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Mr. Worthington : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the adequacy of the international response to the humanitarian needs of those in the zone protected by the French in Rwanda ; and what has been the British contribution.
Mr. Lennox-Boyd : A number of aid agencies are active in the area protected by the French. We are contributing to the non-governmental organisations Care and Merlin towards their operations in that area.
Mr. Simon Coombs : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what figures he has for the number of visitors to the United Kingdom from north America on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of D- day.
Mr. Sproat : I have received preliminary estimates from the British Tourist Authority about the number of visitors from north America to the United Kingdom as a result of the 50th anniversary of D-day marketing campaign in north America by the BTA and by the Southern tourist board which included a dedicated STB unit within the BTA office in New York.
BTA's early indications show substantially higher numbers of visitors and visitor spending than suggested in pre-campaign forecasts. These figures indicate between 75,000 and 125,000 additional visitors to the United Kingdom from north America, increasing British tourism earnings by between £44 million and £73 million.
I should like to pay particular tribute for this success to the work of Mr. Jeff Hamblin, BTA general manager in north America and his staff, for marketing so effectively the wide range of civilian and military events throughout the United Kingdom, commemorating the 50th anniversary of D-day ; also to the exceptional commercial leadership of Mr. Michael Green, chairman of the STB, and Mr. John Slater, managing director of the STB.
Ms Mowlam : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if he will amend the licence to be awarded under section 5 of the National Lottery etc. Act 1993 to Camelot Group plc to preclude the use of the lottery network for (a) benefits distribution, and (b) other commercial activities.
Mr. Brooke : This is a matter for the Director General of the Office of the National Lottery. I shall ask him to write to the hon. Member, and place copies of his reply in the Library of the House.
Mr. Gordon Prentice : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if he will review the operation and the practice of the television licence office in agreeing or refusing concessionary licence fees to pensioners in sheltered accommodation.
Mr. Brooke : Under section 180 of the Broadcasting Act 1990, responsibility for the administration of the
Column 102television licensing system, including the concessionary licence scheme, passed to the BBC with effect from 1 April 1991. TV Licensing acts as the BBC's agents in the administration of the television licensing system, and I have no power to intervene.
Ms Mowlam : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage, pursuant to his answer of 11 July, Official Report, column 260, how many reports his Department has commissioned about the British library project from the consultants Kennedy and Donkin.
Mr. Brooke : I have commissioned three reports from Kennedy and Donkin Building Services Ltd. for the British library project. They are : a report into the electrical wiring installation ; a follow-up report detailing results of a simple inspection of the electrical installation ; and a survey of the "as installed" mechanical and electrical services to which I referred in my answer of 11 July, Official Report, column 470.
Sir David Steel : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what plans he has to ask the ITC and Radio Authority to change their respective codes barring advertising by the football pools companies to permit advertising in the future.
Mr. David Shaw : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if he will make a statement on the achievements of (a) his policies and (b) his Department in helping small businesses over the last 12 months as against the previous 12 months ; if he will publish the performance indicators by which his Department monitors those achievements and the statistical results of such monitoring ; and if he will set out his targets to help small businesses in the next year.
Mr. Sproat : The Government recognise the crucial role played by small firms in the United Kingdom economy. The Government help small firms by keeping inflation and interest rates low and by reducing legislation and administrative burdens. They provide direct assistance where appropriate and are currently establishing a network of business links to provide high- quality business support across the country.
During the past year, my Department has reviewed regulations from whatever source on the business sectors in which it has a policy interest. I also commissioned an inquiry into the impact of regulations on the tourism industry and held a series of meetings with ministerial colleagues to discuss its findings. As a result, the Health and Safety Executive has issued guidance, "Maintaining Portable Electrical Equipment in Hotels and Tourist Accommodation" and my Department hopes to co-operate with the HSE in producing further guidance on health and safety at work regulations for those in the arts, leisure and tourism industry.
In addition, the national lottery, which will begin in November, will benefit many small businesses ; in
Column 103particular, the thousands of small retailers which will soon be selling tickets, and businesses offering ancillary services to the lottery operator.
My Department intends to continue its work to reduce legislation and administrative burdens on business, and to improve its links and consultation arrangements with businesses operating within the areas where I have a policy interest.
Mr. McMaster : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what role will be played by his Department in any consultation on disability ; and what plans he has to publish a consultation paper on countering unfair discrimination against disabled people in sport, arts and entertainment.
