§ 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. 
§ 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 combinedTo offer for sale 260,000 cubic metres of timberTo maintain visitor numbers in charged areas at the average level achieved over the last 5 yearsTo maintain the area of forest under sustainable management557WTo commission an analysis of the potential for private finance and private/public partnerships in Northern Ireland forest, to be completed by 31 December 1998To respond to 100 per cent. of written correspondence within 15 working daysTo 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 formFollowing planting, to pay 90 per cent. of grant claims within 8 weeks of receipt of a properly completed claim formTo achieve an expenditure outturn which meets the targeted net cost of the forestry programme for 1998–99To achieve at least 3 per cent. DRC efficiency savings in the 1998–99 financial yearTo control DRC and programme expenditure to within 1 per cent. of the final control totalsTo 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.