Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Code of Conduct for Local Government Members

Lord Rooker: My right honourable friend the Minister for Local Government, Regional Governance and Fire has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government have today published a consultation paper setting out their proposals for draft regulations under Section 66 of the Local Government Act 2000. These proposals will make provision for local government monitoring officers in England, in cases where ethical standards officers of the Standards Board for England deem it appropriate, to investigate allegations that local authority members have breached their code of conduct. The Government are consulting on this issue over the next three months, and at the same time the Standards Board for England is consulting on draft guidance for monitoring officers on how they can best undertake their duties under the proposed regulations.

We need to ensure the highest possible ethical standards in local government, but we need a system which is efficient and workable. This approach is a sensible, effective and proportionate way of handling allegations of misconduct at a local level.

Copies of the consultation paper are being sent to local authorities and will be available in the Libraries of the House, as well as being made available on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's website at www.odpm.gov.uk.

Housing Bill: Park Homes

Lord Rooker: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On Friday the Government tabled amendments to the Housing Bill which is currently being considered by the House in Committee. These amendments meet a number of the recommendations of the Park Homes

24 Feb 2004 : Column WS15

Working Party and aim to deal with some of the key concerns about the existing legislation.

They amend the Mobile Homes Act 1983 to require a written statement of terms to be given to a prospective occupier 28 days before the agreement to station a park home on a site is entered into. At present written statements may be given up to three months after the agreement has commenced.

In the event of the owner failing to produce the written statement in advance, any express terms contained in the agreement will not be enforceable at the suit of the owner. This is to encourage the site owner to produce the written statement in advance, and is not likely to hold up the process of a sale.

The amendments create a power by which the Secretary of State (in Wales the National Assembly for Wales) can add additional terms to be implied into the agreement, and repeal and vary those in the Mobile Homes Act 1983. This power might be used, for example, to give an occupier the right to quiet enjoyment of their home, whereas currently an occupier would have to go to court to have this term implied into their agreement.

Because existing agreements are of infinite duration, we need to be able to amend the statutory implied terms for existing agreements, where these are clearly inadequate. Provision has therefore been made for the first exercise of the power to have retrospective effect, i.e. to allow amendment of the implied terms operating as part of existing agreements. Future exercises of the power will be non-retrospective. Any order made under the power is subject to affirmative resolution by both Houses of Parliament, and the clause contains a consultation requirement for the Secretary of State to consult interested parties as to the proposed amendments. Representatives of both site owners and occupiers will therefore be consulted about the terms of any order to be made.

Site owners will in future have a time limit of 28 days for giving or withholding approval of a prospective purchaser. By the end of this time limit a decision must have been given in writing. If not, the occupier can apply to the court for an order giving approval to that purchaser, which if given would involve the site owner in costs.

The age of a home is removed as a relevant criterion for ending an agreement. Currently a site owner may terminate an agreement on grounds of "age and condition" of the unit. The amendment will remove the reference to age from the 1983 Act, as the age of a unit is irrelevant. The amendment will enable courts to consider the condition of the unit and to allow time for appropriate repairs (if reasonably practicable).

The amendments increase the protection of occupiers of park homes against harassment and illegal eviction by amending the Caravan Sites Act 1968 to mirror the wording in the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, which governs the protection given to occupiers of conventional housing against eviction and harassment. The wording for the existing offence for a site owner doing "acts calculated to interfere with the peace or comfort" of the occupier which cause him

24 Feb 2004 : Column WS16

to abandon his home has been relaxed to "acts likely to interfere" with such peace or comfort, which is obviously an easier test to satisfy. A new offence has been introduced which does not require specific intent by a site owner or his agent to cause an occupier to abandon his home. This will increase the protection available to occupiers and the chances of successful prosecutions.

The remaining recommendations of the working party need further work to ensure that when fully implemented they will work effectively in practice. To that end, we have recently commissioned consultants to develop proposals on the implementation of the recommendations in relation to site licensing.

Mental Incapacity

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Lord Filkin): The Government have today published their response to the Joint Committee on the Draft Mental Incapacity Bill report which was published on 17 November 2003 (HL189-1 and HC 1083-1). Copies of the response have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses (Command Paper 6121).

The Government would like to thank the committee for publishing such a comprehensive report in a short period of time, and obtaining such a wide range of evidence on the Bill. We are pleased that the committee agrees this new statutory framework is needed and that it endorses the principles and general direction of the draft Bill.

