by James Legge

During the Conservative Leadership election we asked the now Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, his stance on key rural issues. Take a look at what the Prime Minister said below.

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With a no-deal Brexit seeming ever more likely, rural communities face a range of new challenges and opportunities. Demands on government funds will be increasing on all fronts and it is vital that in the reshaping of UK government policy and the allocation of resources that rural Britain gets its fair share. The increasing hostility to hunting, shooting and fishing and animal rights extremist activities is a growing threat to our way of life.

In response to a series of questions put to the new Prime Minister during the leadership campaign, Mr Johnson pledged to make more funds available to address “imbalances that affect rural communities” and committed to supporting the “vital resource” of the rural post office network. He also said he would ensure that laws on wildlife management and animal welfare were based on “facts rather than emotion” and said looking to change firearms legislation was “not a priority”.

The Prime Minister has said: “Rural communities will be central to kickstarting the British economy after we leave the EU on 31st October. Around a third of our businesses are in the countryside and I will ensure that they have access to superfast broadband by rolling out full fibre eight years ahead of the current target in 2025. School budgets in our rural schools have been under pressure, that’s why I am boosting per pupil school funding, so every child gets a quality education. And I am the only candidate committed to leaving the EU by 31st October so we get out of the Common Agricultural Policy and deliver the support our farmers need so they can grow, sell and export more great British food and drink.”

The Countryside Alliance will be working to ensure the government delivers on its commitments and that rural Britain’s voice is heard loud and clear. The Prime Minister’s responses to our questions are below:

Will you ensure funding is available to deliver the government’s commitment of a full fibre broadband network across the UK by 2033, prioritising connectivity in rural areas?

“Yes. I am fully supportive of making sure that rural communities are not left behind through lack of connectivity. With close family members dotted throughout the countryside, I know just how vital this is.”

Will you commit to “ring-fence” funds for rural development within the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund?

“I can assure you that, under my leadership, no rural area will be left behind, and I have pledged that more funds will be made available to address imbalances that affect rural communities.”

Will you ensure that government policy across all areas is “rural-proofed”, as recommended in the recent report from the House of Lords Rural Economy Committee?

“I will ensure that the concerns of rural communities are considered in our policies.

Governments have all too often been guilty of not thinking through how policies impact on some of our most remote areas. We need to reverse that.”

Will you commit to supporting rural post offices, and making the post office network a front office for government services?

“I believe that we do need to support rural post offices, and as Prime Minister I will commit to looking at what we can do to improve this vital resource.”

Will you ensure that future agricultural and environmental policies outside the EU support upland landscapes and communities?

“Yes – and this will be easier when we are responsible for our own decision-making.”

Can you assure the 650,000 holders of shotgun and firearms certificates in the UK that there will be no undue restrictions on legitimate gun ownership and use?

“We rightly have some of the strictest gun laws in the world. I believe that legitimate ownership and use should come with robust levels of responsibility, too. Changing these laws is not a priority.”

Will you seek to maintain access to the EU Firearms Pass in our new relationship with Europe, which provides free and frictionless movement of lawfully held firearms across EU countries along with Norway, Iceland and Switzerland?

“I will be aiming to ensure that we have a trade deal that minimises friction on the cross-border transfer of goods, while ensuring that our border is secure and protects UK citizens. I will be happy to discuss specific concerns as we strike that deal.”

Will you commit to implementing measures to counter animal rights extremism, including any relevant recommendations from the government’s Commission for Countering Extremism, which is due to report this summer?

“While I am committed to protecting animal welfare, I will not tolerate extremism, intimidation and abuse irrespective of the motives that drive it. I will consider any recommendations that come from the commission.”

Will you ensure that all wildlife management and animal welfare legislation is based on principle and evidence?

“Yes – these are areas that rightly generate passionate debate and discussion, and we therefore owe it all interested parties to base law on facts rather than emotion.”

Can you confirm that there will be no unjustified restrictions on the list of avian pests, including those species controlled to protect crops, livestock and biodiversity?

“As with any wildlife issue, the government’s position will be driven by the highest quality independent evidence.”

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