This Government has never commanded the confidence of the countryside. As time has gone by, the suspicion has grown that New Labour knows and cares little for the rural way of life.

Now, possibly only months before a General Election, ministers are finally addressing their critics with the White Paper, A Fair Deal For Rural England.

This cannot have been an easy document to draught. Many of rural England's problems stem from social trends over which the Government has little power.

Village life is often dominated by those who work in the city. They travel to work by car, shop in urban supermarkets and only really have time to fully enjoy their village at weekends. That is a perfectly valid lifestyle choice, but it has led to a decline in the use of shops, post offices and public transport.

The result for those without private transport or urban working lives is not-so -splendid isolation. Mothers with young families, pensioners, young job seekers and others are denied basic opportunities and facilities.

It is this deprivation that the White Paper seeks to tackle. Rate cuts for village shops and pubs will certainly help, as will £100 million for one-stop health care centres.

Further investment in rural post offices might atone for the damage this Government caused the network.

Moreover, building 9,000 affordable homes and allowing the end of council tax discounts on second homes will, if implemented, allow young people to stay in the country.

All these measures are welcome. But more must be done. The White Paper contains nothing that will reduce widespread fear of rural crime. Neither is there much here to cheer beleaguered farmers.

Ministers have just taken the first step along a long and difficult country lane towards rural regeneration.