HC Deb 08 June 1995 vol 261 cc315-6
13. Mr. Peter Ainsworth

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to learn about the views of rural organisations, as part of the rural White Paper exercise. [25825]

Mr. Waldegrave

Our consultation letter received over 360 responses from organisations and individuals. In addition, my colleagues from the Department of the Environment and I have been conducting regional seminars with a wide range of rural interests.

Mr. Ainsworth

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, although it is not easy, it is very important to strike the right balance between protecting the interests of those who live and work in the countryside and protecting and enhancing our natural heritage? Does he think that the recent review of agri-environment policy makes important proposals in that context, and deserves wide support?

Mr. Waldegrave

My hon. Friend is right. He has been a great campaigner for some of the conservation measures that we are now enacting—those relating to historic hedgerows, for instance. He has made an important point about the countryside. We must not view it as some kind of museum; it is a place where people live and work, and we must give them space in which to do so.