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Local Government Funding: Council Tax

Lord Taylor of Warwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has established the Balance of Funding review to consider possible reforms to the current local government finance arrangements. The last meeting of

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the review steering group considered proposals for change to the council tax banding arrangements including the option of bands being set regionally. The papers considered by the review are available on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's website. The review is due to report in the summer.

Planning Reform: Disabled People

Lord Baker of Dorking asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the needs of disabled people will be addressed through the reform of the planning system.[HL892]

Lord Rooker: The reforms of the planning system seek to address the issues of access and inclusion throughout the entire planning process.

Clause 38 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill puts a duty on those responsible for preparing development plans to address the issue of sustainable development. This will be defined in planning policy statement 1 (PPS1), which will make it crystal clear that development plans should contain clear and comprehensive inclusive access policies.

Local authorities must seek to involve the whole community in the preparation, alteration and review of all local development documents and significant development control decisions. PPGs 11 and 12 also make clear the importance of access to documents and processes. This includes not only the accessibility of material in terms of clarity, but also in terms of different formats, and—in the case of examinations-in-public—in terms of access both by public transport and to the venue itself.

The draft regulations to be made under Parts 1 and 2 of the Bill make clear that, among others, regional planning bodies and local planning authorities will be required to consult formally with bodies representing disabled people.

The Bill also contains measures to enable planning aid to become more proactive and develop a greater role in targeting communities which traditionally do not get involved in the planning system—including disabled people and disability groups.

Clause 42 of the Bill introduces new powers to introduce a standard application form. Depending on the views of stakeholders we would expect that a document which demonstrates how the project will meet certain provisions of legislation and related codes of practice to ensure that the needs of the disabled are addressed could be required to accompany the form in appropriate cases.

Those applying for planning permission would therefore be required to demonstrate how their proposals contribute to an inclusive environment, and local planning authorities would have to consider this alongside other requirements.

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The current review of the operation of outline planning permission will address the provision of additional information, and while this would need to cover the key design principles, it would also be expected to address access issues.

Outside the Bill the programme of culture change is examining issues such as the diversity of the planning profession, and the issues addressed in education and training.

Sustainable Development: Social Inclusion

Lord Baker of Dorking asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether their definition of sustainable development for the purposes of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill incorporates provision for social inclusion.[HL893]

Lord Rooker: The Government have four objectives for sustainable development in planning that will be set out in the forthcoming consultation draft of PPS 1. They are sustainable economic development; social inclusion; protection of the environment; and prudent use of resources.

Planning authorities should consider how their plans are addressing the four objectives for sustainable development. They should seek to achieve outcomes which enable economic, social and environmental objectives to be achieved together over time.

In relation to the social inclusion objective of sustainable development, planning policies should promote development that builds social inclusive communities, including suitable mixes of housing.

Policies should ensure that the impact of development on the social fabric of communities is considered and taken into account. Planning policies should address accessibility for all to jobs, health, education, shops, leisure and community facilities.

Planning policies should take into account the needs of young people and children and the elderly, as well as disabled people, black and minority ethnic groups, and other disadvantaged groups.

All-postal Ballots: Local Council By-elections

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which local council by-elections have taken place by all-postal ballots since the ordinary elections in May.[HL990]

Lord Rooker: Since May 2003, 10 all-postal by-elections have taken place in the following local councils in England:

    Chester-le-Street District Council

    Cumbria County Council

    Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council

    Durham County Council

    Herefordshire Council

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    King's Lynn & West Norfolk District Council

    London Borough of Lewisham

    Newcastle Metropolitan Borough Council

    Telford & Wrekin Borough Council (two by-elections)

Company Directors: Diversity

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

    For each year for which statistics are available for FTSE 100 companies, what is (a) the number of women executive directors, and their percentage of total executive directors; (b) the number of companies with no women executive directors; (c) the number of women executive finance directors; and (d) the number of women executive directors who were not United Kingdom citizens; and what action they will take to increase the number of United Kingdom women executive directors in FTSE 100 companies.[HL960]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Cranfield University School of Management 2003 Female FTSE report published in October 2003 established the following:

FTSE 100 (October)20032002200120001999
Female-held seats10184756979
(executive and non- executive directorships)(8.6%)(7.2%)(6.4%)(5.8%)(6.3%)
Female executive directorships17 (3.7%)15 (3.0%)10 (2.0%)11 (2.0%)13 (1.99%)

In 2003, 32 of the top FTSE 100 companies had no female directors, there were seven finance directors and 39 female directorships were held by non UK citizens. In 2003, the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry commissioned Derek Higgs to report on how the quality, independence, and effectiveness of non-executive directors might be strengthened. Following the recommendations of this review the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry asked Dean Tyson from the London Business School to examine how companies might recruit directors from more diverse backgrounds in order to improve board effectiveness. Both these reports made a number of proposals which boards must consider how to apply in practice.

The Tyson report also made recommendations about director training and the measurement of board diversity. These are being pursued by government and business organisations.

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In addition, since November, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and Jacqui Smith, Minister for Industry and the Regions and Deputy Minister for Women and Equality have, in partnership with several leading companies, been holding roundtables with chairs, chief executives and senior figures from business to raise awareness about the business case for greater diversity on UK boards and to gather examples of good practice already in place. Our aim is to disseminate these best practice examples widely when the roundtable programme is finalised.

Correspondence from MPs and Peers: Government's Performance Standards

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

    What are their performance standards for replying to letters from Members of Parliament and Peers.[HL952]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Cabinet Office publishes an annual report detailing departments' and agencies' performance in handling correspondence received from Members of Parliament and Peers. A copy of the 2002 report is available in the Library of the House, Official Report, 19 May 2003, col. WA 64. Information for the 2003 report is in the process of being collated and will be published as soon as it is ready.

Information relating to the handling of Peers' correspondence was, for the first time, included in the 2002 report and will be included in future reports.

Public Bodies

Baroness Howe of Idlicote asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the basis on which remuneration is currently paid to members of some public bodies but not others; and [HL1006]

    What is the rationale for some government departments paying more to members of their public bodies than other government departments for posts which are equally responsible and demanding; and[HL1007]

    Whether they have carried out any study of public body remuneration analysing:

    (a) the basis on which it is currently made: and

    (b) the cost involved in extending remuneration to more or all appointees and its likely effect on increasing diversity.[HL1008]

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Lord Bassam of Brighton: Individual departments are responsible for determining whether remuneration should be paid to members of the public bodies they sponsor and the level at which any remuneration is set. The Cabinet Office is currently looking at the issue of remuneration and how it is paid, and will issue guidance to departments when this work has been completed.

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