Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Wade of Chorlton: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, I am sure that he appreciates that the Government's decision over this matter caused considerable concern in the North West, particularly among the industry and businesses which make use of the facility and the science people within the North West. Can he confirm whether the £25 million being made available to the North West will be new money, and not re-allocated money? Will he confirm also what the focus of the new Daresbury Laboratory is likely to be? We have at Daresbury some of the greatest experts on accelerator technology and micro-technology systems. It is important that we continue the work of relating research and industry, at which Daresbury scientists have been so effective.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I understand the concerns of the scientists at Daresbury. The £25 million will be money that will be taken from the science budget and allocated specifically for this purpose. It is clearly new money in the sense that it will come from the Comprehensive Spending Review that is about to be agreed. We are aware that the people at

29 Mar 2000 : Column 803

Daresbury Laboratory have substantial skills, not only in the design of accelerators but also in terms of instrumentation, computing and in general engineering. The projects we are considering will seek to build on that basis.

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, will my noble friend consider the anger and frustration that occurred not only throughout the North West, but also further afield that the Diamond Project, at the behest of Wellcome, has gone to Oxford? Further, morale at this world famous laboratory is at rock bottom. Staff are already leaving. While the Minister is offering £25 million, that is poor compensation for losing a £500 million contract. Can my noble friend be more specific in saying what major scientific project will be located at Daresbury?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, we are aware of the impact of this decision on the people who work at Daresbury and are conscious that we need to build morale in order to ensure that this facility works well over the next seven years. It is not totally accurate to compare the £500 million with the projects that will be introduced. That cost would be spread over 25 years, as opposed to investment that will come in immediately. Clearly, the point of establishing the review team is to look at the sort of projects that we could introduce most advantageously. We have a list of projects that may be suitable, which range from a bio-medical research facility, Manchester University, to a technology centre, to bio-informatics and a database centre, and also a regional data centre for the Cern Large Hadron Collider. There is a set of important projects at which the review team is to look specifically.

Lord Razzall: My Lords, will the Minister indicate whether any work had already been carried out on this project at the Daresbury Laboratory and, if so, whether any of the value of that has been retained by the transfer?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, some work had already been done on the design of the machine in the process of reviewing the location and looking at the specification which has substantially changed since the original design was drawn up. We shall be able to use some of those ideas, but the machine design is now going through a substantial change because we are talking about a much larger machine, a 24-cell machine rather than the 16-cell machine of the original design.

Lord Tanlaw: My Lords, will the Minister for Science say how much he was influenced in the move to Oxford by the contributions made by the Wellcome Foundation and how much the decision was based on pure science?

29 Mar 2000 : Column 804

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the view of both the scientific advisers to the Government was that on balance there was a scientific case for the move to Didcot. This was not an overwhelming case, but on balance the view of the scientific adviser to the Government and the head of the research councils was that that was the right location. Given that this is a partnership of three parties, we took into account the views of our other partners, as one surely must do in these circumstances.

Lord Evans of Parkside: My Lords, will my noble friend--

Lord Jopling: My Lords--

Lord Carter: My Lords, it is the turn of the Conservatives.

Lord Jopling: My Lords, cutting aside the convoluted wording of the first Answer, is not the real truth that this money has been announced before in the general science budget and therefore it is not new money?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, perhaps I have not made clear that this is money which will come from the new comprehensive spending review and therefore it has not been allocated.

Lord Evans of Parkside: My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that the synchrotron project at Daresbury has operated highly successfully for more than 20 years? Is he aware that the Government's decision to resite the project at Oxford has been regarded in the North West as virtually a government vote of no confidence in the scientific future of the region? Can the Minister explain why the Government allowed themselves to be dictated to and virtually blackmailed by the Wellcome Trust? Seven of the eight trustees of that trust are professors at Oxford, Cambridge and London Universities and can hardly be regarded as independent, unbiased advisers.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, it has never been suggested by anyone that the quality of science at Daresbury is anything other than world-class. Nevertheless the fact remains that there are good scientific reasons for siting the new synchrotron alongside the neutron source and the other facilities at Rutherford, such as the lasers and the nuclear magnetic resonance. As I said, that is the view of the scientific advisers. It was also the view of at least the physicists when we consulted those who will make use of the machine.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that a useful maxim to bear in mind is that experts should be on tap, never on top?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Yes, my Lords.

29 Mar 2000 : Column 805

Greater London Authority: Council Tax

2.53 p.m.

Lord Bowness asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are confident that, in the first year of the Greater London Authority, the extra cost to the council tax payer will be no more than the predicted 3p at band D.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My Lords, the Greater London Authority's precepts were issued on 17th February. A band D council tax payer is being asked to pay £122.98 for the first year of the GLA. This includes payment for the police, the fire service and transport facilities. Of this, only £1.72 accounts for additional costs of the mayor, the assembly, their support staff and provision for future elections. That is equivalent to 3.3p a week and is in line with our commitment in the White Paper, A Mayor and Assembly for London, that a band D council tax payer would pay about 3p a week.

Lord Bowness: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. However, does not he agree that when the Government gave an estimate of the costs of the Greater London Authority they gave the clear impression that the funding of other services would remain on a basis comparable with previous years? Is it not true that the council tax payers of Greater London face an increase far in excess of the 3p and a reasonable allowance for inflation because of the reduced funding of the Metropolitan Police, and that does not even take account of uncosted costs in respect of the new headquarters building for future years?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, it is certainly true that the precept for a year is a precept for a year. However, the figures are comparable with the figures that we originally announced. Therefore I believe that we have fulfilled our commitments in that respect. As regards the ongoing services, the precept for the police has certainly increased substantially, but that relates to an unwinding of past grants and the past use of reserves in that area rather than to any great spending increase.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the Greater London Authority budget has been set at above the council tax subsidy limitation level; that is, above capping? Does he believe that that is a good precedent, and is he happy to see it carry on in the future?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the Greater London Authority must be subject to the same rules of local authority finance as anywhere else. Therefore, if it was to continue with a certain course in the future that would have consequences, as it would for any other local authority. However, this is the transitional phase. The level at which we have set the precept reflects the demands on the authority in the first year.

Lord Tope: My Lords, is the Minister aware that in the past two years the Metropolitan Police force has

29 Mar 2000 : Column 806

been reduced by 796 officers? Will he confirm that the substantial increase in the Metropolitan Police precept which he has just mentioned is 17 per cent? Can he explain to Londoners how that represents best value?

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page