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Last year, the Government also announced the rural White Paper, which will cover the issues of living in, working in and enjoying the countryside. The White Paper, which will be published in the middle of next year, will present a coherent view of Government policy for the countryside and will demonstrate the integration of rural concerns, across all Government Departments, which impact on the English countryside. There is no formal consultation, but we have written to 420 organisations, seeking their views, and so far have received 362 responses. The aim is to ensure that the resources that go into the countryside are used to the optimum effect, based on principles set out in the sustainable development strategy. The sort of things that the paper will look at are: the impact of the common agricultural policy on the countryside and the Government's objectives for its further reform; making provision for necessary development and finding ways of providing that in a sensitive, well- designed manner; the dynamic relationship between towns and cities and the countryside; the sophisticated nature of economic activity in today's countryside and the importance of

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encouraging further economic development and diversification; the strengths of localism, including resistance to uniformity, the recognition of local identity and the role of local government; strengthening policies to respond to the decline in biodiversity and to protect and enhance the wider countryside as well as the most valued landscapes and habitats.

The White Paper is not about quick fixes or instant initiatives. It is intended to develop a long-term, strategic framework for the future of our countryside. Ministerial colleagues from my Department and from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food have almost completed a series of seminars around the country to listen to the views of local representatives.

I believe that tonight I have briefly outlined a wide range of initiatives, from the biodiversity action plan to the rural White Paper, which demonstrate that the Government are taking a strategic view of the conservation of the natural heritage, which will take us forward positively and sustainably into the next century.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at seventeen minutes to Nine o'clock.

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