HC Deb 26 July 1989 vol 157 cc1019-20
13. Mr. Barron

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what consultations he has had with local authority organisations over changes in the Local Government Planning and Land Act 1980; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. David Hunt

My right hon. Friend and I have not had such consultations although our predecessors did.

Mr. Barron

Will the Minister take notice of the comment of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities that the consultation on the new definition of emergency work is unworkable? It believes that the extension of competitive tendering to maintenance contracts where the value does not exceed 10 per cent. of the original contract would create chaos, not only in the direct labour organisations in the public sector but in the private sector. The tenders would be for small amounts and the administrative costs would be higher than the costs of doing the job.

Mr. Hunt

On the first point, we are trying to redefine the exemption of emergency work and I shall take note of the comments to which the hon. Gentleman referred. We want to make sure that only genuinely unpredictable work is exempt and we are considering comments on our proposed redefinition. On the second point, it is important to extend competition to all building and maintenance work, to increase value for money for ratepayers and, in future, community charge payers.

Mr. Latham

Before my hon. Friend proceeds with legislation to implement the proposals in the town and country planning White Paper of a few months ago, will he consider it again carefully? It has the unique disadvantage of annoying county councils, district councils, house builders and the Council for the Protection of Rural England.

Mr. Hunt

I shall certainly consider what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Blunkett

On 4 April, the Under-Secretary of State told us in the Local Government and Housing Bill Standing Committee that treasurers and directors of finance knew exactly the implications of the Bill's proposals for capital expenditure. Does he accept that that is simply not the case and that unless local authorities are informed quickly of the implications of that legislation, capital programmes in education, buildings, social services, roads and housing will be considerably disrupted? The result will be a threat to services and jobs, brought about by the inability of the Department of the Environment to come up with the answers.

Mr. Hunt

The hon. Gentleman will recall that before the Bill setting out the proposals for this new system of capital finance was drafted, a consultation document was produced outlining the main objectives of the new system. We had the widest possible consultation on it and all the views expressed were taken into consideration when drafting the Bill. Since then, there have been six meetings of the capital programmes working party, at which proposals were discussed. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the working party is attended by representatives of the local authority associations and Government Departments.