HC Deb 27 February 1996 vol 272 c712
9. Mrs. Lait

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement about his plans to introduce a new rural business use class. [15495]

Sir Paul Beresford

We announced in the rural White Paper our intention of consulting on the possible introduction shortly of a new rural business use class. A consultation paper is in preparation and the intention is to improve the rural economy by giving local planning authorities more confidence to allow appropriate new businesses to set up in the countryside.

Mrs. Lait

That is welcome progress in helping to reduce rural unemployment in areas such as Rother, where it has been far too high for far too long. Does my hon. Friend agree that councillors and planning officials have been the most opposed to successful, small-scale business development? What plans are there to provide training and information for them so that such developments may be encouraged—so that we may have thriving villages and a thriving countryside?

Sir Paul Beresford

My hon. Friend will be aware that, even at its consultancy stage, the White Paper will contain reassurance on exactly the concerns of local authority councillors and planning officials. I am sure that they will grab the opportunity and move with it when it is fully realisable.

Mr. Foulkes

Will the initiative extend to Scotland, Britain's premier rugby nation?

Sir Paul Beresford

I should have thought that, bearing in mind my accent, the hon. Gentleman was taking a big risk talking about rugby—even at Murrayfield. I shall certainly put his point to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, who might like to consider it.