HL Deb 09 March 1987 vol 485 cc922-4WA
Lord Mowbray and Stourton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will make a statement on the measures to reduce the net cost of the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service, and to improve its efficiency.

Lord Belstead

The Government have carried out measures to reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of ADAS, and will shortly introduce the measures (foreshadowed during the passage of the Agriculture Act 1986) under which a contribution towards meeting the costs of ADAS services will be met by agriculture and its associated industries.

In the light of the report by Professor Bell published in November 1984 the Government concluded that the size of ADAS could be reduced without impairing its efficiency, and that economies would be essential if the industry was to be asked to bear part of the costs of running the service. During the financial years 1985–86 and 1986–87 the number of posts in ADAS was reduced by 450, a cut of over 9 per cent. Corresponding reductions were made in non-ADAS supporting staff.

As a further means towards increased efficiency, the Government have carried out a fundamental reorganisation of ADAS. Management of the service is now under a board of management which includes members from commerce and farming. The former Agriculture, Land and Water, and Science Services have been reorganised to create two new services, the Farm and Countryside Service and the Research and Development Service. The organisation of the State Veterinary Service has not been altered. The changes bring together in one organisation the greater part of the ADAS staff concerned with direct advice to farmers, introduce strong unified management across the different professional disciplines (which however remain of fundamental importance), concentrate the bulk of the R&D work in a single organisation, and give greater weight to the environmental duties of ADAS.

From 30th March there will generally be a fee for advice and other services provided by ADAS. The traditional advisory visit will cost £28 + VAT for a visit lasting up to an hour, with appropriate adjustments for longer visits or for the advice of certain specialists; other types of service will be offered on contract at negotiated prices or through a number of schemes designed to deal with specific livestock, land management and business management needs, and there will be two types of subscription scheme at £50 + VAT and £150 + VAT, the latter including the provision of four hours of advice on the farm. In order to help small farmers, groups of up to four farmers may arrange for advisory visits to the farm of one member, and to share the fee between the members of the group. R&D services will be available on contract to agriculture, horticulture and their associated industries. Advice to farmers on conservation, farm business diversification and animal welfare will continue to be free.

The Government believe that the general level of the fees is fair and reasonable, having regard to the cost of providing advisory and development services, to their great value and importance to individual businesses and the well-being of the industry as a whole, and to the charges made by private commercial advisers.

Finally, orders have been or will shortly be laid imposing charges for certain statutory services carried out by the Government, often through ADAS staff, for the benefit of agriculture and its associated industries. The orders cover the provision of milk and dairies hygiene measures, AI and swill feeding, the provision of advice on certain planning cases, and the safety clearance of pesticides, plant health import and export licences and increased charges for seed certification, plant breeders' rights and national listing.

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