17 March 2011

I begin by informing the House that I have written to the Japanese Environment Minister, Mr Matsumoto, with whom I spent a great deal of time negotiating in Nagoya, to express our sincerest condolences. As the House would expect, I have also offered the services of my Department in respect of technical expertise on flood recovery, air and water quality and radiological decontamination.

I thank my hon. Friend and the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which she chairs, for highlighting the importance of the uplands. I have received numerous positive reactions from a wide range of stakeholders to the conclusions of the uplands policy review, which I announced last week.

May I share in the Secretary of State’s expression of condolences and thank her for writing to offer the services of her Department? I also thank her for her answer.

The uplands are the jewel in our farming crown, but the continuation of active farming needs to be encouraged, particularly the keeping of livestock. My right hon. Friend will be aware of the difficulties that tenant farmers are currently suffering. Will she come up with some positive measures in the policy review to encourage them to maintain livestock in the uplands?

We feel very strongly about the value and potential of our uplands, which have been overlooked for too long. That is why, as a new Government, we have prioritised our review of uplands policy. Our intention is to support and encourage all hill farmers to become more competitive, and we have made available up to £6 million a year more for environmental stewardship schemes. When I launched the review, I impressed on landowners that they should be constructive when they receive requests from tenants to participate in such schemes.

The uplands review obviously came out of the excellent report produced by the Commission for Rural Communities last summer. Will the Secretary of State explain why she has attempted to frustrate the clearly expressed will of the other place by cutting the CRC’s budget by some 90%?

It is not a question of frustrating the will of the other place. There has been a change of Government, and the two parties that together form the Government have Members of Parliament who mostly have rural constituencies. It is thus easier for us to champion rural causes, as in our uplands policy review. The hon. Lady’s Government had 13 years in which to do something about the uplands, but it has taken a change of Government to achieve that.