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The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone): On 21 February 2000, the Government announced their conclusions on the recommendations of the independent review panel on the future funding of the BBC. In addition to a range of measures designed to improve BBC efficiency and accountability, the Government introduced a new funding formula providing for changes in the licence fee of RPI plus 1.5 per cent for each year from 200001 to 200607. This formula will enable the BBC to provide a strong and distinctive schedule of high quality programmes and remain at the forefront of broadcasting technology.
Application of the RPI figure of 1.7 per cent for the year to September 2003, plus 1.5 per cent, to the current unrounded licence fees produces new rounded totals of £116 for a colour licence and £38.50 for a black and white licence. The necessary regulations to bring these fees into force will be laid before the House in due course. The changes will come into effect from 1 April.
Baroness Blackstone: I am pleased to repeat the announcement made yesterday by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport that the Government's new strategic framework for the public library service, Framework for the Future, has been published and copies of the document have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The starting point for the strategy is how best to meet the needs of library users and encourage new users. Framework for the Future outlines a range of initiatives designed to promote reading and learning for everyone, giving special attention to those who have literacy problems. It aims to bring access to the digital communications revolution to all and to help communities work together more effectively through better sharing of community information and by creating opportunities for different groups to work together. The new strategy will encourage libraries to build on existing strengths and ensure they position themselves at the hearts of the communities they serve.
Public libraries are a valuable infrastructure, which have the potential to help local authorities deliver across a range of local services. The best libraries are doing so already. By clarifying key priorities and highlighting best practice, Framework for the Future provides a focus for future work across the sector. It provides a basis for authorities to prioritise and plan services to meet the needs of citizens, while being flexible enough to respond to local differences.
The launch of the policy document marks the beginning of the next stage in developing the stategy. We will be working closely with the Advisory Council on Libraries, Resource, the Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries and leaders in local government, libraries and education to deliver the strategy.
Baroness Blackstone: The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport announced on 20 July 2001 her intention to establish the Royal Parks Agency as a non-departmental public body (NDPB). The review of the Royal Parks Agency which recommended the
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