HC Deb 20 January 1997 vol 288 cc507-8W
Mr. Jim Cunningham

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will list the Benefits Agency offices which have been assessed as (i) core, (ii) flexible and (iii) surplus in his Department's proposal to sell the property estate. [11002]

Mr. Roger Evans

The information has been placed in the Library.

The proposed transfer of responsibility for the DSS estate aims to improve value for money, increase ability to match accommodation to changing operational needs, and bring in private sector expertise in managing estates, leaving the Benefits Agency to concentrate on benefit delivery.

The Benefits Agency has reviewed its future estates needs and, for the purpose of the procurement, categorised its accommodation in three ways: Core means an expected continued need for accommodation over the full 20-year duration of the proposed contract; Flexible means that the agency will be able, but not committed to, vacate such property over a period of years should that reflect operational needs. It does not mean a formal decision to leave the accommodation at any particular time; Surplus means it is not required from the start of the contract. The agency is currently paying for a considerable amount of unoccupied space.

Any proposed office closures continue to be subject to the normal consultation process, including ministerial approval.

Mr. Cunningham

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security which of the bidders for the Benefits Agency's property estate are led by British companies. [11003]

Mr. Evans

The three consortiums bidding to provide the DSS with serviced accommodation are:

  • Mapley Holdings Ltd.
  • Partnership Property Management Ltd. (PPM)
  • OPUS.

The first two are led by American banks, Goldman Sachs and Nations bank, and the third by the Japanese bank, Nomura. However, each consortium bidding to provide the Department with serviced accommodation, includes property and facilities management companies, many of which are British and all the consortiums have appointed British chairman and are likely to appoint British chief executives.

Mr. Cunningham

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what consultations he has had with trade unions regarding the sale of the Benefits Agency's property estate. [11004]

Mr. Evans

The departmental trade unions have been consulted on the outcome of the feasibility study regarding the potential for such a transaction, the decision to implement the transfer of the estate to the private sector and the progress of the project since that decision.

Mr. Cunningham

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what consultation period he has provided before determining the nature of the sale of the property estate of the Benefits Agency; what estimate he has made of the revenue accruing from the sale; and what redundancies he estimates will ensue. [11005]

Mr. Evans

In September 1995, the Department commissioned a feasibility study to identify and consider options for the future ownership and management of the departmental estate and announced the decision to implement the transfer on 28 June 1996. The details of the transfer, which is part of the Department's estate transaction, are part of the on-going negotiations with three consortiums and will continue following the identification of the single preferred supplier.

The successful consortiums will be required to pay £250 million on completion of the contract to realise the immediate underlying value of the estate and the remaining value will be achieved through reduced running costs.

If jobs transfer to the private sector, it is envisaged that the Transfer of Undertaking (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981 will apply. It will be necessary to reorganise the contract management arrangements and we will always seek to redeploy staff. Compulsory redundancies will be avoided wherever possible.