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Mixed-sex Clubs

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It is the Government's view that this repeal will not weaken the position for women in mixed-sex clubs but will, to a small degree, improve it.

Sex discrimination is not currently unlawful in relation to the membership of clubs. In determining whether a club may be registered for the purposes of the 1964 Act, the magistrates, in cases where a club does not conform to the provisions in Schedule 7 to that Act, have a discretion to consider whether it is established and conducted in good faith. As a consequence, Schedule 7 gives no absolute protection with regard to the mandatory application of its provisions.

There is only one area where magistrates must apply the provisions of Schedule 7 to the 1964 Act and have no discretion, and that is in the area of elective committees. However, even here the provisions in Schedule 7 provide a derogation. Although Schedule 7 applies certain voting requirements for elective committees to the effect that all members entitled to use the club must be entitled to vote for the committee, there is an important exception to this. Where the club is primarily a men's club, women may be excluded from voting, and where the club is primarily a women's club, men may be excluded from voting. This obviously undermines the effect of Schedule 7 in reducing sex discrimination under the 1964 Act. The Licensing Act 2003 will remove this anomaly in the mandatory area.

The Government believe that the 2003 Act improves the current position as it provides that where a club supplies alcohol, the committee which purchases the alcohol must be elected by the members of the club. The effect of this formulation is that all members of the club, of any class of membership, must vote for the committee. For these purposes the reference to "member" would not include "associate members" as

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defined in Section 67 of the 2003 Act, who are members of another recognised club or a guest of such a person for the purposes of the 2003 Act. Unlike Schedule 7 to the 1964 Act, this provision does not have any derogations and can therefore be seen as a strengthening of the voting rights within club membership from the standpoint of the prevention of sex discrimination.

The Government therefore believe that the Licensing Act 2003 slightly improves on the current situation in licensing law, and will not weaken any existing protections.

Public Expenditure: English Regions

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they plan any further revisions to the tables of public expenditure in the English regions in chapter 8 of Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses 2003 (Cm 5901).[HL5291]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The tables of public expenditure in the English regions in chapter 8 of Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses (PESA) 2003 were revised in a corrigendum that was published on 10 June 2003. This is available on the Treasury's public website at– public–spending–and–services/public–spending–data/pss– pss–pesa03to04.cfm.

The Treasury does not plan to make any further revisions to these tables before the results of the next annual exercise to provide these analyses are published in PESA 2004.

Television Licence Fees

Baroness Turner of Camden asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will announce the television licence fees that will come into force next year.[HL5469]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The television licence fee settlement announced by the Government in February 2000 provides for changes in the licence fee of RPI plus 1.5 per cent for each year from 2000–01 to 2006–07. This settlement is designed to enable the BBC to provide a strong and distinctive schedule of high quality programmes and remain at the forefront of broadcasting technology. The settlement includes a requirement for the corporation to raise around £1.1 billion through efficiency savings and increased income over the same period.

Application of the RPI figure of 2.8 per cent for the year to September 2003, plus 1.5 per cent, to the current unrounded licence fees produces new rounded totals of £121 for a colour licence and £40.50 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 next year.

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Farm Incomes: Milk

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will provide a table showing the average amount paid to a farmer per litre of milk, in the most recent year for which figures are available, in each of the countries to which the common agricultural policy applies.[HL5424]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): The table below gives the most recent data available from Eurostat on the average farmgate price of milk of 3.7 per cent fat content in euros per 100 kg for the EU 15.

The data show that UK farmgate prices are consistently below the EU average. The reasons for this were examined by KPMG in their report on Prices and Profitability in the British Dairy Chain, which was commissioned by the Milk Development Council. The report concluded that the lower prices were the result of the structure of the UK dairy sector, the comparatively low value of the mix of dairy products in the UK and a low level of innovation. It also suggested a number of areas where the efficiency of the dairy supply chain could be improved.

Selling price of raw cows milk, 3.7 per cent fat content: EU 15 (Euros per kg)

United Kingdom26.7626.1326.0925.57

Source: Eurostat Cronos Database.

