HC Deb 23 October 2003 vol 411 cc19-20WS
The Minister for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality (Alun Michael)

This Department is publishing a Report of a Financial Management and Policy Review (FMPR) of the Commons Commissioners.

The Commissioners act as an independent tribunal, now sponsored jointly by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the National Assembly for Wales. It was established under the provisions of the Commons Registration Act 1965 to deal with disputed registrations of common land.

The FMPR Report is available on the DEFRA website at http://www.defra.gov.uk/wildlife-countryside/issues/common/index.htm, and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. In summary, the consultant has concluded that: the functions undertaken by the Commissioners still need to be carried out; the Commissioners provide a cost effective service; the functions or the Commissioners should not be transferred to another body at this stage. Once the future role of the Commissioners is clearer, a transfer of responsibilities might be a possibility.

On the third point, it should be noted that DEFRA is considering this complex area of policy and law in the light of the conclusions of the Common Land Policy Statement published in July 2002.

The Review also recommended a number of primarily administrative improvements relating to internal audit, the keeping of better management information and the introduction of performance monitoring. The Chief Commissioner and his Clerk will be considering how to take these issues forward, in close conjunction with DEFRA and Welsh Assembly Government officials.

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