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Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, the committee meets under the auspices of the Secretary of State for Wales. The Prime Minister has just asked him to undertake a series of meetings. I do not yet know how many there will be. That will depend partly on the agenda. This is part of trying to ensure that as we go forward with our colleagues in the devolved Administrations we do this properly. I understand that the minutes will not be published because they are part of the Cabinet sub-committee route. If I am wrong about that, I shall correct it.

Lord McNally: My Lords, what is the Government’s current thinking on English devolution? Does the noble Baroness not see a danger that opportunistic parties might play on resentments if it is thought that English regions are being treated less favourably than the devolved nations?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, as the noble Lord will know, last July we published the sub-national economic development and regeneration review, the purpose of which was to think more strategically about an integrated regional strategy which looks at regional development agency work and the need to link it more closely to local authorities. We have consulted on those issues and I understand that we shall report in September. That may form part of legislation that will be introduced next year.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, does my noble friend accept that the devolved Administrations do not include just Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but the Greater London Authority, which has substantial devolved powers? Will she ask why Mayor Boris Johnson has abandoned his plan to hold an independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the departure of Deputy Mayor Ray Lewis? Is it because he is afraid of what such an inquiry might reveal? Will she ask him to think again?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I cannot pretend to understand the Mayor’s mind. Perhaps noble Lords opposite are better able to answer my noble friend’s questions.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, will the noble Baroness assist the House by placing in the Printed Paper Office copies of the record of any proceedings that may have taken place in the devolved Administrations on significant clauses in United Kingdom Bills which relate to Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I think the noble Lord is asking whether we are able to give more information about the response that the devolved Administrations may have given to legislation which affects them. I hope that we do that when preparing Bills. We certainly do so in the pre-legislative scrutiny and on the Floor of the House. I shall certainly consider the matter because it is very important that those conversations take place. Suffice to say that legislation that reaches your Lordships' House which

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affects the devolved Administrations has been through that whole process. However, as I say, I am certainly happy to look at this.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, will the Minister clarify the situation with regard to the Crown territories? Are they informed of new legislation and new policies? Are they then allowed—as it sometimes seems—to pick and choose which ones they apply and which they do not, or is there clear guidance from the Ministry of Justice, which I think is responsible for this, on which ones they should implement and which they are allowed to opt out of?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, as the noble Lord would expect, the relations with the Crown territories are complicated, depending on which they are and what the relationship is. This process is often carried out through Orders in Council, and I have the privilege to be the president of the Privy Council. It would be better for the Ministry of Justice to set this out more clearly rather than my trying to give a detailed explanation of what happens from my memory of when I had responsibility for this area of policy. Of course, the Ministry of Justice talks appropriately to those Administrations about legislation that could, or would, affect them.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, the Question refers to providing information on legislation, but is there also a process of consultation? Do these devolved Administrations have an opportunity to have an input before things are fully decided?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, the noble Baroness is right to raise that point. The current processes vary between the different Administrations. Taking Wales as an example, as it was the origin of the Question, there are bi-weekly telephone calls between the Ministers; weekly meetings between the Secretary of State for Wales and the First Minister in Wales; when legislation is proposed, there are opportunities for the Welsh Assembly to discuss the issues, if it so wishes; and there are ways in which we keep the dialogue going between officials all the time. It is an ongoing relationship with the different Administrations, depending upon which legislation will directly affect them. For our proposed programme, 14 out of 18 Bills will apply wholly or in part to Scotland, 17 out of 18 will apply wholly or in part to Wales and 13 out of 18 will apply wholly or in part to Northern Ireland.

Armed Forces: Procurement

3.05 pm

Lord Campbell of Alloway asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My Lords, the defence procurement process provides our Armed Forces with the equipment and wider support that they need to conduct military operations worldwide. The department

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recognises that it must always continue to improve its performance, not least to reflect rapidly changing threats and the fast pace of technological change.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. In procurement for Afghanistan, why was there a shortage of helicopters and why were vehicles open to considerable danger? Is the position now satisfactorily sustained with regard not only to sufficient helicopters of each type but also to armoured vehicles that are resistant to roadside bombs?

