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Mr. Lansley: Will the Minister give way?

Angela Eagle: I have hardly any time left, and I want to deal with all the amendments if I can.

At present, a local planning authority is required by statute to have regard to the local development plan and decisions are to be made

The RDA, like any developer, will have to apply for planning permission as appropriate. It follows that an RDA will not only have regard to local development plans; it will have to comply with them if its economic strategy is to succeed. Amendments Nos. 20 and 21 are unnecessary, as the provisions that they propose are either already in place, or will be covered better by guidance.

Amendment No. 29 would place a new duty on RDAs to produce an annual budget and to consult local authorities on it. This amendment is unnecessary. As non-departmental public bodies, RDAs will be required to produce a corporate plan which will be agreed by the Government. The annual budget will be presented to Parliament in the Department's annual report and will be monitored by Ministers.

We must not lose sight of the fact that, ultimately, the corporate plan is a working document between central Government--who will be providing the RDA with its funds--and the RDA. It is therefore a document that will primarily be a matter for them to determine. None the less, the corporate plan will reflect the RDA's economic strategy, which will be determined by the RDA in full consultation with the region and the chamber.

The Bill provides a framework within which we expect the RDA to consult the regional chamber on its corporate plan. We do not propose to extend this to local authorities in the area, as it is our intention that those authorities, along with other regional partners, will be represented--indeed, predominant--in the chamber. If, however, it became apparent that a suitable chamber was not to be established, we could issue guidance and directions on the RDAs' consultation with regional interests--including local authorities--on both its corporate plan and economic strategy.

Amendment No. 30, which is consequential upon amendment No. 29, is also unnecessary.

Clause 9 allows the Secretary of State to set the financial duties of the RDAs and to recover surplus money from RDAs. The same power is available to the Secretary of State in respect of English Partnerships--again, Conservative legislation--but it has never been used. I hope that the power in clause 9(4) as drafted would also not need to be used in respect of RDAs.

RDAs will be non-departmental public bodies, which normally receive grant in aid from the Government each month to ensure that they do not carry large amounts of public funds at the start of the year which the Government could use for other purposes, and that public funds are used in the most efficient way. Despite that, however, a

1 Apr 1998 : Column 1320

body could still acquire surplus funds, if, for example, a large project was delayed or more receipts than expected were collected. In such circumstances, the most efficient use of funds is to return them to the centre to be used for other programmes.

Amendment No. 2 would require surplus funds to be paid to the region's local authorities, which is simply not appropriate. RDAs will receive funding from central Government, and it is right and proper that it be repaid to the Government if it is not used.

Clause 10 enables the Secretary of State, with the approval of the Treasury, to pay RDAs grant in aid, which will be their main source of income.

Amendment No. 3 would provide that the Secretary of State could not pay grant in aid to an RDA if the standard spending assessment of a local authority in the region had been or was proposed to be reduced. The hon. Member for Taunton perhaps seeks an assurance that we shall not reduce central Government funding for local authorities to increase the budgets of RDAs. We are happy to give such an assurance. Local authority funding is a separate issue: RDA funding comes from the single regeneration budget, from the budget for English Partnerships, and from the budget for the Rural Development Commission. The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) should not confuse them.

Unlike the previous Government, we are only too pleased to give assurances to local government. The budgets of RDAs will, like the programmes, be inherited from Government offices for the regions; they will not come from funding for local government. A standard spending assessment is the Government's view of net revenue expenditure which it is appropriate for a local authority to incur to provide service consistent with that across all local authorities. It is calculated by formulae which use objective measures. The amendment would mean that no funding would be paid if SSAs went down because of population change, which would cause anarchy. I am surprised that the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield is suggesting anarchy--but times are strange.

New clause 3 and amendment No. 17 cover the openness with which RDAs should operate. The Government want greater openness, better accountability and improved effectiveness in the conduct of the business of non-departmental public bodies, as we made clear in our consultation paper "Opening up Quangos"--we want RDAs to lead the way. We have also published our proposals for ending secrecy surrounding government in our White Paper, "Your Right to Know".

We are sympathetic to the intention behind new clause 3, but it is not appropriate for it to be in the Bill. The matter will be dealt with in the usual way by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, and our proposed freedom of information Bill will apply to all legislation. We shall also issue guidance saying that RDAs should be as open as possible--we hope and expect that they will be--but we shall not put that in the Bill.

Mrs. Ballard: This has been an interesting debate. At the risk of incurring the wrath of the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry), it could even be described as an iterative process.

Liberal Democrat Members welcome the support of the official Opposition, who have said that they shall vote in the same Lobby as us on new clause 3. I shall be careful

1 Apr 1998 : Column 1321

to make my points without upsetting them so much that they do not join us, but the road to Damascus has been incredibly busy recently.

In government, the Conservatives set up many non-departmental public bodies, or quangos, which were not accountable to local people and did not have to meet in public. My local training and enterprise council has placed the minutes of its meetings in public libraries and sent them to local people such as the Member of Parliament only since the change of Government, although it still does not meet in public.

Although we are delighted to accept the support of Conservative Members on new clause 3, we are most disappointed that the Conservative party and the Labour party have swapped sides on this issue. We had hoped for better from a Government who say that they are committed to openness and democracy. We should have anticipated the Under-Secretary saying, "The Government are sympathetic to new clause 3, but."

