Draft Intervention Board for Agricultural Produce (Abolition) Regulations 2001 and Draft National Assembly for Wales (Transfer of Functions) Order 2001

[back to previous text]

Mr. Keith Simpson: I thank the Minister for responding to hon. Members' questions. We all accept that the farming industry needs restructuring. As the Minister said, there is a need for honesty and plain talking, and many farmers would accept that. However, tone and timing are important, and many farmers in my constituency felt this August as Lord Healey did when, during his chancellorship, at a time when the British economy was going through a difficult period, people kept offering him constructive suggestions. He made the analogy that it was rather like telling a man struggling up the stairs with a grand piano that he needs an operation for appendicitis. He does not see the point of it at the time.

I welcome the Minister's comments about IT for the RPA and his assurance about proven technology. I hope that that does not come back to haunt him.

Mr. Morley: So do I.

Mr. Simpson: Indeed.

The Minister also took a clear line on accountability. I know that he and other DEFRA Ministers recognise that everyone holds them responsible, and accountability is here clearly set out as residing with the Secretary of State. I am sure that the chief executive will enjoy his appearances before the Public Accounts Committee. I also welcome the Minister's comments about appeals, which the hon. Member for South-East Cornwall asked about.

We all recognise the need to avoid technophobia. Those of us of a certain age may be guilty of that.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham): Speak for yourself.

Mr. Simpson: My hon. Friend is probably referring to age, rather than technophobia, because she is about 25 years younger than me, but it is humiliating when I sit in front of a computer and my 10-year-old son proceeds to lead me through a series of what appear to be complex instructions.

The Minister is right about technophobia and the onus is on the farming community. Most farmers would probably say that they cannot survive in a commercial world if they are unable to operate IT. In my constituency, the onus is often on wives and daughters. However, ultimately, what matters is the robustness and efficiency of the IT system that the Minister says is based on proven technology.

Question put and agreed to.


    That the Committee has considered the draft Intervention Board for Agricultural Produce (Abolition) Regulations 2001.



    That the Committee has considered the draft National Assembly for Wales (Transfer of Functions) Order 2001.—[Mr. Morley.]

        Committee rose at twenty-one minutes past Five o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Hancock, Mr. Mike (Chairman)
Ainger, Mr.
Breed, Mr.
Clapham, Mr.
Flook, Mr.
Gillan, Mrs.
Goodman, Mr.
Hoyle, Mr.
Lucas, Ian
McCafferty, Chris
Mahon, Alice
Morley, Mr.
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Skinner, Mr.

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Prepared 29 October 2001