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20 Dec 2005 : Column 2808W—continued

Voting Statistics

Chris Ruane: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what percentage of the population is registered to vote in each ward of each constituency in Wales, listed in descending order for each constituency. [38272]

John Healey: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician who has been asked to reply.
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Letter from Karen Dunnell, dated 20 December 2005:


National Audit Office

Derek Wyatt: To ask the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission when the National Audit Office last examined expenditure on the BBC website. [34577]

Mr. Alan Williams: The National Audit Office does not have a general statutory right to examine how the BBC spends licence fee money. However, under an arrangement agreed between the Government and the BBC in 2003, the National Audit Office is undertaking a programme of six value for money reviews, which have
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been commissioned by the BBC Governors' Audit Committee. The expenditure on the BBC's website is not covered by this programme of reviews.

Three of the six reviews have been published to date—on the BBC's investment in Freeview, the White City 2 development, and the performance measurement framework for public service broadcasting. The remaining reviews will cover the BBC's overhead definitions, outsourcing arrangements, and risk management.

Mr. Leigh: To ask the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission if he will make a statement on the Commission's consideration of the NAO's future workspace requirements. [39413]

Mr. Alan Williams: At its meeting on 13 December the Public Accounts Commission considered a memorandum from the National Audit Office setting out its proposals for securing its future workspace requirements. These had been drawn up taking into account the views expressed during informal discussions between the NAO and myself, as Chairman of the Commission, and the hon. Member for Gainsborough, in his capacity as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.

The NAO acquired its existing headquarters building in Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1 in 1984 for £11 million, based on a 127 year lease at a peppercorn rent. Its interest in the building is now thought to be worth about £22 million.

The NAO's case for a significant upgrading of its headquarters accommodation rests on two main factors:

Faced with these conclusions, the NAO has reviewed the options available to it to meet its future accommodation needs, including:

Taking all these options into consideration, the NAO has concluded that a phased programme of refurbishment will provide the best value for money solution, and has approached the Commission both for approval in principle for such a course and for authority to incur expenditure on preparing a detailed design and firm costings.
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The cost of the refurbishment is provisionally estimated at £150 million over 30 years, as against relocation options ranging from £155 to £250 million. The NAO points out, however, that these figures would need to be offset against current annual expenditure on maintaining and operating the existing BPR building of some £4.4 million, which, discounted over 30 years, would equate to about £81 million. So the net cost of all the options should be reduced by that amount.

Expressed in terms of additional net resource requirements (and thus the direct impact on the NAO's Estimate) the NAO's preferred option of refurbishment of the BPR building produces the following estimated figures for years 1 to 3 (although the breakdown between capital and revenue may well change following detailed planning):
£ million

Year l
Year 2
Year 3
for years

By contrast, the relocation options would involve an initial negative capital expenditure, as the cost of any necessary works would be more than offset by the proceeds of the NAO's interest in the current building. Thereafter, however, the stream of annual costs arising from relocation would be significantly greater than those for refurbishment—reflecting mainly the difference between the current peppercorn and future commercial rents.

In preparation for the Commission's meeting on 13 December, both the hon. Member for Gainsborough and myself visited the Buckingham Palace Road site. We saw not only the current cramped layout and run-down condition of the building, but also the results of a trial refurbishment and conversion to open plan operation of part of the sixth floor. This reorganisation of the workspace represents a stark contrast with the rest of the building and we understand it has already shown tentative results in terms of improved staff morale and efficiency.

We reported these findings to the Commission. Having taken oral evidence from the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Assistant Auditor General responsible for the building project, the Commission accepted the NAO's case for a substantial upgrade of its workspace. Specifically, the Commission agreed:

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In order to ensure that the NAO's business case is as robust as possible against other options, the Commission has asked it to carry out a cost/benefit analysis of the option of relocating the headquarters building to a north of England location. We have also asked for a detailed explanation of the NAO's reasons for rejecting the option of relocating to a building of similar age on the Civil Estate in London SW1.

The NAO's memorandum setting out its case for the refurbishment option, and the transcript of the evidence given by the Comptroller and Auditor General at the meeting on 13 December are available on the Commission website, at

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