The committee suggested that the Bill, being about how to maximise mental capacity, should be renamed the Mental Capacity Bill and we agree with this recommendation.

The Bill will reform the law in order to improve and clarify the decision-making process for those aged 16 and over who are unable to make decisions for themselves. It will also offer, to people who have capacity, the choice to decide how they are cared for in the future by introducing new ways to plan ahead for a time when they might lose capacity.

Over 2 million adults in England and Wales are currently affected by a lack of capacity. Many more care for someone who may need help with decision-making. With increasing ageing most of us will face the risk of losing mental capacity at some point in our lives. The Bill therefore has the potential to help a high proportion of the population.

The Department for Constitutional Affairs is working closely with the Department of Health on a revised Bill. We plan to introduce the revised Bill later in this parliamentary Session. We will also have a draft outline of the codes of practice for Parliament to see at Committee stage.

24 Feb 2004 : Column WS17

Ofgem: Departmental Expenditure Limits

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Ms Hewitt) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Subject to parliamentary approval of any necessary supplementary estimate, the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets DEL will be decreased by £799,000 from £1,531,000 to £732,000 and the administration costs limits will remain unchanged at £1,398,000. Within the DEL change, the impact on resources and capital are as set out in the following table:

New DEL
ChangeVotedNon- votedTotal
Resource1,000682,000-682,000
Capital-800,00050,000-50,000
Depreciation1--1,300,000--1,300,000
Total-799,000-568,000-568,000

1 Depreciation, which forms part of resource DEL, is excluded from the total DEL since capital DEL includes capital spending and to include depreciation of those assets would lead to double counting.

The change in the resource element of the DEL arises from additional programme costs of £1,201,000 in respect of higher than expected costs of energywatch. There is no change in the administration cost due to a compensating increase in appropriations in aid of £1,200,000.

The change in the capital element of the DEL arises from higher than expected receipts from the sale of capital assets.

Department of Trade and Industry: Departmental Expenditure Limits

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Ms Hewitt) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary supplementary estimate, the Department of Trade and Industry's DEL will be increased by £280,472,000 from £5,297,355,000 to £5,577,827,000 and the administration costs limits will be increased by £2,998,000 from £431,695,000 to £434,693,000.

Within the DEL change, the impact on resources and capital is as set out in the following table:

New DEL
ChangeVotedNon-votedTotal
Resource (£000)224,0121,072,0893,870,6234,942,712
Capital (£000)56,460310,301324,814635,115
Depreciation1(£000)0-20,841-93,159-114,000
Total (£000)280,4721,361,5494,102,2785,463,827


24 Feb 2004 : Column WS18

1 Depreciation, which forms part of resource DEL, is excluded from the total DEL since capital DEL includes capital spending and to include depreciation of those assets would lead to double counting.

The change in the resource element of the DEL arises from:

RfR1

(i) a transfer of £11,200,000 from the Ministry of Defence in support of dual-use aero engine technology programmes;

(ii) a transfer of £67,000 to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in respect of the subscription to UNCLOS;

(iii) a transfer of £385,000 from the Home Office in respect of the Prison Services Pay Review Body;

(iv) a transfer from the Ministry of Defence of £43,000 in respect of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body and £16,000 in respect of the Senior Salaries Review Body;

(v) a transfer of £58,000 from the Northern Ireland Office in respect of the Prison Services Pay Review Body;

(vi) a transfer of £15,000 from the Cabinet Office in respect of the Senior Salaries Pay Review Body;

(vii) a transfer of £79,000 from the Department for Education and Skills in respect of the School Teachers Pay Review Body;

(viii) a transfer of £49,000 from the Department for Transport in respect of the FP6 Sustainable Surface Transport programme;

(ix) a transfer of £195,000 to the Department for Transport for the Low CVP Permanent Secretariat;

(x) reclassification of £24,000,000 in respect of Ofcom establishment costs from resource to capital expenditure;

(xi) a virement of £9,786,000 from voted cost of capital to non-voted cost of capital in respect of Companies House and the Patent Office;

(xii) transfer of £1,000,000 to the Department of Health in respect of Genetic Knowledge Parks;

(xiii) utilisation of £12,200,000 from the unused balance of the department's end-year flexibility entitlement in respect of nuclear support for the former Soviet Union;

(xiv) utilisation of £3,862,000 from the unused balance of the department's end-year flexibility entitlement in respect of the Rover Task Force;

