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North West: Regional Planning Guidance

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): My right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister has today published Regional Planning Guidance for the North West (RPG13).

RPG13 sets out the spatial development strategy that encompasses proposals for the development of the region's economy, housing and transport infrastructure and other land uses. Within the terms of the strategy, priority is given to sustainable development and investment within the North West metropolitan area (especially the regional poles of Manchester/Salford and Liverpool), together with defined regeneration priority areas. RPG13 also sets out proposals for the conservation, management and enhancement of the region's natural and cultural environment.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is pleased that much of the vision, objectives and core strategy of RPG13 carries forward to a great extent what was proposed in the original draft RPG prepared by the North West Regional Assembly (NWRA). RPG13 reflects the effective working that was achieved between the NWRA, local authorities and other stakeholders, all of which have made valuable contributions to refine and enhance the original draft guidance through public consultation. It builds on the inclusive process for preparing RPG that the Government have put in place. Many of the comments received in response to the consultations carried out earlier have made a positive contribution to the overall strategy for sustainable development and have been taken on board.

The North West Regional Assembly, in its role as the regional planning body, will work with partners, including the business community, to ensure its effective implementation, monitoring and review.


Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: The Government have today published as CM 5793 a draft Housing Bill for consultation. This aims to tackle some of the most pressing difficulties in private sector housing. The draft Bill will ensure action against unacceptably low housing standards, the impact bad landlords can have on some local communities and the stress in buying and selling a home. These proposals are part of our

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drive to deliver sustainable communities, as set out in the Deputy Prime Minister's long-term action programme Sustainable Communities: building for the future published in February this year.

The draft Bill sets out specific legislation in five main areas:

    replacing the existing housing fitness standard with evidence-based housing health and safety rating system (HHSRS) as a more effective basis for enforcement against unacceptable housing conditions;

    improving the controls on houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), including a mandatory national licensing scheme, to tackle poor physical and management standards;

    giving local authorities powers to license all landlords in areas of low housing demand or similar areas where the growth and poor management of the private rented sector frustrates efforts to create sustainable communities;

    requiring anyone marketing a home to assemble a home information pack (HIP), so that the information needed by buyers and sellers is available when the property is marketed and abortive costs on the buyer are reduced;

    modernising the right to buy scheme by tackling profiteering and emphasising purchasers' responsibilities so that it contributes more effectively to the supply of affordable housing.

There are additionally clauses introducing a new office of Social Housing Ombudsman for Wales to investigate complaints against registered social landlords in Wales. There are also proposals to give local authority landlords the flexibility to continue introductory tenancies by up to six months, adding to the armoury of measures to tackle anti-social behaviour by tenants.

The consultation period will run until 9 June. The draft Bill, together with the explanatory notes, regulatory impact assessments and issues for consultation, has been published as a Command Paper and will also be available on the website for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Copies of all the consultation material have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The Government have also today published consultation documents on the home information pack, covering its contents and its applicability in areas of lowest housing demand. There will also be separate consultation on possible changes to the powers of the Housing Corporation and National Assembly for Wales to regulate registered social landlords.

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National Archives

Lord Merlyn-Rees asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What key performance targets have been set for the National Archives executive agency for 2003–04.[HL2337]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The following list sets out the key performance targets I have set for the National Archives for 2003–04.

The National Archives

Key Performance Indicators 2003–04 1


KPI 1—Unit costs of key activities.

KPI 1A—Selecting and preserving the public records per metre: to ensure that the unit cost does not rise above £96.00.

KPI 1B—Giving access onsite: to ensure that the unit cost per information transaction with customers onsite does not exceed £9.90.

KPI 1C—Giving access online: to ensure that the unit cost per information transaction with customers online does not exceed £0.11.

KPI 2—Backlog of records in departments reported as being over 30 years old and awaiting review: to reduce the backlog, assessed in January 2003 as 2,165 metres, by 247 metres.

Quality of Service

KPI 3—The achievement of public service standards:

(A) to achieve the public service standard targets for the National Archives as follows:

    (i) to make newly opened records and their catalogues available to users in accordance with specified time targets;

    (ii) to answer 98.5 per cent of written correspondence within 10 working days;

    (iii) to deliver 90 per cent of records requested by users for consultation in the reading rooms in accordance with specified time targets;

    (iv) to supply 98.5 per cent of copy orders in accordance with the specified targets and standards;

    (v) to answer 85 per cent of telephone calls within 20 seconds;

    (vi) to keep 98.5 per cent of appointments which visitors have made with us within 10 minutes.

(B) to carry out three onsite satisfaction surveys and to achieve assessments of good or excellent from 90 per cent of those expressing a view; to carry out three online satisfaction surveys and to achieve assessments of good or excellent from 80 per cent of those expressing a view.

Income Generation

KPI 4—To increase revenue generated by commercial activity to £1,000,000.

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Modernising Government

KPI 5—Electronic Records Management:

To support other government departments in achieving the government target for electronic records management by 2004 by:

    (i) monitoring progress in departments against milestones and reporting to the Lord Chancellor, the e-Government sub-group and departments every six months and to others as appropriate to the level of action required;

    (ii) targeting under-achieving departments and developing action plans to accelerate progress;

    (iii) delivering a programme of workshops to support the action plans.

KPI 6—Electronic service delivery:

To develop digital access to popular records so that 60,000 digital record images are delivered to customers.

KPI 7—To raise an awareness of the NA's holdings among under-represented groups in our user profile by means of a rigorous social inclusion programme the chief components of which are:

    (i) to make available 150,000 images online in four galleries as part of the Moving Here project;

    (ii) to commence the first stage of the project to redesign PROCAT public interface screens in order to improve their usability, partly based on the finds of the usability evaluation exercise completed in 2002–03;

    (iii) to broaden the ethnic, cultural and social mix of school groups visiting the National Archives by organising 10 workshops in partnership with the Tower of London and Cross River Partnership.

    1 More information on these and other key targets is published in the corporate and business plans.

Central America: Diplomatic Representation

Baroness Turner of Camden asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there will be a reorganisation of the United Kingdom's diplomatic representation in Central America. [HL2244]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): Changing strategic priorities require the Foreign and Commonwealth Office constantly to adapt and amend its pattern of representation overseas. In order to free up resources to strengthen the UK's diplomatic network in other parts of the world now more critical for UK interests, Her Majesty's Government have decided to make the following adjustments to our diplomatic representation in Central America. With effect from mid-summer, the embassy in San Salvador will be closed. We intend to appoint an honorary consul and for HM Ambassador at Guatemala City to be simultaneously accredited to the Government of El Salvador. Later this year and early next year we intend to reorganise our representation in Honduras and

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Nicaragua. In each case, we propose to appoint a charge d'affaires. The ambassadors will at the same time be withdrawn, and HM Ambassador at Guatemala City will be simultaneously accredited to both capitals. The diplomatic representation in the other countries of the region will remain unchanged.

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