Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

The potential of England's rural economy

Report published

The Committee published ' The potential of England's rural economy', its Eleventh Report 2007-08, on 29 October 2008.

Oral and Written Evidence was also published on 29 October 2008.

The Government response was published on 21 January 2009.

Inquiry refocused (21 February 2008)

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee launched an inquiry into the potential of England's rural economy in July 2006 and received written submissions in October 2006. In June 2007, the Chairman appeared on You and Yours to discuss the inquiry and in November 2007 the Committee received a briefing on the rural economy from the Commission for Rural Communities.

In the light of Defra's new Public Service Agreement targets and Departmental Strategic Objectives, arising from the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007, the Committee has decided to refocus its inquiry to concentrate on Defra's objectives for the rural economy and the effectiveness of the architecture in place to deliver them.

The Committee is particularly interested in the Departmental Strategic Objective that refers to "Strong rural communities", which is broken down as follows:

Departmental Strategic Objective

Intermediate Outcome


Strong rural communities

Economic growth is supported in rural areas with the lowest levels of performance

Two key indicators: workplace earnings per worker per hour split (an indicator of labour productivity) by local authority district; and employment rate by local authority district

The evidenced needs of rural people and communities are addressed through mainstream public policy and delivery

Basket of LGPF [local government performance framework] indicators on educational attainment, social capital/quality of life, health and social care, employment and economy, housing affordability, and crime and ASB [antisocial behaviour]

The original written evidence that the Committee received addressed the rural delivery architecture, but that evidence was prepared before the "strong rural communities" objective was adopted by Defra. The Committee therefore invites those who submitted memoranda to submit additional evidence to address the inquiry's revised focus.

The deadline for the submission of refocused evidence was 20 March 2008.

Initial Terms of Reference (27 July 2006)

The EFRA Committee has decided to undertake an inquiry into the potential of England's rural economy: what could be achieved and the barriers to achieving it. The inquiry will build on the work of the previous EFRA Committee in its inquiry into the Government's Rural Strategy and the draft Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill , and take into account the new arrangements for rural policy put in place by the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006.

In particular, the inquiry will consider:

1. Defra's objectives for economic development in rural areas, including the relevant Public Service Agreement (PSA) target, and the funding available to achieve them.
2. The role of Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) in unlocking the economic potential of rural areas, and the effectiveness of Defra's relationship with RDAs.
3. Agricultural and non-agricultural providers of rural employment, for example horticulture, and possible barriers, including the structure of the retail food sector, to their further development.
4. The effectiveness of rural proofing arrangements in ensuring that the rural aspects of economic development are properly reflected in national and regional policy, including planning policy.
5. The role of Natural England and the Commission for Rural Communities and their effectiveness in taking forward the work of their predecessor bodies.

Oral evidence

Wednesday 16 July 2008
Jonathan Shaw MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Marine, Landscape & Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Wednesday 2 July 2008
(Held at the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes, North Yorkshire)
Councillor John Blackie, The Business Association (Wensleydale) Ltd, HSBC Bank, Robert Tunstall, W.R Outhwaite & Son Ropemakers and Wensleydale Creamery

Monday 12 May 2008
Local Government Association; Regional Development Agencies

Wednesday 7 May 2008
Centre for Rural Economy, Newcastle University; Commission for Rural Communities

Letters from witnesses about the Government response to the Committee's report

At its meeting on 1 April 2009 the Committee agreed to publish letters from witnesses to the inquiry about the Government response to the Committee's report [Councillor Jane Carson, South Lakeland District Council, Lancashire Rural Delivery Pathfinder, Peel Holroyd, and Regional Rural Affairs Fora].

Rural economy letters

1 April 2009

Press notices

15/01/09   Government response to be published
29/10/08   Report published
23/10/08   Report to be published
01/07/08   Evidence session - changes to witness line-up
26/06/08   Further evidence sessions announced
23/06/08   Further evidence session announced
22/04/08   Further evidence session announced 
02/04/08   Evidence session announced
21/02/08   Inquiry refocused
27/07/06   New inquiry