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However, even before the last election there were signs that the situation was unsustainable. The funding to which the noble Lord, Lord Hoyle, referred is no longer available. The previous Government found that they had to reduce RDA budgets several times, including by more than £300 million in the 2010-11 financial year. When the present Government came to power, it was clear that the reductions in spending would need to continue. In our earlier debate, noble Lords criticised the regional growth fund for providing less money than the RDAs had at their peak. The fact is that spending at that level is no longer sustainable. We cannot return to a position where the eight RDAs outside London had a combined budget of nearly £2 billion a year, as they did in 2006-07, whether or not the bodies continue to exist.
It would have been perfectly possible to have continued with the existing structure. This would have meant retaining bodies in each region with a wide range of responsibilities, but with seriously diminished resources. Since we are committed to the effective delivery of economic growth throughout the country, we considered that that would be irresponsible. Put bluntly, we need to ensure that we get more bang for our buck than we were getting from the RDAs. In our earlier debate, noble Lords referred to estimates made by PricewaterhouseCoopers that every pound spent by an RDA added £4.50 to the regional economy. I do not wish to cast those figures in doubt, but the same report showed that more than half of those benefits came from less than 20 per cent of RDA total spending. There was a long tail of projects that delivered little or no value to the regional economy. Nor was it clear whether the benefits of investment were spread equally throughout the region or were strongly localised. Finally, the fact remains that the gap in growth rates between the regions and the rest of the country, to which the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, rightly drew attention at the time when he took initiatives on RDAs, remained stubbornly wide for all the regions and all that money. Inequality in growth rates has not been reduced by the RDAs.
In proposing changes to the delivery of local economic development, we have two guiding principles. The first is partnership. Although the RDAs have broadly representative boards, these were selected in Whitehall. The boards of local enterprise partnerships are chosen locally and directly involve local authorities and businesses with a stake in a specific area. The second is appropriate geography. As in our previous discussion, I refer to the south Midlands, where joint work on economic development was hampered by the borders of three
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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the Minister refers to the problem of borders but how are the Government dealing with the problem of borders by splitting Birmingham from the Black Country? It is sheer madness in terms of getting support across a region for the major infrastructure projects that are so desperately needed.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I think the noble Lord is under a misapprehension. The difficulty with RDAs was that they had clearly defined, strict borders. The great thing about LEPs is that they are partnerships and they are flexible enough to be able to work together when they need to. That is our answer to the question of the north-east. There are opportunities for LEPs to work together across boundaries. That is their huge advantage over the strictly geographically delineated boundaries that existed between RDAs and the difficulty of getting joint projects going with them.
The south Midlands was an area of the country where the south-east, the east Midlands and the eastern region met in an area around Milton Keynes, Northampton and Bedford. That particular group now has an LEP in common. It is a true economic region in the sense that there is a community of interest across what previously was RDA territory. We have deliberately placed the onus on the partners to show that they have identified a real economic area to cover. We have not sought to second-guess them. We have asked the partners to think again about a particular proposal only where there is a substantial difference of view in the area itself and in the places around it.
The RDAs were expensive bodies to run and often duplicated activities which could be better undertaken at local or national level. In much of the country people felt little or no attachment to regions. In our earlier debate much was made of the local support for the north-eastern and north-western regions. The noble Lord, Lord Clark of Windermere, talked of the way in which Cumbria identifies more strongly with Newcastle than with Manchester. Only yesterday the House approved the creation of the Greater Manchester combined authority. The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, and I took that through as a statutory instrument in the Moses Room last week. It reflected the desire of that area for a stronger local focus. I remain doubtful that the enthusiasm for a unified north-east region runs quite as high by the Tees as it does by the Tyne.
In our new circumstances we need lighter, more nimble bodies, capable of forging new linkages and alliances, rather than being caught up in regional straitjackets. Where partnerships wish to work together, we welcome it. If they had chosen areas which had matched one or more of the former regions and been able to demonstrate economic benefits and support from businesses and local authorities, we would have welcomed that too, but the fact is that they did not. In our previous discussion I pointed to the enthusiastic response we have received throughout the country to our call to develop local enterprise partnerships. On 8 March 2011 the 31 partnerships sent 90 representatives
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I am grateful that my previous letter has been well received. I shall do my best to answer some of the questions that have been asked tonight, although it may not be possible to do so in the case of some of those which were highly specific. I shall do my best to give answers that cover some of the most central points raised. The first question was what the Chancellor announced today. He announced that the Government would introduce 21 new enterprise zones. I do not belittle them-the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, did rather. They will all be important; they will all be established in LEPs; and they will be focuses for growth. The Budget names the LEPs that will receive the first enterprise zones, plus London. The next 10 will be established through a competitive process. Benefits include the business rate discount over a five-year period.
