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Written Answers

Volume 451: debated on Wednesday 8 November 2006

Written Answers toQuestions

Tuesday 7 November 2006

Communities and Local Government

City Regions

23. To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when she expects to publish further guidance on the future management of city regions. (99693)

The Government will bring forward a range of measures for city-regions, including:

draft guidance on city development companies;

a package of reforms for Passenger Transport Authorities and Executives; and

the review of sub-national economic development which will report ahead of the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review.

Proposals are set out in the Local Government White paper, which is available on the Department’s website.

Housing

24. To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what discussions she has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the expenditure to be allocated to affordable housing at the next comprehensive spending review. (99694)

I have had, and will continue to have wide ranging and regular discussions with ministerial colleagues in Treasury about preparations for the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what percentage of homes built in (a) Chorley and (b) Lancashire since 1997 have been affordable social housing. (98725)

Local authorities have the powers to bring forward affordable housing policies as part of their local development frameworks.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many properties owned by registered social landlords have been sold on the open market in (a) Greater London and (b) England in each year since 1997, broken down by local authority area. (91098)

[holding answer 13 September 2006]: Information on the number of properties owned by registered social landlords (RSLs) which have been sold on the open market is collected on the regulatory statistical return of the Housing Corporation. Although information is collected from all RSLs, they are not asked to break down this information by local authority area. In addition, data were not collected prior to 2001-02. Summary information on total sales for the year available is given in the following table.

Dwellings sold by RSLs to the private sector (Number)

Total owned stock (Thousand)

Total stock sold to private sector (Percentage)

2001-02

1,285

1,593.6

0.08

2002-03

1,133

1,762.4

0.06

2003-04

1,877

1,776.6

0.11

2004-05

3,157

1,976.7

0.16

2005-06

3,081

2,040.8

0.15

Notes:

1. Data excludes Abbeyfields and Almhouses.

2. Only RSLs completing the long form RSR provided information in 2005-06.

Source:

Regulatory Statistical Return, Housing Corporation.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate she has made, for the purposes of estimating housing demand, of the number of households formed by workers who have come from the 2004 accession countries. (96628)

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what factors she took into account when estimating that the cost of providing the fourth option for council housing would be £12 billion as stated in her speech of 26 September; and if she will provide a breakdown of the estimated costs. (99319)

As set out in the document “Decent Homes to Sustainable Communities” there are a range of costs for introducing a "fourth option" depending on how many councils took it up as the approach would have to be fair for all councils. The factors taken into account when estimating the £12 billion were: the extra average investment per dwelling required to give local authorities the same level of investment per dwelling as under stock transfer, and the number of local authority dwellings in 2004-05 that would need this extra investment (number of dwellings sourced from the Business Plan Statistical Appendix 2005).

The estimated increase in investment needed to maintain Housing Associations for local authorities retaining ownership and management, and for those planning transfer but yet to achieve this, was £10,000 per dwelling and for authorities pursuing an Arm’s Length Management Organisation (ALMO) the increased cost of investment was £1,500 per dwelling.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many people have taken up Government initiatives on (a) shared ownership and (b) subsidised home ownership; and what the cost of each initiative has been in each year since its introduction. (99544)

The tables show Housing Corporation Affordable Housing Programme-funded low-cost home ownership initiatives between 1992-93 and 2005-06. Table A shows completions from each financial year up to 2005-06 and table B the same information on expenditure.

Table A: Units completed

Shared ownership

DIYSO1

Homebuy

Tenants incentive scheme

Right to acquire

VPG2

Total

1992-93

1,525

1,992

0

4,783

0

0

8,300

1993-94

2,731

5,259

0

6,450

0

0

14,440

1994-95

5,633

5,479

0

6,525

0

0

17,637

1995-96

5,874

4,597

0

6,400

0

0

16,871

1996-97

4,053

2,395

0

6,892

0

38

13,378

1997-98

4,529

1,986

0

4,262

0

195

10,972

1998-99

4,340

1,472

0

2,364

0

122

8,298

1999-2000

2,956

191

885

413

4

86

4,535

2000-01

2,551

0

1,487

0

18

140

4,196

2001-02

2,211

0

1,270

0

38

133

3,652

2002-03

2,315

0

1,332

0

111

142

3,900

2003-04

3,574

0

2,600

0

236

154

6,564

2004-05

5,627

0

5,274

0

0

543

11,444

2005-06

8,423

0

7,651

0

471

78

16,623

Total

56,342

23,371

20,499

38,089

878

1,631

140,810

The figures in the table do not include homes provided without grant through S.106 agreements.

