HC Deb 09 April 1970 vol 799 cc126-7W
Mr. Tudor Watkins

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement on the action he proposes to take in the light of the survey of the organisation of his Department in the West Midland region by management consultants.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

The purpose of the study, made by Messrs. Urwick, Orr and Partners Ltd., was to see whether there were ways of increasing still further the Department's effectiveness in the regions. In carrying it out the consultants were helped by representatives of senior management in the Department and of the Bellinger Panel of Businessmen in the persons of Sir Robert Bellinger and Mr. G. E. Graham.

The consultants said that they were greatly impressed by the way in which the Department carried out its work and with the efficiency of its services to the agricultural industry. They put forward some suggestions which they considered would improve the co-ordination of the various aspects of advisory work, make the regional organisation and administration more effective and lead to staff economies.

Their principal recommendations were:—

  1. (i) to integrate the field and the investigation arms of the Veterinary Service; and to unify the other professional, scientific and technical services;
  2. (ii) to introduce line management into the regional organisation;
  3. (iii) to have a uniform two tier structure throughout the regional organisation; and
  4. (iv) to introduce management by objectives.

After exploratory discussions with the Departmental Staff Side and consideration within management I am now proposing to unify the professional, scientific and technical services, including an integrated veterinary service; to appoint a line manager in each region; to move to a uniform two tier structure in the regions; and to try out management by objectives in an area typical of much of the Department's work, in order to assess whether the benefits would justify extending its application more widely. Detailed proposals on these lines are being discussed with the staff in the usual way through the Departmental Whitley machinery. I am also in touch with the professional bodies and other outside organisations directly concerned.

The consultants also recommended a review of the size of operating units. The use of the criteria they suggested would not greatly alter the pattern of the present divisional office areas, but would call for adjustments to the larger and smaller ones among them. Such a general review would best wait until the boundaries of the proposed new main local authorities have been determined. The reorganisation may however entail interim arrangements in some areas to avoid anomalies.

This reorganisation would in no way affect the professional or scientific status of those employed in the unified service. Moreover those engaged in advisory work in the unified service would continue to have a duty to give impartial advice to farmers as they have hitherto done. I am satisfied that the reorganisation would enable the Department's resources to be used still more effectively and would increase the efficiency of the services provided by my Department.