HC Deb 30 April 1998 vol 311 c201W
Mr. Wigley

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales (1) what assessment he has made of the effect of centralising the payment of agricultural grants on the economies of those areas in which regional offices are currently based; [39743]

(2) what assessment he has made of the impact of the centralisation of the farmers' grants payment system on the length of time taken to issue payments to farmers. [39733]

Mr. Win Griffiths

On 16 March I announced plans to commission a study from consultants to assess the options for securing improved administration of Common Agricultural Policy payments in Wales.

Work on the study has just begun and at this early stage the consultants have been asked to collect information from staff on all feasible options for developing the service. These could include options for centralising the service, for transferring responsibility for administering payments to MAFF or the Intervention Board, or for developing the service using the existing office structure.

In line with the terms of reference for the study each option identified will be assessed in terms of the costs, benefits and risks it represents for the Welsh Office. All feasible options will be expected to deliver a bilingual service to farmers that meets the Welsh Office's objectives and the standards set out in the Charter Standard for Farmers in Wales, and complies with the requirements of EC regulations. All options will be assessed in terms of their impact on the number and distribution of employment opportunities within Wales.

All these factors will be taken in to account in the study's final report which will inform my decision on the best way forward.