Table B: Expenditure

£ million

Shared ownership

DIYSO1

Homebuy

Tenants incentive scheme

Right to acquire

VPG2

Total

1992-93

81

43

0

52

0

0

177

1993-94

92

121

0

76

0

0

290

1994-95

87

117

0

76

0

0

280

1995-96

64

97

0

73

0

0

234

1996-97

82

51

0

82

0

0

216

1997-98

61

45

0

52

0

2

160

1998-99

49

34

0

30

0

1

115

1999-2000

49

4

20

5

0

1

79

2000-01

60

0

35

0

0

2

97

2001-02

51

0

35

0

0

1

88

2002-03

76

0

42

0

1

1

120

2003-04

228

0

94

0

3

2

325

2004-05

248

0

209

0

6

0

462

2005-06

223

0

241

0

5

1

470

Total

1,452

513

675

448

15

11

3,114

1 Do it yourself shared ownership

2 Voluntary purchase grant

The Housing Corporation has a target to assist 35,000 households into low-cost home ownership between 2006-08 at an estimated cost of £970 million.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many individuals have taken up each Government initiative to supply housing to key workers; and what the cost of each initiative has been in each year since its introduction. (99546)

Since 2001 we have helped more than 22,500 key workers into home ownership through key worker housing initiatives. 10,322 were helped under the Starter Home Initiative which ran from April 2001 to April 2004. By August 2006, 12,200 had exchanged or completed under the Key Worker Living programme since its launch in April 2004.

The following table shows the expenditure by year on the Starter Home Initiative and the Key Worker Living Programme.

£ million

Starter Home Initiative

Key Worker Living1

2001-02

2.2

0

2002-03

66.9

0

2003-04

172.3

121.8

2004-05

7.3

285.1

2005-06

0

343.5

2006-07

0

74.9

1 Includes investment through Affordable Housing Programme. Challenge Fund Figures for 2006-07 shows spend to end October 2006.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much has been spent on the Decent Homes initiative in each London local authority since its inception; and how much she expects to be spent in (a) 2006-07 and (b) 2007-08. (99700)

The total capital investment in local authority housing for the financial years 2002-03 to 2004-05 and the planned expenditure for the financial years 2005-06 to 2007-08 is shown in the table. The data are from the Housing Strategy Statistical Appendix 2005.

