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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) whether he is satisfied that suitable office accommodation is available in Taunton for the staff of his Department whom he intends to move from Dorchester; whether he is aware that good office accommodation is available to his Department in Dorchester which could absorb all the staff from Wiltshire or Somerset: and if he will make a statement;
(2) why he is disregarding the recommendation of the Arton Wilson Report that Dorset should retain a separate divisional office; why Dorset is to be placed in the south western region and not the southern as recommended; and why Dorset is to be amalgamated with Somerset for all executive purposes concerning his Department.
I decided not to transfer Dorset to the south-east region because of its stronger agricultural links with the South-West. This made it possible to consider combining Dorset with Somerset for executive purposes and I have decided to do so because I shall thus achieve a worthwhile economy in staff without loss of efficiency. Taunton was chosen as the site for the office because it is rather better situated than Dorchester and will involve fewer staff moves. There are accommodation difficulties to overcome in Taunton but I do not expect them to prove intractable.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that public transport is very difficult between Taunton and Dorchester? Is he aware that his Department failed to consult the Dorset branch of the National Farmers' Union on this very important question? Will he hold up a decision until it has been possible for the farmers' union or other people to make representations if they wish to do so?
My hon. Friend will know that consultation is appropriate on these matters with my county executive committee in Dorset, which was taken into full consultation. I think that the place of Dorset is with the South-West. As a West Country man, I wish to say that we regard the people of Dorset with warm and fraternal feelings and look upon them as belonging to the same very superior sample of the human species.