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Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet): I welcome the announcement. If my understanding is correct, both Thanet and Dover are eligible to apply for neighbourhood management pilot status. If that is so, I am even more grateful for the statement. However, will my right hon. Friend explain what she means when she says that neighbourhood managers will have clout? We in Thanet have a regeneration board, a district council, a county council and involvement in the regional development agency. If the neighbourhood manager is to achieve anything he or she must be able to take decisions and get them implemented. How will my right hon. Friend ensure that neighbourhood managers are granted the power to implement decisions?

Ms Armstrong: I can confirm that Thanet and Dover will be eligible to apply for neighbourhood management pilots. We will work at Government office level with the local strategic partnerships to make sure that they can draw in all the public sector agencies, from the Employment Service and the Department of Social Security to the local housing authority, the health authority and so on. All those agencies have a part to play and we shall work to co-ordinate things at local level to ensure that that happens. Local people will have information about what is going on, and will have an opportunity to be involved. They will also make demands that need a response. I believe that we will have a structure that will ensure a response because people will know that their jobs are on the line.

Mr. Lawrie Quinn (Scarborough and Whitby): My right hon. Friend will know only too clearly that many

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coastal towns around the country are in the most deprived areas. Along with Labour colleagues who represent those resorts and communities, I welcome very much the Government's approach in the report. Will my right hon. Friend say specifically whether Scarborough and Whitby, especially the communities of Eastfield and Barrowclough in Scarborough and Streonshalh in Whitby, will have an opportunity to participate in the urban renewal project?

Ms Armstrong: I know my hon. Friend's constituency well and I know the real problems faced by many seaside towns in this country. We have sought to target them specifically in the comprehensive spending review, and, although I do not have the names of Scarborough wards that are eligible, I can tell my hon. Friend that, as an authority, Scarborough has at least two wards on the index which will be able to apply for the neighbourhood management pilots.

Mr. Hilary Benn (Leeds, Central): May I tell my right hon. Friend that the last thing that my constituents who live in areas scarred by poverty need is cynicism? There is a lot of cynicism about, which is why I welcome her announcement, which combines a financial helping hand with the philosophy of self-help. Will she tell the House how the progress of the initiatives will be measured? In particular, how will my constituents in places like Halton Moor, Osmondthorpe, Holbeck, Cottlingley, Little London and Lincoln Green be able to see for themselves what difference her announcements today have made to their lives?

Ms Armstrong: My hon. Friend is right: those communities need to know that we believe and trust them. That is very important, and cynicism from this place undermines their confidence in themselves and in those who work with them. As my hon. Friend knows, I visited his constituency and know of the poverty there. However, I am also aware that economically, Leeds is a fast- growing city overall. None the less, we are making available to Leeds in the next three years nearly £17 million for neighbourhood renewal. I assure my hon. Friend that we will make sure that that money is used effectively and that local people can measure what is going on. The statistics will be published much more frequently each year, and people will know what is going on and will be able to hold the public agencies to account for the way in which they are spending their money and for the outcomes of that spending.

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Tax Simplification (Joint Committee)

4.59 pm

The Paymaster General (Dawn Primarolo): I beg to move,

(1) There shall be a Select Committee, to consist of seven Members, to join with the committee appointed by the Lords as the Joint Committee on Tax Simplification Bills, to consider tax simplification bills, and in particular to consider whether each bill committed to it preserves the effect of the existing law, subject to any minor changes which may be desirable.
(2) The Committee shall have power to send for persons, papers and records, to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, to report from time to time, and to appoint specialist advisers either to supply information which is not readily available or to elucidate matters of complexity within the committee's order of reference.
(3) The quorum of the Committee shall be two.
(4) Unless the House otherwise orders, each Member nominated to the committee shall continue to be a member of it for the remainder of the Parliament.
(5) The procedure of the Joint Committee shall follow the procedure of select committees of this House when such procedure differs from that of select committees of the House of Lords.
(6) The chairman shall have the like powers of selection as are given to the chairman of a standing committee under paragraph (3)(a) of Standing Order No. 89 (Procedure in standing committees).

In moving the first motion, I should like to explain briefly to the House the procedure for a Joint Committee to be set up to consider tax simplification Bills. The House has already agreed in principle that it is expedient for such a Committee to be established, and agreement to two motions on the Order Paper, this being the first, is the next step in that process.

The first of those Bills--the Capital Allowances Bill--was introduced on 9 January. The procedure for them has been refined over the past four years to recognise their particular nature while providing for proper parliamentary scrutiny of the legislation. The procedure draws on that for the consolidation Bills. The tax simplification Bills are not consolidation Bills, but have a lot in common with them. Their purpose is to rewrite the law so that it is clearer and more easily understood, but they will also make minor changes in the law, just as a consolidation Bill may contain minor changes giving effect to recommendations made by the Law Commission. The importance of providing proper parliamentary scrutiny of the rewritten legislation was recognised from the outset.

The motion provides for detailed scrutiny of the Bill, including what are very minor and largely technical changes to be undertaken by a Joint Committee, and is in the form of a Standing Order as there will be a series of tax simplification Bills. The second will, on current plans, be ready to be introduced in autumn 2002. Making a Standing Order will mean that the House will avoid the need to go through the process again. That, again, was envisaged in the original Procedure Committee report to the House in 1997.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): Will the proposed Joint Committee meet in private or in public and can the Minister offer me any encouragement to believe that the

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said Committee will be mercifully free among its members from representatives of either the Government or the Opposition Whips Office?

Dawn Primarolo: I was about to explain the procedure for the Select Committee. I hope to address the points that the hon. Gentleman has raised, but, if I do not, I shall of course give way to him.

The Committee to be established is a Select Committee, not a Standing Committee. As the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) knows, Select Committees are free to determine how and when they meet and whether to do so in open or closed session. The Select Committee will be free to proceed by taking evidence and informal deliberation as well as by proposing formal amendments to the Bill. The Procedure Committee recommended that

That is what we have tried to achieve. The Procedure Committee, in 1997, also recommended that a Minister should sit on the Joint Committee. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman will be delighted to hear that, should the House agree another motion on the Order Paper, I would be a member of that Committee.

Mr. Bercow: The Minister will understand the purport of my continuing inquiries. I note what she says, although I confess that I do so with some distaste that the Committee will include a Minister, but will she confirm that the said Minister will be regarded not as a witness before, but as a member of, the Committee? Will not it therefore be open to the Committee at a meeting attended by a ministerial member to judge that, lacking witnesses, it should choose to meet in private? Does she understand that, as a champion of freedom of information in those matters and one who is concerned about possible dastardly works that might be perpetrated by the Government, I am uneasy about such private confabs?

Dawn Primarolo: I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern that the transparency of the process should be upheld. The Committee will be free to elect its Chairman and I understand that my role is to be an individual member of that Committee. It will be for the Committee to decide how to conduct its business--it would be quite improper for me to suggest from the Dispatch Box how it should do so--but I am sure that whoever is appointed to chair the Committee will of course scrutinise today's debates and pay particular attention to ensuring that the rights of the House are properly protected.

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