HC Deb 23 July 1985 vol 83 cc450-1W
Mr. Andy Stewart

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is now able to make the further statement on the recommendations contained in Professor Bell's report of a study of the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service promised in the answer to the hon. Member for Sherwood on 24 May, Official Report, column 582.

Mr. Jopling

When I announced on 13 November column164 the report by the new Director General of the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service, I said that I endorsed the conclusion that in principle it was entirely appropriate that farmers and others in the industry who avail themselves of the services of ADAS should contribute to their costs. I have also made it clear that the Government plan to reduce the net cost of ADAS advisory and statutory services by about £16.5 million in the financial year 1987–88. In my original statement on Professor Bell's report, I said that I was proceeding to a detailed examination of what would be involved in the implementation of his recommendations. One of those recommendations was that consideration should be given to the possibilities of charging users for part or all of any service (including work under statutory schemes) where there is an identifiable benefit to the customer. Following detailed consideration of that recommendation I am now ready to initiate discussions with the industry about the overall scope for raising revenue for advisory and statutory work and the areas in which it might be raised.

So far as advisory work is concerned I envisage a mixture of types of charge and types of advisory provision. These would include fees or subscriptions for specified ranges of advice, and specific charges for other services both to individuals and organisations and to groups of farmers acting in association. Statutory work makes up over one third of the work of ADAS. In this context I wish to explore charging possibilities in areas within which ADAS undertakes work in pursuit of animal, plant and public health and standards objectives.

In addition to revenue from charging, savings in ADAS manpower will also contribute to the reduction in the net cost of ADAS to which I refer above. But the extent of these savings and hence the resulting range of services which ADAS will be able to provide must depend on the response of the industry both to charging for advice and the proposed extension of charging for statutory work. Moreover, it is clear that services to be charged for should be carried out as efficiently and economically as possible. Taking into account the useful results of various studies of areas of ADAS activity I have commissioned in recent years, I intend to see what additional savings and improvements in efficiency can be made.

Consultations with industry are already in progress on the funding of research and development work undertaken within ADAS and by other research organisations. ADAS research and development resources will also be available for contract work. The quality of the work of ADAS research and development establishments will in future be subject to review by independent visiting groups.

To help ADAS meet the new challenges that face it, I intend to constitute a management board, which, under the chairmanship of the Director General, will consist of the four heads of services, the newly created director of ADAS administration, a representative from Wales and three outside members who, I hope, will between them have experience in the areas of marketing, information technology, the farming industry and industrial research and development. In addition, a marketing officer for ADAS will be appointed at a senior level who will have access to outside expertise.