§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Lord Carter rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will outline their future policy on agricultural research and development and whether they plan to reduce the number of staff engaged in agricultural research, development and advisory work; and if so by how many and over what period of time.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I wish to begin by explaining why I put this Question down. Those of your Lordships who take an interest in these matters will know that there is considerable concern in the agricultural industry and among the staff of the various research and development institutes at the stories and rumours that are circulating regarding the possibility of yet further cuts in agricultural research, development and advisory work.
§ I thought that putting down this Question would give the Minister the chance to scotch these rumours; to reassure the industry and the staffs of the various institutes and also to set out the Government's policy on agricultural research and development and perhaps give their manpower guidelines.
§ I wish first to ask the Minister to explain the figures in the press release issued by the Ministry yesterday in connection with the Autumn Statement. That press release stated that the provisions for 1989–90 and for the following year have been reduced by £5 million and £10 million respectively to reflect an increasing level of industry funding for research and development. Presumably those figures represent the Ministry's targets for raising the extra funds from industry. Will the Minister explain whether, if there are further cuts in the pipeline as a result of the review of research and development emanating from No. 10 and the Cabinet Office, these cuts would be in addition to the £15 million in the Autumn Statement?
§ The industry feels a little hard done by by the fact that it seems to be penalised on its success in raising money towards research and development. It seems that the more the industry raises the more the Treasury decides to cut the money for research and development. We know all about cuts. They have been of the order of 20 per cent. since 1985. We are now told, and I agree, that we have a leaner and fitter research and development effort. Also there has been a substantial increase in funding from within the industry itself.
§ One way and another farmers are contributing something in the order of £9 million towards research and development. There is also the research effort which takes place completely outside the public sector; for example, the arable research centres, which are funded entirely by farmers. The Horticultural Development Council has been set up and a levy is collected through the HGCA for research and development into cereals. There are also the proposals which the Minister will know about for a Development Council for oilseeds. All those bodies raise money from the industry for research and development.1055
§ The Minister will know that the industry has been urged to take on board the concept of the bolt on levy to raise money to attach to the existing effort. It is hard to bolt on to fresh air. We have to be sure that there will be a central research and development effort so that when levies are collected from farmers the money will be well spent.
§ We are aware from the stories that are now circulating in the press of the new phrase or the buzz word, "near market research". That seems to me to be one of those deceptively simple ideas which emerges from the Treasury or from other places. As I understand it the argument is an extremely elegant one. It is that if we want it, we pay for it. If we will not pay for it we obviously do not want it. That argument misses the point completely about farming and farmers.
§ As the Minister knows, the farming industry consists of a large number of small businesses. A substantial proportion of those businesses are just stuggling to survive. The farmer is not always aware of the benefits of R&D at farm level and he is not always able to handle rapid changes of policy on research and development. It is almost possible to say in that regard that sometimes the man in Whitehall does know best. I urge the Minister in considering near market research not to assume too great a sophistication on the part of the farmer in considering that concept.
§ I believe that all those in the industry and indeed those who work in the R&D sector are entitled to ask for a period of stability to give the staffs of the various institutes some idea of where they are after the cuts we have gone through in the last two to three years. The Minister will not be surprised to learn that the uncertainty which has been created is resulting in very poor morale among many of the people engaged in that field.
§ There is also the problem of defining near market research. If we consider the things which the agricultural industry in its R&D effort should be looking at, in the new field of biotechnology, the whole area of lower inputs into farming, the problems of the environment, of diet and human health and the problems of animal welfare, those are all what economists would describe as public goods. They should be paid for, in my view, by the public sector.
§ Perhaps I may give a practical example concerning a matter about which we shall be hearing within the next few months—the set-aside programme. If a farmer has a fallow, the leaching of nitrates from a fallow occurs at a greater rate than from almost anything else which can be done with land. If instead we grow a green manure crop such as mustard, that is a pernicious weed in the rape crop that might follow it.
§ That is an example of the sort of thing for which we are entitled to ask for help in research and development. The farmer should not be asked to pay for the work because it is, after all, a constriction on the production and profit for the public good.
§ There is a place for commercial funding and it would be silly to deny it. If a company or a group of farmers can see a specific commercial advantage they should pay for the research work required on the basis of a research contract. But all those matters must be examined objectively. There is a key point about the dangers of commercial funding.
§ I was struck recently by the juxtaposition of two articles in the Grower magazine. One column concerned the fresh research and development cuts which are likely to occur in 1988. The Minister may have seen the article. It was said that the response of the research institutes to the news that was emerging from the science policy adviser to the Cabinet was chilling with regard to its effect on R&D. Next to that article was a story which stated that ADAS had just concluded its first agreement in the horticultural industry with a commercial company. The agreement is that the farmer, if he buys the products of that company, will be given the ADAS service free. I have been engaged for 30 years as an agricultural consultant and never once in that time would I have dreamed of having an arrangement of that nature. I see that the Minister looks surprised and that she is agreeing with me. That example illustrates the danger of commercial funding.
§ If one takes the possibility that ADAS might not reach its budget of £6 million from charging, and if you are the man in the field and you know that there is pressure on the budget and your job may be the one to go if the budget is cut, then will you be as objective as you should be when you consider the products of that company?
§ Such examples of the dangers of commercial funding occur in other parts of the industry as well; I know of a number of examples of the type of arrangement by which a commercial company subsidises the use of ADAS by a farmer.
§ I would argue that much of the research and development effort in agriculture is strategic and that the timespan for planning should be much longer than the three years, say, of the Annual Statement. I urge the Minister to identify the long-term strategic nature of much of the work done in the research and development field and to move it upstream to a five-year or perhaps even a 10-year timespan.
§ All these matters must be put into perspective. Suppose that the story in the press referring to cuts of the order of £60 million is wrong by a factor of two-thirds. Let us say that the Ministry will be looking for reductions of the order of £20 million. One can think of the agony and upset that will be caused in the R&D sector by a cut of that size. May I remind the House that £20 million was the cost of the advertising for the flotation of BP shares?
§ I should like to conclude by asking the Minister some specific questions. What is the department's view of its role in providing a viable research, development and advisory service to the rural community? What is its policy concerning the public funding of strategic and applied research and development? May we have a definition of near market research? Who is going to define it; will it be 1057 done within the department or externally? Having defined it, what will be done about it? Are such areas to be privatised? Are they to be cut out completely or perhaps funded by an industry-wide levy?
