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Research Councils

Volume 404: debated on Tuesday 15 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) how much was provided by her Department to (a) NERC, (b) BBSRC and (c) MRC to ameliorate the impact of the retrospective application of phase 1 of Resource Accounting and Budgeting; when such funding was provided; and if she will make a statement; [108837](2) when her Department was first informed of the impact that the retrospective application of phase 1 of Resource Accounting and Budgeting to research councils would have on

(a) the Natural Environment Research Council, (b) the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and (c) the Medical Research Council; and if she will make a statement; [108835]

(3) what discussions her Department had with each research council on the retrospective application of phase 1 of Resource Accounting and Budgeting; when such discussions were first held; and if she will make a statement.[108836]

[holding answer 14 April 2003]: The 2000 Spending Review introduced Phase 1 of Resource Budgeting, which became the sole method of reporting and control for departments' budgets with effect from 1 April 2001. Prior to that, accounts and budgets were controlled on a cash basis. In preparation for the 2000 Spending Review the Treasury asked departments to restate baselines on the basis of the phase 1 resource budgeting rules. In addition the Treasury required 2000–01 expenditure outturn to be reported on both a cash and a resource basis. Accordingly, the three Councils reported provisional 2000–01 outturns in May 2001 and later reported audited figures, which the Department in turn reported in May 2002 to the Treasury as required.As part of this process, the MRC raised questions with the Department in January 2002 about the classification of its End of Year Flexibility at the transition to Phase 1 of Resource Budgeting. These were satisfactorily resolved. The BBSRC also raised questions and these were satisfactorily resolved in July 2002. In the last quarter of 2001–02 NERC informed the Department that the Council was experiencing difficulties associated with the assessment of End of Year Flexibility on a resource basis, which were resolved.I have assisted some of the Research Councils in the transition from cash to resource accounting and budgeting by agreeing to minor reprofiling of their budgets. However, no additional resource has been made available to any of these Councils as a result.My Department has had, and continues to have, in its role of sponsor Department for the Research Councils, extensive discussions with them about the implementation of Resource Accounting and Budgeting.

Where implementation has thrown up any particular issues of concern to the Research Councils, my Department has discussed these with them immediately