It was asked whether LEPs have the capacity to take on the wide range of projects envisaged-the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, made this point particularly strongly. The capacity of LEPs will vary initially. Some are based on well established structures-Manchester being an example of an existing structure, let alone the fact that it now has a combined authority-but others are entirely new. The LEPs are establishing a network to share experience and best practice to bring new partnerships up to speed quickly.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, in what I acknowledge was a very impassioned speech, asked whether there would be a fire sale of assets. The brief answer to that is no. It will be a managed process. Assets of which it makes commercial sense to dispose in the short term are being identified and a list will be made available to local authorities shortly. However, where it is more sensible to dispose of assets over the medium or long term, it will be done. It is important to emphasise that the RDAs are liaising with the local authorities within their patch and with the LEPs to make sure that this process is managed efficiently.
It was suggested, I think by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, that the LEPs will not have a role in inward investment and European funding. That is not the case, because UKTI and the DCLG have made it clear that they will work closely with LEPs and other local partners on inward investment and on the European regional development fund. The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, also asked what discussions were going on about the position of the North East Economic Partnership and its assets. Discussions are ongoing; I cannot comment on the path that they are taking. However, we have confirmed that that we are not able to pass on assets as gifts or for deferred consideration to that partnership.
Lord Campbell-Savours: The letter to my noble friend refers to a nominated single national contractor. Could the Minister give us a little more information as to what is intended? What sort of body would it be? Would it be a private sector body or an existing company? Is it to be established by some consortium? What actually is it as an entity?
The noble Lord, Lord Clark of Windermere, raised a number of interesting questions based not only on the experience of his work with the Forestry Commission but on his location in Cumbria. On the issue of competition with Scotland for inward investment, UKTI co-ordinates the work on this, and one of its main aims is to avoid wasteful competition between different parts of the UK for inward investment. The noble Lord, quite appropriately, asked specifically about the trees and their liabilities. At present, the Northwest Regional Development Agency is discussing plans for its assets and liabilities with the Government. I cannot give a response on the future of these assets until these discussions are completed.
A number of noble Lords asked about the process of consultation. One of the lessons noble Lords will take from this Bill is that the Government are serious about consultation. The procedures laid down in the Bill require Ministers to come to Parliament with full details of the impacts of any policy change that they seek to bring in through statutory instruments. There will be full consultation. I shall be happy to keep the House informed on the nature of this consultation over the next few months while this process of change is going on.
From a standing start in September 2010, partnerships now cover 80 per cent of active businesses in the UK and 87 per cent of the population. We are looking forward to reaching 100 per cent. We believe that we have unleashed a wave of enthusiasm for economic development at local level. In many places there is no appetite to go back to the old arrangements. It was clear from our earlier debate that many noble Lords retain their attachment to RDAs as they were. However, we do not believe that a return to the circumstances of a few years ago is either appropriate or possible. We are now in a new situation and we need to ensure that economic activity is taken forward across the right geography by fully committed partnerships. RDAs do not fit in with that new approach and I therefore ask the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Beecham: Will the Government consult on the basis of all or nothing or will they approach each case in each region on its merits and listen with an open mind to the arguments of business as well as local government and its social partners? Will they take a decision on a case by case basis or, as I say, will it be all or nothing.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: This is a listening Government and they are prepared to listen. They will listen to advice from everyone who feels that they have something to offer on this subject, take note of that advice and make decisions where appropriate.
Lord Kennedy of Southwark: My Lords, I am very disappointed by the Minister's response. I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate-my noble friends Lady Royall, Lord Campbell-Savours, Lord Beecham, Lady Quin, Lord Grantchester, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Lord Hoyle, Lord Clark of Windermere and Lord Prescott, the noble Lords, Lord Cavendish of Furness and Lord Empey, and, of course, the Minister.
My noble friend Lord Prescott, as did many other noble Lords, stated clearly why the Labour Government established the RDAs in 1999, what they began to tackle, the progress they made and why they should be kept. The Government have not made the case for the RDAs to be abolished. All have outlined why they worked sub-regionally.
