HC Deb 01 April 1998 vol 309 cc556-7W
Mr. David Taylor

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what progress has been made in establishing the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture as an executive agency. [37666]

Marjorie Mowlam

The Forest Service, currently a Division of the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland, will be established as an Executive Agency on 1 April 1998. It will continue to be known as the Forest Service.

I have set a number of key performance targets for the Agency in its first year of operation. These are as follows: To achieve 800 hectares of new planting in public and private sectors combined To offer for sale 260,000 cubic metres of timber To maintain visitor numbers in charged areas at the average level achieved over the last 5 years To maintain the area of forest under sustainable management To commission an analysis of the potential for private finance and private/public partnerships in Northern Ireland forest, to be completed by 31 December 1998 To respond to 100 per cent. of written correspondence within 15 working days To approve or reject 90 per cent. of applications under the Woodland Grant Scheme and Farm Woodland Premium Scheme within 8 weeks of receipt of a properly completed application form Following planting, to pay 90 per cent. of grant claims within 8 weeks of receipt of a properly completed claim form To achieve an expenditure outturn which meets the targeted net cost of the forestry programme for 1998–99 To achieve at least 3 per cent. DRC efficiency savings in the 1998–99 financial year To control DRC and programme expenditure to within 1 per cent. of the final control totals To market test or contract out 10 per cent. of direct costs of forest operations.

Copies of the Framework Document, which sets out the terms within which the Agency will operate, will be placed in the Library, together with copies of the Agency's Corporate and Business Plans.