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Communities and Local Government

Local Government

The Minister for Local Government (John Healey): On 4 February 2008, Official Report, column 47WS, I laid before Parliament a written ministerial statement about payments under the Local Authority Business Growth Incentives scheme (LABGI) in the light of legal challenge. I am now in a position to announce the methodology the Government intend to use, to make additional payments to local authorities for years 1 and 2 of the scheme and to make payments for year 3 of the three-year scheme.

For years 1 and 2, the Government propose to make additional payments to eligible local authorities using all Valuation Office Agency change codes which record an increase in rateable value and which were not previously used in LABGI calculations. This will ensure that all codes that could contain elements of business growth are taken into account. As a result, we propose that additional payments totalling approximately £50.9 million should be made to authorities (approximately £13.5 million for year 1 and £37.3 million for year 2).

For year 3, the Government intend to replicate the revised methodology for years 1 and 2 of the scheme in year 3. As I indicated in my statement of 4 February, it is necessary at this stage to retain a portion of the year 3 funding as a contingency and I intend to retain £100 million.

A further announcement about the distribution of the remaining funding will be made in due course. This funding will be allocated to local authorities in full, in line with the policy purposes for which LABGI was designed. The exact methodology will be confirmed once any uncertainty associated with legal challenges has been resolved.

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The Government, therefore, are able to allocate around £246 million to authorities at this stage for year 3 of the scheme. As in previous years, it will be necessary to apply a scaling factor to the calculated allocations in year 3 to ensure that the funding distributed does not exceed the amount available. Each authority’s allocation will be scaled back to 28 per cent.

Further details of the methodology used for calculating the latest payments for all three years of the scheme can be found in a technical note which is being published today on the Communities and Local Government website at:

Details of the proposed funding for each qualifying authority under the Government’s proposals can be found at:

Copies of these documents are available in the Libraries of both Houses.

Authorities will now have until 16 May 2008 to raise any queries or issues about the methodology. I intend to confirm and make payments to authorities as soon as possible after this period.

Culture, Media and Sport

Draft Heritage Protection Bill

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Andy Burnham): I am today laying the draft Heritage Protection Bill and explanatory notes for pre-legislative scrutiny. Copies of the related Impact Assessment are available in the Vote and Printed Paper Offices.

This is a draft Bill for England and Wales, which sets out the legislative framework for a unified and simpler heritage protection system that will be more open, accountable and transparent. The new system will provide more opportunities for public involvement and community engagement in understanding, preserving and managing our heritage. As the Impact Assessment makes clear, the main benefits of the reforms introduced by the Heritage Protection Bill are not best expressed in terms of the financial balance sheet, but are better understood in terms of public value and sustainability. The reforms set out in this Bill will enable us to preserve the historic environment and manage its transition to the future, in the light of both present values and in the interest of future generations.

The draft Bill is based on the proposals set out in the White Paper, “Heritage Protection for the 21st Century” (March 2007), which itself was based on three key principles: the need to develop a unified approach to the historic environment; maximising opportunities for inclusion and involvement; and supporting sustainable communities by putting the historic environment at the heart of an effective planning system.

The draft Heritage Protection Bill contains provisions for a single system for national designation (“registration”) of terrestrial heritage assets to replace the listing of buildings, scheduling of monuments and registering of parks, gardens, battlefields and, in Wales, historic landscapes. In England, we will be transferring responsibility for national designation of all these assets to English Heritage; in Wales that responsibility will remain with the Welsh
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Ministers. There will be new Heritage Registers, one each for England and Wales, containing details of all nationally designated heritage assets, as well as world heritage sites in England and Wales. There will also be formal appeals or review mechanisms for registration decisions, and provisional registration to give “interim protection” to historic assets while they are being considered for registration, as well as wider formal consultation on applications to register.

Alongside this unification of designation, we will be unifying and streamlining the associated consent processes, with the introduction of a new Heritage Asset Consent to replace Listed Building Consent and Scheduled Monument Consent, and the merger of Conservation Area Consent with planning permission. In England, the new Heritage Asset Consent will be administered by local planning authorities, allowing the management of the historic environment to take place at local level; in Wales, the draft Bill will provide flexibility to allow central decision making where appropriate, recognising the different levels of capacity in Wales.

We recognise the need for effective conservation and management of the historic environment at local level to be knowledge-based, and for the records of our historic environment to be available to as many people as possible. This Bill will secure the basis for informed stewardship of the historic environment, within and beyond the planning system, by placing local authorities under a new statutory duty to maintain or have access to an Historic Environment Record (HER). HERs are a comprehensive resource on the local historic environment, containing information on archaeological sites and finds, historic buildings and historic landscapes, complementing and enriching our existing collections of museum, archives and libraries.

In keeping with this drive towards greater accessibility, the new Heritage Registers will also be available online and new records will be simpler, clearer and more detailed.

The draft Bill will also introduce a new statutory framework for voluntary management agreements between the owners of heritage sites and structures and local or other authorities. These agreements will free owners from the need for repetitive consent applications for similar works, reducing the bureaucratic and administrative burdens for owners and local authorities alike, and providing greater certainty on the long-term management of the site.

