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Lord Howie of Troon: Dear me. I thought the Minister was a little severe about civil engineers--as though they had nothing whatever to do with construction. They are right at the heart of it. The right of appeal is enshrined in the civil engineering contract anyway. My amendment, inadequate though it may be--all the amendments of my noble friend Lord Berkeley are a great improvement on my humble efforts--describes a method of adjudication, not a method of proceeding to arbitration and other things of that nature. So we can forget all that fustian that the noble Lord had written out for him. I cannot believe that he would have approached me in those terms off his own bat. I am perfectly sure that that is not so.

The noble Lord said that he was going to consult people. We in this House feel that in matters of legislation in an area of which many of us know something, we should be consulted and not just the industry as a whole. As far as we are being consulted, the noble Lord should remember that, few of us as there are, as he pointed out, we are the tip of an iceberg. That iceberg is represented by the comments which my noble friend Lord Berkeley produced. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, suggested that this should be a consensual matter. It is anything but that, as the comments of my noble friend Lord Berkeley showed.

I have no more to say except to welcome entirely the intervention of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner. I wish I had been able to put the issue as concisely, correctly, totally and truthfully as he did. I also welcome the support of the noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater, for Amendment No. 192. It may be that my amendment has certain inadequacies, but we have here a parliamentary system where they can be put right, and they often are, as a Bill goes through both Chambers. I have to take the opinion of the House on this matter.

9.56 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 159) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 29; Not-Contents, 48.

Division No. 2

CONTENTS

Ackner, L.
Berkeley, L.
Blackstone, B.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carter, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L. [Teller.]
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]
Haskel, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Judd, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Monkswell, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Nicol, B.
Peston, L.
Richard, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Winston, L.

NOT-CONTENTS

Addison, V.
Annaly, L.
Blatch, B.
Bridgeman, V.
Carnock, L.
Chesham, L. [Teller.]
Clark of Kempston, L.
Courtown, E.
Cross, V.
Cumberlege, B.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B.
Digby, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Elles, B.
Elton, L.
Glenarthur, L.
Goschen, V.
Harlech, L.
Harris of Peckham, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L.
HolmPatrick, L.
Howe, E.
Kingsland, L.
Long, V.
Lucas, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Lyell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Marlesford, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Rawlings, B.
Renwick, L.
Seccombe, B.
Skelmersdale, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Swinfen, L.
Trumpington, B.
Ullswater, V.
Wakeham, L.
Wilcox, B.
Wynford, L.
Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

22 Apr 1996 : Column 998

10.4 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 160 to 162 not moved.]

Baroness Hamwee moved Amendment No. 163:


After Clause 125, insert the following new clause--

Secretary of State to report on annual financial assistance

(". The Secretary of State shall report on an annual basis on the exercise of his powers pursuant to section 123 including--
(a) the amount of financial assistance given under section 123;
(b) the form of such assistance;
(c) the terms on which such assistance was given;
(d) the numbers of bids addressing each of the activities referred to in section 123(2) at the stages of outline bids, final bids and approved bids;
(e) the role of community and voluntary organisations in the activities concerned;
(f) the methods used to assess priorities for assistance; and
(g) any distinctions between regions in the provision of assistance.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 163 takes us to that part of the Bill which is concerned with regeneration and repeats an amendment that I moved at the last stage but with a number of alterations which I hope reflect the concerns expressed then by the Minister.

The operation of the single regeneration budget is very much lacking in transparency and accountability. My amendment seeks to go a little way--and no further--to rectify that. It proposes that the Secretary of State shall report certain matters on an annual basis in order that the public, including those who bid for assistance under the regeneration arrangements, can

22 Apr 1996 : Column 999

understand how the scheme is proceeding. Both national and regional regeneration strategies ought to be understood and be the subject of public discussion. I have been in correspondence recently with the London Planning Advisory Committee, which I used to chair. As its name suggests, it is an advisory body. That body tells me it is suspected that the Government Office for London has an internal regeneration strategy but that it is not public. That comment seems to me to encapsulate a great deal of what is wrong with the way in which the single regeneration budget is operated.

The amendment proposes that a number of matters as set out in paragraphs (a) to (g) are reported. In drafting those paragraphs I have taken into account the current procedure. In responding to the report of the Environment Committee on the budget, the Government have produced a helpful document. One item is a table that shows the percentage of bids which address the SRB challenge fund objectives at each stage of the bidding process. Those objectives list matters such as employment, education, economic growth, crime prevention, quality of life and so on. The table shows the percentage of bids which address those objectives. Very many bids will address more than one objective at the outline stage. The table then shows the percentage of bids encouraged by the Government to proceed to the next stage. It shows the percentages at the final stage of bidding and the bids approved. That fairly simple reporting mechanism puts into accessible form information about the workings of the SRB budget which is desirable and necessary. The budget is operated on a "quango" basis. However good the intentions of those who operate it, nevertheless democracy and accountability are quite distant from the operating mechanism.

The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, at that stage said he was concerned about the imposition of a bureaucratic burden in the reporting provisions I then proposed. I understand those concerns. That is why I have based my amendment on the report that the Government have themselves recently provided, which I understand is likely to be an annual exercise. The noble Earl also said that he thought it was important to encourage people to think of the project as a whole and not in terms of separate activities. Certainly, I would not expect the percentages addressing different objectives to add up to 100. They should add up to several hundred per cent. because many objectives are likely to be addressed by successful bids.

The noble Earl added that the Government were keen to establish precisely what achievements are realised by projects. Therefore, partnerships are required to report regularly on the output of their projects. I hope that the amendment fits neatly with that approach by the Government.

It is important for those whose bids have not succeeded to understand how theirs compared with the successful bids. The process of competition requires considerable effort by people in the public sector and their partners in the private sector. It would be a most unhappy situation if, having put in that effort, an adequate attempt were not made to assist those whose bids failed to understand where they might have failed

22 Apr 1996 : Column 1000

by seeing how the Government are spending the regeneration budget and how they are reacting as a whole to the various bids that are made. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, the amendment would require annual reports from the Secretary of State about financial assistance given under Clause 123. I am pleased that the noble Baroness seems to have accepted that the information sought in the amendment she tabled in Committee would place a considerable and unnecessary bureaucratic burden on partnerships. However, I have to say that the proposed new clause could lead to information overload of a quite significant degree. In relation to the single regeneration budget, the published annual report of the Department of the Environment gives details of the amount of financial assistance made and the output or results from the projects supported.

In addition, summary information about outline and final SRB challenge fund bids is published by region, and copies of individual bids are made available for public inspection by government offices for the regions. This information includes the type of project supported and the nature of the partnership, including the involvement of community and voluntary organisations.

The methods used for assessing priorities for assistance are clearly set out in the bidding guidance for the single regeneration budget challenge fund, the latest version of which was published on 29th March. The financial allocations to each region are also published. The form of assistance and the terms on which assistance is given are set out in SRB challenge fund guidance notes Nos. 1 and 4.

All this adds up to a great deal of published information which is readily accessible to those with an interest, including the local authority associations, community and voluntary organisations and other bodies. The Department of the Environment also co-operates fully with the University of Birmingham in compiling a detailed analysis of the challenge fund which, again, is published in full and summary form. We are not at all clear whose interests would be served by having yet another report setting out all this information in a slightly different form.

I am aware that the noble Baroness made a number of detailed arguments to which I may not have replied exactly. I shall study what she said when I read Hansard. If I believe that I might have given a fuller reply I shall write to her. I hope that with that scant assurance the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.


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