§ Mr. Thomason
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what was the outcome of the prior options review of the Planning Inspectorate. 
§ Mr. Robert B. Jones
As part of the usual arrangements for next steps agencies, a prior options study of the Planning Inspectorate has been carried out. The review concluded that the core functions of the inspectorate, which is to hear appeals or objections against 263W decisions of local planning authorities, should not be abolished, privatised or contracted out in whole to the private sector. The review recommended that the inspectorate should remain as an executive agency in the Department of the Environment and the Welsh Office. The review also recommended that certain non-core functions should be considered for market testing or contracting out.
The Government have accepted these recommendations which were informed by the views of a large number of organisations who responded to the invitation to submit evidence. Action is already in hand to follow up a number of other detailed recommendations to improve the service offered by the inspectorate and to subject more of its activities to competition.
I have today placed a copy of the report in the Library of the House, along with a copy of the evaluation report into the Planning Inspectorate. The latter explains what the inspectorate was set up to do and how it has met its ministerial key performance targets.