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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): We have now completed negotiations for the transfer of the Natural Resources Institute to the University of Greenwich and for associated arrangements with the other members of the Consortium (the University of Edinburgh, Imperial College and Wye College). Contracts were signed on 30th April and became effective on 1st May.
This is a very satisfactory outcome. It achieves the objectives I set--namely, maintenance of a multi-disciplinary centre of Natural Resources expertise, on which ODA and others can draw in order to help meet our aims for the overseas aid programme; value for money for the taxpayer; and a positive future for the staff. It also marks the first privatisation of a public sector research establishment by transfer to the university sector.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Following ODA's Fundamental Expenditure Review, various arrangements have been put in hand to take stock of our relationship with Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), to review those agencies eligible for block grant status within the Joint Funding Scheme (JFS) and to look at external advisory arrangements in the context of JFS funding.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Lord Inglewood): My right honourable friend the Prime Minister announced on 1st April in another place (House of Commons Hansard, OR, WA, col 1) that these responsibilities would be transferred to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage from my right honourable and learned friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department as soon as the necessary financial and other arrangements could be made. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has agreed with my right honourable and learned friend that she will take over ministerial responsibility from 1st May 1996. At the same date the staff who currently perform these functions in the Home Office will transfer to the Department of National Heritage.
The Department of National Heritage will be seeking parliamentary authority in the summer supplementary estimates to enable it to make payments of grants and for the transfer of resources currently in the Home Office. Until such time as approval is given, the Home Office will remain accountable for the actual physical payment of these grants.
The Department of the Environment has co-ordinated the preparation of the UK's national report for the conference and is working closely with a wide range of organisations (local government, non-governmental and professional) through the UK National Council for Habitat II. The Secretary of State for the Environment, who is a member of the UN Secretary-General's International Advisory Group on Habitat, will lead the British delegation and will attend the high level segment of the conference.
The Government's policy priorities are to promote internationally UK ideas, policies and best practice and use the conference to raise international and national awareness of the means to achieve sustainable settlement development.
Lord Lucas: The Environment Agency's report, Review of Water Company Plans to Safeguard Summer Water Supplies, underlines the exceptional lack of rainfall and consequent impact on water resources in many parts of the country during the past 12 months. It confirms the extent of the measures which the water companies are taking to maintain supplies even if this summer is as dry as last. Over £400 million of capital expenditure has been announced in England and
The Environment Agency's assessment is that the companies are taking appropriate measures; and that, despite the present level of many reservoirs and aquifers, these measures should be sufficient to enable essential supplies to be maintained in all areas even through a hot, dry summer. But there is no room for complacency and, should dry weather continue into the autumn, further measures could be required.
On 1st September last year, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment announced that he was putting in hand with the agency, the Director General of Water Services and representatives of the water companies a review of water resources and water supply in the longer term. This work is continuing and we expect to publish a report later in the summer.
Provided, that the costs of supply are met, the environment is properly protected, and waste is avoided, the aim should be to provide consumers with the water they want. Within the framework of sustainable development, it will however be necessary to make sometimes difficult choices about the extent to which supply should be guaranteed in extreme droughts for inessential as well as for essential purposes. These are matters on which there is a need for dialogue between companies and their customers, in the light of the costs and benefits of different levels of security of supply.
The work on the review so far suggests that the basic framework for making water resource and supply decisions is sound, and the water companies, the Office of Water Services (OFWAT), and the Environment Agency, with the involvement of the Government where necessary, should be able to reach satisfactory decisions on the management of existing resources and the provision of new resources where needed. In planning and managing water resources and supply, particular attention needs to be given to the following points:
The Director General proposes to put to my right honourable friend shortly proposals for changes in arrangements for compensation of consumers for failures of supply.
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