§ I also urge the Minister to look carefully at the legislation concerning development councils. They provide a way of raising funds from all sides of industry—farmers, processors, the trade and so forth. There are some good examples of those councils at work.
§ I believe that the crucial point is the timescale of the review that is now going on. This matter is causing a great deal of anxiety in the industry and among the research people concerned. We have heard stories concerning cuts happening in the next two years or so. R&D staffs are entitled to know after all that has happened in the last few years how many jobs may go and when.
§ Lastly, I hope that the Minister will undertake to ensure that both Parliament and the industry will have the chance to discuss the proposals and that they will not he presented with a fait accompli.
§ 8.7 p.m.
My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carter, for putting down the Question. I am particularly grateful because only last week I intended to put down a Question along similar lines. In looking through the Order Paper, I found that the noble Lord had already done so. We are grateful to him.
I am concerned about the effects of Government cuts in funding for research in terms of the agricultural research stations and institutes. My knowledge, such as it is, comes from Rothamsted, where I am a member. I glory in the title of Treasurer of the Lords Agricultural Trust Committee, which is the governing body of Rothamsted. That research station has had very severe cuts in staff over the past six years. The Government have quite correctly curtailed expenditure and I applaud that. It is a major part of their philosophy and I believe that they are quite right to do so. Not just agricultural research but all research has had to take its share of the cuts. Although it bleated, it expected to take its share of those cuts. However, the cuts have been substantial; and they go on and on, as does the demand for cuts.
My fear is that the fat has gone. Further cuts will make inroads into the very core of the scientific operation and scientific integrity of those stations. It is all very well for the Government to say, "Go out and get funding from sponsors in the marketplace". In general, I agree with that philosophy. Sponsors will not readily agree to put their money long-term into research stations when the scientific core and excellence of the establishment and the reputation responsible for attracting the funding in the first place are themselves at risk and might even be in danger of being diminished.
If I may give an example. In April 1981 there were 850 science-grade posts in arable crops research between seven stations (of which Rothamsted was one) and of those 424 posts were at Rothamsted. In April 1988 there will be only 424 such posts in all 1058 arable crops research stations of which Rothamsted will have only 247. In other words, in 1981 one station out of seven—Rothamsted—employed as many science-grade people as does the whole Arable Crops Research Institute now. These cuts have been traumatic.
It does not end with staff cuts. When staff is cut and buildings remain the same, the overheads increase making it consequentially difficult to get outside sponsors because commercial bodies do not want to pay for large overheads. They want specifics. The more the staff is cut, the worse becomes morale. Those who are left wonder why they should remain and if it is worth their while to do so.
Very often offers come from abroad. This weekend I was talking about one person, admittedly in a different area of research—namely medical research—who had been in America for one year and was returning to England. He was a surgeon and he had a number of offers of employment from America including one with a salary of 500,000 dollars per year which is the equivalent of £300,000 per year. He was returning to a consultancy worth £30,000 in England.
The danger of the brain drain is considerable and it was in order to try to stop this, especially for scientists who were working in the Ministry of Defence, that the Government decided to increase the pay of scientists by 22 per cent. in two years. That was understandable because they wanted to try to prevent the brain drain. Of course it is much easier for the Ministry of Defence. Most of their budget is spent on weaponry and upon the armed services. The effect of the increase in the pay of scientists on the Ministry of Defence is therefore insignificant. But because scientists in the Ministry of Defence get increases, scientists across the board in government research also get increases. The effect of this has been devastating in agricultural research.
Institutes have a higher proportion of that kind of staff than other research councils. The great majority of staff are in the IPCS grades, and most of them are at the top of the scale. The budget of over 70 per cent. of agricultural research institutes goes on salaries. The opportunities to rob other areas of expense is minimal. This can only be done on building maintenance and the replacement of equipment. There is not much scope there.
The problem itself is further compounded by the fact that the sophistication of modern equipment requires vastly increased funds to be spent on equipment if research is to be kept to the forefront. One cannot expect excellence of research to be achieved by using out-of-date and inadequate equipment. This is not peculiar to agriculture but it is a problem which faces those who have to balance the books at research stations.
To put it in perspective, in 1987–1988 the grant-in-aid made by the Government for arable crops is £12 million. In 1981–1982 it was £15 million. At today's values that 15 million would have been worth over £20 million. So in six years government funding has dropped in real terms from £20 million to £12 million, and it is now only 60 per cent. of what it was six years ago on arable crops research.
1059 At the same time the top-of-the-scale salaries to which I have referred have increased by 40 per cent. Even the expense of ordinary scientific equipment like flasks has increased by far more than the cost of inflation before one considers the cost and the requirement for specialised sophisticated equipment. Obviously, the combination of the substantial cuts in funding on the one side and the greatly increased costs on the other, has meant only one thing and that is loss of jobs. It is the only practical place where cuts can be made. Put blandly, Rothamsted has been kept in balance simply by firing people. At Rothamsted the number of science-grade posts has halved in six years from 424 to 247, and this trend looks like continuing.
I am bound to tell your Lordships that the budget for next year for the Institute of Arable Crops Research shows a deficit of £850,000. I do not know what is going to be done about this. There is a plan to make a further 33 posts redundant, but that will save only £550,000. That will make the seventh round of redundancies and if the Government do not make up the difference between £550,000 and £850,000 then a further list of redundancies—the eighth in five years—will be drawn up representing another 18 posts.
My fear is that agricultural scientific research is being put severely at risk. I happen to have referred to Rothamsted because that is where my experience has been gained. However, I have no reason to doubt that the same picture is reflected in other research institutes throughout the industry. Much is being done, and quite rightly so, and with great enthusiasm, to attract earnings from industry and other sources. But this is the point. It becomes progressively more difficult to attract funds if the core staff are lost because it is they who are the very ones who are capable of planning and directing projects. Yet they are not the ones who are necessarily central to an applied programme which of course is what the sponsor wants.