£000

Planned

2002-03

2003-04

2004-05

2005-06

2006-07

2007-08

Barking and Dagenham

31,687

46,785

27,872

36,235

25,700

20,600

Barnet

9,632

11,947

19,947

28,668

27,679

29,628

Bexley

0

0

0

0

0

0

Brent

11,576

23,003

52,160

48,936

27,589

10,300

Bromley

0

0

0

0

0

0

Camden

49,422

64,705

40,864

51,852

58,163

43,033

City of London

1,264

656

1,582

1,649

1,633

867

Croydon

16,390

14,423

15,875

24,503

19,585

17,296

Ealing

27,955

20,463

23,878

32,706

16,200

16,100

Enfield

13,489

13,920

10,996

13,089

14,260

15,361

Greenwich

39,948

28,873

43,860

57,867

46,000

34,800

Hackney

21,176

39,317

65,672

77,056

68,338

48,210

Hammersmith and Fulham

26,688

28,162

24,964

52,571

64,343

64,758

Haringey

23,593

26,524

25,272

22,056

22,056

65,056

Harrow

5,441

7,491

6,860

7,475

9,905

10,425

Havering

7,249

14,430

10,885

11,464

10,293

10,293

Hillingdon

13,687

12,668

28,850

31,871

30,850

24,305

Hounslow

23,019

38,901

51,496

68,413

17,700

17,100

Islington

44,915

62,687

56,296

94,608

99,206

99,726

Kensington and Chelsea

9,366

13,449

20,844

21,724

22,171

20,940

Kingston upon Thames

4,624

3,876

4,670

7,262

7,262

7,262

Lambeth

48,010

52,126

60,333

59,588

60,926

56,707

Lewisham

40,741

42,953

38,720

55,248

35,124

31,846

Merton

6,211

5,195

6,210

5,372

5,047

4,897

Newham

33,465

37,882

31,288

36,155

54,271

84,229

Redbridge

4,855

5,963

5,183

6,278

6,882

14,114

Richmond upon Thames

0

0

0

0

0

0

Southwark

76,059

69,291

82,921

107,639

78,440

77,656

Sutton

9,765

6,722

6,558

8,090

5,505

5,505

Tower Hamlets

39,915

42,157

40,597

34,054

26,806

18,560

Waltham Forest

19,343

19,101

21,597

24,454

39,443

37,757

Wandsworth

27,026

35,529

36,608

29,266

31,616

28,675

Westminster

46,277

29,249

53,437

82,200

55,858

25,286

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what the estimated average public subsidy was per unit of shared ownership accommodation in (a) England and (b) London in the most recent year for which figures are available; (99800)

(2) how much in Government subsidy was given to each household purchasing a shared ownership property in (a) England, (b) each English region and (c) each London local authority in (i) 2004-05 and (ii) 2005-06; and what the figures are for 2006-07 to date.

The following table shows the average Government subsidy through the Housing Corporation’s Affordable Housing Programme for each shared ownership property in England, each English region and for each London local authority for 2004-05 and 2005-06 together with the latest estimates for 2006-07 and 2007-08. Housing Associations continue to own the share of the property funded by the Housing Corporation.

Average Government subsidy per shared ownership unit

£

2004-05

2005-06

2006-07

2007-08

England

31,629

25,076

27,372

25,334

Region

London

46,022

41,204

41,926

44,571

South East

25,608

20,052

19,100

16,743

South West

17,224

10,800

18,245

20,256

East Midlands

20,743

15,988

21,297

15,345

Eastern

20,012

12,875

14,477

15,729

West Midlands

26,679

15,295

20,376

19,940

Yorkshire and Humberside

20,888

11,801

24,623

30,953

North East

26,051

24,966

26,074

15,909

North West

24,324

31,750

31,896

36,198

London local authorities

Barking and Dagenham

36,055

29,093

14,873

n/a

Barnet

45,960

46,022

27,243

36,996

Bexley

37,423

51,689

6,650

n/a

Brent

46,784

48,132

45,609

54,456

Bromley

31,950

28,148

45,000

n/a

Camden

59,646

59,242

39,703

49,204

City of London

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

Croydon

49,535

47,460

48,999

45,000

Ealing

39,719

54,302

50,276

46,096

Enfield

49,077

42,372

54,551

n/a

Greenwich

43,277

32,666

35,250

44,852

Hackney

44,401

48,580

46,905

42,275

Hammersmith and Fulham

36,799

53,068

48,219

n/a

Haringey

57,643

48,331

48,893

48,165

Harrow

49,338

48,000

36,667

42,000

Havering

27,941

29,058

52,188

n/a

Hillingdon

40,625

22,547

25,000

n/a

Hounslow

39,707

48,043

40,079

41,195

Islington

55,685

35,007

32,743 -

37,768

Kensington and Chelsea

50,000

n/a

25,455

45,000

Kingston upon Thames

15,351

59,157

43,941

35,000

Lambeth

38,807

44,159

46,756

n/a

Lewisham

64,771

28,168

55,956

n/a

Merton

43,062

25,943

47,693

n/a

Newham

47,342

36,341

43,632

47,000

Redbridge

29,272

35,932

30,900

n/a

Richmond upon Thames

10,962

50,000

38,800

37,500

Southwark

75,070

40,513

63,538

n/a

Sutton

37,504

43,821

26,269

16,667

Tower Hamlets

42,404

30,852

25,564

45,402

Waltham Forest

45,797

34,307

54,294

n/a

Wandsworth

30,859

41,370

42,416

n/a

Westminster

55,901

44,978

49,364

51,250

n/a = Indicates that no allocations have been provided in these boroughs.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much the average rent paid on an (a) two bedroom, (b) three bedroom and (c) four or more bedroom property is in (i) local authority and (ii) housing association property in each London borough; and what the real terms change has been since 2001-02. (99801)

The information requested is as follows:

