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Departments: Public Bodies

Volume 463: debated on Wednesday 12 September 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what her Department's legal, constitutional and management responsibilities are for (a) each of its non-departmental public bodies, (b) each of its executive agencies and (c) the Government Offices for the English Regions. (155337)

The Department sponsors 13 executive NDPBs/public corporations. Each has a legal status distinct from the Department. Such bodies are led by a chair and board members normally appointed by Ministers in accordance with the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments' guidance, and are managed by a chief executive. Ultimately, Ministers and the Department are accountable for these bodies. Hence the Department has put in place proportionate sponsorship arrangements for each in accordance with guidance provided by the Cabinet Office, HM Treasury and others.

The Department sponsors three executive agencies: the Fire Service College, the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) and the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. Each was established by way of administrative action, hence they are not legally separate entities from the Department. The college and the centre were both granted trading fund status by way of Trading Fund Orders; PINS is vote-funded. Each agency has a chief executive and management board, including non-executive directors, reporting directly to Ministers.

The Government offices were also established by administrative action by bringing together in 1994 the existing regional offices of the then Departments of the Environment, Transport, Trade and Industry and Employment. Subsequently, the Home Office, DEFRA and DCMS also joined the network as sponsor Departments.

The Government offices are hence not legally separate entities from those sponsor Departments, who each contribute staff and provide funding to them. Following the Cabinet Office's Performance and Innovation Unit's Report, ‘Reaching Out’, it was decided that the Deputy Prime Minister should take overall responsibility for the day-to-day management of the Government office network on behalf of the Secretaries of State of all the sponsor Departments. This responsibility has now passed to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what powers her Department has with regard to each of its non-departmental public bodies, executive agencies and the Government offices for the English regions to (a) grant and withdraw delegated personnel responsibilities, (b) oversee and control the exercise of delegated personnel responsibilities (including those for pay) and (c) ensure compliance with all equality legislation. (155338)

For the Department's executive NDPBs and executive agencies, delegated personnel responsibilities were granted either in founding legislation or in framework documents approved by Ministers setting out roles and responsibilities. While Ministers ultimately have the right to withdraw delegated personnel responsibilities, as these entities were established to operate at arm's-length of Ministers and the core Department there would be little justification for doing so. Ministers oversee and control the exercise of delegated personnel responsibilities for such bodies by having right of approval over staff terms and conditions, pay and grading proposals and annual pay remits, delegated by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Equalities legislation applies to such bodies in the same way that it does to any other public body, and they are obliged to comply as appropriate.

The Secretary of State has been formally delegated responsibility to determine the terms and conditions of staff in the Government offices for the regions outside the senior civil service, including their remuneration, by the Minister for the Civil Service in accordance with the Civil Service (Management Functions) Act 1992. She exercises this responsibility in the same manner as she does for other staff in her Department.