HC Deb 15 May 1968 vol 764 cc1215-6
30. Mr. J. Farr

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to what factors he attributes the continuing in- crease in the number of officials employed by his Department in the last five years, in view of the progressive decline in that period in the number of agricultural holdings in England and Wales.

Mr. John Mackie

The main factors causing an increase in this Department's staff over the past five years are the additional work arising from the development and implementation of new policies, and the associated significant expansion of technical and advisory services. The net output of agriculture has risen by about 15 per cent. in the same period.

Mr. Farr

While thanking the hon. Gentleman for that reply, may I ask him if he would agree that the pattern of figures which I have put in my Question is unsatisfactory? If one projects it sufficiently far into the future the position will become entirely ridiculous. With that in mind, will the hon. Gentleman try to contain the costs of his Department?

Mr. Mackie

We always try to contain the costs of Government Departments. I would point out that there is no direct connection between the number of holdings and staff requirements. It is almost in reverse proportion, because as smaller and non-viable or uncommercial farms are amalgamated, generally speaking the farmers concerned are more progressive and want more advice and more farm improvement schemes. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman agrees that they should be there. Of the 840 increase in staff that I have mentioned, 429 are technical staff, "vets" and so on, and 72 are in the economic division. It is not a case of officials for the sake of them. They are mainly advisory and technical people.

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