Agricultural Training Board

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd December 1992.

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Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid 12:00 am, 3rd December 1992

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has to ensure that the services offered by the Agricultural Training Board in central England continue to be at the level required to meet the needs of the region.

Photo of Nicholas Soames Nicholas Soames Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

We are carefully considering reactions to our plans to change the status of the Agricultural Training Board.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

Does my hon. Friend agree that training groups are a marvellous way of farmers getting together and provide a perfect forum for disseminating training information to other farmers? Does he also agree that United Kingdom farmers are very strapped for cash at the moment? Will he make a statement confirming that core funding for training, together with some additional funding for overheads, will continue?

Photo of Nicholas Soames Nicholas Soames Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

It is clear from the response and from comments received that ATB training groups are highly valued by the industry and other agencies operating in the land-based sector. I confirm that if Agriculture Ministers decide, following the consultation exercise, to implement their proposals for changing the status of ATB funding, core funding will continue.

Photo of Mr George Stevenson Mr George Stevenson , Stoke-on-Trent South

In the light of that response, should not the question posed be not so much about core funding for the board in central England but whether or not the boards have a future? Given the Government's negative response in respect of wages councils and similar bodies, will the Minister give a commitment that ATBs will continue with Government support, even if core funding is changed?

Photo of Nicholas Soames Nicholas Soames Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point, and he is right to make such an inquiry. We have a high opinion of the Agricultural Training Board's work, and seek to explore with the ATB ways of making its operations more efficient and less bureaucratic. We have every intention of ensuring that the board continues its good work.