Mr. Sproat : My right hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People announced the publication of a consultation document on 15 July. My Department was involved in its preparation. I welcome the publication of the document and would encourage everyone with an interest in these issues, especially disabled people themselves, to let us have their views.
Mr. Nigel Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what steps he intends to take to overcome the backlog at the science museum in cataloguing on computer pre-1984 documents.
Mr. Sproat : The National Heritage Act 1983 lays responsibility for the management of the national museum of science industry, of which the science museum forms part, on its board of trustees. It is for the trustees to decide their priorities within the resources available to the museum.
Mr. Nigel Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage when he last paid an official visit to the science museum ; what plans he has for future visits ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Sproat : I last visited the science museum on15 March to attend its annual dinner. I have not made any plans to visit in the immediate future.
Mr. Worthington : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment which water companies in England and Wales take account of ability to pay in levying charges.
Mr. Atkins : The Director General has a duty to set price limits at levels which enable companies to finance their functions as water undertakers, which at the same time protect the interests of water consumers. He is also required to act so as to avoid pricing which discriminates against different classes of customer. The Director General of Water Services has issued guidelines to the companies on their dealings with customers who have difficulty in meeting their charges. His guidelines encourage the introduction of frequent payment options, extending the range of payment facilities which they make available, and early contact with customers.
Mr. Booth : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will give details of the sum of money granted by Her Majesty's Government in grants and loans to water boards in England in the 10 years before their privatisation ; and if he will place a schedule of payments, board by board, in the Library.
Mr. Atkins : Prior to 1989, when the water authorities were privatised, as with other nationalised industries, the Government controlled their borrowing through external financing limits. Details of these EFLs can be found in the relevant annual reports and accounts. Information about grants made to water authorities between 1979 and 1989, which included grants to assist with flood defence and land drainage, can be found in the supply estimates for the Department of the Environment and Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Copies of the water authority annual reports and the two Departments' supply estimates are available in the Library of the House.
Mr. Allason : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if there is a presumption against development in areas of outstanding natural beauty.
Mr. Curry : In general, development control decisions affecting areas of outstanding natural beauty should favour conservation of the natural beauty of the landscape. In all cases, the environmental effects of new proposals will be a major consideration, although regard should be paid to the economic and social well-being of the areas.
It would normally be inconsistent with the aims of designation to permit the siting of major industrial or commercial development in these areas. Only proven national interest and lack of alternative sites can justify an exception.
Mrs. Roche : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his answer of 29 June, Official Report, column 697, if he will name the beaches that do not comply with the relevant EC directive ; and how many people annually use these beaches.
Mr. Atkins : I refer the hon. Member to the answer, given by my predecessor, of 1 December 1993, Official Report, column 558-59. Records of the number of people using these waters are not held centrally.
Mr. Barry Field : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to designate areas of wetlands in the Solent and surrounding waters under the Ramsar convention.
Mr. Atkins : We are awaiting detailed proposals from English Nature for the listing of Southampton water and the Solent as a Ramsar site.
Mr. Spellar : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what investigation his Department has made in respect of changing lead times and prices of materials in the building industry.
Mr. Baldry : The Department discusses such aspects of the construction market through its "Consultative
Column 105Committee on Construction Industry Statistics". It produces joint biannual state of the construction industry reports. The latest was published on 7 July ; copies are available in the Library.
Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what consideration he is giving to the long-term problems of shortage of space in existing cemeteries and the desirability or otherwise of creating new cemeteries ; and what is Her Majesty's Government's policy on the use of re -usable graves.
Mr. Baldry : Under section 214 of the Local Government Act 1972, the provision of new cemeteries is a matter for local authorities, which are clearly best placed to decide how to satisfy the long-term need for burial space. It is not the practice in the United Kingdom for graves to be re- used. Policy on the removal of human remains is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department.
Mr. Ainger : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many requests for information on animals held in captivity for scientific purposes have been
Column 106made to his Department citing the Environmental Information Regulations 1992 ; and how many were accepted as falling within the scope of the regulations.
Mr. Aitkens : I am not aware of such requests.
Ms Armstrong : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list by region the names of the organisations or local authorities which have submitted indicative single regeneration budget bids ; how many indicative bids each body has submitted ; what is the title of each bid ; what is the amount of SRB funding each indicative bid would involve ; and what are the indications given to each organisation or local authority by the regional Government offices as to whether their indicative bids fit the SRB criteria and are worthy of being worked up into a full bid to be submitted by 7 September.
