Members of the Senedd are to conduct a formal inquiry into the rural economy, its driving forces and the obstacles it faces - launching a report with recommendations in the autumn. Chaired by Sam Kurtz MS, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs and Senedd member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, CLA Cymru acts as the secretariat for the Senedd Cross Party Group (CPG) for Rural Growth.
CLA Cymru Director, Nigel Hollett says: “We’re delighted to be supporting Sam Kurtz and the CPG, and we hope that Welsh Government understands the powerful messages contained in the report.
“Supporting this CPG will be an important part of our lobbying work this year, but we will continue to focus on direct political engagement in what will be a critical year for farming and rural business in Wales."
The inquiry’s first session on 24 January will focus on the current status of the rural economy in Wales and the infrastructure that serves it. Expert witnesses will be called to give evidence to the panel of MSs on the CPG. Further sessions will follow, the final evidence-gathering meeting at the Royal Welsh Show in July. The agendas for these are likely to driven by evidence heard in preceding sessions and examine areas such as the influence of planning consent policy, agriculture and the food supply chain, diversified farm businesses and tourism – and social factors such as housing and availability of a skilled workforce.
Nigel says: “We will be reporting progress of the inquiry to members and stakeholders. The progress and findings of the inquiry will be a welcome focus for comment by members of the rural business community.”
One of the most comprehensive inquiries into the rural economy to be published by a parliamentary group in many years
In April 2022, the equivalent All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Rural Business and the Rural Powerhouse in Westminster produced a report, Levelling up the rural economy: an inquiry into productivity.
Nigel adds: “This was one of the most comprehensive inquiries into the rural economy to be published by a parliamentary group. It successfully shone a spotlight on the range of issues faced by CLA members and created a springboard for action. The Senedd’s CPG equally seeks to draw the Welsh Government's attention to similar issues here. All these issues examined will be the responsibility of the devolved government in Wales."
The APPG report set out a comprehensive plan for growth. The 27 recommendations focus on creating jobs, spreading opportunity and strengthening towns and villages across the country. It set out “a comprehensive plan for growth, one that will create jobs, spread opportunity and strengthen small towns and villages across the country.” The report also says “Rural Britain is not a museum. It is an important part of the national economy that deserves the chance to succeed.”
Nigel says: "There’s a lot of legislative activity from the Welsh Government that will have an impact on the rural economy – but CLA Cymru is concerned that not enough of it is committed to growth. Before the Senedd summer recess, we expect the CPG will run sessions on housing and planning, diversification and tourism, and food and farming, which are vital components of our rural economy. The report is likely to be published in the autumn.”