(1)Eurostat data for 2002 is not yet complete.

Rural Delivery Report

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish Lord Haskins' report on rural delivery.[HL5489]

Lord Whitty: We are very pleased to welcome today the publication of Lord Haskins' report on rural delivery, copies of which are in the Libraries of both Houses. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Lord Haskins and his team for all their work. The report is compelling in its analysis of the rural delivery landscape as confusing for customers and too bureaucratic and centralised to meet our future challenges. This echoes the concerns which led us to

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commission his report. While we have already begun to address these concerns, this report helps us take our work forward.

Shortly we will also be publishing a review—three years on—of the rural White Paper alongside a study of economic performance in rural areas from Birkbeck College. In the new year, drawing on the three reports, we expect to publish a refreshed rural strategy.

I attach a copy of Lord Haskins' recommendations, but will single out for comment a few key issues. Next steps

My first priority is an immediate full review of rural funding schemes to provide a clearer and simpler framework for applicants and to achieve a reduction in bureaucratic procedures.

In the principles he published in the summer Lord Haskins called for a clearer division of responsibility between policy making and delivery. Government's clear role is to set the framework for policy. But is clear that policy advice can be particularly valuable when it comes from those involved in delivery. We attach huge importance to independent advice from my department's agencies and partners. We do not intend to lose that advice. An Integrated Agency

A major challenge in the 21st century is the effective stewardship of land in England against the need to conserve and improve the natural environment, maintaining and enhancing biodiversity. Lord Haskins recommends bringing together elements of the work done by English Nature, the Countryside Agency and the Rural Development Service where those functions will most enable the agency to reflect its new remit. We accept that broad recommendation. We will also consider how to achieve alignment of the Forestry Commission with the integrated agency.

The integrated agency will build on the successes and expertise of its constituent parts, such as English Nature's worldwide reputation on biodiversity matters. It will create a single, stronger authoritative body, accelerating integration of work on biodiversity, natural resource protection and landscape issues in order to improve the environment across rural, urban, marine and coastal England. It will provide independent policy advice and implement policy within the framework of the Government's approach to sustainable development. We will look for a legislative opportunity as soon as possible to formalise arrangements for the agency. I am pleased the constituent bodies have agreed to work with Defra to make practical progress before that point. This will allow continuity for the organisations, their staff and stakeholders, while preparing for the future. Countryside Agency

Lord Haskins recommended the abolition of the Countryside Agency. We do not, however, agree that there will be no role for it. There will be a continued need for a much smaller organisation, with a new, well focused role providing independent policy advice to government from a national perspective on issues affecting people in rural communities, and analysing

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and reporting on best practice in the delivery of the Government's rural policies. We also need to build on experience so far on rural proofing and embedding rural objectives in all relevant aspects of government policy. Regional and local delivery

Lord Haskins recommends devolution of the way in which the Defra family delivers its policies to achieve greater effectiveness and accountability at regional and local level. My department will therefore be discussing with the regional development agencies, the government offices for the regions, local government, the Rural Affairs Forum and the voluntary sector how to define new mechanisms for delivering services to rural communities, which will be accompanied by strong and effective performance management arrangements.

Much work will be required to develop these proposals into a practical implementation plan, which we hope to publish in the spring. We want to work in partnership on this with all those concerned to secure real improvements in sustainable development from biodiversity to resource protection. This is not only in the interests of Britain's rural communities, but in the interests of us all. Lord Haskins' Recommendations

To improve accountability through a clearer separation of responsibility for policy and delivery functions (see Chapter 4).

    (1) Defra should review and clarify its rural policy remit in order to ensure that it is consistently understood by all concerned, including those who deliver its policies.

    (2) Defra's prime responsibility should be the development of policy, and it should arrange for the delivery of its policies through national, regional and local agencies. Policy and delivery functions should be managed separately so that accountability for policy and delivery is clearly defined.

    (3) The separation of policy and delivery functions will require Defra to consult delivery organisations at the earliest stages in policy formulation and to require the latter to put forward proposals for the effective delivery of policy. In this way the delivery organisations will be more accountable for effective management of programmes, and there should be less duplication of existing regional and local schemes. Defra will continue to appoint members of the various boards and to hold them accountable for their performance.