Mr. Baldry : I refer the hon. Lady to the answer that I gave her on 14 July 1994, Official Report, column 764.
Ms Armstrong : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how much the Government are spending, by region, on urban projects in 1994-95, broken down by Government programme.
Mr. Baldry : I attach a provisional regional breakdown of expenditure for those programmes which now form part of the single regeneration budget.
Single regeneration budget: Provisional regional breakdown, 1994-95 £ million |Greater |South |Eastern |South |East |West |Mersey |North |Yorkshire |North |HQ |Total |London |East |West |Midlands |Midlands |West |and |East |Humberside ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Urban Development Corporations |109.6 |0.0 |0.0 |14.5 |0.0 |47.0 |17.0 |28.5 |13.9 |60.5 |0.0 |291.0 Housing Action Trusts |42.9 |0.0 |0.0 |0.0 |0.0 |7.0 |13.5 |0.0 |24.8 |0.0 |0.0 |88.2 Estate Action |98.0 |3.1 |6.9 |12.8 |29.7 |49.4 |38.6 |59.3 |44.5 |29.7 |0.6 |372.6 City Challenge |52.5 |0.0 |0.0 |0.0 |22.5 |30.0 |22.5 |29.1 |31.8 |44.1 |0.0 |232.5 Urban Programme |12.8 |0.0 |0.0 |0.9 |3.4 |12.1 |9.4 |9.1 |8.6 |11.8 |14.9 |83.0 Task Forces |3.8 |0.0 |0.0 |1.3 |1.9 |1.7 |2.0 |1.0 |2.2 |2.1 |0.0 |16.0 City Action Teams |0.0 |0.0 |0.0 |0.0 |0.0 |0.0 |0.1 |0.0 |0.0 |0.1 |0.7 |0.9 Regional Enterprise Grants |0.2 |0.3 |0.3 |0.8 |0.9 |0.9 |0.6 |0.7 |2.9 |1.4 |0.0 |9.0 GEST 19 |1.8 |0.0 |0.0 |0.0 |0.1 |0.8 |0.2 |0.3 |1.1 |0.4 |0.0 |4.8 Programme Development Fund |0.5 |0.2 |0.2 |0.3 |0.2 |0.4 |0.2 |0.3 |0.4 |0.4 |0.0 |3.3 TEC Challenge |0.4 |0.4 |0.4 |0.3 |0.1 |0.5 |- |0.6 |0.8 |0.7 |0.1 |4.3 Business Start-up Scheme |8.0 |6.6 |4.6 |7.6 |7.5 |7.8 |6.5 |4.8 |9.1 |4.0 |3.6 |70.1 Local Initiative Fund |2.5 |2.3 |1.4 |1.5 |1.5 |1.9 |1.3 |1.7 |3.3 |1.9 |9.2 |28.6 Education Business Partnerships |0.3 |0.2 |0.1 |0.1 |0.1 |0.2 |0.1 |0.2 |0.2 |0.1 |- |- Teacher Placement |0.3 |0.4 |0.2 |0.2 |0.2 |0.3 |0.2 |0.2 |0.2 |0.1 |1.5 |10.6 Compacts |0.8 |0.4 |0.3 |0.3 |0.5 |0.5 |0.7 |0.5 |0.6 |0.7 |- |- Safer Cities |0.2 |0.0 |0.0 |0.1 |0.0 |0.0 |0.0 |0.2 |0.2 |0.1 |2.9 |3.5 Section 11 (Urban) |28.6 |0.0 |0.0 |0.0 |0.2 |13.3 |0.3 |6.5 |11.2 |0.6 |0.0 |60.5 Ethnic Minority Grant |2.4 |0.3 |0.2 |0.2 |0.3 |0.4 |0.0 |1.2 |0.7 |0.1 |0.0 |5.7 Ethnic Minority Business Initiative |0.2 |0.1 |0.0 |0.0 |0.0 |0.2 |0.0 |0.1 |0.0 |0.0 |0.0 |0.6 |------- |------- |------- |------- |------- |------- |------- |------- |------- |------- |------- |------- Total |365.7 |14.2 |14.6 |40.9 |69.2 |174.3 |113.2 |144.2 |156.4 |158.9 |33.5 |1,285.1 Notes: 1. Figures exclude English Partnerships; regional breakdown depends on Corporate Plan. 2. UDCs figure for Greater London includes Docklands Light Railway and for South West includes MOD contribution. 3. City Challenge figures include a contribution from the Housing Corporation. 4. The North West figure for TEC Challenge includes Merseyside. 5. HQ figures cover 1993-94 retentions, national contracts and a small amount of unallocated resources.
