Rural people "treated like second-class citizens"

Rural people have been “treated like second-class citizens” for the last thirteen years, Nick Herbert has said.

 

The Shadow Environment Secretary also pledged that a Conservative Government would scrap national housing targets and regional quangos, and extend super fast broadband to rural areas.

Mr Herbert, who is standing as the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Arundel & South Downs on 6 May, was speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning (26 April).

Mr Herbert said that people in rural areas felt that the Government had treated them like second-class citizens during the last 13 years.  He said that the Conservatives were the "Party of the countryside".

Mr Herbert said that it was essential to revive the rural economy and rural services.  Unemployment had risen by two-thirds in rural areas in the last two years, faster than across the country as a whole.

Mr Herbert said: "I think that having high speed broadband is absolutely key to the revival of rural communities, perhaps one of the most pressing issues now facing rural areas, and we do have a digital divide.  We have whole sections of rural areas that can't get broadband at all, let alone get high speed broadband.  Labour's solution is typical Labour, which is a phone tax.  They want to tax people including elderly people who don't want broadband.

"What we have said is that we would end BT's local monopoly to get competition in, in order to drive the move to super fast broadband, and then we would use the money that's left over from the digital switchover to fund the gaps that may be left.  So it's a much more innovative, market-led solution.  We actually want to see super fast broadband in the majority of homes by 2017."

On housing, Mr Herbert said that a Conservative government would "get rid of the unelected, unaccountable regional quangos" and scrap the regional housing targets that "simply set up conflict".

He said the Conservatives would devolve power to local people and "allow the setting up of local housing trusts where communities can take their own decisions about providing local affordable housing which is such a pressing need in rural areas."

Mr Herbert concluded the interview by commenting on Labour's record on farming, saying: "I'm not going to let [the Environment Secretary] Hilary Benn get away with talking about supporting strong farming.  British production has declined under this administration.  The amount of food which Government itself procures is lower than the national amount that is procured in the economy as a whole.  This is a government that has not stood by British farmers or local producers."

Ends

 

Notes for Editors

1. To listen to the interview with Nick Herbert on the Today programme, visit http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8643000/8643800.stm.

Joe Coombesrural, Broadband