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Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: Section 15 of the Regional Assemblies (Preparations) Act 2003 provides for the procedure which the Boundary Committee is to adopt in undertaking reviews.

The committee is required to take such steps as it considers sufficient to ensure that persons who may be interested in a review are informed about it and given the opportunity to make representations at the outset of the review and when it publishes its draft recommendations.

In the light of recommendations from the Boundary Committee, the Government will arrange for a referendum to be held, giving electors in two-tier areas of the region an opportunity to say which of two or more options for unitary local government they prefer.

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: It is for the Boundary Committee to decide both the relevance of representations it receives, including representations for options that it has no power to recommend, such as the status quo, and how it presents its recommendations.

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: This is a matter for the Electoral Commission.

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: The Government have issued policy and procedural guidance to the committee, to which it must have regard under section 14(8)(e) of the Regional Assemblies (Preparations) Act 2003. Copies of the guidance were placed in the Library of the House on 16 June.

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Regional Chambers

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the powers of the regional chambers in the three northern regions of England to express opinions, publicise those opinions and otherwise campaign, in relation to the establishment of elected regional assemblies in their regions or of one or other system of local government reorganisation in any part of their areas; and to spend money in so doing.[HL3512]

Lord Rooker: The Government believe that regional chambers are entitled to take a view on their preferred outcome to a referendum on moving to elected regional assemblies, and to report that view. They may also take steps to raise awareness of what would be at issue in a referendum, including the reorganisation of local government that would be involved. But their funding agreement with the Government prohibits the use of central government money for active campaigning for a particular outcome to a referendum on elected regional assemblies and restructuring of local government.

Use by regional chambers of subscriptions from local authorities is a matter between the chamber and the local authorities concerned. The latter will need to have regard to the code of practice on local government publicity.

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether and when the regional chamber will cease to exist in an English region in which an elected regional assembly is set up.[HL3513]

Lord Rooker: Existing regional chambers are designated under the Regional Development Agencies Act 1998 to scrutinise the activities of the regional development agencies and appointed as regional planning bodies. Both functions would pass to an elected regional assembly; the regional development agency would be directly accountable to an elected regional assembly. Existing designations would be revoked.

Regional Assemblies

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In what ways their proposals for elected regional assemblies will, in the words of the Deputy Prime Minister in his Statement of 16 June, reduce bureaucracy.[HL3514]

Lord Rooker: The White Paper Your Region, Your Choice takes forward the Government's manifesto commitment to allow each of the English regions the opportunity, if they wish, to establish directly elected assemblies. These proposals will bring decision-making closer to the people and make government more efficient, more effective and more accountable.

Elected assemblies will have a democratic mandate to address the needs and priorities of their regions, and

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the powers and flexibility they need to allocate resources to meet regional priorities. They will be directly accountable in the region for decisions and activities currently made by central government or quangos. They will provide stronger scrutiny and improve co-ordination between existing bodies.

These proposals will not mean more bureaucracy. In regions where people vote to have an elected assembly, we will move to a wholly unitary local government to ensure that there are only two tiers of government below the national level.

Quangos

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many quangos exist in the North West, in Yorkshire and Humberside, and in the North East; and which ones in each region they intend to abolish if an elected regional assembly is established.[HL3515]

Lord Rooker: There are 19 national public bodies with regional or local offices in the north-west of England; 20 in Yorkshire and the Humber; 21 in the north-east region. These figures do not include central government departments and agencies with regional or local offices in northern England.

Annex C of the White Paper, Your Region, Your Choice lists the national and regional public bodies that exist in the north-east of England. The White Paper sets out the proposed responsibilities of the election of regional assemblies. The proposals will bring some of the bodies under regional democratic control and influence, particularly the regional development agencies, which will be accountable to the elected assembly.

Government Offices for the Regions

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    To whom the Government Offices for the Regions will be responsible following the establishment of elected regional assemblies in their areas.[HL3516]

Lord Rooker: The Government Offices for the Regions will remain responsible to central government. But, as outlined in the White Paper Your Region, Your Choice, certain functions currently performed by the Government Offices would pass to an elected regional assembly.

Gypsy Sites

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information they have about appeals against refusal of planning permission for development of gypsy sites in the latest 12 months for which figures are available.[HL3518]

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Lord Rooker: The Planning Inspectorate's database holds the following information on appeals against the refusal of planning permission for the establishment of gypsy sites for the period 1 April 2002 to 31 March 2003:


    92 appeals were received in this period;


    14 were allowed;


    39 were dismissed;


    8 have been withdrawn;


    31 cases are ongoing.

Beacon Council Scheme

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will launch round 5 of the Beacon Council Scheme[HL3685]

Lord Rooker: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is launching the fifth round of the Beacon Council Scheme on Wednesday 2 July with the publication of the application brochure setting out instructions on how to apply, the detailed criteria that will be used to address applications, and what being a beacon will mean. Copies of the brochure will be placed in the Library of the House.

The Beacon Council Scheme provides a successful, positive way of recognising achievement and spreading best practice. It enables authorities to learn from each other to improve the services they deliver. In the first four rounds of the scheme, 186 beacon awards have been made in 39 service themes. Nearly all councils in England have attended at least one learning event. Independent research has shown that real improvements are taking place as a result of this learning and that the scheme is really having an effect in raising achievement.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is inviting all councils and best value authorities that believe they have achieved excellence in one or more of this year's beacon themes to apply for beacon status. This round's themes for which we are now inviting applications are:


    benefits administration;


    better local public transport;


    crime and disorder partnerships;


    early years and childcare: the Sure Start agenda;


    housing renewal;


    services for older people;


    supporting people;


    transforming the school workforce;


    promoting sustainable tourism;


    supporting social care workers.

Applications are invited by 10 September 2003. Successful applicants will be announced in April 2004 and hold beacon status until the end of June 2005.

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