Ms Armstrong : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how much the Government are planning to spend, by region, on urban projects in 1995-96, broken down into planned expenditure already earmarked for specified urban programmes and planned expenditure forming the general pool of the single regeneration budget.
Mr. Baldry : A regional breakdown of committed expenditure in 1995- 96 for those programmes which now form part of the single regeneration budget is not readily available. The regional distribution of unallocated single regeneration budget funds will not be known until the bidding round has been completed and the successful schemes are announced. The timetable is set out in the bidding guidance for the budget issued on 14 April 1994, copies of which have been placed in the Library of the House.
Mr. George Howarth : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress has been made towards meeting the requirements of article 6 or directive 85/210/EEC and article 3 or directive 78/611/EEC about pollution.
Mr. Atkins : In accordance with the requirements of directive 85/210/EEC, which replaced directive 78/611/EEC, the Motor Fuel (Lead Content of Petrol) (Amendment) Regulations 1985 require leaded petrol and unleaded petrol to meet the lead content limit imposed by the directive. The regulations also require leaded and unleaded petrol to meet equivalent quality requirements in respect of the primary parameters that could influence the levels of other pollutants.
Mr. Rendel : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to change the capping regime for local authorities.
Mr. Curry : The Government are committed to firm control of public expenditure. The Government will announce their capping criteria as part of the local government finance settlement.
Mr. David Nicholson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will continue to pay standard spending assessment reduction grant to local authorities in 1995-96 ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Curry : We propose to pay standard spending assessment reduction grant for a second year, in 1995-96. I recognise that, without some form of damping grant, a number of local authorities would face significant reductions in resources. However, these authorities will by 1995-96 have had more time to bring their spending in line with their standard spending assessment. The scheme may therefore not need to be as generous as in the previous year. We will have to decide the level of SSA reduction grant later this year in the context of the overall local authority settlement.
Mr. Rendel : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he intends to allow councils to levy additional taxes in 1995-96.
Mr. Curry : The level of council taxes in 1995-96 will depend, among other things, on authorities' spending decisions, on their collection performance and on the revenue support grant settlement, details of which will be announced later this year.
Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to reduce or extend the entitlement to remuneration of local government elected representatives ; what are his proposed new levels for their official duties ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Baldry : A copy of my consultation letter of 14 June to the chairmen of local authority associations on proposed changes to the councillors' allowances system has already been placed in the Library of the House.
Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment which of the timetabled targets set in his annual update on "This Common Inheritance" have not been met ; and if he will set out the reasons for the failure to meet each of those targets.
Mr. Atkins : The commitments to action reviewed in the third report on the 1990 environment White Paper, Command 2549, are set out in tabular form and the tables themselves show the action taken to date, action that is still required and new commitments.
Mr. Barry Field : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress has been made on measures to simplify present arrangements for the registration of architects as set out in the Architects (Registration) Acts.
Sir George Young : Since October the Government have been working with the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Architects Registration Council to agree on suitable and acceptable measures to streamline the Architects Registration Council. We have now arrived at a package of reforms aimed at making the council more focused and efficient. My Department has today issued a consultation paper on the proposed reforms. Copies are available in Library.
The main proposal is to replace the existing council of 73 members with a small board of 15 members. The new board would represent both lay and professional interests and would concentrate on the key activities of setting criteria for registration ; preventing misrepresentation by non- registered architects ; disciplining unprofessional conduct ; and setting fee levels.
The consultation will be completed in mid-September. We hope that appropriate legislation can be drafted thereafter.
Mr. Heald : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the outcome of the financial management and policy review of the London Pensions Fund Authority.
Mr. Baldry : Following his consideration of the final report of the review, which is being published today, my right hon. Friend has agreed that the London Pensions Fund Authority should continue to operate, at least until the future of the local government superannuation scheme is settled in the light of a recent efficiency scrutiny of that scheme. My right hon. Friend has also agreed with the authority an action plan designed to improve the LPFA's already very good service levels and its public accountability.
Copies of the report and of the action plan have been deposited in the Library.
Mr. David Nicholson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement about the extension of compulsory competitive tendering to local authorities' professional construction and property services.