It is all very well for the Minister of Agriculture, my right honourable friend, to say that agriculture users should provide the funds or that agriculture should do so. He must know that the state of agriculture is such that farmers are concerned, as the noble Lord, Lord Carter, said, just to continue to exist. Some people are going bankrupt. There is not a pot of cash there to be raided for research.
My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said yesterday that there is an extra £45 million to be allowed for scientific research. That sounds good; but I ask my noble friend Lady Trumpington: how much of that is going to agriculture? I understand that most of it has already been allocated. I understand that £6 million is being devoted to research on AIDS; £8½ million is devoted to the purchase of a ship; and £27 million for pay increases. That leaves only £3½ million for investment on all scientific research for which the Government are responsible.
How much of this is going to agriculture? There is concern because all the vibrations indicate that the Government are going to cut yet further their support for agricultural research. I know that agriculture is at 1060 present unpopular because of surpluses, the common agricultural policy and also because of the perceived effects upon the environment of chemicals and the problems of wildlife. The fact is that agriculture is a huge and, let us not forget it, a very important industry. We cannot afford to turn off the taps on research, nor can we afford to wreck it. Much of the present research is designed to improve the very aspects for which agriculture has been criticised.
The warning I give to the Government this evening is simply this. Look out! The excellence of research, the morale of research and the integrity of research is at risk. The Government have their responsibility—not the whole responsibility but an important part of it—for ensuring that research is not put at risk.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Lord Walston
My Lords, I too express my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Carter, for giving us the opportunity to discuss this vitally important matter and also for the admirable way in which he introduced the subject. As those of us who have the privilege of knowing him already realise, he showed a very wide knowledge of not only the technical matters of farming but also the much wider aspects. In doing so he gave us an admirable introduction to this debate.
When the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, started his speech I was a little surprised that he applauded the present Government in the principle of their cuts in agricultural research. However, in listening to the rest of his speech there was nothing with which I could not find myself in complete and wholehearted agreement, particularly his final warning.
My Lords, I did not actually say that I applauded the cuts in research. I said that I applauded the cuts in government expenditure across the board, in which research had to play its part.
§ Lord Walston
My Lords, I am happy to have that explanation and apologise for having misunderstood.
I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I start with a personal reminiscence. Some 50 years ago I was engaged as a young bacteriologist in research into blood clotting. I was working in particular with the staphylococcus which speeded up the clotting of blood and the streptococcus which had the opposite effect.
So far as I or the professor who suggested this line of research could see there was no real practical significance in this, but it was of general interest and where it would lead noboby could tell. It now transpires that the ability of the streptococcus to inhibit clotting, and in certain cases to dissolve the clot, is becoming a very important treatment in one of the great killer diseases; namely, coronary thrombosis.
I am not attempting to take any credit. Nothing I did had any effect on that. However, it is an illustration of the way in which seemingly useless research, just adding a very small amount to the general fund of knowledge, can after many years lead to something which is of great significance. All those 1061 who are engaged in research of any kind could give many such examples.
Agriculture today, as we all know, is in a transitional period. No longer are we living under the threat of shortages in this country or in Western Europe as a whole. No longer is it necessary to grow more and more, to have ever heavier crops, ever greater applications of fertilisers and ever more surpluses. We have surpluses and we have entirely new problems. It is essential for all those who are concerned with this industry that we should figure out new jobs for agriculture, new activities and new crops. The need for this will last for the foreseeable future.
I suggest that there is a special need for more work to be done on methods of resisting disease in crops and in animals which do not need the application of pesticides or sprays of one kind or another; but the need for research on this and many other aspects is just as great as ever. In some ways it is greater, because we have these new problems arising from the era of surpluses in which we are now living.
But what is happening today? We have heard from the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, what is happening at Rothamsted, the oldest and most respected of our agricultural institutes, where the grants have been cut and are still being cut. It is still under threat and morale, although still strong thanks to the fine people who are working there and the efforts of those in charge, cannot be as good as it was in the days when there was ever more money, applause and gratitude for what was being done.
For example, to add two very small points to what the noble Earl said, there is no longer a department of soil physics at Rothamsted, as I understand it. That is truly of enormous importance. The noble Lord, Lord Carter, mentioned the leaking of nitrates. One cannot understand and control matters of that kind, with the enormous implications to our water supplies and so on, unless one's knowledge of soil physics is ever widening and improving, but that has now been cut. On a rather smaller scale, there is no research into the pea crop, yet everybody agrees that we must hunt round for alternative crops to sugar-beet, wheat and barley, which are in surplus. Surely both of those aspects—one of basic importance and the other of perhaps ephemeral importance—should be encouraged with more funds made available rather than having to scrap the whole lot.
I give one example from the Plant Breeding Institute, now largely privatised. The noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, will be closely connected with this since her title comes from the village in which it works, Trumpington just outside Cambridge. There has been a remarkable step forward as a result of work carried out in the Plant Breeding Institute, which has recently produced plants by genetic means which are resistant to viral infection—in this case tobacco plants because they were the plants used in the experiments but the results can be applied to a whole range of plants. There is no question of sprays, but purely by making use of the new and fantastically delicate operations of genetic engineering this has opened up a whole field of advance. However, because of cuts in the finance and the changes which 1062 are being made, that work is now at risk. I put it no stronger than that.
Development in that type of work undoubtedly is not receiving the encouragement and the funds which could make so much contribution, not for the next five years but perhaps for the next 10, 20 or 30 years. That is the sort of horizon that we should be looking at when discussing these matters.
I end by quoting some comments which some of your Lordships may have read in the newspapers today by Sir Walter Bodmer, the President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. He is reported as saying that the science budget needs to be increased by £100 million in real terms. In real terms it faces an annual reduction of 4 per cent. According to Sir Walter, the announcements made yesterday are extremely disappointing and totally inadequate. That does not specifically apply to agricultural science but agricultural science and research is, after all, one aspect—an important but not the most important aspect, as I freely admit—of the whole attitude of our present Government towards scientific research.
Industry quite rightly should be looked to to provide funds for the type of research that will give short-term advantages and out of which industry itself can make a profit, but we cannot look to industry to provide the funds for the basic research which has such long-term implications. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to give us some encouragement when she comes to reply to this short debate.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Lord Blease
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Carter for providing this opportunity to debate these critical questions. I wish also to indicate my support for the points raised by my noble friend in his opening remarks.
