§ Lord Patten
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they intend to appoint a "Tsar" or "Champion" with oversight of policy towards rural poverty in England and Wales. [HL5802]
§ Lord Whitty
The eradication of poverty in rural and urban areas is a high priority for this Government. My colleague the Minister of State for Rural Affairs, the right honourable Alun Michael, is working with colleagues on how to target rural poverty, which is often hidden in otherwise prosperous areas or widely dispersed. This is also being looked at by the Rural Affairs Forum for England.
The Prime Minister appointed Ewan Cameron to the role of Rural Advocate with a remit to "argue the case on countryside issues and for rural people at the highest levels in Government and outside".
The commitment to rural issues was spelt out in the Rural White Paper in November 2000 and is at the heart of policy-making in central government as reflected by the creation of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) with the specific objective of sustaining thriving rural economies and communities. Defra is working with other departments to ensure that rural needs are reflected in all their targets and delivery plans.
In addition, the Countryside Agency has a statutory role to advise the Government on rural issues and to report on rural aspects of government policies.
Rural policy in Wales is a matter for the National Assembly.