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My noble Friend, the Baroness Hollis of Heigham highlighted how, as a unitary borough council prior to 1974, Norwich was able to attract business investment, built an airport, the city college and established what is now the university of East Anglia. But since it became a city council, its ability to act decisively in the interests of its residents has been fettered. My noble Friend, Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, gave examples of how the needs of Exeter as a city are not being met. For example, Exeter city council wanted to set up a trust foundation for education that was supported by the university, Exeter college and everyone in Exeter; it was stopped by the education department in the county council. She likewise referred to a new waste-to-energy building being developed in Exeter without any consultation with councillors in Exeter. My noble Friend the Lord Whitty referred to an article written by the chair of the Exeter chamber of commerce indicating all the frustrations which businesses in Exeter have with the two-tier system.
"where cities have been given more freedom and resources, there is evidence they have responded by being more proactive, entrepreneurial and successful".
He reminded the House that one cannot produce evidence for something that has not yet happened. But as he said evidence from the past is that Norwich has been poorly served by Norfolk as Lady Hollis described; evidence from the present is that Norwich has been shortlisted for selection as the UK city of culture in 2013. The Baroness Murphy explained that what is good for the regional development of East Anglia and Norfolk as a whole, is what is crucial for Norwich-a centre of power to drive the local economy. The noble Lord Elystan-Morgan concluded that the communities in Exeter and Norwich "are giants with immense potential, but are shackled by the present system. It is right and proper that they should be given the opportunity to develop that potential".
In short, while as I recognised in Monday's debate the question whether to have unitary councils is one that is hotly debated, there is clear evidence of the benefits that unitary city councils can bring, evidence which the Government believe is sufficient for there to be confidence that the course we are proposing will achieve its declared policy objective, namely to promote the economic, social, and environmental success of the cities and surrounding county areas.
The affordability criterion provides that a change to unitary structures should have a payback period of no more than five years and that all costs incurred as a result of reorganisation are met locally without increasing council tax. The Government accept that the proposals for a unitary Exeter and a unitary Norwich do not meet this criterion to a limited degree, having payback periods a little longer than five years. There is no evidence to support the suggestion of Lord Burnett that a unitary Exeter will cost the average band D council tax payer in Devon approximately £200 a year extra. The Government also accept that the Norwich proposal, before the new Total Place approach to service delivery is taken into account, does not meet the value for money on services criterion. But, considered on their merits, the Government are clear that the risks of a slightly longer payback period are outweighed by the benefits for the local
economy that unitary councils would bring, benefits the likelihood of which is supported not least by the evidence heard in Monday's debate, and that with the new Total Place approach, Norwich will be able to shape and jointly deliver high-quality services across the whole area, with the economies that brings, but which also meet the diverse needs of urban and rural communities.
Moreover, as I explained to the House, if we proceed now the new unitary councils can be implemented in April 2011, already over four years after the original unitary proposals were made by the elected city councils for Exeter and Norwich. Any further delay now would make that date impossible, with implementation at its earliest being in April 2012.
Accordingly, for all the reasons above, the Government have concluded that it is now right to proceed. The other place has now approved the draft orders, by 251 to 163 in the case of Exeter, and by 249 to 171 in the case of Norwich. In all the circumstances, therefore, the Government now intend to make the Exeter and Norwich orders as soon as practicable.
The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Margaret Hodge): The wreck of "Balchin's Victory", lost in 1744, was discovered in the English channel in 2009. In view of the unique importance of this find for naval heritage and the intrinsic value of the wreck as a cultural artefact, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are issuing a public consultation paper on the future management approach for the wreck site. The consultation paper will be available through the websites of both Departments, and can be found at: http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/AboutDefence/Corporate Publications/ConsultationsandCommunications/Public Consultations/
In reply to a question from my noble Friend Lord Woolmer, my noble Friend Lord Faulkner said that Ofgem were against removing the co-firing cap. As my noble Friend is aware this is not the case. In their response to the renewables obligation consultation in October last year they said:
"No we don't agree with the proposal to retain the cap on co-firing. We would like to see the cap removed going forward. The cap potentially disadvantages independent co-firing generators if vertically integrated suppliers self-supply a considerable proportion of their demand for co-firing ROCs. This would mean that the market for independent generators may be smaller than that implied by the cap. We also are concerned that the cap constrains the contribution to our renewable energy targets from a relatively low-cost renewable technology. This might be the case if independent generators constrain output below the level at which they perceive there is a risk that a supplier with demand for ROCs could negotiate ROC price discounts. We also think the concerns about
the potential volatility of co-firing volumes could have on ROC prices are overstated. This is because of the reduction in the number of ROC given to co-firing (down to 0.5 ROC/MWh) and the headroom will effectively set the size of the obligation from 2010-11".
I would like to clarify also that Ofgem's response is available on their website at http://www.ofgem.gov.uk/Sustainability/Environment /Policy/Documents1/RFI%20response.pdf and summaries of the 733 responses received to the RFI consultation are available on our website at http://decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/consultations/elec_financial/elec_financial.aspx.