I am happy to withdraw my amendment in favour of the amendment of my noble friend Lady Royall. In doing so, I shall leave it to my noble friend to decide whether she wishes to test the opinion of the House.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his reply and for his offer to keep us informed of the consultations as they go on. The Minister was right to say that it is a political decision that has been taken by this Government. We believe that this is fundamentally the wrong decision. We believe that it is wrong for the economic growth of our regions and it is wrong for the economic well-being of our country. Therefore I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Lord Kennedy of Southwark: My Lords, I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, has come in behind an amendment that I put down. I hope that this is one of many occasions when the noble Lord will come in behind amendments that I put down in this House.
I am very interested to hear from the Minister-the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones-why the Government have decided to join the Opposition on this amendment. Both at Second Reading and in Committee, I raised concerns that there are real risks of allowing criminality to return to an industry that has cleaned up its act dramatically in recent years. I have always felt it to be reassuring when you go into a venue and meet security personnel with credentials on display that show that the individual has reached a certain standard, had a Criminal Records Bureau check and is deemed to be a fit and proper person to undertake this kind of work.
Maybe the Minister will tell us that the Government are prepared to delete this body from the Bill, but will work behind the scenes and bring something back in the future. If that happens, I am sure that this House will give it the line-by-line scrutiny it deserves. It is important to ensure that we take the industry with us; the industry does not want to see the criminals return. Security checks on individuals who want to join the industry remain. A common approach to a problem that has largely been solved, but may need to be
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The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): My Lords, the amendment removes the Security Industry Authority from the list of public bodies that the Minister can abolish by secondary legislation. Some noble Lords may wonder why the Government are supporting an amendment which is the same as one which the Opposition put forward a few weeks ago and which we then resisted. If I go into the Government's reasoning behind our approach to the Bill, it will then become clear why we are now supporting this amendment.
First, our willingness to accept the amendment does not represent a change of policy; it remains the Government's intention to abolish the SIA in its present form. We have, however, decided that this will be best achieved through a different piece of primary legislation. As noble Lords know, it was announced on 14 October as part of the public bodies review that the SIA would no longer be a non-departmental public body and that we would take forward a phased transition to a new regulatory regime. I went through the reasons for that during the Committee debate on 28 February, and I do not intend to detain the House at this hour by going over that ground again. I am sure that noble Lords will welcome that.
Home Office Ministers asked the SIA last October to consult key stakeholders, including the industry, and to produce a detailed plan of how the phased transition to the new regulatory regime could be achieved. As the House will know, the chair of the SIA, the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, and its chief executive, Bill Butler, presented their plan to the department on 16 February and there has been a subsequent meeting with the Home Secretary on 14 March, so there has been close dialogue between the SIA and the department.
The key points that emerge from the proposals are that: regulation will shift from licensing individuals to registering businesses, which will have to meet a comprehensive set of conditions set by the new regulator; the regulation of individuals will become the responsibility of registered businesses, which is an important point; the new regulator will have the power to impose sanctions, including removing the right to trade in the private security industry on the part of businesses that fail to comply with the conditions that it sets for registration; and the Government's aim is for the new regulatory regime to be in place by the end of 2013, using a phased approach to ensure a smooth transition.
We have decided to support the amendment to remove the SIA from the Bill because Clause 1 includes only powers to abolish bodies and transfer functions via secondary legislation. It does not include powers to set up new regulatory bodies, and it has become clear that primary legislation will be required to establish a successor self-regulatory body that will have the power to impose sanctions on businesses that do not comply with set standards. If I understood the noble
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We have therefore taken the opportunity to review, and decided that references to the SIA should be removed from the Bill. The same primary legislative vehicle that will establish the successor regulatory body will also be used to abolish the SIA, so we will put it all in another Bill. I am sure that noble Lords will understand that I cannot give further detail on that legislation today, except to say that we will bring it forward when parliamentary time allows.
A final point: the Home Secretary has also written to Ministers in the Scottish Government and in the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland to advise them of this amendment. Regulation of the private security industry in their nations is a policy decision for the devolved Administrations to make. We are working with them to ensure that transitional and subsequent arrangements meet the needs of all UK Administrations.
Accepting the amendment does not constitute a change in policy; it is a change to the vehicle that the Government will use to deliver that policy. There is wide agreement between the Government and what I understand to be the points made on the opposition Benches regarding the substance. It is still the Government's intention to abolish the existing body and replace it with another body for the private security industry that is self-regulatory. I therefore support the amendment.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I apologise that I did not stand up before. As the name of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, is on the amendment, I wanted to see what the noble Baroness was going to say in response before I could intervene. I have a couple of questions further to her speech.
