Written Answers. - Charter of Rights for Farmers.

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

62 Mr. E. Byrne asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the progress, if any, made to date towards implementing the Charter of Rights for Farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1854/96]

On my appointment as Minister over a year ago, one of my top priorities was to improve the quality of services to farmers. The launch of the Charter of Rights for Farmers last April reflected that priority. The charter envisaged a programme of substantially improved services for farmers to be implemented over a two year period. The payment targets set for 1995 have been largely met or exceeded. At this stage virtually 100 per cent of headage and premia payments have been made.

In June last year an extensive advisory service was provided at local marts to help farmers minimise errors in completing application forms. Local offices are now open for the public all day. Significant progress was made on improving accommodation facilities in local offices during 1995 and this will continue during 1996 in line with my commitment to providing confidential office consultations for farmers and better accommodation for staff. I am satisfied that the target date of the end of this year for the upgrading of the local office telephone system will also be met.

I am particularly pleased to say that the appeals unit promised in the charter is now in operation. I have invited the farm and agricultural organisations to nominate representatives to the review group which is being established to monitor the implementation of the charter.

In the light of this progress, I was very disappointed that the charter commitment to having an information desk, or one-stop-shop, in local offices from 1 November 1995 was not met because of industrial relations difficulties with the Civil and Public Service Union. Comprehensive negotiations have commenced to obtain full acceptance of the charter including the introduction of the one-stop-shops.