    (4) Defra policy officials should develop a good understanding of delivery issues through a programme of training and secondments to delivery organisations. An understanding of delivery issues must be given higher priority in the assessment of individual performance. Secondments and recruitment from delivery organisations should also be encouraged in order to improve mutual understanding.

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    (5) Deliverers should agree targets with Defra, working with the Treasury, rather than having unrealistic ones imposed on them by Whitehall. This would include Defra's rural PSA. In this way delivery organisations will accept greater ownership of these targets, which will be more achievable and less vulnerable to manipulation. There should be greater emphasis on setting rural targets that are linked to outcomes (such as an increase in species numbers) rather than outputs (such as the number of grants processed).

    (6) Delivery organisations should have the maximum flexibility to allocate resources in the most effective ways, whilst keeping the necessary discipline over administrative costs.

    (7) Defra should agree shared targets with other government departments and their delivery organisations as an essential means of securing better delivery of its rural policy objectives. This will strengthen Defra's ability to influence outcomes.

    (8) Defra should improve the quality of its management information so that it can take better informed decisions and control the administrative costs associated with the schemes and services that it funds.

    (9) In pursuit of the objectives of separating policy from delivery and of devolving delivery, the functions of the Countryside Agency should be transferred to the appropriate specialist organisations. Thus:

    policy development (including the commissioning of pilots and demonstration projects), together with the promotion of rural proofing would pass to Defra and the government offices;

    social and economic programmes would pass to regional and local networks of regional development agencies (RDAs), local authorities and the voluntary and community sector;

    environmental, landscape, access and recreational programmes would pass to the new, integrated agency proposed below (see Recommendation 16);

    review of rural proofing, challenge and external advice would pass to a reformed Rural Affairs Forum for England (see below).

In the light of these changes the Countryside Agency would cease to be required as a separate organisation.

To bring delivery closer to the customer by devolving greater power to regional and local organisations to deliver economic and social policy (see Chapter 5).

    (10) RDAs should play a key role in the devolved delivery of Defra's rural economic and social agenda. They must therefore demonstrate and develop their capacity to contribute to sustainable development in addressing rural needs.

    (11) A concordat with Defra should be established as a first step towards making the

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    RDAs accountable for their part in achieving Defra's policy objectives on rural sustainable development.

    (12) The successors to the existing business and farm diversification schemes (the so-called "project-based schemes") that are administered by Defra's Rural Development Service under the England Rural Development Programme should become the responsibility of regional development agencies, which will arrange for their delivery.

    (13) Regional development agencies should have the lead responsibility in co-ordinating public sector rural business support and advice. To that end they should take direct responsibility for Business Links. They should take steps to improve the quality and consistency of business support and advisory services.

    (14) Local authorities and local partnerships should assume the main responsibility for delivery of schemes and services to rural communities. They should be fully consulted by Defra and the RDAs about any changes to policy and delivery arrangements and should be given the necessary flexibility to address local needs. The potential of rural community councils as partners in community-based delivery is underestimated and should be enhanced.

    (15) As part of the next round of local public service agreements, Defra, working with other government departments and the Local Government Association, should agree joint Whitehall targets for the delivery of rural policies by local authorities.

To develop a more integrated approach to sustainable land management by rationalising agencies with overlapping agendas (see Chapter 6).

    (16) The Government should establish an integrated agency to promote sustainable use of land and the natural environment. This is necessary in order to prepare for the expanding land management agenda and to improve co-ordination and service delivery to customers. This would be achieved through a merger of English Nature, Defra's Rural Development Service and some functions of the Countryside Agency. Its remit should embrace biodiversity, historical landscape, natural landscape, natural resources, access and recreation.

    (17) Defra should establish close collaboration between the Environment Agency and the new, integrated agency so that their activities complement each other.

    (18) Consistent with the principle of clear separation of policy from delivery functions, the policy development role of the Forestry Commission in England should be transferred to Defra.

