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Friday, 16 March, 2001, 17:50 GMT
Conservatives: Rural and urban affairs

Find out more about Conservative party policies on rural and urban affairs.

Urban and rural affairs, excepting food safety, are devolved to the relevant national political bodies. MPs elected to Westminster do not have a say on most of these issues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Local government in Wales remains a Westminster matter.


AGRICULTURE AND FOOD SAFETY

The Conservatives say that Labour has taken four years to show that it cannot meet the needs of the countryside.

It has pledged to introduce a national recovery programme to deal with the effects of foot-and-mouth on the rural economy.

The party believes that reforms to the European Common Agricultural Policy have not gone far enough.

It advocates giving greater flexibility to Europe's nation states in how their agricultural policy works.

It believes that farm policy should shift away from market or price support to encourage efficient producers to compete in world markets on a fair basis.

However, reforms must not be at the expense of the nature of the British rural environment.

The party has set up a food and agriculture deregulation commission to examine what it describes as the burden of red tape on agriculture.

The Tories plan to publish a list of regulations that it would repeal and, where it has decided a European regulation should be abolished, it pledges to bring these up at every meeting of the EU's agricultural council until other members agree.

The other side of the EU regulation coin, says the party, is equal and fair implementation. The party says that it would make simultaneous implementation of regulations across all EU members a priority.

Food safety

The party describes current food labelling policy as a "scandal", saying that consumers do not know what they are buying.

It wants labels to show the actual country of origin of food and the method of production of the main ingredients.

Imported goods that do not comply with strict new labelling criteria would not be allowed to be sold.

The party believes that the Food Standards Agency, established by Labour after it came to power, should have its powers strengthened so that it can scrutinise imports as carefully as domestic food.

In animal slaughtering, the party believes that small abattoirs should be protected and mobile units created to cut the need for live animal transport.

Rural economy

Conservatives say that in government they would set business rates to a level that would protect businesses which serve local communities.

They would also seek to expand the range of services available in rural post offices to ensure their survival.

The party says that it will give councils powers to stop unwanted greenfield development

The party says that there are also specific measures for farmers including relaxing planning laws to allow the conversion of some farm buildings for other use.

The party says that it would also reduce regulatory obstacles to the establishment of new farmers' markets.

The party also believes that it should develop retirement packages which would allow existing tenant farmers to leave the business so that young farmers seeking secure tenancies can come in.


HUNTING

The Conservative Party's official policy is that hunting is a matter for a free vote among individual MPs.

However, in practice, the majority of the party supports the right to hunt and the party has no plans to allow a bill to come forward should one be proposed.


HOUSING

Conservatives believe that the house-building scheme introduced by Labour in government will add up to 900,000 new houses - the equivalent of eight towns the size of Slough in Berkshire.

The party has accused Labour of a policy that will "concrete over the south-east [of England]".

The party says that in government it would ensure that 66% of new homes are built on brownfield sites.

The party believes that centrally-imposed housing targets, current government policy, are not the best way to meet demand and that Labour's proposals will lead to more luxury homes on greenbelt land rather than what the country actually needs, homes for single people in cities.


URBAN RENEWAL

The Conservatives published plans for urban renewal in a policy document, "Believing in our Cities" at the 2000 party conference.

It proposes a cross-departmental approach to urban renewal and said that it would start with improving community policing and schools before other issues can be dealt with.

The party says that its approach is designed to improve the quality of life for existing residents - including a policy to knock down the worst tower blocks - and to encourage others to move back in.

The key policies include:

  • Appointing a minister for regeneration
  • Establishing regeneration companies across the UK to drive urban renewal. These would be financed through a bonds issue and would be able to buy in additional services such as policing
  • Tackling bad neighbours and behaviour on estates
  • Providing incentives for the private sector to get involved in urban renewal
  • Introducing "ladders to ownership" to encourage home buying
  • Encouraging early-retiring GPs to return to work through pension and salary incentives


    LOCAL DEMOCRACY

    The Conservative Party says that there is too much Whitehall interference in local government which is leading to the weakening of communities.

    The party says that it believes power should be decentralised so that local councils have a much clearer role and are more accountable to their electorate.

    The party says that it will not reintroduce budget-capping powers, scrapped by Labour, and would block more "burdensome regulation and plans".

    But it would allow local voters to vote on council tax plans where proposed rises are significantly above the rate of inflation.

    The party proposes creating "Free Councils".

    These would be authorities that would be able to apply for greater freedom from central government intervention and regulation after they have demonstrated higher levels of democratic participation and financial efficiency.

    The party would retain Section 28, the controversial regulation that prevents local authorities from "promoting homosexuality".

    A Conservative government would abolish Regional Development Agencies, set up by Labour, and end any Whitehall moves towards regional assemblies.

    The party says that responsibility for enterprise and development should reside with local government.

    The party would also scrap the centrally-imposed housing targets of the Labour government, saying that it removes the right of a local community to control how it grows.

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