During a debate on a similar subject in this House on 14th May 1986, some 18 months ago, I expressed concern along with other noble Lords about the Government's policies and about the reduction in the finance available for agricultural research, development and the advisory services. In that debate I indicated the importance of agriculture to the Northern Ireland economy where some 14 per cent. of the working population are engaged in farming and in industries and services directly related to farming. I am pleased to say that Mr. Tom King, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, strongly emphasised the importance of agriculture to Northern Ireland when he spoke to a number of agricultural journalists some two weeks ago. I quote from the Belfast Newsletter dated 19th October 1987 in which Mr. King said:With its ancillaries it is our major industry employing eight times as many people as the shipyard and produces food products worth well over £1 billion each year … One of the most important requirements in our agricultural industry is the ability to export. Approximately three-quarters of the production of our food companies is shipped out of Northern Ireland".Mr. King went on to say to the journalists that the research and development which they would see during their tour of Northern Ireland provided incomparable back-up for the industry. He said:Northern Ireland has a unique animal health status within the British Isles. This is a commercially valuable asset which we jealously 1063 develop and maintain. Today many commercially significant animal diseases, endemic elsewhere in Europe and in Britain, are absent in Northern Ireland. This year we have introduced new schemes to improve the breeding of cattle and sheep to ensure that our meat products continue to meet the standards of leanness and quality which the customer demands".I welcome and support Mr. King's praise for Northern Ireland's agricultural industry. However it must be said—and Mr. King is well aware of the situation—that the high standards and status of Northern Ireland's agricultural products have not been obtained by the policies of the present Government; nor by measures adopted over the past few years. The high standards and status of agricultural production have been the outcome of agricultural research, development and advisory services laid down and acted upon by the Department of Agriculture, Northern Ireland, over a period of many years. Indeed the criticism made in the debate 18 months ago of the present Government's policies and of the financial cuts introduced some time before that concerning these basic and crucial services has proved to be well founded; and as this debate has already suggested, the trends are likely to be even more regressive.
In my opinion this is borne out by the figures published in the Belfast Newsletter of 31st October. It stated:A further fall in cattle numbers is revealed in the final results of the agricultural census taken on June 1, 1987, in Northern Ireland.A department spokesman said that, with some exceptions, the results published yesterday confirmed the trends indicated by the preliminary figures published in August. Within the cattle numbers, dairy and beef cow herds showed slight declines, accompanied by larger falls in other cattle … Total cattle numbers fell by 3 per cent. to 1.43 million".Over the years the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture has developed a highly sophisticated and expert range of research, development and advisory services. These schemes are incorporated in legislation and are provided through centres established by DANI in association with Queen's University, the Ulster University and agriculture colleges. Some specific examples of the consequences of the financial cuts have already been given, consequences in respect of the industry and the skilled personnel involved in agricultural production. I want to give one example.
One unit covers three aspects of research, development and advisory services. I refer to the Cattle Artificial Insemination Unit, the AI Scheme in Northern Ireland. The Ulster Year Book, which is the official handbook for Northern Ireland, states on page 173:The Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture operates various schemes and services to help producers of livestock to obtain breeding stock with high genetic potential thus ensuring that commercial producers have access to stock with the highest productive capacity.The object of the AI Scheme is the improvement of the quality of both dairy and beef cattle in Northern Ireland. It can also play a considerable part in the prevention of diseases which affect the breeding cycle of cattle as well as reducing the possibility of spread of other infectious or contagious diseases. The Department provides an Al service by technicians through 11 centres around Northern Ireland. A wide selection of semen from proven hulls is available to Northern Ireland farmers".1064 On Friday 30th October I received a 10-page paper from the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance; it was a copy of that organisation's response to proposals by the Government to disengage from the provision of this AI service. In other words, the Government plan to privatise the AI unit for the artificial insemination of cattle. NIPSA is a recognised trade union organisation and represents all grades of Northern Ireland Civil Service employees except a few posts at Permanent Secretary level. Indeed, NIPSA and the trade union movement in Northern Ireland are seriously concerned about this proposal and the lack of adequate consultations about the loss of more than 100 jobs in the unit.
Many representatives of the farming community have also expressed their deep concern about the proposal and one spokesman is quoted as saying, and I quote from the Irish News of 19th October 1987:This lastest example of the privatisation disease could have serious consequences both for the smaller farmer and for the overall quality of the Northern Ireland cattle herd. The Al system at present provides a prompt, high quality service at a reasonable cost to all farmers. An ordinary visit costs less than £5. This has resulted, due to the wide use of a consistent, quality service, in a noticeable improvement in the quality of the Northern Ireland cattle stock. We could have no guarantees in a privatised free-for-all situation that the cost or availability of the service could be maintained, especially to the smaller users. That could lead to farmers returning to making their own direct arrangements with inferior animals and to a deterioration in the quality of the Northern Ireland herd. The maintenance by the Department of Agriculture of an effective, high quality, low cost operation has been of great advantage to farmers individually and to the agricultural economy of Northern Ireland as a whole.I quote from a summary of the 10-page document presented to me by the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance:The proposal that DANI disengages from the AI Service cannot be examined in isolation from other factors. The resources needed to police and enforce the conditions governing a privatised Service coupled with the effects on the animal health status of the herd and losses arising from the use of inferior bulls cannot be ignored. The cost to the tax-payer is also important. Social Security budgets will increase, Inland Revenue and National Insurance contributions will be reduced. Permanent job loss will occur, dole queues will increase and Government, rather than meeting their promise to improve the economic and employment position within the country, will manifestly be seen to be doing the opposite. Disengagement, especially if it results in privatisation, means the Department retaining responsibility for, but losing control of, the Service. The cost of disengagement and/or privatisation to Northern Ireland's economy in general and the farming community in particular will be enormous. It quite simply cannot be afforded and must not happen.Since receiving the paper I have not had an opportunity to consult the department or Lord Lyell who, as we know, is Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Northern Ireland Office with special responsibility for agriculture. Nor indeed have I had the time to discuss the matter in detail with the official Opposition spokesman dealing with Northern Ireland affairs or with the noble Lords, Lord Prys-Davies and Lord John-Mackie, who deal with agriculture. Nor have I had an opportunity to mention my intention to raise the matter with the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, who will reply. Therefore, I do not expect anything to emerge by way of reply to the matters urgently presented to me.