(i) Average local authority rents, in pounds per week, on two-, three- and four-bedroom dwellings in each London borough in 2005-06 are tabled as follows:

A—average rent 2005-06

Bedroom:

Per week (£)

Local authority

Two

Three

Four

Barking and Dagenham

66.74

69.73

74.06

Barnet

71.14

81.08

91.34

Bexley

LSVT

LSVT

LSVT

Brent

78.15

90.02

101.9

Bromley

LSVT

LSVT

LSVT

Camden

77.19

87.2

96.58

City of London

69.81

75.27

78.71

Croydon

74.55

90.08

104.27

Ealing

73.5

82.45

102.74

Enfield

72.5

81.89

93.1

Greenwich

68.88

79.64

85.77

Hackney

66.18

74.24

83.83

Hammersmith and Fulham

74.75

84.88

96.43

Haringey

69.72

81.27

92.98

Harrow

76.6

89.95

101.17

Havering

58.36

72.09

83.79

Hillingdon

81

96.07

101.74

Hounslow

71.08

82.6

96.15

Islington

75.42

82.62

97.68

Kensington and Chelsea

85.09

92.97

109.62

Kingston upon Thames

78.84

90.87

96.6

Lambeth

72.09

83.41

91.67

Lewisham

67.71

76.16

83.73

Merton

73.12

83.1

91.76

Newham

61.66

74.45

93.87

Redbridge

75.85

86.62

99.29

Richmond upon Thames

LSVT

LSVT

LSVT

Southwark

70.48

74.51

80.74

Sutton

n/a

n/a

n/a

Tower Hamlets

73.86

84.47

94.49

Waltham Forest

79.29

95.14

111.39

Wandsworth

91.11

120.42

135.37

Westminster

95.75

108.93

130.24

n/a = data not available.

Note:

LSVT—the LA has fully undergone Large Scale Voluntary Transfer of its LA stock to RSLs

Source:

DCLG’s unaudited Second Subsidy Claims Form

Figures on average local authority rents in 2001-02 are not held in a level of detail that is consistent with 2005-06 figures, so the real terms change from 2001-02 to 2005-06 cannot be calculated.

(ii) Average registered social landlord rents, in pounds per week, on two-, three- and four-bedroom dwellings in each London borough in 2005-06 are tabled as follows. The real terms change in average weekly rent on two-, three- and four-bedroom dwellings in each London borough from 2001-02 to 2005-06 is also tabled:

Per week (£)

RSL—average rent 2005-06

Change in rent since 2001-02

Bedroom:

