Will you support the countryside

As my next MP will you pledge your support for the following pledges?:

- Delivering full digital connectivity to the countryside by 2025.
- Mandatory country of origin food labelling to ensure a level playing field for British farmers after we leave the EU.
- Tackling crime in rural areas by introducing fair funding for rural policing.
- Opposing unjustified restrictions on firearms and punitive increases in the cost of licences.
- Making Post Offices the front office of government through the expansion of personal and business banking services, so protecting a vital service to rural communities.

In particular will you commit to support hunting, shooting and fishing; oppose any further restrictions; and take an evidence-based approach to any amendments to legislation affecting these activities.

Answer:

      As someone who has been campaigning on rural issues for over a decade, I am broadly supportive of all these issues. However, I have a policy of not signing specific pledges from campaigning organisations as they prevent me from using my judgement as an elected representative when examining the details of each case.

 

- Digital connectivity: It is wrong of the Government to shift its focus to rolling out full-fibre gigabit broadband (starting in big cities) when it still hasn't delivered its previous election pledge of a "Universal Service Obligation" which was meant to deliver 10Mb broadband to every home and business in Cornwall. Thanks to EU investment, many of us enjoy great broadband connectivity, but due to the Government's failure to fund its previous promise, 4,000 properties in Cornwall still have less than 10Mb. Of course I support faster speeds, but this should start with those who haven't even had basic broadband yet, not leaving rural areas until last again.

 

- Labelling: We must not allow British farmers to be undercut by lower-quality competition from elsewhere. I support a clearer labelling system which shows where food has been produced (not just finished or processed), but please don't be fooled into thinking that this will be an adequate safeguard if we leave the EU. The entire rural economy will be on the table in the post-Brexit negotiations and I simply do not trust Boris Johnson to protect our community if it gets in the way of his other priorities.

 

- Rural crime: As with so many areas of public services, the funding given to our Police totally fails to acknowledge the extra resources required to patrol a rural area. I have a track record of campaigning for fairer funding and it is clear that our current MP has been ineffective in this role. It is frankly offensive that after cutting our Police numbers for the past decade, she is now expecting to be re-elected on a promise to replace just part of what was lost.

 

- Firearms and country sports: As a liberal, I believe that any restrictions on personal freedom should be justified by evidence, not based on prejudice. In my experience, responsible sportspeople are happy to accept regulation where it can be shown to improve the sustainability of their activities.

 

- Post Offices: The only period in the past 20 years when Post Office closures were reduced was when the Liberal Democrats were in Government from 2010-2015 and we provided a fund specifically to support the rural branch network. Both Labour and the Conservatives have presided over continued declines in the network. In 2017 I successfully fought for a part-time service to be re-introduced at Lostwithiel Community Centre after the full-time branch closed down. More recently I was part of the successful campaign to force Barclays to reverse its decision to ban its customers from withdrawing cash at Post Office counters. I am keen to see more services being made available at local Post Offices and to do so at a price which makes them financially sustainable.

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