With the best interests of Northern Ireland agriculture in mind, I hope that the debate and the official record may alert the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, and his ministerial colleagues to the situation and that they will arrange for urgent and 1065 earnest consultations with the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance representatives. I also hope that more attention will be given by the Government to research and development and to the advisory services of the agriculture industry throughout the United Kingdom. Some despairing reports have been presented to the House this evening. I hope that these will be examined in close detail by the Government.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ The Earl of Selborne
My Lords, I should explain at the outset that my interest is as Chairman of the Agricultural and Food Research Council. I wish to talk not so much about that council but about the whole breadth of agricultural research in the country in terms of the Question tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Carter. I must say how grateful I am to the noble Lord for introducing the subject. By the force of his speech and indeed by the force of the speech of my noble friend Lord Ferrers, it was made clear that in the last few years there has been a quite dramatic change in agricultural research in this country. Its extent was tellingly spelt out by my noble friend in terms of the Rothamsted Institute, although that could be repeated throughout the research services, be it within the Ministry of Agriculture, in Scotland within the AFRC or, following the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Blease, to an extent in Northern Ireland. I have been impressed when visiting Hillsborough in Northern Ireland by the high quality of research undertaken there. It is very much part of the complex and wide, though sometimes rather difficult to follow, structure of agricultural research. One can add to that the research associations' university research work.
Throughout the field of agricultural and food research, as we have heard, dramatic changes have taken place in the past few years. I believe that there have been positive changes to meet the new challenges. ADAS, the AFRC and others have changed their management structure. This has been highly advantageous. As we have heard, changes have taken place in the source of funding and I am sure that, as we have heard, there will be yet further changes in line with government wishes—but more of that anon.
There have been shifts in research emphasis—that is, in the shape of research programmes. Indeed, the House on a number of occasions has expressed great interest in seeing such new initiatives in agricultural and food research. I can recollect some very useful debates on the impact of agriculture on the environment led by the noble Lord, Lord Adrian. I remember debates on animal health and veterinary sciences, on agricultural engineering and on biotechnology—one of the glamour areas of the biological sciences, in which agricultural research has a pivotal and successful role. I remember the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and others speaking with great passion and force and, I thought, with great conviction about the need for maintaining a research base for grassland farming in Wales and the West. Only last February we had the new initiative from the Government referring in part to the need to research alternative crops to support rural areas. All this 1066 demonstrates how important many sectors judge research to be if we are to meet the fast changing needs not just of agriculture and food but of a large number of industries based on the biological sciences.
Those changes have taken place against swingeing cuts and, possibly even more damaging, against the fear of yet more cuts. Sadly, yesterday's press release from the Ministry confirms that these fears are not misplaced. I know that there is some increased funding in the science Vote, from which I hope the AFRC may benefit. I fear that the Ministry of Agriculture will not be able to do so; nor will the Department of Agriculture in Scotland. As my noble friend Lord Ferrers pointed out, a large part of these funds must already have been earmarked.
I am saddened by the terms of the press release, which states:The provisions for 1989–90 and 1990–91 have also been reduced (by £5 million and £10 million respectively) to reflect an increasing level of industry funding for research and development".The implication is clearly, "If you're successful enough to get industrial funding, we're going to cut you". If ever there was an incentive for research institutes to obtain alternative funding, that is not it. I fear that it flies very much in the face of the assurance given to me many times by successive Ministers that, if agriculture looked after itself, it would receive support. I should welcome an assurance from my noble friend that the inference drawn from that one rather damaging sentence is wrong.
The plea for long-term strategic thinking about the role of agricultural research which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, would be echoed not just by research managers and research staff but in particular by industrial funders—people who are already participating in funding research in this country. My noble friend Lord Ferrers made this point very forcefully. They cannot be expected to put increasing sums of money into our research institutes if the base is being forever eroded and if they do not know where the bottom line will be. I repeat that the words of that press statement are not calculated to inspire great enthusiasm.
Time and again in debates on all aspects of the civil research budget and civil research policy, the point has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, and others, of the need for an oversight of civil research; that we cannot go on taking pot-shots at this or that aspect of research. We are talking today about agricultural research but on another day we might well be talking about research on the energy industry or the like.
What has been needed for a long time is a strategic oversight. It is greatly to be welcomed that we now have the machinery for such an oversight. We have the Advisory Committee on Science and Technology (shortened inevitably to ACOST). That is in response to your Lordships' Select Committee. I am sure that the research managers in the Ministry of Agriculture, ACOST and elsewhere, will welcome enormously the opportunity which now exists to extend this oversight not to agricultural research alone but to the biological sciences as a whole. It is too early—because ACOST is only just in place—to get a feel as to what it is likely to determine. However, I 1067 can quite imagine, although I would not necessarily agree, that ACOST may take the view that "near market" research—the buzz word, we have heard—may well be an area into which industry should be encouraged to move further. I would not necessarily agree or disagree but let us assume that that would be the view.
I am sure my noble friend will make this point very forcefully on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture. I believe that ACOST and my noble friend will make the point that agriculture, which has always been a technology-driven industry, will need the support and the underpinning of research and development very much more once the common agricultural policy is brought under control. Clearly, the common agricultural policy has been a grave source of embarrassment to successive governments. It was never intended that the scale of support, which is a burden on our own taxpayers, should be anything like it is at the moment.
I am equally clear that, in frustration at this inability of successive agriculture Ministers to control this cost, the reaction has been to remove all support which is within the purview of the Government, and that includes research and development. I think that it is reasonable to assume from these Benches that we shall be successful well within the lifetime of this Government in controlling quite dramatically the cost of the common agricultural policy. Farmers will not like this: inevitably the implication is that life will be tougher than it is at the moment. We shall have to be more competitive in world terms. We shall have to be able to implement technology fast. We shall be desperately looking for that technology support.
