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Tax Exempt Savings Accounts

Lord Barnett asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: There is no such restriction. The Regulations for TESSAs and ISAs each set maximum amounts which can be saved in a year. In

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the case of a first TESSA, this maximum is £3,000 for the first year. The regulations do not set a minimum contribution limit, although some providers may set minimum limits for particular accounts.

The Mall: Closure

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is with their approval that the Royal Parks Agency has closed the Mall for three month;[HL1027]

    Whether the Royal Parks Agency (RPA) consulted (a) the Palace of Westminster authorities and (b) Westminster City Council over the closure of the Mall for three months and the consequent congestion in Whitehall and Parliament Square; and whether the RPA is to reimburse the relevant police authorities for the extra work involved in dealing with the disturbance to normal traffic, or the bus companies whose schedules are being disrupted; and [HL1028]

    Whether the closure of the Mall was professionally planned by an outside agency; if so, by whom; and at what cost.[HL1029]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Programming of works within the Royal Parks is an operational matter for the Royal Parks Agency (RPA); the approval of Ministers for the closure of the Mall was not required.

In planning the works on the Mall, which involve resurfacing the road and carrying out safety improvements at accident blackspots, the RPA consulted Westminster City Council, as the local highway authority, and the Metropolitan Police. In accordance with their advice, the RPA has sought to concentrate works in the shortest period in order to minimise disruption to traffic, and this requires total closure for three weeks. The Palace of Westminster authorities were not consulted. No payments are made to police authorities or bus companies for traffic disruption arising from essential roadworks.

Tarmac Services are the agency's works management contractor and professional advisors, appointed to carry out maintenance works to the hard fabric of the Royal Parks. For the Mall roadworks, Tarmac appointed Peter Brett Associates as specialist traffic management consultants. Their fees are estimated at £49,000.

DCMS Staff: Religion

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there are any Buddhists or Hindus amongst the civil servants reporting to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.[HL948]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The department does not record the number of Buddhists or Hindus among its staff.

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Royal Parks: Concerts

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the organisation of commercial concerts is compatible with the duty of the Royal Parks Agency and of the commitments of the Government to protect the parks from commercialisation.[HL1026]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Yes. The Government consider that the increased number of events being planned for 1999 will add to the attractions of the parks for very many visitors and will, in conjunction with the Government's increased public funding of the Royal Parks Agency announced by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State on 14 December 1998, enable the Royal Parks Agency better to maintain and enhance the parks for the benefit of all visitors.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether tickets for the twelve concerts which the Royal Parks Agency (RPA) is allowing to be mounted in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens throughout the summer months are to cost £35, with tickets for corporate guests at £130 per head; how many tickets are to be on sale; how they are being marketed; and what proportion of the returns will go to the RPA and what proportion to the commercial organisers of these events.[HL1025]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Responsibility for the subject of this question has been delegated to the Royal Parks Agency under its Chief Executive, Mr. David Welch. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Kennet from the Head of Policy of the Royal Parks Agency, Ms Viviane Robertson, dated 25 February 1999.

In the absence of the Chief Executive, Mr. David Welch, I have been asked by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to reply to your parliamentary Question about ticket prices for concerts in Hyde Park this summer.

Ninety-six thousand, five hundred tickets, at a maximum price of £17.50, will go on sale for the concert in aid of the Prince's Trust. There will also be up to 3,500 corporate hospitality tickets, the prices for which are expected to range from £90 to £225.

For the nine concerts to be held in July, the price of tickets has been fixed at a maximum of £35 per head. The number of tickets to go on sale will not exceed 16,500, plus 1,000 corporate hospitality tickets for each concert. The price of the latter will be fixed at a maximum of £130 per head.

Ticket prices for the Proms in the Parks concert have not yet been fixed but are expected to be no more than £12.50 per head. The maximum number will be 40,000, with an expected 1,000 corporate hospitality tickets. A concert for children is also proposed but no details have been agreed.

With the exception of the Proms in the Park concert, which we negotiate ourselves, our Marketing Partner negotiates the fees for the above concerts on our behalf.

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The fee charged to the event organiser/promoter is based on a number of factors, including the length of time an area of the park is in use, the number of tickets sold--although a minimum fee may be set--and whether video/television recordings are permitted. Seventy-two per cent. of the fee comes to the Agency and our Marketing Partner retains 28 per cent.

