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National Asset Register

Volume 301: debated on Wednesday 24 September 1997

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To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he expects to be able to publish the National Asset Register. [17817]

I am publishing The National Asset Register today. Copies are available in the Vote Office.The National Asset Register fulfils the Government's Manifesto commitment to publish a thorough inventory of the assets they own. Publication demonstrates the Government's commitment to greater openness and accountability by letting the nation see what assets the nation owns.This is the first time that any Government have had such a comprehensive picture of all the assets they hold. The National Asset Register will be an invaluable starting point in helping departments to identify whether they are making the best use of their assets and achieving value for money. It demonstrates the Government's commitment to maintaining prudent and sound financial management.To help departments do this the Treasury has also introduced two new measures to encourage departments to get the best from their assets:First, at present any receipts from the sale of surplus assets must be surrendered to the Consolidated Fund unless the Treasury agrees that the department concerned can retain them to increase its gross spending power. (The receipts then count as negative public expenditure so do not increase net spending or the Control Total.)From 1 April 1998 until 1 April 2001 when the new resource budgeting arrangements are in place, the Treasury will allow departments to retain 100 per cent. of the receipts from assets of which they dispose, subject to certain limits. These limits are that:

  • the value of an individual sale does not exceed £100 million;
  • the value of the total sales for any financial year does not exceed 3 per cent. of a department's cash-limited vote; and
  • the receipts can only be used to finance capital spending. They cannot be used to finance current spending.

These limits are necessary to ensure that these sales do not distort the Government's overall spending allocations.

Second, Departments are also being encouraged to make better use of assets they retain. This more effective management may include increasing commercial activity which has generally been constrained by lack of incentives for departments and by current Treasury guidance.

Under the new arrangements Departments will be helped to maximise the value they retain from their assets by

  • being able to retain receipts from commercial activity;
  • being encouraged to develop relationships with the private sector to bring in any necessary skills and expertise;
  • the Treasury's Private Finance Task Force will provide support to Departments; and
  • this new approach in being developed in partnership with departments which are being consulted on the arrangements.