Local authority

Two

Three

Four

Two

Three

Four

Barking and Dagenham

76.07

82.86

91.09

0.55

0.12

-4.02

Barnet

81.44

93.82

101.63

3.39

2.03

1.10

Bexley

71.07

93.31

95.16

-1.50

-2.03

-1.62

Brent

79.67

92.04

105.81

5.59

6.23

2.73

Bromley

77.82

88.32

101.44

1.22

-0.55

-0.78

Camden

84.82

94.57

110.13

6.76

1.22

-0.45

City of London

75.74

87.24

n/a

8.18

8.29

n/a

Croydon

80.97

92.53

105.00

0.50

-2.02

-2.86

Ealing

83.31

97.87

107.73

7.99

7.78

3.40

Enfield

78.49

91.81

104.61

3.86

3.41

2.16

Greenwich

76.95

85.83

96.66

4.21

3.52

4.29

Hackney

73.12

82.83

98.79

5.87

5.62

2.71

Hammersmith and Fulham

78.85

88.59

98.08

7.29

6.89

3.97

Haringey

76.69

87.83

100.49

3.70

1.73

-1.94

Harrow

78.04

91.36

104.90

-0.51

0.45

-0.60

Havering

75.90

93.09

98.99

3.54

-0.85

-1.13

Hillingdon

84.69

94.00

100.47

5.69

2.20

2.56

Hounslow

81.06

89.04

98.68

4.23

1.96

-0.11

Islington

76.55

85.17

102.12

6.46

5.18

5.13

Kensington and Chelsea

77.41

86.86

100.18

8.41

7.83

5.39

Kingston upon Thames

85.95

94.86

109.83

5.91

2.98

14.13

Lambeth

70.73

81.87

95.19

2.48

2.47

2.42

Lewisham

74.07

85.10

99.07

6.23

4.52

5.11

Merton

79.53

89.49

97.10

3.07

1.21

2.87

Newham

79.67

88.24

98.36

3.45

2.17

1.25

Redbridge

80.68

93.25

103.85

0.83

-3.84

-4.18

Richmond upon Thames

79.21

82.62

92.73

4.39

3.83

2.76

Southwark

76.91

87.11

101.48

7.63

5.05

2.77

Sutton

79.38

91.99

99.63

1.95

0.54

1.24

Tower Hamlets

73.82

83.50

99.24

4.77

4.43

4.28

Waltham Forest

75.69

88.73

99.76

2.78

-1.40

-4.57

Wandsworth

83.56

95.25

104.41

7.05

6.01

3.75

Westminster

85.30

93.42

102.87

6.69

5.52

-0.17

n/a = data not available.

Source:

Housing Corporation’s Regulatory Statistical Return (RSR)

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) how many nominations have been offered to each London local authority through sub-regional housing partnerships since their introduction; (99920)

(2) what proportion of new housing units in each London local authority have been offered to other boroughs through the sub-regional housing partnerships since 2003-04; and what proportion that figure represents of all new units in that period.

The Department for Communities and Local Government does not hold detailed information on the sub-regional nominations to London boroughs for new affordable housing funded with social housing grant through the Housing Corporation’s Affordable Housing Programme.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what proportion of new housing units in each London local authority were designated as housing for disabled people in each of the last three years. (99922)

The information requested is not held centrally.

As part of Capital Moves, the proposed pan-London choice based lettings and mobility scheme, the Greater London Authority are developing a pan-London accessible housing register to better enable disabled people to find appropriate housing.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what the average equity purchase was by people buying shared ownership properties in (a) England, (b) each English region and (c) each London local authority in the last 12 months; (99928)

(2) what estimates she has made of the minimum household income required to enable a purchaser to buy a shared ownership property in (a) England, (b) each English region and (c) each London local authority.

The Department does not set minimum income limits for purchasers of shared ownership properties as this will vary depending on individual circumstances, including other outgoings and whether purchasers have a deposit. HomeBuy agents, as appointed housing associations who handle the application process, will make an assessment based on the maximum share that individual purchasers can afford and sustain.

The average gross household income of purchasers buying a shared ownership property in England in 2005-06 was £26,000.

The average initial equity stake for shared ownership properties in England for the 2005-06 financial year is 49 per cent. Information for each region and for each London local authority is shown in the following tables.

Regional—average initial equity stake purchased

Region

Average (percentage)

London

50

South East

46

South West

47

East Midlands

49

East

49

West Midlands

49

Yorkshire and Humberside

51

North East

51

North West

53

Merseyside

59

London boroughs—average initial equity stake purchased

London boroughs

Average (percentage)

Ealing

44

Southwark

46

Havering

54

Lewisham

59

Bexley

65

Greenwich

44

Tower Hamlets

45

Hounslow

44

Bromley

64

Newham

44

Hammersmith and Fulham

41

Wandsworth

44

City of London

Kensington and Chelsea

39

Croydon

53

Richmond-upon-Thames

50

Harrow

43

Barnet

42

Lambeth

54

Sutton

60

Enfield

48

Hillingdon

49

Brent

45

Merton

65

Hackney

49

Waltham Forest

51

Islington

32

Redbridge

52

Camden

43

Westminster

43

Haringey

50

Barking and Dagenham

42

Kingston upon Thames

57

Note: All information provided by CORE data 2005-06.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans she has to allow arm's-length management organisations greater freedom to develop their role as landlords. (100083)

The ALMO Review published on 7 June sets out how the Government see the long-term role of arm’s-length management organisations (ALMOs). We want to see ALMOs play a wider role in developing successful, mixed communities as well as continuing to improve the quality of housing management services. ALMOs are already undertaking preparatory work on a range of options, including self-financing and new build opportunities, and the Settled Homes pilot scheme that we announced in July. The review also confirmed that high performing ALMOs can bid for social housing grant to build affordable housing in their areas.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many (a) social rented homes and (b) shared ownership homes were built in Reading in each year since 1990. (100137)

The following table shows homes provided for social rent and shared ownership in Reading through the Housing Corporation’s Affordable Housing Programme, Local Authority Social Housing Grant and Starter Home Initiative.

