Fight for rural votes steps up

The campaign for rural votes gathered pace today with a visit by Nick Herbert, shadow secretary of state for environment, to Billockby Farm, near Acle.

The campaign for rural votes gathered pace today with a visit by Nick Herbert, shadow secretary of state for environment, to Billockby Farm, near Acle.

Accompanied by Great Yarmouth Tory candidate Brandon Lewis, he discussed a raft of issues affecting agriculture with farm owner Henry Alston.


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His visit came less than 24 hours after secretary of state for environment Hilary Benn's appearance in nearby Somerton to launch Labour's rural manifesto - a document summarily dismissed by Mr Herbert.

'Labour's rural manifesto is a contradiction in terms. After 13 years of Labour, people in rural communities feel they are treated as second class citizens,' he said.

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He said rural communities deserved to be respected by a government that would care for them as much as people living in towns and treat them equally.

Reviving the rural economy was an urgent objective as unemployment in rural areas had risen 60pc in the past two years, a faster rate than the country as a whole.

He said: 'We must stop Labour's job tax as that will hit rural areas hard.'

Mr Herbert said rural businesses would also be helped by the Tories' commitment to deliver high speed broadband into the majority of places by 2017; their approach of breaking BT's monopoly would be far more effective than Labour's strategy.

Norfolk Rural Community Council has highlighted the lack of affordable housing as a top concern of its members and Mr Herbert said his party was committed to delivering it.

'We will scrap Labour's central housing targets, scrap regulatory quangos and give power back to local communities; we will set up local housing trusts to provide affordable housing to meet local needs,' he said.

Mr Herbert promised coastal communities in Norfolk and Suffolk that their policy would be to 'try to defend the coast against erosion'.

He said: 'This government has been willing to let coastline go. We want to make the Environment Agency more accountable and give communities greater power to co-operate with schemes to build coastal defences.'

They could not guarantee to save every house and money would be in short supply in the next few years, but they were committed to spending money more wisely.

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