The actual responses-less some confidential material-are available at http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/consultations/elec_ financial/elec_financial.aspx .
I would like to inform the House that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has successfully reached agreement with Westinghouse Electric Company LLC (WEC) on new commercial arrangements for the Springfields site and fuel manufacturing. The agreement will see the commercial operations and staff transfer fully to WEC, which is the current site management contractor, and the NDA land leased to WEC on a long-term basis. In addition to providing an income stream for the NDA, the new arrangements and plans for the site are expected to reduce significantly NDA's decommissioning liabilities, representing excellent value for the UK taxpayer.
We welcome and fully support the agreement, which is expected to protect and enhance the site's long-term commercial sustainability through investment and expansion of existing fuel operations. The agreement demonstrates further that major energy companies are gearing up for significant investment in the low-carbon energy sector in the UK.
In this context, a direction modifying the Energy Act designating directions for the Springfields site has been laid before Parliament. Specifically, the designating directions have been amended to add additional functions, allowing the site to undertake new fuel manufacturing activities.
Any new developments on the site will be subject to regulatory and other consenting processes.
The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in the Budget today that the Ministry of Justice will be moving to bring together Her Majesty's Courts Service and the Tribunals Service into a new single organisation.
Her Majesty's Courts Service and the Tribunals Service between them provide the administration for the courts in England and Wales and most of the non-devolved tribunals in the United Kingdom. They share the common purpose of providing access to justice, whether in the criminal, civil or administrative justice fields. We aim to bring these broadly similar functions together into a new single organisation for the efficient delivery of access to justice.
Creating a unified service holds out the prospect of significant benefits to the users of courts and tribunals, to the taxpayer and to the administration of justice generally. There is the potential for improved service provision for users through joint administration and shared hearing venues. The new arrangements will also facilitate the building of a unified judicial family in England and Wales.
The new structure will preserve the unique and distinctive features of both systems while taking advantage of the benefits to users, judges and staff from closer working. We will ensure that the statutory responsibilities of both the Lord Chief Justice for the courts and the Senior President of Tribunals for the tribunals are respected and preserved. There are also a number of important differences between the two organisations which will need to be given careful consideration in planning for the new organisation. These include the different territorial coverage of HMCS and the Tribunals Service, their different governance arrangements and judicial structures and the different regional and jurisdictional structures currently in place.
In addition, and following a recent public consultation on the future of the Parole Board, we will consider the opportunities that this new organisation offers to secure the board's position in the justice system, so that it is best placed to deliver timely, rigorous and fair decisions.
A considerable amount of detailed planning will need to take place before the new organisation can be formed and we will be working together closely in the coming months to design arrangements that will work effectively and deliver the desired results. There will be full consultation on the developed proposals with those representing users of the courts and tribunals, the judiciary, trades unions and all of those affected in the Scottish and Northern Irish legal systems and wider public before implementation.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown):
The Review Body on Senior Salaries' "Initial Report on Public Sector Senior Remuneration 2010" (Cm 7848) is being published today. I commissioned this report in December alongside the publication of "Putting the Frontline First: Smarter Government" (Cm 7753). The report includes a set of principles for senior pay embedded in a
code of practice on top-level reward. It is recommended that this code is adopted across the public sector after a period of consultation.
the decision not to increase base pay for the senior civil service, the judiciary, the senior military, very senior NHS managers, hospital consultants, independent contractor general medical and dental practitioners and Government Ministers in 2010-11, 10 March 2010, Official Report, columns 16WS;
the new arrangements for scrutiny, transparency and accountability set out in the 2009 pre-Budget report (Cm 7747), in particular the requirement for approval by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury or public justification of salaries in excess of £150,000 and bonuses greater than £50,000, and publication of the names of those earning more than £150,000 and the numbers of those earning more than £50,000; and
tough decisions to deliver savings of £100 million annually within three years from reducing unnecessary civil service bureaucracy and the cost of the senior civil service, and to seek a 1 per cent. cap on basic pay uplifts across the public sector for 2011-12 and 2012-13, generating savings of £3.4 billion a year by 2012-13.
The Government agree with the report's findings that a clearer framework is needed for those that make decisions on senior pay. Pay decisions in all public sector organisations should wherever possible be determined by independent remuneration committees and there should be clear escalation mechanism in each sector for any proposals to pay above agreed norms.
In line with the terms of reference of the review, I will now commission the review body to develop sector-specific benchmark ranges for senior pay. I will ask the review body to begin with local authority chief executives and senior managers in the health sector, reporting by the end of 2010. They will then consider the position in further and higher education by March 2011.
The Government will work with the review body to determine how the code should be implemented in each sector, and to determine what legislative and non-statutory means are most appropriate to enforce compliance. The Government believe that the key organisations and representative bodies in each sector should be involved in the process of implementation, and that all public sector organisations should set out publicly how they intend to comply with the code by the end of year.