I would make this plea—and noble Lords will recognise that I have a very strong vested interest in this area—that, whatever other support policy is removed from agriculture, we look very carefully at the support which is provided by research and development if we want to have a viable agriculture in five or ten years' time, or certainly at the turn of the century. I do not believe yet that this has been done. I believe that the constant sniping at agricultural and food research which has been so damaging has not taken this overall strategy into account. It is time that ACOST—which is the machinery that should handle this—did this. It is sad that I have to say this one day after yet a further cut which will clearly be damaging.
I want to widen this point because I do not expect ACOST to look only at the needs of agriculture and the food industry but at the areas which will produce the greatest return to the economy of this country. In other words, where will civil research provide not simply jobs for scientists—which is clearly not the consideration—but profitable areas of underpinning for the new industries that we are likely to see growing in the next 10 or 20 years? I would suggest to noble Lords that the biological sciences will be one of two or three growth areas—biotechnology certainly comes to mind—and there are other areas where the agricultural and food research services within the departments and the research council will be able to give valuable underpinning. Before we dissipate these important research resources further, let us make 1068 sure that we shall not have to rebuild this expertise somewhere else with a time lag and with a damaged continuity of research which will be greatly regretted.
I am convinced that the positive response that the research services have made to the recent cuts, the ablity to move positively and rapidly into the new areas which have been identified, and the quality of the scientific work involved will be greatly appreciated by successive governments. I therefore ask the Minister when she replies to think very carefully about whether it is not possible now to give some degree of assurance that there will be no further cuts until long-term strategic thinking about the biological sciences, and agricultural and food research placed within that, has been fully worked out.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Lord Northbourne
My Lords, I must apologise for the fact that I was not in my place at the appropriate time. My train was held up by a serious fire.
I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Carter, for raising this important subject this evening. When I look back on my early memories in agriculture of going round farms with my father at the beginning of the war, it was then in a parlous state. It was largely due to the agricultural research and the advisory services that we can now look at our agriculture and be proud that it is perhaps one of the best systems in the world and certainly the best in Europe. It would be the greatest possible shame if penny-pinching cuts in research budgets were to cause us to lose this lead. I very much support the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, in what he said in this respect. It may have been good medicine to cut back research budgets. I believe that it has introduced a new spirit of realism in the world of agricultural research. But good medicine, if it is administered for too long, often kills the patient in the end.
There are two specific points of concern which I should like to raise with the noble Baroness tonight. The first relates to the fact that rather less than 6 per cent. of the funding of the AFRC budget goes into the research which takes place at universities. This compares very disadvantageously with the percentage of other research budgets, such as the medical budget, which go to research carried on in universities and puts agricultural departments at a grave disadvantage. Not only does it put them at a disadvantage in terms of their research performance but also in the context of teaching. Teaching at university level needs to be supported by research. Unless there is well-funded research potential available in a university it is increasingly difficult to attract the best teachers and the best scientists to teach in those departments. Can the noble Baroness give me any comfort that plans are in hand to help universities in this respect?
The second point I should like to raise relates to research funding of cultural and economic questions, in particular relating to agricultural policy. The kind of questions I mean are these. What will be the effect of the oils and fats tax on consumers and farmers? What will be the employment implications of reduced levels of support to agriculture or indeed of other strategies such as set aside? If a pre-pension scheme 1069 option is selected what level of pre-pension scheme will be necessary to attract the desired number of farmers out of the industry?
At the moment the answer to these questions is largely based on guesswork. There is a need for properly maintained economic models so that more efficient answers can be given. It is a travesty that the Government spend annually a couple of billion pounds on supporting agriculture and over a hundred million on technical agricultural support but they devote only a pittance to research which is aimed at understanding the economic and social consequences of changes in policy.
I am wondering whether the noble Baroness can answer the following three questions on this subject. I appreciate that the first two may involve numerical complexities which may require an answer in writing at a later date. The first is: what is the total annual expenditure on research into economic issues affecting food, agriculture and rural areas? Secondly, of this total, excluding the farm business and food expenditure surveys, what proportion is spent on research into the economic and social impact of United Kingdom and Community agricultural policies? Finally, and I think this is important, what are the mechanisms for ensuring co-ordination of research effort into these areas?
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Lord John-Mackie
My Lords, I too should like to congratulate my noble friend. This is the second or third time that he has raised a debate in this House and he does it very well indeed. From the speeches we have just heard, the subject he has chosen will be very much appreciated because it is a very important one indeed.
I should like to take a leaf, or at least half a leaf, out of the book of my noble friend Lord Taylor of Blackburn. In the debate we have just finished he rose, said that everything had been said that he wanted to say, that it had been said better than he could say it, and sat down again. Quite a lot of what I wanted to say has been said by other speakers tonight and I do not want to touch on those subjects again. However, I should like to mention one or two of the remarks that have4 been made.
The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, made an important point about salaries. One cannot blame people taking advantage of higher salaries if they see double or three times their salaries available elsewhere and hear of rumours of privatisation, closing down and cuts. Nevertheless it causes a brain drain from this country.
The noble Lord, Lord Walston, mentioned the genetic engineering done by the PBI. That is continuing, but it has been cut off from the development side. I think that was a huge mistake and I hope it will not affect it as much as was thought. The noble Lord, Lord Blease, as always, was interesting about his home country. He made several good points about the artificial insemination schemes. One important point he made concerned the loss of jobs in the area, where work is very scarce anyway.
1070 I brought with me the 1985 report on priorities of the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, because I felt sure that he would mention something about it. He mentioned the difficulties of planning ahead in producing such a report and wanting all that done and then feeling that, as you cannot go ahead with various matters because of cuts all along the line, what is the use of such a report? I very much appreciated what he said on the various aspects of his work.
The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, asked a few questions to which we shall look forward to hearing the Minister's answers. The trouble with an Unstarred Question is the fact that the Minister speaks last and we do not know what she will have to say. Tonight she will have a lot to say, because I have never seen the Box or the messengers working so hard as they have been tonight in this last hour. We look forward to hearing what she has to say and her replies to the various questions that have been asked.