The Minister suggested that we are thinking very much along the same lines; I think that that was what she said towards the end of her speech. Let me be clear that we do not agree with the Government about the future of the SIA because we believe that it is essentially doing a good job as it is. As we understand it, the industry itself is content with the present situation and willing to pay for the present system.
I return to two issues that were raised in the debate that we had in Committee. One was the attitude of the police. As all noble Lords will know, when we brought forward the primary legislation, one of the main bodies in favour of primary legislation being introduced were the police themselves, who felt that the security industry when unregulated was rather a dangerous industry, not just for the people working in the industry themselves but also for the wider society. It was as a means of protecting wider society that the legislation was introduced.
I will be grateful if the noble Baroness can tell us whether or not a consultation with the police and other concerned bodies will take place before a Bill is introduced. I will also be grateful if she can tell the House when a Bill is likely to be introduced. One of the issues that concerns these Benches is the fact that, in future, it is hoped by the Government that the
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The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, raised a question about prisoners in the last debate on the subject. At the moment where prisoners are moved from prison to prison, the wherewithal to do it is provided by the security industry. That is an extremely important part of the industry that needs to be properly regulated. Will the Government consult with the Ministry of Justice and everybody else who has anything to do with the movement of prisoners and the wider care of prisoners? As I understand it, people who work within the security industry are sometimes employed within private prisons. It does not seem a sensible move or good idea to reintroduce some form of self-regulation rather than to have proper regulation for an industry that is extremely important for the well-being of our society.
Baroness Neville-Jones: My Lords, I am slightly puzzled that the noble Baroness says that the opposition Benches do not agree with the approach that I have just outlined. Before the Government came to office, the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, herself was moving towards a more self-regulatory regime. She has seen the Home Secretary and other Ministers and is working with the Government on a transitional regime to a new body. I find it difficult to see why there should be such a problem for the opposition Benches.
On the question of the attitude of the police, we are consulting ACPO, which supports the approach. The police attach importance to effective regulation. That is precisely why I made my third point, in relation to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, in the previous debate. This body will have power to impose sanctions on businesses that do not comply with set standards. There will be set standards in a number of areas. Certainly, the whole question of custody will be one of those areas of set standards. I have to say that the differences are more synthetic than real. I hope that in due course, when we introduce and come to debate the legislation-I am not, unfortunately, able to give the noble Baroness a date for that because it depends on the crush of parliamentary business-there will be cross-party agreement.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, my name is also on this amendment. Indeed, it was my amendment in Committee to which the noble Baroness responded. The Government, understandably, are a little diffident towards the Opposition tonight. The fact is that there has been, if not quite a U-turn, definitely a bit of a C-turn on this-quite rightly, too. Under the Bill as printed, the Government were going to abolish this body. They were not going to substitute statutorily backed self-regulation. What existed in the SIA was going disappear.
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Just before the previous vote, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, met a certain degree of scepticism from these Benches when he said that the Government were a listening Government. At least on this amendment the Government have listened to some degree.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the Minister was not replying to the debate. The amendment was moved by my noble friend Lord Kennedy. I put my name to it, as did the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, so I think I am in order.
Lord Kennedy of Southwark: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response to my amendment. As I have said on several occasions, whatever happens we need to ensure that criminality does not return to the industry and that the public are able to remain confident that the people employed in the industry are fit and proper. The overwhelming majority of the industry acts responsibly and supports retention of the SIA. If the Government bring forward a Bill for consideration, it will be important to give it detailed line-by-line scrutiny. In particular, I concur with the comments of my noble friends Lady Royall and Lord Whitty.
Lord Kennedy of Southwark: My Lords, Amendment 20 would remove the Valuation Tribunal Service from the Schedule. I am not quite clear about what the Government propose here. I could be persuaded to withdraw my amendment and not divide the House, but I need quite a detailed response from the Minister on what he is proposing. I look forward to his response and hope I will not have to divide the House. I beg to move.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for moving the amendment and for allowing us to debate for a few minutes the Valuation Tribunal Service. It is one of a number of bodies which are either listed or not listed in the Bill and whose work is not particularly well known by the general public. However, these are bodies that have played an important role in terms of the good order of society. As we have debated the 150 or so bodies under consideration, there has been a tendency and
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I say that because, in relation more generally to debates in your Lordships' House, in the other place and among the public on public services, there has been an unfortunate tendency to speak in a pejorative way about back-office functions. That is a matter for regret. It is not sensible to suggest, for instance, that only a policeman is doing a good thing while someone who works for the police force in a back office is not. That is not a sensible way forward. Back-office staff are being made redundant from police services, while bureaucratic tasks have to be undertaken by front-line police officers. That demonstrates some of the perverse incentives of taking a black-and-white approach.
