HC Deb 29 January 1986 vol 90 c940
7. Mr. Donald Stewart

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received following the DAFS paper on agricultural advisory services in Scotland.

Mr. John MacKay

A substantial number of comments have been received on the Department's consultation paper. Further responses are expected. Careful consideration will be given to the views before a conclusion is reached.

Mr. Stewart

Is the Minister aware that the maintenance of research and development services is vital for Scottish agriculture and that the intentions announced are causing grave disquiet throughout Scotland? Those are in addition to action such as the removal of the MacCaulay institute from Aberdeen and the curtailment of the veterinary investigation services, which will lead to a decrease in the supervision of diseases communicable to man. All the cuts are having effects on the industry, on employment and possibly on health. What action does the Minister intend to take?

Mr. MacKay

As usual, the right hon. Gentleman greatly overstates the case. The Government fully recognise the value of advisory services on the ground. For that reason we believe that producers, as direct beneficiaries, should themselves make a contribution towards costs, besides the major and continuing funding from Government.

Mr. Home Robertson

Will the Minister accept that the consultative document has nothing to do with priorities for agriculture in Scotland, but has everything to do with Treasury cuts? We have a 41 per cent. cut in the advisory services, downright dangerous proposals for the state veterinary service in Scotland, and now the moronic idea of removing the Macaulay institute from Aberdeen. Is there no end to the sacrifices which rural Scotland will have to make under the Tory Administration?

Mr. MacKay

I invite the hon. Gentleman to do a check on the amount of money that the Government spend on rural Scotland. He will then see the absolute fallacy of his case. On the future of the Macaulay institute, the rationale behind the proposals was set out in the paper published in December. Further study will be required before a decision can be taken on whether the new amalgamated institute should be in Aberdeen or in Edinburgh.

Mr. Bruce

Notwithstanding what has been said by other hon. Members, will the Minister acknowledge that the 41 per cent. cut is proving extremely difficult to implement and will be very damaging if implemented on the time scale that the Government want? Even if he will. not rescind the cut, will he agree to extend the time scale to give the colleges a reasonable opportunity to cope with what is being asked of them? To implement the time scale as proposed will prove very damaging.

Mr. MacKay

I have no plans to adjust the timetable already announced.