Mr. Baldry : Compulsory competitive tendering is being extended to six professional support services, in a phased programme--legal services, professional construction and property services, IT, finance personnel, and corporate and administrative services. Detailed proposals for each service are being developed in close and productive consultations with local authority associations, the Audit Commission, the Account Commission for Scotland, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accountancy and the professional bodies. Detailed consultation proposals for construction and property services CCT were issued by my Department on 22 February 1994. The Government have now considered the responses received from local authorities, the construction and property professional bodies and other interested parties.
We have concluded that the percentage subject to CCT should be 65 per cent., as suggested in the consultation proposals. I carefully considered comments that the competition figure should be lower, but I feel confident that the proposed figure--subject also to a minimum in-house provision of £450,000 to safeguard the position of the smallest authorities--will enable authorities to gain the benefits of competition across a wide range of their construction and property work, while ensuring that authorities can maintain the necessary in-house professional expertise. The minimum figure of £450,000 will be reviewed periodically to ensure that it continues to meet its purpose.
I also considered the alternative suggestion that these services should be sub-divided into a set of client-side functions, which would be excluded from CCT, and a set of functions of a consultancy nature, all or nearly all of which would be subject to competition. I note, however, that individual local authorities have different views on the types of work which they prefer to retain in-house and those which they prefer to put out to competition. We have sought to ensure that the CCT arrangements for professional services allow individual authorities flexibility in the way in which they approach competition, and I believe that the simple percentage approach provides greater flexibility and is preferable.
We propose that the defined activity will cover construction and property services in relation to local authorities' construction and maintenance programmes and projects, and the management of local authority property-- other than housing, which is separately covered by housing management CCT. It therefore does not include authorities' professional work in support of other activities such as regulatory and enforcement functions.
The Government propose that authorities will be able to count the following categories of professional and construction work towards meeting their CCT requirement : work being carried out in house following a voluntary competitive exercise ; work carried out for the locally managed schools ; work in support of other local authority activity which itself has been exposed to CCT ; and construction and property work already contracted out. For a transitional period, authorities will also be able to count construction and property work related to housing management, where this service will become subject to CCT at a later date for the authority in question ; and similarly count project work which the authority has in progress at the time when CCT comes into effect and which it is not sensible to tender midway through the project.
Column 110Where individual members of staff spend less than 50 per cent. of their time on construction and property work, their time will not be included in the authority's aggregate of defined activity. In the consultation proposals, we suggested two-stage implementation-- initially 35 per cent. rising to 65 per cent. six months later. Responses indicated that this was not felt to be particularly useful. We therefore propose to move to one-stage implementation, but starting at the later date of April 1996 for the London boroughs and English metropolitan districts. This additional six months before commencement will give authorities good time to prepare specifications and carry out tendering.
For shire counties and districts, I have already announced that CCT will come into effect following the local government review and the determination of each authority's new structure, and I have now decided to allow an additional six months in the implementation timetable for both professional construction and property and legal services in all shire areas. We want new authorities to take a fresh and radical look at the way in which they organise and provide themselves with support services, and the additional six months will ensure that they have a full opportunity to do so. Separate timetables will apply in Scotland and Wales.
CCT requires the authorities to operate free and fair competition. My Department is issuing guidance to local authorities and others on the conduct of tendering for professional services. This guidance emphasises that authorities should give full weight to quality in defining their requirements for professional services, and should consider quality of bids fully alongside price, in selecting the best tender proposals.
My officials will be writing to local authorities with the text of the order which the Government will table shortly, and which will provide, subject to resolution of both Houses of Parliament, for professional construction and property services to become a defined activity for CCT purposes.
Some 215 responses were received on the consultation proposals. I have placed a list of responses in the Library.
Mr. Dykes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether, in the context of the Local Government Commission's review of the structure of local government in the shire counties, county councils will be expected to take account of the views of possible successor authorities concerning waste disposal strategy ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Atkins : Waste disposal activities frequently involve long-term considerations, particularly where the creation of new facilities for waste disposal is concerned, and as a consequence the waste disposal contracts entered into by some authorities may run for up to 20 years or more. I am therefore keen that thorough consultation and co-operation between counties and districts is seen to be important in its own right. This is particularly important in view of the current review of local government structure in the counties. The local authority associations have issued guidance--"A Code of Practice on a Prudential Approach to Financial Management prior to Local Government Re-organisation"--which draws attention to the need for successor authorities to be consulted before decisions are taken which will involve successor authorities in a
Column 111significant financial commitment. The Audit Commission's consultative paper "Time for Change?" also addresses these issues. It is particularly important that a county council that wishes to pursue a waste disposal strategy which will necessarily involve a long-term contract should seek to involve possible successor authorities in early discussion of the options and ways forward, with the aim of obtaining support for that strategy from all the authorities concerned. I believe that it is in the interests of all if a common view can be achieved on the selection of the best waste disposal options for the future.
