§ Joyce Quin
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress the Department has made towards the aim in the White Paper, "Your Region, Your Choice", of assessing the balance of staff between the centre and the regions in terms of effective policy design and implementation; and what examples there have been since the publication of the White Paper of the Department deciding between locating new streams of work(a) in and (b) outside London and the south-east. 783W
§ Alun Michael
Defra is making considerable progress towards the aims set out in the White Paper, "Your Region, Your Choice", and Ministers have repeatedly stressed the importance of regional delivery and regional partnerships. For example:
Defra Teams in Government Offices
The Department's predecessor, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF), planned to move around 90 staff into the Government Office network in April 2001. The demands of the foot and mouth outbreak delayed some of these moves, but since summer 2001, the Rural Director's team in each region has been fully integrated into the Government office. They also work closely with the Regional Development Agency, the Regional Assembly and a range of regional and local partners. A 'sounding board' for rural communities in each region is provided by The Regional Rural Affairs Forum, which has direct representation on the Rural Affairs Forum for England which I chair. The network of Regional Forums is encouragement of Ministers and senior officials. The formation of Defra in June 2001 also meant that the pre-existing environment teams in the Government Offices contribute to the delivery of Defra's environmental and sustainable development objectives.
Since then, the Department has provided an extra £2.3 million to administer its policies in 2003–04—an increase of one hird from 2002–03. This will enable the Government Offices to increase their involvement in the delivery of the Department's sustainable food and farming strategy and the rural agenda.
The Better Quality Service Review of the Defra Estate
We are undertaking a Better Quality Services Review of our estate, including its London headquarters operations, and the review's findings are expected to be made available shortly. One of the issues it has been considering is the extent to which staff should continue to be located in central London accommodation.
Lord Haskins Review
Lord Haskins has been asked to make recommendations on how the Government's rural policies can be delivered more effectively and efficiently. He will be considering the future role of regional and local bodies in the context of delivery.