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, overall, we have spent £10 billion from the core budget on front-line equipment provision in the past three years. On top of that, £3.5 billion has been spent on urgent operational requirements. That has included upgrading our helicopters and making them safer, providing more protected vehicles and increasing protection for individuals. On helicopters, a number of initiatives have been taken. We are trying to concentrate one type of helicopter in one theatre in order to maximise what we can do and, over the past year, the number of flying hours of helicopters in Afghanistan has increased by 30 per cent. Improvements have been made. We have provided new types of protected vehicles, such as Mastiff, while others, such as Ridgeback, are on the way. It is not possible to protect all vehicles to the same extent and it is up to commanders on the ground to decide which kind of vehicle is appropriate for which operation.

Lord Harrison:My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, in the light of the recent French defence White Paper and President Sarkozy’s pronouncements on assuming the French presidency, there is enormous merit in co-ordinating defence procurement policy with our French colleagues and with others in the European Union the better to find savings and provide greater resources for British services?

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, it is true that there is scope for co-operation on quite a number of projects. However, co-operation is not the universal answer, because it will work only if countries have similar requirements on similar timescales and have similar budgets available. We are co-operating with the United States and some of our European partners on a variety of projects but, as I say, it is not the universal answer.

Lord Lee of Trafford: My Lords, with the establishment of the shipbuilding joint venture, BAE is now increasingly the dominant supplier to all three services. While a prosperous and profitable BAE is in everybody’s interest and in the national interest, does the MoD operate any mechanism for some form of overriding financial rebate or similar, calculated on the totality of the huge annual overall MoD spend with BAE, as would apply in a similar private sector situation?

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, we look at each contract separately. It is true that BAE has a significant role, not least because it has taken over some of the other companies, which were ripe for that

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at the time. We do not operate the overall approach described by the noble Lord, but significant improvements have been made in MoD assessment and its commercial position, not least by the appointment of the defence commercial director, which is a relatively new, but wise, development in the MoD.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, we very much welcome the signature last week on the order for the two new carriers. Can the Minister bring the House up to date on the progress of the Joint Strike Fighter? Is there any truth in reports that there are further delays?

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, it is still early days for the Joint Strike Fighter. The STOVL version—the one in which we are interested—has made its first flight with a British pilot, although not in STOVL mode. Assessments are still going on. I have visited the people involved, who are making plans about production, but nothing is finalised and we will not have to make decisions until next year.

Lord Boyce: My Lords, I declare an interest as a non-executive director of VT Group. Can the Minister say whether there will be a further iteration of the defence industrial strategy brought in by her predecessor last year and, if so, when that might happen?

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, the defence industrial strategy has been significant, not least in bringing about some of the changes that led to the formation of the VT Group in shipbuilding, which underpinned the carrier contract. We are pushing ahead with the defence industrial strategy mark 2, if you like. We have frequent discussions with industry about this and it is keen that we should not publish the strategy until we have completed the equipment examination that we are undertaking. However, we are not stopping work on this. We have had workshops with industry on such issues as the defence marketplace and operational sovereignty. The MoD and industry are working together closely in order to make our way forward to the publication of the new version.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, my noble friend said, when she answered a question about the Joint Strike Fighter, that it was “still early days”. I remember that in 2001 we came to an agreement with our friends in the United States to go ahead with the Joint Strike Fighter. Does not the phrase “still early days” for the project illustrate all too vividly the problem with defence procurement, which is the inordinate time that it takes to procure anything?

Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, I could not agree more. It takes an inordinate time to procure certain things, anyway. If you are talking about a new venture at the cutting edge of technological development, which the JSF certainly is, it is not surprising, once you get into the detail, that these things take so long. To the outsider, it is always amazing how long they take. The further you get inside, it is less surprising but still extremely frustrating. The time delays on a lot of decisions are among the problems that probably many occupants of my position have shared.

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3.13 pm

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, with the leave of the House, my noble friend Lord Rooker will repeat a Statement on bovine TB at a convenient point around 7 pm. This may be a timely opportunity to remind the House of the guidance offered in the Companion that, although brief comments and questions from all quarters of the House are allowed, Statements should not be made the occasion for an immediate debate. Shorter interventions of course mean that there are opportunities for more noble Lords to pose questions to the Minister within the allotted 20 minutes.

