It has taken a while but, hot on the heels of the Open Public Services White Paper published on Monday, the Second Reading debate on the Public Bodies Bill eventually took place last night in the Commons and the Bill has been duly committed to a Public Bill Committee which must complete its deliberations by 13 October.
The debate (which did not see the Open Public Services White Paper discussed) was dominated by discussions on how to bring forward the prospective office of Chief Coroner (provided for by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009but not yet established), reduction in funding for S4C and the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Boards (which Andrew George, who leads for the Lib Dems on Defra matters, indicates he opposes).
As was to be expected, the Government in the shape of Francis Maude opening the debate and Nick Hurd closing it, was robust in defence of the Bill. No new concessions were announced but the House was told that the Government will bring forward amendments to abolish RDAs through the Bill (ie not by order under it), to modify the Broadcasting Act 1990 to amend the funding of S4C, to re-introduce the office of chief coroner and the Youth Justice Board into the Bill's schedules, to require orders concerning funding arrangements to have the consent of the Treasury and to modify the list of taxes subject to variation in their provisions as part of any transfer scheme.
Those who like to collect such statistics will appreciate Francis Maude's indication that, compared to an original scorecard of 481 bodies to be substantially reformed, 192 to be abolished entirely and 118 to be merged, the current position is that 495 bodies are to be substantially reformed, 200 abolished and 120 merged into 59 successor bodies, with 45 bodies already abolished by the end of April 2011.