HL Deb 08 November 2004 vol 666 cc15-7WS
Baroness Amos

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has made the following Ministerial Statement.

On 31 March 2003 I announced the Government's final decisions in response to the O'Hare report on the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development's arrangements for the provision of agri-food education and research and development (R&D) in Northern Ireland.

I am today announcing my intention to set up an advisory non-departmental public body to provide independent advice on education, R&D and technology transfer in response to one of the O'Hare report recommendations. The body will be called the DARD Research and Education Advisory Panel.

The body will comprise a chairperson and 11 members, five with scientific or education expertise, one with economics expertise and five with knowledge and experience of one or more of the four themes underpinning the DARD business strategy 2004–05: competitiveness of the agri-food sector; animal, fish and plant health; environmentally sustainable activity and development of the rural economy and society.

Members will be appointed by an open and transparent process, following the Commissioner for Public Appointments code of practice. It is intended that these positions will be advertised in a range of local and national publications during week commencing 8 November 2004. Details of the appointments will also be placed on the DARD website, www.dardni.gov.uk and the Public Appointments Unit website www.publicappointments.gov.uk.

It is anticipated that the body will meet four times per year and will consider such strategic issues as:

Research needs over the short, medium and long term of agri-food, agri-environment, animal health and welfare, fisheries and forestry sectors and rural development;

Priorities in light of the competing demands for the total budget available across all DARD-funded R&D;

Technology transfer of relevant local, national and international research;

The level and extent of the required education and training programme for the sector, And

Progress on achievement of education, R&D and technology transfer targets.

It will play a key role in the development of the department's forthcoming strategies for agri-food education, R&D and technology transfer in Northern Ireland and, in doing so, will be required to consult industry and other stakeholders.

The body will perform a purely advisory role. It will not have a budget or employ any staff. A review of the body will be carried out before the end of its first four years of existence.

I am confident that this new body offers the best option for the provision of consistent, high quality and independent advice to the department about the future provision of agri-food education and research.

Further Information

The O'Hare review was conducted by an independent panel, consisting of three ministerial appointees. The panel's report was completed in April 2002. Public consultation on the Government's response to the O'Hare report took place between 25 November 2002 and 28 February 2003.

The O'Hare report made a total of seven recommendations for the future provision of undergraduate and postgraduate education and R&D in agriculture and food science in Northern Ireland. One of these, in relation to a new central decision-making process, recommended the setting up of an independent expert advisory committee consisting of an independent chairman and approximately 10 members to provide advice on education, R&D and technology transfer. The report also suggested that the committee would receive representations from consumers and from industry, education, R&D and other stakeholders including through ad hoc working groups. The Government accepted this recommendation.

Work is continuing within the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to implement the remaining measures arising from the Government's final response to the O'Hare report announced by Ian Pearson on 31 March 2003.

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