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Lord Whitty: I do not really see the point behind this amendment. It has been pretty clear from the outset that the RDAs will not be financed by money that is shifted away from local authorities. The implication of the amendment is that money will be taken away by central government from local authorities and given to the RDAs.

Let me repeat what has been said many times by my colleagues in another place. The budgets of the RDAs will transfer from programmes they inherit from English Partnerships, from the RDC and from the Government Offices, but not from the local authorities. RDAs will be funded primarily through grant in aid from my department, although some funds will transfer from the DTI and the DfEE. The departments themselves are funded through money voted by Parliament for particular programmes, including now the RDAs. These figures are agreed by Parliament and are made public, so there is little point in requiring an additional report. In no sense does this affect the process of allocation of central government funds to local authorities.

My department produces accounts every year, which are available to Parliament. One part of those will show the grant to the RDAs and another the support to local authorities, and there is no cross-over between the two.

Local authority funding will be distributed, as always, by the Standard Spending Assessment, which is calculated through a formula using, as far as possible, objective measures of the authority's spending need. That formula will not be affected by any money which goes or does not go to RDAs. The only factors relevant to that calculation are population and other social and environmental needs and they will not be affected by the moneys spent by the RDAs. In the particular example raised by the noble Lord in relation to transport plans, clearly there may be transport plans which are funded with help from the RDAs, as there will be transport plans which are funded with help from the private sector and many other partners in local transport. That has nothing to do with the allocation to the RDAs from central government. In other words, there is no trade off between the allocation that Parliament approves for local authorities and the allocation that Parliament approves for the RDAs. Therefore the report which the noble Lord requests would be very thin indeed and the information which he requires is available to Parliament in any case. I therefore ask him to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Bowness: I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. I hear the assurances that he has given. It is one of the magics and mysteries of life that so much extra can be done without any increase in the totality of public expenditure. If we have the regional development agencies, we shall note with interest how their expenditure on transport and that of everyone else who

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is currently spending on transport can be funded without the existing bodies being affected or the total expenditure rising. I shall read carefully what the Minister said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 54 not moved.]

Clause 16 [Provision of information etc. to the Secretary of State]:

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 55:

Page 7, line 26, at end insert ("and any local authority within the area of the agency or which adjoins its boundaries").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 55, I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 57 since, except in one very minor respect, they are identical and the point raised by both of them is certainly identical.

In relation to Clause 16, which requires an RDA to provide information, advice and assistance to the Secretary of State, my Amendment No. 55 would require the RDA to extend that same courtesy to every local authority within its boundaries. As regards information, presumably the activities of an RDA are not to be regarded as secret, and it is easy to see why a local authority exercising its statutory duties, especially in its own planning matters, will need to know what its RDA is doing, proposing to do or even just thinking about doing. Advice and assistance speak for themselves, for the same reason.

The difference between this amendment and the one to Clause 17 is that in this one I have added adjoining local authorities as the recipients of the same information, advice and assistance if they should require it. Wherever there is a demarcation line of any kind, there is always a potential anomaly. In local government we have all heard of cases where a borough boundary runs down the centre of a road and where, as a result, those on the odd-numbered side pay more council tax than those with even numbers. In my own case, the boundary of the borough in which I live is just 60 feet up the hill. The only difference, apart from the amount of council tax, is that the pot holes are in a slightly different coloured tarmac. That is why I am Baroness Miller of Hendon and not Baroness Miller of Hampstead!

Obviously, a local council or indeed any local authority needs to know what is going on anything from a few feet or more away from its border. Clearly, it will need advice and assistance so that there is no conflict between its own plans and intentions and those of its neighbours. That is what is called "co-ordination".

The Secretary of State and Deputy Prime Minister in his introduction to the White Paper Building Partnerships for Prosperity complained that:

    "For years we have been dogged by a lack of co-ordination in the regions".
He went on to speak of the need for,

    "co-ordination of potential sites, of finance, training ... transport and power supplies".

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What closer co-ordination can there be than for one's next-door neighbour to know what is going on before it happens, or for a local council to know the transport requirements to carry workers from A within its area to B in the next adjacent region?

As to Amendment No. 57, all that an RDA is required to do is to send a copy of its annual report to each of the local authorities within its jurisdiction as well as to the Secretary of State. I believe that the purpose of that requirement is blindingly obvious. Elementary courtesy requires that copies of the report should be sent to each of the local authorities in a regional development agency's area. I cannot think of a single reason why there can be objection to it. I look forward with much pleasure to hearing the Minister concede this very small point.

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns: I support Amendment No. 55 moved by my noble friend Lady Miller of Hendon. I nearly said "Hampstead". I apologise to my noble friend because, regardless of the colour of the tarmac, I should remember the London borough from which she takes her title.

Amendment No. 56 in my name appears in this place in the list having been ungrouped from its earlier position. This is in the nature of a probing amendment. If Amendment No. 56 did not stand the Secretary of State would be able to determine what information the local authorities could obtain. In theory, they could be starved of essential information. My purpose in tabling the amendment is to understand the intention of the Government in regard to the information that is made available to local authorities when they work with regional development agencies.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Amendment No. 55 together with Amendment No. 56 from the previous grouping relates to Clause 16 which concerns the provision of information by the RDA to the Secretary of State. This amendment seeks to put local authorities in the same legal position as the Secretary of State. Clause 16 is an important link in the chain of accountability to Ministers and Parliament. The Secretary of State should have access to such advice and information as he or she thinks necessary in order to maintain that accountability. The amendment requires that the RDA should provide such information to local authorities as they require. We intend that local authorities should have such information as is necessary and appropriate to their involvement in the work of the RDA.

It must not be forgotten that local authorities will have an important role in regional chambers which will scrutinise the work of the RDA. We expect RDAs to adhere to the best principles of open government and develop a constructive working relationship with local authorities in their areas. We hope that they and the local authorities can reach agreement between themselves on how information should be provided. It is not appropriate to place local authorities in the same position as the Secretary of State, to whom the RDAs are directly accountable. We have the power under Clause 18 to intervene if necessary but sincerely hope that that will not occur.

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Amendment No. 57 relates to the obligation of an RDA to prepare an annual report. As NDPBs RDAs are accountable to Ministers. It is therefore only right that they provide information such as an annual report to the Secretary of State. The amendment seeks to put local authorities in the same position as the Secretary of State and provides that a copy of the RDA's annual report should be sent to each local authority within the area.

This is an unnecessary amendment. The annual reports will be published documents and the Bill provides for copies to be laid before Parliament. We expect RDAs to adhere to the best principles of open government and develop a constructive working relationship with the local authorities in their area. We would therefore expect RDAs as a matter of course to send copies of their annual reports to local authorities in their area. However, local authorities are not in the same position as the Secretary of State in terms of the accountability of RDAs. For that reason it would be wrong to place this requirement on the face of the Bill. While accepting the intention behind the amendment, we cannot accept the amendment itself and ask the noble Baroness to withdraw it.

10.45 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: I thank the Minister for her reply. I hope her confidence that the RDAs will automatically send the reports to the local authorities is not misplaced. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 56 not moved.]

Clause 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 [Annual report]:

[Amendment No. 57 not moved.]

Clause 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 [Regional accountability]:

[Amendment No. 58 not moved.]

Clause 18 agreed to.

Clause 19 [Vesting of land by order]:

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