First Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation
Wednesday 3 May 2000
[Mr. John Cummings in the Chair]
Development Commission (Dissolution) Order 2000
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. Chris Mullin): I beg to move,
That the House has considered the draft Development Commission (Dissolution) Order 2000.
It is a pleasure to serve under your wise stewardship for the first time, Mr. Cummings-probably the first of many. [
Interruption.] I see that the Conservative audience has already reduced by two-thirds. It must be the impact of my eloquence.
The order's purpose is to wind up the final business of the residual Development Commission, commonly known as the Rural Development Commission; to transfer some property to the Secretary of State; and to apply the Superannuation Act 1972 to certain employees and former employees of the Development Commission and the rural community councils, so that pension rights under the Development Commission pension scheme are applied to the civil service pension scheme.
These steps flow from the creation of the Countryside Agency and the establishment of regional development agencies on 1 April 1999. On that date, Rural Development Commission functions were transferred to those bodies. Since then, the Rural Development Commission has carried on in a compact form to complete a range of residual administrative and personnel-related tasks, in preparation for final dissolution.
It has taken a little longer than anticipated to finish the work, mainly because some of the tasks were unexpectedly complex, such as making secure arrangements for the new management of a variety of pension schemes, all of which necessarily demanded special attention to detail.
Over the past year or so, the remaining RDC staff have been working hard to ensure that the interests of its former staff and client groups have been respected and to reduce the RDC's liabilities to a minimum, so that its successors have few additional responsibilities or liabilities.
To ensure that nothing whatsoever is overlooked, the order provides that any remaining liabilities are transferred to the Countryside Agency, with just a single property lease to be transferred to the Secretary of State-a former commission office in Taunton, which was surplus to the requirements of the CA and the RDAs. The Department will manage the property in the most cost-effective way as part of its property portfolio. The office space in Salisbury occupied by the residual RDC is rented from the Countryside Agency. The rental agreement will cease when the RDC is dissolved.
The order also applies the provisions of the Superannuation Act 1972 to certain members of the Development Commission staff superannuation scheme 1984. That allows these members to be transferred into the principal civil service pension scheme, on which the Development Commission scheme was based. PCSPS is the scheme used by the Countryside Agency and staff who transferred to the regional development agencies or to the Countryside Agency in April 1999, who became eligible to join PCSPS, with their employment and pension rights intact.
As was the case for serving staff who transferred then, all pensioners, deferred pensioners and residual RDC staff currently in the Development Commission scheme will be offered broadly comparable pension provision and preserved pensions rights through membership of the principal civil service pension scheme-a scheme with identical provisions to that operated by the RDC.
The small residue of commission staff-headed by a chief executive, Mr. Keith Walton, and an accounting officer-elected to stay on for that process in the knowledge that once it was over, they would either retire or be made redundant. The staff numbers have further diminished over the past months to reflect the progress in completing particular tasks. It only remains for me to thank Mr. Walton and his colleagues for all their good work.
Mr. Peter Atkinson (Hexham): I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Cummings. Together with the Minister we make up a north-east triumvirate, which is unusual. I assure the Minister that it was not his oratory that drove my Conservative colleagues out. Perhaps more attractive opportunities were available elsewhere.
Clearly, the Opposition will not oppose the order. We accept that it is simply a technical matter, but it gives me a brief opportunity to say that this will be a requiem for the Rural Development Commission, which played a significant role in my constituency-and possibly yours too, Mr. Cummings. Many of us appreciate what it did. We understand the new arrangements and we can only hope that the new regional development agencies are as committed to rural areas. Obviously the jury is out. We will wait to see, but clearly we hope that they will do as well as the RDC.
Question put and agreed to.
That the Committee has considered the draft Development Commission (Dissolution) Order 2000.
Committee rose at twenty four minutes to Five o'clock.
The following Members attended the Committee:
Cummings, Mr. John (Chairman)
Ainsworth, Mr. Robert
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bruce, Mr. Ian
Davies, Mr. Denzil
Griffiths, Mr. Nigel
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Smith, Mr. John
Stewart, Mr. Ian