Tickets for all concerts are available from ticket agents.

Protection of Wrecks

Lord Onslow of Woking asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many staff are employed within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on the administration of the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973; how many of these are (a) full-time and (b) trained in heritage management; and what steps are taken to ensure some continuity of experience in the administration of this legislation.[HL886]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Four members of staff in the department are involved in day to day administration of the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 as one of a number of heritage-related responsibilities. None has been specifically trained in heritage management, but all have a background in providing general policy advice to Ministers. In carrying out administration of the 1973 Act, officials act on the expert advice of the Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites and the Archaeological Diving Unit, which is contracted to the department to report on the suitability of wreck sites for designation under the Act. Officials also have at their disposal complete records relating to previous administration of the Act and policy on underwater archaeology, together with sets of desk instructions, to ensure continuity. The Departmental Spending Review proposal to give English Heritage additional powers with regard to underwater archaeology is designed to address the concern that policy should be undertaken by heritage professionals rather than civil servants.

House of Lords: Tendering Procedure

Lord Dixon asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Further to his Written Answer on 2 February (WA 187-88), whether the tendering procedure in the House of Lords is subject to the same restrictions and penalties as those imposed on local government.[HL1133]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): The Public Works Contracts Regulations 1991 apply to both the House of Lords and local authorities.

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Scottish Parliament: Brussels Office

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What consultation took place and with which interested parties before it was decided to establish a permanent presence in Brussels representing the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Office; and [HL1045 ]

    What are the primary function and purpose of Scotland House in Brussels; and what new functions will attach to Scotland House not currently carried out in the European Community by Her Majesty's Government; and [HL1046]

    How many staff will be permanently based in Scotland House in Brussels; and what will be the designations of the posts, the salary grading of each post and the total salary and wage costs; and [HL1047]

    Whether the services provided by the proposed Scotland House in Brussels will be available to Members of both Houses of the Westminster Parliament; and[HL1048]

    What will be the initial cost of furnishing and equipping Scotland House in Brussels; and [HL1049]

    What is the anticipated annual cost of maintaining Scotland House in Brussels; and[HL1050]

    Whether Scotland House in Brussels will be based in a purchased or rented property; and what is the anticipated cost attaching to either option; [HL 1088] and

    Whether costs incurred by Scotland House in Brussels will be borne solely by the Scottish Office or whether some costs will be borne by other Departments; and, if so, which.[HL1089]

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): There are no plans to open an office to represent the Scottish Parliament in Brussels. That possibility will be a matter for consideration by the parliament itself.

The White Paper Scotland's Parliament, published in July 1997, made reference to the possibility of establishing a representative office for the Scottish Executive in Brussels.

My honourable friend the Minister for Housing, Transport and European Affairs announced on 30 March 1998 that two Scottish Office officials would be posted to the UK Permanent Representation building in Brussels to examine the options for establishing such a presence.

My right honourable friend announced on 9 February that arrangements are now in hand to establish a representative office for the Scottish Executive, to be in operation when the Executive and Parliament assume their full powers on 1 July 1999. The office will co-locate with Scotland Europa, and the term "Scotland House" covers the combined presence, rather than the Executive's office alone. The precise functions of that office will be determined by the Scottish Executive in due course.

Officials spoke extensively to MEPS, members of the Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social

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Committee, CoSLA, Scotland Europa members, other regional offices in Brussels, Permanent Representations (including staff in the UK Permanent Representation), and staff in EU institutions to asses what services an office of the Scottish Executive in Brussels could provide, and how best it could work.

If the office is to be in operation by 1 July, staff have to be recruited and accommodation identified over the next few weeks. The plans announced by my right honourable friend on 9 February envisage six members of staff, four of whom will be Scottish Office officials, at the following grades:

    1 Senior Civil Servant

    1 official at Band C1 (formerly Principal grade)

    2 officials at Band B2/BFS (formerly HEO/HEO(D)); and

    2 locally employed staff.

Final costs for the establishment of the office and the running costs thereafter cannot be confirmed until staff have been identified and accommodation has been agreed. However the provisional budget identifies a net additional cost of £500,000 in 1999-00 and £480,000 in each financial year thereafter (estimated rental costs are included within these figures). These sums will come from the Scottish Consolidated Fund, and will not, overall, involve any increase in public expenditure.

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