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"The Holy Family" by Fra Bartolommeo

Lord Freyberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Inglewood: A decision on the export licence application for Fra Bartolommeo's "Holy Family" has been deferred until after 8 May 1996 to give the opportunity for an offer to purchase to be made at or above the fair market price of £14,000,000. The primary purpose of the deferral is to allow time for a potential purchaser to come forward to keep the painting in the UK, and my department is aware of a serious intention to make a purchase offer. Under the Waverley system, it is for the present owner to decide whether to accept any forthcoming purchase offer. If such an offer were made and accepted, then the licence application would lapse. If such an offer were refused, then my department would take into account the existence of the purchase offer in determining the licence application. The primary objective of the Waverley system is to ensure that objects which fall within the criteria are kept within the United Kingdom. I have no plans to impose further conditions.

Vale of Clwyd: Channel 4 Programmes

Lord Sefton of Garston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the residents of the Vale of Clwyd cannot receive Channel 4 programmes, even though the television mast at Moel-y-Parc is within sight, and when they are likely to be able to receive the same channels as other residents in the United Kingdom.

Lord Inglewood: Any viewers with line-of-sight to the Moel-y-Parc transmitter who experience difficulty in receiving S4C or any of the other services which it transmits, should consult their local television dealer for advice. The Broadcasting Act 1990 requires that the fourth channel should be used in Wales for S4C and not for Channel 4.

Royal Parks: Review Recommendations

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to accept the advice of the Royal Parks Review Group on the membership of the Advisory Board.

Lord Inglewood: The Government has only just received the review group's revised report. We are now giving detailed consideration to all the report's recommendations. We hope to make a formal response before the Summer Recess.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will secure from the Treasury greater flexibility for the Royal Parks Agency to manage its own expenditure, as recommended in the Final Conclusions of the Royal Parks Review (paragraph XV, page 11).

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Lord Inglewood: The Royal Parks are already included in the arrangements which allow the department, with the Treasury's approval, to carry forward from one year to the next a portion of eligible funds not spent fully on capital and running costs. There are no plans to seek additional flexibilities.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the reorganisation of the management of the Royal Parks now being examined by the Royal Parks Agency is to be in full accord with the recommendations in the final conclusions of the Royal Parks Review Group, particularly as regards the inadmissibility of any commercialisation of the parks which has recently been proposed to the Agency by one of its consultants.

Lord Inglewood: Responsibility for the subject of this question has been delegated to the Royal Parks Agency under its Chief Executive, Mr. David Welch. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Kennet from the Chief Executive of the Royal Parks Agency, Mr. David Welch, dated 16th April 1996.

I have been asked by Lord Inglewood to reply to your parliamentary Question about whether the proposed reorganisation of the management of the Royal Parks is in full accord with the recommendations in the final conclusions of the Royal Parks Review Group.

The Royal Parks Agency, in common with most other departments and agencies, is required to achieve a 6 per cent. reduction in running costs during the financial year 1996/97 and a further 5 per cent. reduction during each of the two subsequent years. As salaries form the greater part of our running costs budget, it has been necessary to consider ways in which these can be reduced.

In order to achieve this aim, we decided that a full review of the agency's staffing needs should be carried out and an independent consultant was chosen, in order to ensure a fair and unbiased view. The review was carried out during 1995 by Ms Sally Hubbard, ex HM Inspector of Constabulary, who had already carried out a review of the staffing requirements of the Royal Parks Constabulary.

In her report, Ms Hubbard comments that, while horticultural excellence in the Royal Parks remains a paramount consideration, commercial estate management and income generation are of growing importance. Commenting on the need for the agency to operate on an increasingly commercial basis, she highlights the need for staff to be more flexible, entrepreneurial and alive to business opportunities. However, we have not read the report as suggesting the commercialisation of the parks and we would have rejected it if we had. We do however try to charge the best obtainable rate for such things as existing

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underground wayleaves, get the best rates we can from people who run events in the parks and charge fully for filming in the parks.

I can confirm that Ms Hubbard's report has been accepted in principle by the Royal Parks Agency, although her specific recommendations on number and content of individual posts are still being evaluated.

The Royal Parks Review Group, in its final conclusions report (which discusses progress made since its first review of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens in 1992), refers to Ms Hubbard's report and comments that while it is important for the Royal Parks to generate income where feasible and sensible, this should not be at the expense of "the character, fabric, integrity and. . . survival of the parks as they are known to meet the needs of the public."

I agree wholeheartedly. Amongst the agency's seven specific objectives--as set out in our Framework Document--is one which requires us "to protect the parks from every kind of encroachment contrary to their purpose so that the public of future generations can enjoy them to the full" and another which requires us "to maintain free access to the parks for the public whilst developing suitable opportunities for increasing income." Both have equal weight, and are not, in my opinion, mutually exclusive. In his speech to the Royal Parks conference on 14th March, the Minister of State for National Heritage, Mr Iain Sproat, made it clear that there is no question of Ministers looking to increase commercial use of the parks to make good recent reductions in the level of funding.

In the same way, I can find no contradiction between Ms Hubbard's conclusions and those of the review group. I believe that in common with every other government department and agency, we need to be aware of the costs associated with carrying out a specific course of action, in order to prioritise our needs, and to consider ways of increasing our income in order to provide funds for the advantage of the parks. In seeking independent advice on how this might be achieved, we are simply seeking an alternative view, which will be evaluated alongside our responsibility to ensure the future of the Royal Parks. I believe this to be reasonable and sensible.

Electro-shock Therapy

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to their Written Answer of 8th March concerning the cost of delivering electro-shock treatment (ECT) (col. WA 40), where the information on costs is held, given that it is not held centrally.

The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): Information on the costs of individual treatments is held within each hospital.

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Child Support Agency

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    To explain in more detail what is meant by a "gross IS footing", as referred to by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration in his third report (Investigation of Complaints against the Child Support Agency), page 55, paragraph 7; and whether they intend to apply this procedure more frequently.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the Chief Executive, Miss Ann Chant. She will write to the noble Lord.

Letter to Earl Russell from the Chief Executive of the Child Support Agency, Miss Ann Chant, dated 16th April 1996.

I am replying to your Parliamentary Question to Her Majesty's Government concerning gross payment of income support to parents with care (PWC).

Where a PWC is entitled to income support as well as child support maintenance, she may be paid on either a gross or net basis. In gross cases the Benefits Agency pays the entire weekly benefit entitlement in full. This includes a sum in respect of child support maintenance. The Child Support Agency subsequently collects the maintenance from the absent parent (AP) and repays the public purse for the Benefits Agency's outlay. This contrasts with net cases, where child support maintenance is paid separately to the PWC. The Benefits Agency then pays the remaining balance of the weekly entitlement as income support.

Agency guidance stresses that payment direct to the PWC is the preferred approach. Where the AP complies with his responsibilities, this provides a visible and immediate work incentive, minimises agency involvement in the forum of family life and limits the need for administrative action. As a result the agency has no current plans to extend the scope of gross payment. The agency already routinely moves from net to gross payment where a PWC on income support experiences difficulties. This ensures that the PWC receives full income support entitlement each week, even where maintenance is not paid.

I hope this is helpful.

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