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    (19) Following the creation of the new integrated agency, it is logical to integrate or closely align the delivery functions (regulation, incentives, advice) of the Forestry Commission with those of the new agency.

    (20) We would also expect Defra to seek opportunities to rationalise the various levy-funded organisations that it sponsors in respect of certain agricultural sectors for marketing, developmental and other purposes. There is scope to share resources (administrative, economic and research) between the various boards and to strengthen support for industry programmes if savings are realised through rationalisation.

To improve the co-ordination of delivery by enhancing the role of government offices for the regions as co-ordinators and monitors (see Chapter 7).

    (21) The government offices for the regions should be given a stronger remit to promote co-ordination of and to monitor rural delivery and to promote rural proofing on behalf of Defra. Regional rural priority boards, chaired by government offices and including key regional and local bodies responsible for rural regeneration and service delivery, should be set up to provide strategic co-ordination and monitoring.

    (22) Delivery agencies should strengthen joint working through the development of joint regional delivery plans. These would include designated lead delivery partners, agreed joint targets, shared resources and clear accountability for delivery.

    (23) Defra should consult earlier and more closely with the GOs to ensure more co-ordinated policy development and strategic planning at the national level and reduce the number of strategies that are handed down to the regions.

    (24) The government offices should focus on their role as co-ordinators and monitors of programmes affecting rural areas and not to be involved in direct delivery. They should disengage from their current role in the administration of EU structural funds if and when these are replaced by a national programme of regional regeneration, as the government have proposed.

    (25) Regional rural affairs forums (RRAFs), comprising representatives of rural customers and beneficiaries, should become the forums in which national and regional delivery of rural policies is reviewed and reported on. Their key duties would be:

    to highlight important issues and priorities for rural development and service delivery;

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    to comment on the effectiveness of rural development and service delivery in their region and identify areas for improvement;

    to comment on the impact and effectiveness of existing policy developments and rural proofing initiatives and to generate new ideas;

    to provide leadership to help drive rural development at regional and local level.

The RRAFs would receive secretariat services from the proposed rural priorities board secretariat.

To make things better for the customer and get greater value for money for the taxpayer through a more integrated approach to regulation and through simpler services (see Chapter 8).

    (26) The government offices for the regions should work with regional and local organisations to develop a more co-ordinated approach to front-line delivery. This should include spreading best practice between regions on integrated delivery and facilitation, recognising what is practical and affordable.

    (27) Defra, as the lead body, should accelerate the development of a whole farm approach that will ensure better co-ordination of government regulation and compliance, subsidy, advice and financial incentives linked to farm businesses. This would require:

    the development of an integrated rural database linked to land-based business (to which the Environment Agency would have access, subject to resolution to data privacy constraints);

    Risk-based self-assessment backed up by audit, preferably using such independent bodies as FWAG and LEAF;

    encouraging more rapid uptake of Internet use by farmers and rural businesses in general;

    the creation of a farm advisory service in the light of the recent settlement on CAP-reform; this would logically fall under the control of the new integrated agency.

    (28) In view of the expanding agri-environmental protection agenda, the Environment Agency should agree with local authorities a supplementary role on regulation and compliance. Local authorities should agree standards for delivery with the agency and call in its support where the extent of a problem or the risks connected with it are beyond the authorities' capacity to manage.

Local authorities should take the lead role in co-ordinating general regulation and compliance advice on farm premises.

    (29) Defra should rationalise its inspection functions, integrating them wherever possible with existing regulatory authorities to achieve administrative savings and avoid duplication of skills.

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    (30) Defra should review all rural funding streams and schemes to achieve a more rational, transparent and comprehensible approach to the administration of financial incentives and to ensure that all new initiatives are consistent with Defra's delivery strategy, add real value and do not duplicate.

    (31) Defra should review and simplify the current procedural rules connected with grants to rural businesses and communities in order to provide greater discretion in the execution and targeting of grants in a user-friendly way, consistent with state aid rules.

Reporting on progress

Defra should publish progress reports on the implementation of my recommendations in the spring or summer of 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

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