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Volume 77: debated on Thursday 18 April 1985

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what are the estimated savings by his Department for 1984–85 as a result of privatisation schemes.

No functions of my Department were privatised during 1984–85. However, new savings as a result of further contracting out of services are estimated at over £200,000 in a full year.

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that small firms are given sufficient opportunities to tender for these services?

Yes. My hon. Friend may like to know that tenders are open to all-comers and that contracts have been placed with firms for cleaning, security guarding, press cutting, laundry, maintenance and a number of other services, including data preparation and graphic production.

As there has been speculation about privatisation in other areas, will the Minister acknowledge that the agri-chemical and fertiliser industries would have a vested interest in becoming involved in any privatised advisory or research services and that, with the best will in the world, they would be unlikely to give advice which would reduce the sales of their own products? Therefore, does he accept the overwhelming environmental case in the public interest for retaining independent advisory and research services under the auspices of his Department?

I have no plans for the privatisation of the functions of ADAS. I have accepted in principle that it is appropriate for those who benefit from the services of ADAS to contribute to the costs, and I am pursuing the practical implications of that. The hon. Gentleman makes a mistake if he thinks that farmers are gullible. They always look to see where the advice comes from before deciding what assessment to make of it.