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Urban Development Services Unit

Volume 959: debated on Monday 4 December 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many of the former staff of the British Urban Development Services Unit have been absorbed into his Department, following its dissolution; and whether he will give an assurance that none of them is in any way involved in discharging the outstanding commitments of the British Urban Development Services Unit, or in liaising with the New Towns Overseas Engagement Committee, in view of their previous lack of success financially.

Thirteen members of the staff of the British urban development services unit have returned to various posts within the Department of the Environment. The decision to wind up the unit was in no way a reflection on the competence of the staff.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will list the outstanding commitments of the British urban development services unit, for which his Department has now accepted responsibility; by what date it is envisaged they will be completed; and whether it is intended to charge a commercial fee for each.

The outstanding commitments of the British urban development services unit taken over by my Department are:

  • Bermuda, dockyard study
  • Kuwait, institutional planning
  • Bahrain, revised master plan
  • Malaysia, paid technical co-operation.
The Bermuda project will be completed by the end of December 1978: the others are in the pre-contract stage. Each project will be undertaken on a profitable basis.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has allocated, or authorised, any financial resources from his Department for the new towns overseas engagement committee, following the dissolution of the British urban development services unit; if so, how much; and, if not, how he anticipates financing any projects the committee may understake, in advance of any fee income being received from the client.

None. Any projects which the new towns overseas engagement committee may undertake will be in response to a request from an overseas Government or public body and will be financed by progress payments in advance.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment under what departmental Vote he will discharge the financial liabilities of the British urban development services unit; by what means he will seek parliamentary sanction for this expenditure; and what other Vote of his Department will be reduced, in order to keep within cash limits.

The financial liabilities of the British urban development services unit have been discharged under the vote specifically allocated to that unit —Vote VIII I 11. The necessary revision to existing Vote expenditure will he raised in the winter supplementary application to the House. Authorised cash limits will not be exceeded and no adjustment is required under other Vote headings for 1978–79.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will now give details of (a) the total expenditure, and (b) the total fee income of the British urban development services unit from the time of its inception to its dissolution; whether he will list all the projects which it carried out in that time; and to what factors he attributes the failure of this organisation in view of the announced intention of the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) on 16th December 1975 that it should be profitable.

Total expenditure from November 1975 to August 1978 was £627,000, and total income over the same period was £30,300. The projects carried out during the unit's existence were a study into the location of industrial estates in Lebanon, £17,000; consultant services and provision of a study tour in the United Kingdom for the Saudi Arabian Royal Commission for Yanbu and Jubail, £8,300; and a study for the Nigerian Federal Capital Development Authority, £5,000.