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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Ian Pearson): I am today announcing my decision on recommendations contained in the O'Hare report on the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development's arrangements for the provision of agri-food education and R&D in Northern Ireland. I first announced my proposals on 25 November 2002, at which time I issued the proposals for public consultation. Having taken account of this consultation, I am now confirming the final decisions. These are detailed in the appendix below.
An advisory board on R&D and technology transfer will be set up, consisting of independent expert advisors from science and industry and with some additional membership nominated by the Rural Stakeholders Forum. Appointments to the board will be made through a transparent process using pre-set criteria. Strategic advice on the formulation of the R&D and technology transfer programme will be provided to the Department.
The educational provision currently delivered at the School of Agriculture and Food Science at QUB will be transferred to one of the two NI universities. The process of selection of the university will be conducted by a panel consisting of internal and external members which will oversee the competitive exercise. The funding will be ring-fenced for an initial period of three years. Suitable transitional arrangements will be put in place for both funding and students.
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Full legal protection will apply to terms and conditions of any staff who transfer to the chosen university. Full consultation with unions, staff and the receiving university will be an integral part of the process.
The three DARD Colleges will be combined to form a single college within DARD leading to greater efficiency in service delivery. The single DARD college, under a single Principal, will have a separate business plan, targets and budget and will produce separate accounts.
In addition, the single college will have overall responsibility for the delivery of knowledge and technology transfer and adoption and will liaise closely with the new NDPB, the retained Science Service, universities, research institutes and other providers to ensure cohesive and comprehensive delivery.
A new NDPB will be set up to deliver R&D and analytical and diagnostic services currently provided by DARD Science Service. However, core provision will be retained within DARD to provide an emergency response capability. This arrangement will be reviewed after 3 years.
A board will be appointed to manage the new NDPB. Appointments will be made using a transparent process and according to pre-set criteria. The NDPB will continue to provide R&D services for other Government Departments under suitable contractual arrangements.
ARINI will be abolished and its functions and staff transferred to the new NDPB. Negotiations will be undertaken with the existing ARINI Board and the relevant trade unions on the arrangements for transfer.
Overall responsibility for knowledge and technology transfer and adoption will be the responsibility of the single DARD College which will liaise closely with the new NDPB, the retained emergency core, universities, research institutes and other providers to ensure
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cohesive and comprehensive delivery, irrespective of the delivery location. I recognise the concerns expressed in the consultation exercise that the continuation of comprehensive technology transfer provision is essential to the future development of the agri-food industry.
Competitive tendering will be developed for DARD funded R&D. However, an R&D programme of sufficient size and quality will be core-funded at the NDPB to ensure that the required skills base is maintained. Core funding will also be provided for the analytical, diagnostic and surveillance functions carried out by the NDPB.
Clear links will be developed between DARD, the DARD college, the new NDPB, the universities and other research providers to ensure that R&D, technology transfer and education are delivered as effectively as possible.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Paul Murphy): The report on the Review of the Criminal Justice System in Northern Ireland, which flowed from the Belfast agreement, recommended in the area of youth justice that the Juvenile Justice Board, a statutory non-departmental public body with responsibility for the provision of youth justice services in custodial and community settings, should be replaced by a next steps agency. This statement announces the creation of that agency within the Northern Ireland Office, to be known as the Youth Justice Agency, on 1 April 2003.
The agency will play a central and leading role in addressing youth crime in Northern Ireland, by facilitating the development of a strong professional management team responsible for the provision of youth justice services and an increased emphasis on accountability, transparency and effective service delivery.
The agency will also implement a range of new diversionary measures for dealing with child offenders, including youth conferencing arrangements based on restorative justice principles, new community orders and bail support schemes. The agency will build on partnerships with others that already exist in helping young people to avoid crime.
In taking these developments forward, the agency will provide the appropriate structures, supported by challenging targets and key performance indicators, to ensure that the best value and outcomes are obtained from the substantial investment being made in youth justice provision in Northern Ireland.
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The agency will concentrate on service delivery. The continuing task of developing policy and monitoring the agency's performance against targets will be undertaken by a small unit within the core Department.
The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Healey): Legislation will be introduced in the Finance Bill 2003, to take effect from 1 April 2003, which will increase the standard rate of landfill tax from £13 per tonne to £14 per tonne. The increase is part of a series of £1 per tonne escalator increases, announced in the Budget 1999. These increases have been publicised in the landfill public notice (LFT1). HM Customs and Excise is writing to all landfill operators registered for the tax to confirm the date of the change.
The Minister for Energy and Construction (Mr. Brian Wilson): Following detailed analysis of a number of potential locations, I am able to announce that the Government have decided on West Cumbria as its preferred location for the head office of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.
The Government believe thatwhile a number of other locations could offer similar benefits in terms of the operational needs of the NDAthe NDA will bring significant benefits to the community of West Cumbria by providing a catalyst for economic growth and diversification. These benefits are particularly important to a community that has suffered significantly from economic setbacks and recent job losses. West Cumbria is already a high priority area for economic regeneration and has a long history of engagement in the nuclear business.
The decision is the outcome of a two-stage assessment process. The first stage conducted by the Department of Trade and Industry compared eight locations throughout the UK and concluded that the North West was the region of choice.
The second stage, conducted by the North West Development Agency, compared two areas within the regionWest Cumbria and the area west of Manchester. The results showed that while there were some differences in the two locations, both locations would deliver against the operational needs of the NDA. Hence, their respective needs for investment and economic regeneration became the deciding factor and on this basis I have chosen West Cumbria.
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Today's decision clearly demonstrates the Government's commitment (made in the White Paper on Managing the Nuclear Legacy) to support the communities in which the NDA will operate and in particular, to generate new growth and opportunities in areas such as West Cumbria.
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