Striking the balance between flexibility and the need to ensure protection alongside conservation and management characterises our proposals to reform the marine heritage protection system in England and Wales. We have broadened the range of marine historic assets that can be protected, ensuring that there is greater consistency—where appropriate—with the terrestrial system, and brought greater flexibility to the licensing system. As we have done for terrestrial designations, we have also built a formal consultation process into the registration of marine heritage sites and ensured protection for those assets formally being considered for designation.

These reforms will give us a heritage protection system that is open, flexible and accountable. Our heritage is an important source of national and community identity; people recognise its value and
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work hard, voluntarily and professionally, to ensure its conservation and pass it on. We are increasingly recognising the value of the historic environment in contributing to the Government’s wider agenda in terms of place-making and promoting economic prosperity through regeneration and sustainable use of existing resources. The proposals in the draft Heritage Protection Bill will enable us and future generations to benefit from a thriving, well-managed, sustainable and widely-enjoyed historic environment.

The draft Bill we are publishing today follows long and extensive consultation. We are publishing in draft to generate and benefit from the widest possible debate. If there are proposals for further changes, we will consider them carefully in the light of all the views expressed.


Reservists (Balkans)

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): A new call-out order has been made under section 56 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 so that reservists may continue to be called-out into permanent service to support military operations in the Balkans. The order takes effect from 2 April 2008.

Over the next 12-month period we expect to have some 20 reservists in theatre at any one time filling a variety of different posts, including staff officers, specialists and members of the training teams.

Innovation, Universities and Skills

Artist's Resale Right

The Minister for Science and Innovation (Ian Pearson): I am today placing in the Libraries of both Houses copies of a study by the Intellectual Property Institute (IPI) into the effect on the UK art market of the introduction of the artist’s resale right (ARR).

The Directive 2001/84/EC on the resale right for the benefit of the author of an original work of art was adopted in 2001. This required a new right, “artist’s resale right” (often referred to by its French name droit de suite) to be introduced into the United Kingdom by 1 January 2006.

Due to concerns over the potential impact that the introduction of ARR might have on the UK art market, the UK Government successfully secured a number of concessions within the directive to lessen its impact. These were:

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The implementing regulations were brought into force in the UK on 14 February 2006. ARR entitles artists and, for 70 years after death, their successors in title, to a percentage of the sale price whenever original works of art are re-sold in transactions involving art market professionals.

The purpose of the study, commissioned by the UK Intellectual Property Office, was to provide:

The Government are considering this evidence to develop our understanding of the impact of ARR on UK creativity and the UK art market.

International Development

Palestinian Authority

The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Douglas Alexander): We are gravely concerned about the situation in Gaza. The closure of Gaza’s crossings is contributing to the collapse of the economy. There are shortages of essential humanitarian supplies such as medicines, foodstuffs and hearing aids. Restrictions on supplies of fuel and electricity have led to widespread power cuts and water shortages. While we fully understand Israel’s security concerns, we do not support the decision to close Gaza crossings. The Foreign Secretary and I have called on Israel to open them, and to lift all restrictions immediately on humanitarian supplies and electricity. While resolving the humanitarian situation is in the hands of the parties concerned, we are doing what we can to help alleviate the situation.

In order to address the humanitarian situation, to support the Palestinian economy and to meet the urgent funding needs of the Palestinian Authority, we intend to provide an additional £30 million in support to the Palestinians in 2007-08, taking our total contribution to £63.6 million for this financial year. This is part of the pledge of up to £243 million over three years, linked to political progress, which I announced at the Paris donor conference last December. The UK is leading the international community in following through on its Paris pledges promptly, providing funding when it is most needed before other pledges come through.

This new funding will strengthen the Palestinian Authority’s ability to take forward reform at a critical time. It will help pay teachers, doctors and engineers, keep basic services running and meet the budget shortfall facing the government of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. It will directly benefit Gazans, as well as Palestinians living in the West Bank.

All funding will be delivered through reputable international institutions and safeguards will be put in place to ensure it is properly used. Our support for the
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Palestinian Authority will be routed through the World Bank and the EC’s new aid fund known as “PEGASE”.

DFID’s support for Gazans includes our agreement to provide £100 million over five years to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). UNRWA provides healthcare, housing, education and food to Palestinian refugees across the Middle East. Seventy per cent. of people in Gaza are refugees who will benefit directly from this assistance.

I also announced to the House on 12 March that we will provide £2 million to the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) as a further response to the humanitarian situation in Gaza.


Tribunals Service (Key Performance Indicators 2008-2009)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Bridget Prentice): The following list of key performance indicators have been set for the Tribunals Service for 2008-2009.

1. 75 per cent. of tribunal applications will be dealt with within each individual tribunal’s target time.

2. 72 per cent. of Tribunals Service customers are satisfied with the service they receive.

3. To reduce annually the operating costs of the Tribunals Service in real terms. The Tribunals Service is committed to achieving efficiency savings of £9 million in 2008-2009.

Copies of the Tribunals Service Business Plan for 2008-2009 have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

*More information on these and other supporting targets are published in the Tribunals Service Business Plan.

Legal Aid Reform

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Maria Eagle): My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, has made the following written ministerial statement.

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