Probate Services (Approved Bodies) Order 2008

Representation of the People (Amendment) Regulations 2008

Parliamentary Constituencies and Assembly Electoral Regions (Wales) (Amendment) Order 2008

European Parliament (Number of MEPs and Distribution between Electoral Regions) (United Kingdom and Gibraltar) Order 2008

Lord Bach: My Lords, I beg to move the four Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the draft orders and regulations laid before the House on 9 and 11 June be approved. 22nd Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, Considered in Grand Committee on 2 July.—(Lord Bach.)

On Question, Motions agreed to.

National Minimum Wage Regulations 1999 (Amendment) Regulations 2008

Cancellation of Contracts made in a Consumer’s Home or Place of Work etc. Regulations 2008

Companies (Reduction of Share Capital) Order 2008

Small Limited Liability Partnerships (Accounts) Regulations 2008

Large and Medium-sized Limited Liability Partnerships (Accounts) Regulations 2008

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Limited Liability Partnerships (Accounts and Audit) (Application of Companies Act 2006) Regulations 2008

Lord Bach: My Lords, I beg to move the six Motions standing on the Order Paper in the name of my noble friend Lady Vadera.

Moved, That the draft order and draft regulations laid before the House on 2, 4 and 9 June be approved. 21st and 22nd Reports from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, Considered in Grand Committee on 2 July.—(Lord Bach.)

On Question, Motions agreed to.

Special Educational Needs (Information) Bill

3.14 pm

Read a third time, and passed.

Housing and Regeneration Bill

Report received.

Schedule 1 [The Homes and Communities Agency]:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews) moved Amendment No. 1:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this first group looks like a formidably long list of amendments but, in speaking to them, I hope to make logical sense of them all. I shall begin with Amendments Nos. 1 and 39, which are technical.

In the event that the Secretary of State makes grant payments, under Amendment No. 1, or loans, under Amendment No. 39, to the Homes and Communities Agency, those grant payments or loans will be on such terms and conditions as the Secretary of State considers appropriate. The terms and conditions are a matter for the Secretary of State and will reflect the overall strategic framework for the HCA. Setting out the detail in legislation would be inappropriate and would remove flexibility for the future and for changing circumstances.

Amendments Nos. 3 and 67 are, again, highly technical. The first part of Amendment No. 3 to paragraph 10 of Schedule 1 allows a committee of the HCA to delegate any function conferred on it to any of its sub-committees or to any staff of the HCA. This allows the HCA flexibility in delegating to its committees. The second part of the amendment to paragraph 10 works with the separate amendment to Clause 46 to ensure that the provisions in the Bill which enable the HCA to delegate its functions and appoint agents to exercise its functions on its behalf work correctly together. To explain further, the main aim of new subsection (3) proposed in Amendment No. 3 is to ensure that the power of the HCA to delegate its functions in paragraph 10 of Schedule 1 works with the power of the HCA to appoint agents to exercise functions on its behalf.

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Noble Lords will appreciate that, as a statutory body, the HCA has both implied and certain specific powers to appoint agents; for example, under Clause 45. Those permit the agency, for example, to appoint agents for day-to-day activities, such as appointing a contractor to act as agent in the delivery of mail, in relation to selling land or in office administration. In these cases, there is no need for specific statutory authority for those implied powers. However, a specific statutory power to appoint an agent is given to the HCA in Clause 45, where it is permitted to appoint an urban development corporation to act as agent in relation to certain specified functions. Proposed new subsection (3) of the amendment to paragraph 10 of Schedule 1 ensures that Clause 45 is correctly interpreted so as not impliedly to limit the HCA’s ability to appoint agents for its day-to-day functions.

Amendment No. 67 to Clause 46 is also intended to ensure that no doubt is cast in relation to the extent of the HCA’s implied powers, and so it is proposed that subsections (3) and (4) are deleted. Basically, these technical amendments provide clarity on how the HCA’s delegation and agency powers will work.

Amendments Nos. 40, 41, 42, 65, 66, 70, 71, 72 and 86 are, again, technical and relate to the relationship between the HCA and its subsidiaries.

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