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Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 15 December 2005


Freedom of Information Act

The Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Ms Harriet Harman): My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State has made the following written ministerial statement.

Today I have deposited copies of "The Freedom of Information Act 2000—Statistics on Implementation in Central Government July to September 2005" in the Libraries of both Houses.

This is the third quarterly bulletin produced by DCA monitoring the performance of central Government and associated bodies under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Judicial Pensions

The Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Ms Harriet Harman): My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State and Lord Chancellor has made the following written ministerial statement.

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Compulsory Purchase Law

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Yvette Cooper): The Deputy Prime Minister has today placed copies of his response to the Law Commission's report: "Towards a Compulsory Purchase Code" in both Libraries of the House and has also placed the response on the ODPM website www.odpm.gov.uk/planning-information. The Commission presented their report to Parliament in two parts: on Compensation (Law Com No 286) in December 2003 and on Procedures (Law Com No 291) in December 2004.

In 2000 the Compulsory Purchase Policy Review Advisory Group (CPPRAG) had recommended changing the compulsory purchase of land powers, procedures and compensation arrangements. The most pressing changes were put in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and included strengthening local authority powers to acquire land for the creation of sustainable communities as well as making the compensation fairer to those losing their land.

CPPRAG also proposed the Government should work with the Law Commission on how to replace the whole of the current raft of statute and case law on compulsory purchase and compensation by a single statute expressed in modern language. ODPM and its predecessor Departments (DETR and DTLR), along with the Welsh Assembly Government, have been working on this with the Commission since 2000.

Although the Commission's recommendations identify a basic framework for reforming the structure of the law, they do not set out the detailed provisions needed to ensure fairness to those affected, as well as speed and simplicity. The ever-evolving complexity of the statute and case law has shown that these aims cannot always easily be reconciled. As the Law Commission has demonstrated, there are no quick and easy solutions and moving towards a simpler and more readily accessible set of laws would still require substantial further work.

The Government would like to have a single simple compulsory purchase code expressed in modern English. But finding further legislative time for this needs to be balanced against the Government's many other priorities. Given the changes providing immediate and tangible improvements were in the 2004 Act, implementing the Law Commission's proposals is not a practicable proposition for the foreseeable future.

The Government consider it more important to maintain a stable legislative framework providing certainty both for acquiring authorities and for those whose properties may need to be acquired. This should encourage acquiring authorities to exercise their compulsory purchase powers wherever this makes sense in the public interest to further their wider policy objectives.

English Local Government (Conduct)

The Minister for Local Government (Mr. Phil Woolas): The Government have today published a Discussion Paper about standards of conduct in English local government. It sets out our vision for a future comprehensive conduct regime for local authority members and employees. Such a regime would need to
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be part of our future strategy for local government, and hence this is published as part of the ongoing local vision debate begun by the Government last year.

The paper incorporates the Government's response to the recommendations on conduct in local government in Chapter three of the 10th report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (Graham Committee). It also incorporates our response to the report of the ODPM Select Committee on the role and effectiveness of the Standards Board for England, as well as a response to the recommendations of the Board itself following its review of the code of conduct for members.

We have largely accepted the recommendations of the Graham Committee; in particular its central recommendation for a more locally based decision-making process for the conduct regime. Accordingly, we have not accepted the recommendation of the ODPM Select Committee to maintain the present centralised regime for handling allegations of misconduct by members. We have, however, largely accepted the other recommendations made by the Select Committee.

The paper also indicates the approach the Government are minded to follow on the conduct of employees, in particular on the political restrictions which apply to local government employees, the pay of political assistants and a code of conduct for employees. In reaching these views, the Government have had regard to the responses received to the consultation that the Office undertook on these issues last year.

We believe that the approach set out in the paper would both deliver a clearer and more proportionate conduct regime for local government members and employees, and ensure that the public can continue to have confidence in those who serve them. We now intend to work with the Standards Board and other stakeholders to carry forward the changes identified in the paper, having regard to any comments and debate the paper itself generates. The Government recognise that certain of these changes would require primary legislation and it intends to seek this at the next convenient opportunity Parliamentary time allows.

Copies of the paper have been placed in the Libraries of the House.


United Kingdom Coins—2007

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Gordon Brown): Her Majesty the Queen has been graciously pleased to approve my recommendation that the following coins should be issued in 2007:

Collector versions of these coins will be released at a premium above face value and, during the course of the year 2007, the coins will also become available at face value from banks and post offices.
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