I should like to make two remarks. We know that the Government have a policy of privatization—it is a dogmatic policy which I do not like—but I should like to think that if they intend to privatise any more research stations they will take on board the lesson of the mistakes they made over the PBI. They started out way back in May 1984 with the idea of selling off the NSDO. It took them a whole year to discover that they could not do that without the PBI. They had to start all over again, and here we are at the end of 1987;I know the matter has been settled but no doubt there is a lot to do before the new company takes over. I should like to think that that will not happen again and they will think everything through before doing such a major thing as privatising PBI. The result over these four years has been uncertainty among the staff who left. Everything has been done to deprecate the work of that great institution, which has done more than anyone, in my opinion, to help British farming and to help with reducing surpluses. After all, about 80 per cent. of wheat grown last year grew from seeds brought out by the PBI.
My noble friend Lord Carter raised my second issue in a different way. It concerns the question of advice from ADAS, for quite a proportion of which farmers to a certain extent were paying. Over the years all the advice we have had has been independent, from independent public research stations. During my farming career, which stretches to 61 years at the end of next month, I valued advice from colleges in Scotland, and from ADAS when I became a farmer in England, because of its independence. Now ADAS will not have that independence—my noble friend Lord Carter gave us an example—and farmers will have to go to private firms. The best of luck to them. But they will need advice and one cannot blame ADAS if that advice is biased in favour of its own products or plants. It seems a pity that this has happened. I do not think it is good for a service in which farmers have had such great faith over the years.
I do not want to say any more. Time is getting on and it is fairly late. We look forward to what the Minister has to say. The message she must have received from everybody tonight is that we neglect research and development at our peril.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Trumpington)
My Lords, we have had a wide-ranging debate on a subject which may well help to determine the sorts of lives our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will lead, particularly in terms of the food that they will eat and the countryside which we hope they will enjoy. The fact that it was a wide-ranging debate may explain to the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie, that although I am sometimes a helpless lily I was grateful for the sheaves of paper that were coming across to me.
I was also grateful that the noble Lord, Lord Carter, was kind enough to alert me in advance to the points he planned to raise. The advancement of knowledge and its sensible application to what we do are matters of the greatest importance. I have always been warned that sometimes in your Lordships' House it is the friend who sits behind one of whom one should beware. I am therefore beholden to the noble Lord, Lord Carter, for giving us the opportunity to discuss these issues at a time when government itself is in the process of reviewing its priorities and objectives for research and development and indeed for science and technology generally. This is happening not just in agriculture but across the whole spectrum of the Government's civil programmes.
Because that review is still being carried out and the debate is so wide-ranging, I shall not be able to give your Lordships definitive conclusions today. But I hope that I shall be able to set a number of recent reports and rumours in perspective and to answer at least some of the concerns which have been expressed in the course of the debate.
Perhaps I can best begin with what I might dare to term the "cutting edge" of the noble Lord's Question. Your Lordships are no doubt aware of the Statement made yesterday by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in another place announcing the new planning provisions for expenditure on agriculture, fisheries and food for the next three years.
The noble Lord, Lord Carter, suggested that industry is being penalised for contributing to research. It is quite the reverse, my Lords. The Government believe that it is appropriate for industry to do more. I was particularly interested in the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, with regard to his views on CAP. He will realise that, contrary to the speculation in a number of earlier reports, we are not reducing in any way the amount of research that we plan to commission in 1988–89. The cash provision is in fact being slightly increased to take account of the recent science salary increases. After allowing for this, the provisions for 1989–90 and 1990–91 are being reduced by £5 million and £10 million respectively, consistent with the Government's general view that industry should contribute more to work from which it benefits.
I should like to emphasise that these changes are in anticipation of increased industry funding. If this is not forthcoming there will inevitably be less research carried out. I was not aware that the noble Lord, 1072 Lord Carter, was in Harrogate last week; but word travels fast, and it is perfectly true that when I spoke to the Horticultural Trades Association in that lovely city I said to them, "Are you prepared to contribute to R&D which is of direct benefit to you? If the answer is 'No, we are not prepared to pay for even part of it', then the natural conclusion to draw is that the industry does not regard the R&D as value for money". I stand by that statement.
My noble friend Lord Selborne spoke of a damaging sentence in the press release. I agree that it is rather starkly stated; but it is really another way of saying that the balance between public and industry funding needs to be altered. The sentence was not meant to imply lack of recognition for what has been done, or any attempt to penalise industry.
To follow up from what I have just said, that there is no specific plan to reduce the number of staff engaged in R&D or advisory work, the emphasis is rather on the balance of funding as between the public and private sectors and the priorities we should adopt. The noble Lord, Lord Carter, noted that much work is strategic. I would agree up to a point. That is why we are saying that industry should concentrate on, and pay for, the work which is of more direct benefit to it, leaving government freer to fund the rest.
My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend for a moment because she made quite an important statement? I want to get it absolutely clear. Did my noble friend say that the Government did not wish to see any reduction in the amount of work done by research and development and the amount of personnel involved?
§ Baroness Trumpington
My Lords, I said that there is no specific plan to reduce the number of staff engaged in R&D or advisory work. I believe that that is the statement which my noble friend was querying. I repeat that the emphasis is on the balance of funding as between the public and private sectors and the priorities that we should adopt. I hope that I have made myself clear.
Returning to answering the noble Lord, Lord Carter, as regards the work being strategic, I said that I agree. That is why we are saying that industry should concentrate on and pay for the work which is of more direct benefit to it, leaving government more free to fund the rest. On the questions of the balance of funding and the priorities we should adopt, our thinking is still evolving, so it is particularly welcome to have heard what noble Lords have said tonight. If I do not take up every point in the course of this speech, I hope that your Lordships will accept my assurance that everything that has been said has been carefully noted and will be taken into account. We are conscious of the need referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, for the industry to have time to respond to any changes.
I should like to reply to my noble friend Lord Ferrers on the question of Rothamsted. I have taken note of his remarks. The possibility of job losses there is not the result of any government action to reduce 1073 funding. We are making money available to take account of the science salary increases but the decisions on the use of resources are a matter for the management of the institutes concerned.
§ Lord Walston
My Lords, before the noble Baroness leaves that point, I understood her to say that it is up to the management of Rothamsted to decide whether there should be fewer staff or fewer other things. However, she did not make clear whether the Government are to reduce, maintain or increase the amount of money.
§ Baroness Trumpington
My Lords, I stated that it was up to the institute to decide on the way in which it spent money, and I left the matter there.
The noble Lord, Lord Carter, made the point that the industry must be sure that there will be work on which to bolt the publicly funded element. I agree entirely with that statement.
