HC Deb 02 July 1986 vol 100 c573W
Mr. Colin Shepherd

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is yet in a position to announce his Department's plans for the funding of research and development in 1987–88.

Mr. Jopling

In January 1985 I announced that expenditure by the agriculture departments on research and development would be reduced by £10 million in 1986–87 and £20 million in 1987–88. These changes reflected the Government's aim that industry should make a greater financial contribution towards the research and development from which it benefits. In line with that decision I announced in July 1985 that the savings required in the publicly funded research and development programme in 1986–87 would be found through rationalisation of the existing programme and the removal of less effective areas of work.

In order to achieve the savings required in 1987–88, it is now necessary for the public sector sponsors to identify the further adjustments which will be made to their research expenditure. In reaching decisions on the changes, we have been guided by the advice of the Priorities Board on future priorities and resource allocations. In the case of my own Department, the level of our commissioned expenditure with the Agricultural and Food Research Council in 1987–88 is expected to reduce from £47.9 million in the current year to £43.8 million next year. In parallel the funds allocated to research and development in the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service will reduce from £42.2 million to £39.4 million. Even after these reductions and those to be made by the other sponsors, the Government will still be funding nearly £200 million of research and development in relation to agriculture and food in 1987–88.

We are in close consultation with all sector interests to encourage the development of industry funding arrangements which could operate alongside the publicly funded programme. The positive response in the horticultural and cereals sector is most welcome and I know that other sectors are considering actively how they might be involved in funding such work. I am sure that the industry fully appreciates the benefits which flow from the research and development programme and I hope that all sectors will be willing to fund work that is likely to be of direct economic benefit to them. A partnership on this basis will ensure that work is targeted even more precisely on industry's needs.