Previous Section Index Home Page


ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS

Cattle Movement Service/Rural PaymentsAgency Merger

The Minister for Rural Affairs and Urban Quality of Life (Alun Michael): Following the Better Quality Service (BQS) review of the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS), published in November 2000, Ministers announced that they would be looking carefully at how BCMS could best work with the paying agencies in England, Scotland and Wales, to ensure effective interfaces with each other and with their farming customers. The 2001 Foot and Mouth Disease epidemic deferred action.

Since then we have learnt lessons from the first year of operating the bovine premium schemes on the basis of cross-checks by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) and the other GB paying agencies with the BCMS Cattle Tracing System database. These cross-checks threw up a significant level of inconsistencies which adversely affected payment of premium to a large number of farmer customers. This experience highlighted the need for close working between the GB paying agencies and

31 Mar 2003 : Column 48WS

BCMS and raised the question whether potential synergies between BCMS and RPA systems are being fully exploited to provide a better service to all those who use the database.

Having examined the options we concluded that there are strong strategic and organisational advantages for Defra's customers in having similar systems run under single management and providing a single point of customer contact through the merger of RPA and BCMS as from 1 April 2003. This would, in turn, ensure that BCMS is in a good position to meet the requirements of all its GB stakeholders. At the same time merger will help both organisations meet their respective business objectives by drawing on each others skills and experiences in improving services and efficiency through investment in significant e-government initiatives. Full realisation of these benefits however, will require a high degree of integration and consolidation over time.

This outcome is consistent with the findings from the BQS review which concluded that BCMS: should assume Agency status; should be retained within the public sector; should achieve efficiency gains through internal restructuring; and should remain on the Workington site.