The Conservative Party has released its Manifesto (18th May) ahead of the General Election on 8th June. The Countryside Alliance’s campaigns team has been through the document and selected some highlights which will impact on rural communities. We hope the below facts and policies will inform you as we head towards the most important election the country, and the countryside, has known in many years. You can download the document here. Please ensure you are registered to vote before the deadline on 22nd May – click here for more www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

Digital Communications

By the end of this year, 19 out of 20 premises will have access to superfast broadband and our Universal Service Obligation will ensure that by 2020 every home and every business in Britain has access to high speed broadband. p. 78.

We will give consumers the same protections in online markets as they have on the high street. For broadband customers, we will make broadband switching easier and pricing more transparent. p. 78.

We will create a new presumption of digital government services by default and an expectation that all government services are fully accessible online, with assisted digital support available for all public sector websites. p. 80.

We will equip people with the digital skills they need now, and in the future, by introducing a right to lifelong learning in digital skills, just as we have done for literacy and numeracy. p. 53.

By 2022 we will extend mobile coverage further to 95 per cent geographic coverage of the UK. By the same date, all major roads and main line trains will enjoy full and uninterrupted mobile phone signal, alongside guaranteed WiFi internet service on all such trains. p. 78.

We will make clear the responsibility of platforms to enable the reporting of inappropriate, bullying, harmful or illegal content, with take-down on a comply-or-explain basis. p. 79

A Conservative government will develop a digital charter, working with industry and charities to establish a new framework that balances freedom with protection for users, and offers opportunities alongside obligations for businesses and platforms.  p. 77.

We will introduce a sanctions regime to ensure compliance, giving regulators the ability to fine or prosecute those companies that fail in their legal duties, and to order the removal of content where it clearly breaches UK law. p. 82.

Communities

We will meet our 2015 commitment to deliver a million homes by the end of 2020 and we will deliver half a million more by the end of 2022. p. 70.

We will build better houses, to match the quality of those we have inherited from previous generations… maintaining the existing strong protections on designated land like the Green Belt, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. p. 71.

We will bring sustainable growth to the rural economy and boost our rural areas, so that people who live in the countryside have the same opportunities as those who live in our towns and cities. p. 25.

We will also take steps to enhance the provision of public services in rural areas. We will safeguard the post office network, to protect existing rural services and work with the Post Office to extend the availability of business and banking services to families and small businesses in rural areas. A third of all SMEs in rural areas use their post office weekly and our ambition is that all routine small business and consumer banking services should be available in rural post offices. We will support pharmacies and village schools in rural areas. p. 26. 

We will continue to support small businesses through business rate relief and low taxation, and by reducing the bureaucracy and regulation that prevents small businesses from flourishing. p. 21.

We will develop the shale industry in Britain. p. 23.

Food and Farming

We have huge ambitions for our farming industry: we are determined to grow more, sell more and export more great British food. We want to provide stability to farmers as we leave the EU and set up new frameworks for supporting food production and stewardship of the countryside. So we will continue to commit the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of the parliament. We will work with farmers, food producers and environmental experts across Britain and with the devolved administrations to devise a new agri-environment system, to be introduced in the following parliament. p. 25.

We will maintain the Common Travel Area and maintain as frictionless a border as possible for people, goods and services between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  We will pursue free trade with European markets, and secure new trade agreements with other countries. p. 36.

We will establish an immigration policy that allows us to reduce and control the number of people who come to Britain from the European Union, while still allowing us to attract the skilled workers our economy needs. p. 55.

Environment and Wildlife

We will help Natural England to expand their provision of technical expertise to farmers to deliver environmental improvements on a landscape scale, from enriching soil fertility to planting hedgerows and building dry stone walls. We will deliver on our commitment to improve natural flood management, such as improving the quality of water courses to protect against soil erosion and damage to vulnerable habitats and communities. We will continue to ensure that public forests and woodland are kept in trust for the nation, and provide stronger protections for our ancient woodland. p. 26.

We pledge to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it. That is why we shall produce a comprehensive 25 Year Environment Plan that will chart how we will improve our environment as we leave the European Union and take control of our environmental legislation again. p. 26.

We will grant a free vote, on a government bill in government time, to give parliament the opportunity to decide the future of the Hunting Act. p. 26.

We will champion greater conservation co-operation within international bodies, protecting rare species, the polar regions and international waters. We will work with our Overseas Territory governments to create a Blue Belt of marine protection in their precious waters, establishing the largest marine sanctuaries anywhere in the world. p. 40.

Animal Welfare

We will continue to take action to improve animal welfare. We will implement our proposed reforms on pet sales and licensing and will make CCTV recording in slaughterhouses mandatory. As we leave the European Union, we can take early steps to control the export of live farm animals for slaughter. p. 26.