The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Ivan Lewis): Subject to Parliamentary approval of any necessary Supplementary Estimate, the Government Actuary's Departmental Expenditure Limit will be decreased by £199,000 from £1,365,000 to £1,166,000. Within the DEL change, the impact on resources and capital are set out in the following table:
The change in the resource DEL arises from (a) machinery of government transfer to the Office of National Statistics £78,000 and (b) efficiency savings identified in response to the Gershon Review £121,000. The change in the capital element arises through a virement of DEL resource into capital £200,000. This capital funding will support investment in business systems for GAD.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Bridget Prentice): My noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Baroness Ashton, has made the following written ministerial statement:
"Land Registry has carried out extensive further consultation with stakeholders on the introduction of Electronic Conveyancing in England and Wales since the formal consultation exercise in 2002. The implementation of this important reform programme will continue to be carried out incrementally. A prototype in 2006 (the Chain Matrix) and a pilot exercise in the second half of 2007 (the system to be used for domestic sales) are planned, with further releases as the system progresses. These exercises will be limited to voluntary users. Once sufficient experience of the new system has been gained, the Secretary of State and Land Registry will initiate a consultation process with stakeholders over the form of the rules which will make e-conveyancing compulsory for most transactions. If Parliament approves those rules, I would expect the implementation of the compulsory provisions to take place as soon as possible, which is likely to be in 2009 or 2010".
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Jim Fitzpatrick): This statement concerns a consultation on the transfer of certain powers from existing planning authorities to the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA). The ODA is to be established, subject to parliamentary approval, following Royal Assent of the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Bill.
The making of the Planning Functions Order to give the ODA powers must be preceded by a consultation process. Copies of the Olympic Delivery Authority (Planning Functions) Order Consultation Paper have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses today. The consultation period will run from today for eight weeks until 12 April.
Giving planning powers to the ODA will facilitate the planning process for the Olympic Park, bearing in mind the scale of development involved, the timescales attached, and the integrated nature of the project. The transfer of powers from the existing planning authorities to the ODA would not change the nature of those powers, nor would it lessen the transparency of the planning process. The ODA as planning authority would follow the same, or similar, procedures as the Boroughs and the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation, in which the Olympic Park is situated. Applicants would have the same rights of appeal against decisions by the ODA.
The planning powers taken by the ODA will operate within a defined geographical boundary. The Consultation Map shows the expected area of the Olympic Park, as well as other areas where development is considered integral to the delivery of the Park. The Consultation Paper does not seek views on the layout of the Park or the area to be covered by the Olympic Park development. The Consultation Paper seeks views on what area should be subject to ODA planning powers and the extent of the planning powers to be given to the ODA.
The Secretary of State for Health (Ms Patricia Hewitt): I am today notifying National Health Service Trusts, Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities of their 200607 capital allocations. The total value of these allocations is £2,041 million. Details of allocations made to individual NHS organisations has been placed in the Library.
Strategic Health Authorities will receive Strategic Capital to fund larger scale investments facilitating strategic change. Strategic Health Authorities manage the distribution of strategic capital on to NHS Trusts and Primary Care Trusts in their patches by prioritising business cases for capital investment.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Clarke): I am pleased to say that Lord Carlile of Berriew QC has completed the report on the operation of Part VII of the Act in 2005, which will be laid before the House today.
The Minister for Industry and the Regions (Alun Michael): I am today launching a consultation about the criteria we should use in drawing up the map of areas in the UK within which it will be possible to pay state aid for investment (economic funding to help to boost competitiveness) during the period 200713. A similar consultation took place before the current assisted areas map drawn up in 2000. Regional investment aid payments can be paid from EU Structural Funds or from a nation's own resources but are limited, at least as far as larger companies are concerned, to areas which need help according to clear criteria. This consultation is the first step in a process of agreeing the regional aid map.
In addition, the Government will be consulting in the near future on the proposed Rural Development Programme for England and on a draft National Strategic Reference Framework, which will be required by European Regulations to set out the broad priorities for future Structural Funds Programmes in the UK over the 200713 budgetary cycle.
The Government are committed to making sustainable improvements in the economic performance of all English regions and over the long term reducing the persistent gap in growth rates between the regions. 1 The Devolved Administrations work in partnership with the UK Government to promote economic development in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Government have developed their regional development strategy on the basis of a detailed economic analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the economies of the UK's regions and labour market as set out in Productivity in the UK 3: The Regional Dimension 2 , Full Employment in Every Region 3 , and Devolving Decision-making 2: Meeting the regional economic challenge 4 .
The Review of the Assisted Areas is an important step to ensuring that Regions and Nations have the flexibility to build on strengths and address weaknesses. A national consultation will seek views on the designation
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of future Assisted Areas from 2007 to 2013. The consultation will be carried out in two parts. Part one of the consultation begins on 15 February 2006 and ends on 19 April 2006.
In part one the Government will seek views on the type of indicators that should be used to identify Assisted Areas, the appropriate geographical unit, and whether "economic development" areas should receive Assisted Areas coverage in their entirety.
The Government are also intending to cover Northern Ireland in its entirety, because of the unique difficulties in spatial targeting, the boundary with Borders, Midland and Western region of the Republic of Ireland, and that fact that Northern Ireland is currently eligible for an aid intensity of 40 per cent. higher than any other region of the UK. Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the House Library.
The new European Commission guidelines on regional aid were adopted on 21 December 2005. Under the new European Commission guidelines, the proportion of the UK population covered by the Assisted Areas will be 23.9 per cent, compared to 30.9 per cent. currently covered. This results mainly from the UK's sustained economic success in recent years. The reduction in coverage for the UK, like other longer-standing Member States, reflects the European Union objective of reducing the quantity of state aid as well as the impact of European Union enlargement. This has led to eligibility for regional aid being concentrated in the new, poorer Member States.
1 HM Treasury, Office of Deputy Prime Minister and Department of Trade and Industry share a Public Service Agreement target to: "Make sustainable improvements in the economic performance of all English regions by 2008, and over the long term reduce the persistent gap in growth rates between the regions, demonstrating progress by 2006".
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