Parties set out rural priorities at conferences

Environment secretary Caroline Spelman told last week's Conservative Party conference that the Government had given priority to the environment.

In her speech in Manchester, she outlined several goals to help end more than a decade of neglect of the countryside. They included more protection of the natural environment.

"This is a Government prepared to act in the interests of the long term," she said. "Nowhere is it more vital than for the environment. Our generation has a duty to restore it for the next. This Government and this country should lead by example."

Spelman, who earlier this year was forced to admit that the Government had "got this one wrong" over plans to sell off publicly-owned woodland, added: "For far too long the economy of this country has been unbalanced - not just north-south, but rural-urban. It's one of the factors that have brought us to where we are today and we need to fix it."

- Labour's new "Back the Apple" campaign aims to portray it as the party of the countryside. The campaign focuses on supporting the Agricultural Wages Board and the Forestry Commission and it features a film by Lord Puttnam.

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