On a more general level, it is the Government's aim to increase the contribution of publicly funded R&D to the efficiency, competitiveness and capacity for innovation of the United Kingdom economy. To assist in this it was announced in the July 1987 White Paper on Civil Research and Development that there would be strengthened central machinery to determine priorities within the context of the Government's wider objectives. This strengthened machinery takes the form of collective ministerial consideration under the Prime Minister's leadership and the new Advisory Council on Science and Technology (ACOST)—the successor body to the old Advisory Council on Applied Research and Development. The reviews which are being conducted in my department are part of this broader process.
The noble Lord, Lord Carter, asked for a time-scale for the review. There is no specific target. However, we want to adjust the balance of funding sooner rather than later, but the decisions have not yet been taken.
My noble friend Lord Ferrers spoke about the cuts leading to increased overheads and there is a danger of that. However, both the Agricultural and Food Research Council and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland have undertaken major reorganisations to meet their changing priorities and to avoid the inefficiency that might have arisen.
I agree with much of what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Walston. I should like to add a few words about the future of NSDO and PBI. That had already taken place by the time I arrived at MAFF but I was well acquainted with the feelings of local people on the subject. Notwithstanding the sale of PBI, the government intend to continue funding research and development activities in that area as appropriate. I know it is very soon, but I must say I have heard very happy remarks from the people who are working there now.
It is clear that future work in the agricultural sector will have to take full account of the problems of over-production. This will undoubtedly lead to a reallocation of resources away from areas in structural surplus and towards the need to develop alternative 1074 crop and livestock schemes to a practical stage.
We shall also be looking, in particular, at the need for agriculture to operate in sympathy with the natural environment, and to maintain the valuable public amenity that the countryside provides.
There are a number of other areas which can be broadly described as public good, where it may be more appropriate for government to take the lead, such as work on animal welfare. I think that was mentioned this evening by the noble Lord, Lord Walston.
We need also to ensure that there is a strong strategic science base on which industry can build, particularly in areas like biotechnology where there are undoubtedly new opportunities to be grasped and exploited. But as a general principle we do not think it right that the Government themselves should be funding work for which the private sector could reasonably be expected to pay.
My noble friend Lord Ferrers pondered on how much of the science increase in the Autumn Statement would go to agriculture. It is a matter for the Department of Education and Science as to how much goes to agriculture, but it is estimated that some £2 million will go on salary increases. However, it is possible that further funds will be available for important environmental and biotechnical research projects.
As the noble Lord, Lord Carter, will appreciate, how the funding work in the private sector can be defined is one of the issues that we are still studying. It is therefore essential for industry to respond to these challenges if the United Kingdom is to avoid losing out on technical advances which are being achieved elsewhere. The type of industry funding which would be appropriate would naturally vary from sector to sector, but I would like to assure the noble Lord, Lord Carter, that we are willing to discuss the possibilities with those concerned.
I think that the noble Lord, Lord Carter, also made the point that it is sometimes difficult for individuals to benefit from R&D. I recognise that we need to do more to bring out the advantages which can be gained from research.
I should like, at this point, to say that I have every confidence in the quality and determination of British scientists. We have a tremendous record of innovation, and our agriculture and food industries are among the most highly developed in the world. But we must not be complacent or put our faith in technological advances alone. As I said at the beginning, the advancement of knowledge needs to be tempered by common sense. Therefore, we need to consider the implications of what we can do, and to provide for a consistently high level of advice. We need also to be aware of developments in other countries, and ensure that we can maximise the benefits of international collaboration.
I know that people sometimes try to make comparisons between the resources that we devote to things and those of our major competitors. However, figures on their own, even if reliable, do not necessarily reflect the very different circumstances which often exist. I suggest that we should take a look at our European neighbours and the USA where 1075 private sector expenditure on science and technology is already at a higher level.
Perhaps I may say just a word about the provision of advisory services, which takes place through ADAS in England and Wales, the Scottish Agricultural Colleges in Scotland and the Agricultural Inspectorate of the Department of Agriculture in Northern Ireland. Following a wide-ranging review of ADAS in 1984, the Government announced that they would be asking farmers to contribute to it. The Government have made clear to the industry that charges enable the industry to influence both the orientation and the overall extent of provision of advisory services for which charges are made.
It is still too early to draw conclusions about the extent to which industry is responding to charging, given the time required for both industry and the advisory services to adapt to the changed relationship and given that as yet there is less than a full year's experience of charging in a market that is strongly influenced by seasonal factors.
I am very sorry if the noble Lord, Lord Carter, felt that the perfectly open arrangement reached with the commercial company that he cited impugns the objectivity and professional approach for which ADAS is rightly known and respected. The arrangement is entirely consistent with the close co-operation that ADAS maintained with commercial companies before charges were introduced—for example, in the field of jointly sponsored demonstrations. His views will be deeply distressing to loyal and dedicated staff and I hope that he will reconsider them.
§ Lord Carter
My Lords, perhaps the noble Baroness will allow me to intervene for a moment. The example that I gave is not the only one in the industry where such contracts have been entered into. If a private consultant were to consider such a contract, he would be barred from membership of the British Institute of Agricultural Consultants.
§ Baroness Trumpington
My Lords, as things stand with ADAS, I feel that it has the highest integrity and I stand by my remarks on its behalf.
It is late and I apologise for not replying to the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. Even though he gave me warning, one or two of his remarks—for instance those about the oil and fats tax—are slightly outside the terms of this debate. Quite frankly, I think I shall be on safer ground if I write to him.
To sum up, I should like to return to my initial theme of the importance of the issues that have been discussed tonight in terms of their potential to shape our future. As evidence of the Government's concern I would stress that the total public expenditure on R&D in the agricultural, horticultural, food and fisheries sectors will be over £200 million this year.
I am conscious that I have not spoken about the situation in Northern Ireland. I believe that there have been no financial reductions there for some time. I should like to say how much I enjoyed my brief visit to Northern Ireland this summer in connection with agricultural matters.
Going back to the £200 million spent this year, this represents major commitments by any standards. I do not think that it is unreasonable to look to industry and those who value the services we provide to increase their own contributions if they wish that level of effort to be maintained in the future.