Prime Minister hopefuls share views on rural issues

Ben Fox
Ben Fox

Conservative leadership candidates Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson have set out their views on some of the biggest challenges facing rural communities.

Both men were asked a series of questions on future rural policy during an interview with the Countryside Alliance.

Mr Hunt pledged to “fast track” the delivery of a full fibre broadband network and claimed that rural post offices would be “one of the
beneficiaries of my pledge to take 90% of high street business rates altogether”.

The Foreign Secretary also said he “wouldn’t introduce any undue restrictions on legitimate gun ownership and use” and pledged that all legislation under his government “would be based on principle and evidence”.

In his responses, 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. The former London Mayor 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”.

Jeremy Hunt said a Conservative government led by him would “place rural society at its heart”.

“I would boost the rural economy by cutting corporation tax and taking thousands of rural businesses, including post offices, out of business rates altogether.

‘I would also roll out a national, full fibre network to every premise by the mid-2020s.”

He added: “I can also pledge to base all my policy decisions on evidence and to never introduce any undue restrictions on gun ownership or the list of wild animals it is lawful to shoot.

‘Finally, I will ensure we leave the European Union so that we have full control over our agricultural and environmental policies.”

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson said rural communities will be “central to kick starting the British economy” after the UK leaves the EU on 31st October.
He said: “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 8 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 British food and drink,”  Mr Johnson said.

Both men made it through a series of rounds of voting by Conservative MPs and now face a vote of Conservative Party members. The winner is due to be announced on 23rd July.

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