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8 Apr 2003 : Column 250—continued

David Taylor: I am grateful for the Minister's comments. Before he concludes his remarks, however, will he briefly answer my questions? Why was not at least a fraction of the hugely increased resources that are to be spent on IT in DEFRA made available to existing staff who could have demonstrated what they were worth and drawn deeply on the skills that they have developed in the years that they have given to MAFF and DEFRA?

Alun Michael: We are increasing resources for IT because we have initiated a more ambitious IT programme for a vastly increased Department. We are in a different ballgame. As I said, we have tried to support staff as a part of that programme. We have not intended to leave staff behind and to look outside DEFRA. We have tried to carry staff with us and have put a programme in place to increase and improve their skills so that they can be part of the new arrangements. That reflects our ambition. We very much want the staff to be part of the future of DEFRA.

The basic point is that DEFRA has a major programme to deliver. We are ambitious to do that in the most modern way possible and to use IT to the best. That is why our programme of change in the Department is underpinned by a well developed and linked IT strategy, and by plans for IT outsourcing that is capable of meeting the Department's wide-ranging needs. Providing that service is in the best interests of the public and all those whom we serve on the range of matters for which we are responsible. It is also the best way to ensure that our staff have the tools to do the job.

Question put and agreed to.

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