24th January 2019

Sir Nicholas Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to support small rural businesses to become more (a) productive and (b) competitive.

Dr Thérèse Coffey, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Environment: The Government is committed to driving sustainable growth in the rural economy, of which small and medium enterprises are a vital part.

The Government is supporting small rural businesses to become more productive and competitive through the £3.5 billion Rural Development Programme for England. This seven year programme is providing over £500 million to help grow rural businesses, including for farm and food sectors, through a range of socio-economic schemes that includes the Growth Programme and LEADER. This includes £75 million allocated to improving rural broadband.

We are also working closely with DCMS to improve digital infrastructure in rural areas, helping rural businesses and communities. Improved digital connectivity can help remove the barriers to remote working, provide better access to customers and suppliers and improve business efficiency.