(xv) utilisation of £19,541,000 from the unused balance of the department's end-year flexibility entitlement in respect of innovation and space;

(xvi) utilisation of £12,000,000 from the unused balance of the department's end-year flexibility entitlement in respect of the modernisation of the Post Office network;

(xvii) utilisation of £50,000 from the Capital Modernisation Fund in respect of the Evidence Based Policy Fund study of the UK's e-business performance;

24 Feb 2004 : Column WS19

(xviii) an increase of £1,498,000 in the non-voted expenditure of Postwatch and an equivalent increase in voted receipts;

(xix) a classification change of £17,683,000 from capital to current expenditure in respect of the National Measurement System PFI deal;

(xx) an increase of £63,893,000 in the non-voted expenditure of the regional development agencies and an equivalent increase in voted receipts;

(xxi) utilisation of £4,500,000 of the unused balance of the department's end-year flexibility entitlement in respect of non-voted expenditure of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority;

(xxii) utilisation of £15,260,000 of the unused balance of the department's end-year flexibility entitlement for non-voted expenditure of the Competition Commission.

RfR2

(i) utilisation of £2,930,000 from the unused balance of the department's end-year flexibility entitlement for non-voted expenditure of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council;

(ii) utilisation of £461,000 from the unused balance of the department's end-year flexibility entitlement for non-voted expenditure of the Medical Research Council;

(iii) utilisation of £1,541,000 from the unused balance of the department's end-year flexibility entitlement for non-voted expenditure of the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils;

(iv) utilisation of £9,456,000 for resource and £239,000 for capital grants from the unused balance of the department's end-year flexibility entitlement for non-voted expenditure of the Natural Environment Research Council;

(v) utilisation of £22,569,000 from the unused balance of the department's end-year flexibility entitlement for non-voted expenditure of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council;

(vi) a transfer of £200,000 from the Department for Education and Skills in respect of Women's Resource Centres;

(vii) utilisation of £24,012,000 from the unused balance of the department's end-year flexibility entitlement for the Higher Education Innovation Fund.

Office of Deputy Prime Minister Estimate

(i) utilisation of £67,427,000 from the unused balance of the department's end-year flexibility entitlement for European Regional Development Fund expenditure borne of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's estimate;

(ii) utilisation of £22,000,000 from the unused balance of the Department for Work and Pension's end-year flexibility entitlement under the PES pool arrangement for European Development Fund expenditure borne on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's estimate.

24 Feb 2004 : Column WS20

Also within the change to resource DEL, the changes to administration costs limit are:

RfR1

(i) a transfer of £32,000 from the Home Office in respect of the Prison Services Pay Review body;

(ii) a transfer of £17,000 from the Department for Constitutional Affairs in respect of the Senior Salaries Pay Review Body;

(iii) a transfer of £105,000 from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs in respect of the Farm Business Advice Service;

(iv) a transfer of £300,000 from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in respect of UK Trade and Investment E-business;

(v) implementation of an agreed classification change of £824,000 from capital to administration in respect of UK Trade and Investment E-business;

(vi) utilisation of £290,000 of Invest to Save funding in respect of claims handling in the Redundancy Payments Service;

(vii) implementation of an agreed virement from programme to administration of £1,500,000 in respect of the Liabilities Management Authority.

RfR2

(i) a transfer of £70,000 to the Department of Health in respect of the Human Genetics Commission.

The change in the capital element of the DEL arises from:

RfR1

(i) utilisation of £14,100,000 of capital from the unused balance of the department's end-year flexibility entitlement for non-voted expenditure of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority;

(ii) an increase of £21,995,000 in the non-voted capital expenditure of the Regional Development Agencies and an equivalent increase in voted receipts;

(iii) reclassification of £24,000,000 in respect of Ofcom establishment costs from resource to capital expenditure;

(iv) utilisation of £20,000,000 from the unused balance of the department's end-year flexibility entitlement for research establishment capital in respect of the National Measurement System and the Teddington PFI deal;

(v) implementation of a classification change of £824,000 from capital to current expenditure in respect of e-business;

(vi) a transfer of £816,000 to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in respect of e-business;

(vii) implementation of an agreed virement of £17,683,000 from capital to resource in respect of the National Measurement System private finance initiative deal, and a classification change of £17,683,000 to reflect the on-balance sheet impact of the National Physical Laboratory virement.

24 Feb 2004 : Column WS21


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page