The Countryside Alliance wrote to both Labour leadership candidates asking their views on some key rural issues to help rural Labour members decide which candidate best speaks for them. We have received the below responses from Jeremy Corbyn MP and Owen Smith MP and thank them both for their input.
1. Do you support the Government’s commitment to a broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO) with the ambition to give people the legal right to request a connection to broadband with speeds of 10 Mbit/s, no matter where they live?
Jeremy Corbyn |MP: I support the Universal Service Obligation, but think the government need to go far further than this in ensuring all our communities have reliable, affordable access to high-speed broadband. Fast broadband access is an essential in modern life and the problem of poor access is felt acutely in rural areas that are too often overlooked by service providers. By investing £500 billion in infrastructure, manufacturing and new industries backed up by a publicly-owned National Investment Bank and regional banks we will build a high skilled, high tech, low carbon economy and as part of this this we care committed to investing in high speed broadband, as well as the energy, transport and homes that our country needs. You can read more about this commitment here www.jeremyforlabour.com/economy
Owen Smith MP: Yes. Access to a good broadband service should be a right in 21st century Britain, wherever you live. Making sure that access to a good broadband connection is on a similar footing to other basic services such as water and electricity will be a priority for me as Labour leader.
OFCOM reported last year that access to speeds of at least 10 megabits per second is the minimum required by the typical household to get a good internet service and to be able to access websites. Unfortunately 48% of rural premises cannot access internet of this speed. The Universal Service Obligation is one means of putting this right, ensuring the industry does more to meet people’s needs.
2. Do you agree that current levels of European Union funding available to UK agriculture under the Common Agricultural Policy should be maintained until at least 2020?
Jeremy Corbyn MP: I’m absolutely determined that the costs of Brexit should not be borne by ordinary British people, and Labour under my leadership will fight hard to make sure jobs and livelihoods in Britain are protected, across the whole of British industry. We’ve called on government to make guarantees on funding where this is now subject to the uncertainty caused by Brexit negotiations.
Owen Smith MP: I appreciate how difficult the current market is for many farmers and my goal is for farming to be economically viable and environmentally sustainable. British farmers received £2.7bn from the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy last year, making up 55% of farmer’s incomes, and so this is a hugely significant point. It is one of the reasons that I campaigned so passionately to remain in the European Union. Unfortunately, following the referendum the decision on how long the funding will stay in place will be worked out as part of the Brexit negotiations. It is clearly a delicate moment for the rural economy and leave campaigners who promised farmers their subsidies would be protected now need to show how that will be done.
I believe the British people must be given the opportunity to sign off on whatever deal the Government negotiates. That includes rural and farming communities who should be able to see the deal on the table before having a final say, either through a second referendum or a General Election.
3. Do you agree that there needs to be more incentives for landowners to make land available for affordable housing in rural communities as part of measures to tackle the housing crisis in rural areas?
Jeremy Corbyn MP: I’ve pledged to build a million homes, including at least half a million council homes, over five years to address the housing emergency. I think there needs to be regional targets for this homebuilding, backed up by a commitment to high-quality job creation, so that building is not just concentrated in the South East of England, but addresses the housing crisis across the whole country. You can read more on this pledge at www.jeremyforlabour.com/homes
The problems of infrastructure in the UK affect rural communities very deeply. I’m committed to the maintenance and extension of the rural bus network, extending our publicly controlled bus networks for a better service.
Owen Smith MP: The Tory Government have overseen a deep and catastrophic housing crisis. Despite the media impression, this is not a crisis that starts and ends in London. Thousands of young people up and down the country, in our villages as well as our cities, are unable to afford homes in the communities in which they grew up.
To get to grips with this crisis I have pledged to build 300,000 homes a year, that is 1.5m over the next Parliament. I will be outlining the details of my plans to meet that pledge later in the campaign, but one consideration is certainly how to make land available for building.
4. Can you assure the 650,000 holders of shotgun and firearms certificates in this country that you support lawful shooting?
Jeremy Corbyn MP: I support the effective regulation and control of firearms, with clear, accessible and enforceable laws as needed.
Owen Smith MP: Yes. Shooting is a sporting activity enjoyed by thousands which can also play an important role in conservation. We need to ensure that our strong and effective firearms licensing system remains in place and is upheld so that shooters can continue to enjoy their sport safely and legally, whilst balancing this with environmental and animal welfare responsibilities.
5. Do you agree that people who undertake lawful activities in the countryside, should be able to do so without interference, and without facing intimidation?
Jeremy Corbyn MP: I don’t support intimidation – this has been a key theme of my leadership; I of course support the right of people to protest and to have dissenting views as part of living in a democratic society.
Owen Smith MP: Yes. Everybody should be free to carry out lawful activities without interference and without facing intimidation. This includes the right to protest.