Mrs. Browning : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the conclusions he has reached on (a) the issues discussed in the consultation paper issued by his Department on 27 May 1993 on commercial property leases and (b) the recommendations of the Law Commission in its reports 208, "Landlord and Tenant--Business Tenancies : a Periodic Review of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 Part II" and 178, "Landlord and Tenant
Law--Compensation for Tenants' Improvements" ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Baldry : Consultation paper on commercial property leases. The consultation paper discussed whether the Government should take any action over three aspects of commercial leasing practices which had aroused concern : upward only rent reviews, confidentiality clauses and dispute resolution procedures. We issued the consultation paper in response to concern about apparent rigidities in the market and the difficulties a number of commercial tenants were facing with their leases.
It is evident that the market is now providing a greater variety of lease terms. We welcome signs that this is taking place, especially the availability of shorter leases. It is important for the industry to be flexible if it is to meet changes in the market. While the relative bargaining strengths of the parties will depend on the state of the market, it is not clear that occupiers fully appreciate the strength of their own bargaining positions. We consider the best way forward would be for the industry to adopt a code of practice which not only draws attention to the implications of upward rent review clauses but encourages flexibility on other terms. On the assumption that a satisfactory code of practice can be developed and accepted by all sectors of the property industry in consultation with occupiers' representatives and put into effect, we consider that statutory intervention to regulate rent review clauses would not be appropriate.
We favour maximum transparency in the marketplace. We recognise that despite this, confidentiality clauses in leases sometimes reflect the specific and legitimate needs of the landlord and tenant. A ban would be insensitive to these needs. Nevertheless, it would be to the advantage of interested parties if in general greater openness could be achieved, as this should improve the quality of information on which decisions are based. We envisage that the code of practice should encourage greater openness, unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary. We shall consult with interested parties on how this could be achieved.
On resolution of disputes, it is no part of the Government role to regulate the procedures to be followed. The main emphasis must rest on the parties remaining free
Column 112to agree dispute resolution procedures of their own choice. There is, however, scope for better understanding, especially among tenants, of the procedures available and while, in general, existing procedures work satisfactorily, there is a continuing need to be vigilant about the scope for improvement. We therefore look to discussions about a code of practice to stimulate greater awareness of current procedures. More generally the competitiveness White Paper refers to other work being taken forward to simplify the law on arbitration and encouraging other forms of dispute resolution. We also intend to review with interested organisations options for providing a quick, cheap and cost -effective method of resolving disputes for small tenants.
In conclusion, the Government will work with representatives of both landlords and tenants and other interested parties with the aim of producing a code of practice within the next twelve months. The Government will appraise the operation of the code after three years when it should have had reasonable time to influence commercial practices. In particular, we will review the impact on the flexibility and transparency of the market.
Law Commission report on landlord and tenant law
Law Commission report No. 208 dealt with the workings of part II of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954, and was concerned primarily with technical issues. It has made a number of useful recommendations about the better workings of the Act--for example, streamlining the procedures for serving notices when a tenancy comes to an end. We propose to implement most of these.
However, some of the issues raised have wider implications for relationships between commercial landlords and tenants. In particular, we wish to give further consideration to the proposal to make it easier for landlords and tenants to contract out of the provisions of the 1954 Act ; we will want to satisfy ourselves that this proposal will not jeopardise the position of tenants.
We shall be taking a further look at these wider issues in conjunction with advice provided by my Department's property advisory group.
Law Commission report No. 178 recommended the abolition of the statutory scheme for compensating tenants for improvements that they carry out. We accept the Commission's proposals. This scheme is little used. The procedures are complicated and time-consuming, and the provisions of the 1954 Act have rendered it largely obsolete. The 1954 Act gives tenants the right to lease renewal, except in defined circumstances ; and the rent on renewal does not take account of improvements carried out by the tenant.
The 1927 Act also enables tenants to obtain court approval for carrying out improvements which would otherwise be unlawful. We accept the Law Commission's recommendation that this should remain. We will need primary legislation to implement proposals stemming from these two reports.
I should emphasise that we have no intention of abolishing the 1954 Act, which has stood the test of time and provides a careful balance between the interests of landlords and tenants. In particular, we are not considering removing security of tenure for business tenants.