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Agricultural Development Advisory Service

Volume 79: debated on Friday 24 May 1985

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what comments he has received from the agricultural industry on Professor Bell's report of a study of the agricultural development advisory service.

Following my invitation to comment in my reply to a written question by my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West and Torridge (Sir P. Mills) on 13 November 1984, I have received a total of 153 written comments of which some two thirds originated from staff in my Department.The large majority of comments received gave a cautious welcome to the recommendations in the report whilst reserving final positions pending detailed development of these proposals. The proposal to charge for ADAS services has not been opposed in principle, although concern has been expressed over the level of charges that might be set and the ability of the farming community generally, and certain sectors in particular, to meet charges. The continuing role of ADAS in research and development was supported, particularly in relation to the Report's recommendations relating to experimental centres, the need for adequate links between R and D was stressed, and preferences were expressed for specific ways of funding R and D. The continuing need for ADAS to give a high priority to conservation was supported and greater priority was urged by a number of organisations. A clear majority of those commenting on this issue felt that introduction of general charging for conservation advice would be counter productive. On information technology, some concern was expressed over the implications for more traditional forms of providing advice.These comments will be considered carefully by Ministers in the continuing process of their detailed consideration of the recommendations of the Bell report on which it is hoped to make a further statement before the summer recess.