HL Deb 18 December 1989 vol 514 cc105-6WA
Baroness Blatch

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the review of agricultural training announced by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 20th March is now complete.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Trumpington)

When the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and his fellow Agriculture Ministers appointed Mr. John E. Smith as chairman of the Agricultural Training Board in March of this year and at the same time asked him to undertake a review of agricultural training, the scale and complexity of his task was widely realised. That Mr. Smith has completed this review within the very tight timescale allowed is a real reflection of the commitment with which he has approached the job.

Agriculture Ministers would like to pay tribute to Mr. Smith for the expeditious and thorough way in which he has conducted his review, for the breadth of the consultations that he has undertaken in such a short space of time and, above all, for the clarity and incisiveness of his report and of his recommendations. The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is arranging for the report to be published straightaway and for a copy to be placed in the Library of the House.

In his terms of reference Mr. Smith was called on to report to Agriculture Ministers and, on their behalf, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has informed Mr. Smith that he can go ahead with the relocation of the board's headquarters from West Wickham in Kent to the National Agriculture Centre at Stoneleigh in Warwickshire and put in hand the new countrywide structures based on 14 local agricultural training boards in England and Scottish and Welsh training boards. Through this restructuring the Government will be looking for a greater contribution from the industry to the board's costs, and we therefore welcome Mr. Smith's own recognition of the industry's responsibilities in this respect.

As other recommendations in the report touch on interests of other colleagues and have longer term implications, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretaries of State for Wales and Scotland will, in conjunction with the Secretaries of State for Education and Science, for Employment and for the Environment, and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, be giving detailed consideration to those proposals.