I mention that because, as we close our first day on Report, we have an opportunity to reflect on the fact that many of these organisations will go out of business. The functions of some will be transferred to another body while the functions of others will come to a close. It is important to send a message out to the people who have worked in these bodies that we do not underestimate the contribution that they have made. The regular review that is taking place should be sensible, but in no way should it be taken as a criticism of the work that is done by thousands of people up and down the country.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, I happily associate myself with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, because we all share his sentiment. The more you become involved in this process, the more you realise that you are dealing with bodies that in many cases are performing important tasks and are staffed by people with a due sense of purpose and public service.
What is interesting about the amendment-I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, for giving us a chance to talk about it-is that in many ways it brings continuity between the previous Government's proposals in the area of tribunals and our own. As will be clear from my explanation of why the Valuation Tribunal Service is in Schedule 1, noble Lords will recognise that the foundations for this decision were laid by the legislation of the previous Government.
The Valuation Tribunal Service is a non-departmental public body that provides administrative support and all the services required by the Valuation Tribunal for England, which hears appeals on council tax and business rates-in other words, national non-domestic rates.
Taken together, the Valuation Tribunal for England and the Valuation Tribunal Service-I will use the acronyms from now on-provide an independent appeals service for business rate or council tax payers who wish to challenge either the basis on which the banding or valuation of their property has been calculated, or
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The Government's proposal is that the jurisdiction of the VTE and the functions of the VTS should transfer respectively to the First-tier Tribunal and Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service. It is important that noble Lords should note that the planned transfers are fully supported by both the chairman of the VTS, Anne Galbraith, and the president of the VTE, Professor Graham Zellick. The jurisdiction of the Valuation Tribunal for England will be transferred to the soon-to-be-created Land, Property and Housing Chamber-the Land Chamber-of the First-tier Tribunal, which was formally established under the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. Powers in the 2007 Act would allow the formal transfer of the VTE's jurisdiction to the First-tier Tribunal, and the subsequent abolition of the VTE as a separately constituted tribunal. Since the 2007 Act powers are already available to achieve this, the Government do not need-and nor do they intend to seek-its abolition through the powers in the Bill. I trust that noble Lords will be comforted to learn that the jurisdictional independence currently enjoyed by the VTE will continue, following the transfer of that jurisdiction to the First-tier Tribunal.
Noble Lords will also wish to be made aware that the transfer will bring added opportunities. Members who would formerly have been in separate tribunals will be able, following the transfer, to sit on tribunals in all jurisdictions exercised within the First-tier Tribunal Land Chamber. Such arrangements are already in place elsewhere and have brought significant operational and jurisdictional advantages.
I turn to the Valuation Tribunal Service that is the subject of the amendment. If the jurisdiction of the
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The functions of the VTS, which are essentially to provide all administrative support for the operation of the VTE, including staff, accommodation and IT, would be absorbed into the tribunal service to sit alongside the administrative support for all jurisdictions within the First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal. Once these functions had been transferred, there would be no further need for the VTS to remain in existence as a separate body and it could then be formally abolished. However, as the VTS was established under statute-in the Local Government Act, to be precise-new powers would be required to achieve both the transfer of the VTS's functions and its subsequent abolition. The power set out in Clause 1 would allow an order to be laid to achieve this transfer, and that is why the VTS is included in Schedule 1.
Planning for the transfer of both jurisdiction and administrative functions is in its very early stages but, following the transfer, we confidently expect the realisation of economies of scale, operating efficiencies and added service improvements, which the unified tribunals system was established to provide. The noble Lord will, I hope, recognise and be reassured that the Government's proposals will maintain and sustain the independence of the appeals process for council tax and business rates, and that they are a continuation of the policy pursued by the previous Government. Therefore, I hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Kennedy of Southwark: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response and I also thank my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath for his comments. I should have mentioned that earlier in my local government career, in the 1980s, I was the deputy chair of the London South East Valuation Tribunal. I am persuaded by the Minister's reply and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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