Election special – Labour policies on rural issues

With a General Election looming on 7 May, we asked the political parties to set out their policies on eight key rural issues that affect the countryside in 2015. Here are all the responses made by Labour

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Should some areas of green belt be built on to increase supply of housing?

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The Government watered down the previous Labour government’s policy that brownfield land be built on first. A Labour government will reintroduce a strengthened “brownfield first” policy. Labour supports the green belt and will not change its protection. Local authority power to de-designate or swap green belt land in local plans for new homes will remain unchanged.

Do you believe that the ban on hunting with hounds should be repealed?

No. Labour has a proud record on animal welfare – we introduced the Hunting Act and it is safe in our hands. It says everything about the Conservatives that, at a time when there are a million people dependent on food banks in our country, their priority is to bring back hunting.

How will you improve rural broadband access?

Labour would have delivered universal broadband by 2012 – the Government is two years behind schedule. It has abandoned isolated rural communities without any broadband. They are only now running pilot schemes to connect these communities. The results of those pilots will guide our next steps.

What are the best ways to tackle bovine TB in cattle?

The Government’s inhumane and ineffective badger cull has been a failure on every count. We will work with scientists, wildlife groups and farmers to develop an evidence-based strategy. This will focus on badger vaccination, compulsory post-movement testing of cattle, a comprehensive risk-based trading system, and more robust bio-security on farms.

How will you stimulate the rural economy?

We will raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour, introduce tax incentives for firms to pay the living wage, boost apprenticeships and cut business rates for small firms. We will cut income tax through a lower 10p starting rate of tax and introduce a 50p top rate of tax.

How will you improve rural transport links?

Thirty million miles of bus journeys have been lost under this Government and many rural communities are losing out. Labour will give city and county regions more powers to regulate bus services, which will allow them to deliver better outcomes for passengers, regulate fares and improve services.

What is your approach towards HS2 and HS3?

Labour supports HS2 because it will provide needed new capacity on our railways, better connect our great cities and help small businesses to grow. Under Labour, we will ensure better cost control. Labour also believes that improved east-west transport links are vital to a thriving, balanced economy.

Are there instances where development should be stopped to protect wildlife or biodiversity?

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It’s important to find the right balance between protecting the natural environment and building the homes we need. Labour will give local communities more say in development, and we will encourage the preservation and creation of habitats to improve biodiversity, protecting Britain’s natural environment for future generations.