The hon. Member for Dudley, South (Mr. Pearson) mentioned reasons for not including certain matters in the Bill, which boiled down to something being blindingly obvious or too restrictive. In an idle moment, I studied the Bill. Clause 14 states:

I would have thought that that was blindingly obvious.

I must wrap up, so I shall be brief. New clause 3 would put RDAs in the same category as other public bodies with respect to admission to meetings, and in the same category as local authorities with respect to openness of proceedings, which would have to take place in public unless commercial or confidential matters were being discussed.

I am disappointed that the Government are unable to accept a simple new clause on openness and democracy, and I hope that some Labour Members will change their minds at the last minute and join us in the Lobby.

It being fifteen minutes past Seven o'clock, Mr. Deputy Speaker, pursuant to the Order [27 March] and the Resolution [this day], put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:--

The House divided: Ayes 163, Noes 283.

Division No. 241
[7.15 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Allan, Richard
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, James
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baker, Norman
Ballard, Mrs Jackie
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brady, Graham
Brake, Tom
Brazier, Julian
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Burnett, John
Burns, Simon
Burstow, Paul
Butterfill, John
Cable, Dr Vincent
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chidgey, David
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Colvin, Michael
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cotter, Brian
Cran, James
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Day, Stephen
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, Iain
Evans, Nigel
Faber, David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Fearn, Ronnie
Flight, Howard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Foster, Don (Bath)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam
Gale, Roger
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gray, James
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Hague, Rt Hon William
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Horam, John
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Hunter, Andrew
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kirkwood, Archy
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Livsey, Richard
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
McLoughlin, Patrick
Maples, John
Mates, Michael
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Moore, Michael
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
Oaten, Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Pickles, Eric
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Rendel, David
Robathan, Andrew
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
St Aubyn, Nick
Sanders, Adrian
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Steen, Anthony
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Townend, John
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyler, Paul
Tyrie, Andrew
Wallace, James
Walter, Robert
Wardle, Charles
Webb, Steve
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Willetts, David
Willis, Phil
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Woodward, Shaun
Yeo, Tim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Andrew Stunell and
Mr. Donald Gorrie.


Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, Andrew F
Bermingham, Gerald
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Boateng, Paul
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Byers, Stephen
Caborn, Richard
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Canavan, Dennis
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chisholm, Malcolm
Church, Ms Judith
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Fyfe, Maria
Galloway, George
Gardiner, Barry
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Grant, Bernie
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Healey, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Home Robertson, John
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Livingstone, Ken
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Love, Andrew
McAllion, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
McDonagh, Siobhain
McIsaac, Shona
McNulty, Tony
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mallaber, Judy
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morley, Elliot
Mudie, George
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Neill, Martin
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Ms Joyce
Radice, Giles
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Salter, Martin
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stott, Roger
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wills, Michael
Wilson, Brian
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Woolas, Phil
Wray, James
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Clive Betts and
Mr. John McFall.

Question accordingly negatived.

1 Apr 1998 : Column 1324

New clause 5

Responsibility for Training and Enterprise Councils

'(1) The Secretary of State may by directions require the transfer of responsibility for any Training and Enterprise Council in England ("a Council") from the Department for Education and Employment to the Regional Development Agency for the area in which the Council is based.

1 Apr 1998 : Column 1325

(2) Any Agency to which the responsibilities for a Council have been transferred shall--
(a) monitor and seek to improve the performance of the Council, and
(b) ensure that the Council contributes to any objectives of the Agency.
(3) If a Secretary of State makes a direction in respect of any Council under subsection (1) he shall either--
(a) make such a direction in respect of all Councils, or
(b) lay before both Houses of Parliament a statement of his reasons for not making a direction in respect of all such Councils.'.--[Mr. Bennett.]
Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

When I first came to the House I was not enthusiastic about regional government. I have realised over the past few years that the more we move to a global economy, the more important it is to have a regional presence rather than to rely on the cities that dominated in the early part of this century. Regional structures should be democratic, and we should have regionally elected government. I accept that the measure is merely a faltering first step, but it is important to make it clear that I want us to achieve regionally elected government as quickly as possible.

I fear that we will stop at this stage in the process and will never have regionally elected government. I am also worried that, if we stop at this stage, there will be a confusion of regional responsibilities. There will be regional chambers, regional development agencies and regional planning conferences. The TECs will have a regional structure to ensure that they have a co-ordinated policy for their region. There are higher education and further education regional bodies, and regional sports and arts bodies. We cannot continue that proliferation of different regional bodies and we need to try to slim them down and make them all accountable to an elected body as quickly as possible.

Both the Select Committee on Education and Employment and the Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs looked at the role of TECs and it was clear to them that there was no excuse for TECs to be kept separate from the RDAs. The logic was that there should be a funding mechanism, working in an integrated way. When trying to attract new industries and develop existing ones, part of that regional development consists of making sure that the skills are there. Companies are attracted to areas not only by sites and the availability of funds, but by the presence of a skilled labour force. It would be absolutely crazy for TECs to have a different regional strategy from that of RDAs. Both Select Committee reports made it clear that the Government had got it wrong in leaving TECs out of the new structure. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us how we are going to progress to a point where responsibility for TECs moves to the RDAs.

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