rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 12th April be approved [17th Report from the Joint Committee].
My Lords, I beg to move the first of the two Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper.
The purpose of this order is to wind up the final business of the Residual Rural Development Commission to transfer some property to the Secretary of State and to apply the Superannuation Act 1972 to certain employees or former employees of the Development Commission and the rural community councils.
These steps flow from the creation of the Countryside Agency and the establishment of regional development agencies on 1st April 1999. On that date the Rural Development Commission functions were transferred to various bodies and since then the Rural Development Commission has carried on in a compact form to complete a range of residual administrative and personnel-related tasks.
It has taken a little longer than was anticipated to finish the work involved. Over the past year or so the remaining commission staff have been working hard to ensure that the interests of former staff and client groups have been respected and to reduce the RDA's liabilities to a minimum so that its successors have few additional responsibilities or liabilities. To ensure that nothing whatsoever is overlooked, this order also provides that any remaining liabilities are transferred to the Countryside Agency, with just a single property lease to be transferred to the Secretary of State. That is a former commission office in Taunton. The office space in Salisbury occupied by the Residual Commission is rented from the Countryside Agency and the rental agreement will cease when the commission is dissolved.
The order also applies the provisions of the Superannuation Act 1972 to certain members of the Development Commission (Staff) Superannuation Scheme1984. As was the case for serving staff who transferred in April 1999, all pensioners, deferred pensioners and residual commission staff currently in the development commission scheme will be offered broadly comparable pension provision and preserved pension rights through membership of the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme, a scheme with identical provisions to that operated by the RDC.
The small residue of commission staff, headed by a chief executive and accounting officer, elected to stay on for this process in the knowledge that, during or at the end of the process, they would either retire or be made redundant. The staff numbers have further diminished over the past months to reflect the progress in completing particular tasks.
Finally, I should like to pay tribute to the Rural Development Commission for its work spanning most of the last century. I put on record our tribute to the staff for that period. In its last operating year it played an important part in helping the Government to develop guidance on rural policy issues to RDAs. I commend the order to the House.