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The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The Government concluded in the Strategic Defence Review that, in order to guarantee the ability of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) to continue to conduct world-class research, we would harness the opportunities offered by a Public Private Partnership. Last year's consultation exercise on a potential PPP proposal produced a wide range of useful comments from stakeholders.
As a result of this process, we announced in October that we would be widening the scope of our discussion to take these comments into account. That work is now complete and has led to the development of two revised models for potential PPP structures, known as "Core Competence" and the "Public Sector Option". A detailed evaluation of these options indicates that Core Competence best meets the PPP objectives while also responding to the views of stakeholders. Both models are described in a consultation document which has been placed in the Library of the House and which is also available on the internet at www.mod.uk/commercial/ppp/dera/.
The essence of Core Competence is a clear separation of those functions which are best developed within a PPP, and those which are best performed wholly within government. Around three-quarters of DERA would be turned into a company, which we would hope to float on the stock market as soon as its potential is judged to be suitably developed. A core of staff would be retained wholly within the MoD to provide a high level overview of defence science and technology. This ensures that MoD would retain access to in-house impartial advice and allows management of the defence research programme and international research collaboration. Specific very sensitive areas and programmes would also be retained.
We believe that this approach would create two vibrant, sustainable organisations. The new company would have the freedom to flourish, to grow its business and to diversify the wealth of knowledge it has built up over the years to the benefit of the wider UK economy, while still providing the MoD with the
This approach is good for DERA, good for MoD and good for the wider UK economy. It will provide the UK technology sector with added impetus and ensure we are well placed to take on the challenges and opportunities offered by the 21st century.
All stakeholders are now being invited to submit their views on the revised proposals. As the previous exercise has proved, we are willing to listen and to respond to comments before taking a final decision.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It is not normal practice for the Government to make representations on subjects suitable for special stamp issues. The choice of topics for stamps is left to the Post Office. I am not aware that representations were made to the Post Office by any government department concerning the bi-centenary of the United Kingdom.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government have no such plans. Our policy on free television licences for people aged 75 or over is intended specifically to benefit individuals and their households. A single licence taken out by the managers of sheltered housing, whatever the age of the residents, already covers any number of television sets installed in the communal areas at the specified address. Introducing free licences to cover such sets only in cases where all the residents were 75 or over would inevitably create anomalies, since a single resident aged below 75 would disqualify the accommodation.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency undertakes to issue photocard driving licences (and return original identity documents) to their customers within 15 working days (3 calendar weeks) from the receipt of their applications. Applications where medical investigations have to be undertaken do take longer.
Whether any equestrian enterprises on farms, whether or not still in active operation, will qualify for rate relief; and[HL1975]
Whether any small riding schools not on farms will qualify for rate relief.[HL1976]
Lord Whitty: At present the rateable values of stud farms linked to agricultural land and property are reduced by £2,500. This represents a saving of £1,040 on rates bills this year. In announcing an Action Plan for Farming on 30 March, the Prime Minister said that the Government would be consulting publicly on proposals to extend rate relief to horse enterprises linked to farm premises.
Details of the proposals have still be to worked out. Small riding schools not linked to farm premises would not qualify for relief under these proposals, but might qualify for relief under the Government's proposals for rate relief for small businesses. We shall be consulting separately on the details of these.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: The shadow Strategic Rail Authority (sSRA) is discussing with all interested parties a replacement for the current Great North Eastern Railway franchise, including future infrastructure requirements for the entire East Coast Main Line. Separate discussions between the sSRA, Railtrack and the relevant train operating companies are also taking place to improve journey times within Scotland on the London to Aberdeen route. The Scottish Executive is a party to all these discussions.
(a) the British Road Federation;
(b) the Road Haulage Association;
(c) the Freight Transport Association;
(d) the Royal Automobile Club;
(e) the Automobile Association;
(f) the Cyclists Touring Club;
(g) the Pedestrian's Association; and
(h) Transport 2000.[HL1830]
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: Ministers have extensive dealings with organisations in both the public and private sector as part of their official duties.
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