§ Mr. Geraint Howells
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the role and remit of his Department's Directorate of Rural Affairs; what progress has been made and what future plans exist for each of that directorate's research projects on the social and economic problems of rural areas.
§ Mr. Heseltine
The Directorate of Rural Affairs is concerned broadly to promote landscape and nature conservation and the social and economic wellbeing of rural areas. Close contact is maintained with the Countryside Commission, the Nature Conservancy Council, the464W Development Commission and all Departments with countryside interests, including the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Welsh Office. Other responsibilities include caravans and camping, trees and public rights of way, common lands and allotments.
The work of the directorate has enabled successive Governments to take an informed view on matters of national importance in the field of rural affairs and to ensure that Government policies and actions can take account of the needs of the countryside. As part of this process, five research projects have been commissioned concerned with selected aspects of the social and economic problems of rural areas. These are due to be completed at various stages between May 1980 and May 1982.