Social rent

Shared ownership

1991-92

89

0

1992-93

207

11

1993-94

91

13

1994-95

170

25

1995-96

361

66

1996-97

254

31

1997-98

127

31

1998-99

240

64

1999-2000

79

1

2000-01

49

8

2001-02

109

18

2002-03

94

104

2003-04

86

121

2004-05

146

143

2005-06

43

36

2006-08

193

72

These figures include both new build and acquisition and refurbishment.

Figures for 2006-08 are indicative and based on allocations made by the Housing Corporation in their 2006-08 Affordable Housing Programme. This does not include shared ownerships and social rented homes funded entirely through Section 106. Nor does it include English Partnerships’ first time buyers programme.

High Hedges

25. To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what guidance her Department gives to councils on charges to deal with complaints relating to high hedges under part 8 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003; and if she will make a statement. (99696)

Our advice on fees under the high hedges legislation is in paragraphs 5.13 to 5.16 of the guidance document ‘High Hedges Complaints: Prevention and Cure’. It indicates that each local authority is responsible for deciding whether, and at what level, to charge for dealing with complaints about high hedges.

Community Cohesion

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when she last met (a) male and (b) female Muslim community leaders to discuss community cohesion. (99697)

Both the Secretary of State and I regularly meet both male and female Muslim stakeholders to discuss a range of issues, including community cohesion.

Most recently, on 14 August the Secretary of State hosted a series of meetings which brought together a wide range of Muslim leaders to discuss ways to promote community cohesion and tackle extremism.

Business Improvement District Legislation

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps she is taking to ensure that the rights of property owners are protected in the Business Improvement District legislation. (95236)

Under the Business Improvement District (BID) legislation the occupiers of business property vote in a BID ballot and are liable to pay a BID levy if the ballot is successful. Property owners may make voluntary contributions, either financial or in-kind, to the development and implementations of a BID, but do not vote in the ballot and are not liable for the levy. Owners’ rights in respect of their properties are not affected by the BID legislation.

Casinos

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will publish the advice her Department gave to (a) Southend Council, (b) Thames Gateway, (c) Thames Gateway South Essex, (d) Renaissance Southend, (e) Essex County Council, (f) East of England Development Authority, (g) East of England Regional Assembly and (h) other public bodies in the East of England on a single bid from the Thames Gateway region for a regional casino. (84393)

In the preparation of the interim Thames Gateway Strategic Framework, officials did discuss with stakeholders whether the framework should express a preference for one of the five bids in the Thames Gateway if two or more candidates were shortlisted. No firm conclusion was reached and there was no discussion about supporting a particular bid. After consulting DCMS officials, DCLG officials decided not to take any action to accord priority to the Thames Gateway or a location within it. DCLG Ministers were not involved in any of this process. Greenwich was subsequently selected as the only shortlisted candidate for a regional casino in the Thames Gateway by the Independent Advisory Panel.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what discussions officials in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister had with Thames Gateway regarding the possibility of prioritising a single bid for a regional casino being entered from the Thames Gateway region; (86041)

(2) what discussions officials from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister had in February 2006 with Thames Gateway regarding Ministers’ views on a single bid for a regional casino for the Thames Gateway region.

Central London

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what definition her Department uses of Central London; and if she will make a statement. (99443)

Statutory Instrument 2000 No. 1493 defines Central London as covering all or part of Westminster, Camden, Lambeth, Southwark, Islington, City, Tower Hamlets and Wandsworth. Central London, however, is often generally taken to mean the 13 boroughs previously within the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA).

Climate Change

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on ways in which local authorities can more effectively tackle climate change. (99563)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government met my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 10 October in the context of the forthcoming Local Government White Paper for a wide-ranging discussion which covered the role of authorities in tackling environmental issues.

Council Tax

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the annual change was in the level of council tax in each London borough in each year since 1996-97; and if she will make a statement. (96653)

The annual percentage change in the level of council tax by each district council in each London borough since 1996-97 are tabled as follows. Figures are based solely on the borough’s element of the bill, which excludes the precepting amount from the Greater London Authority.

Annual percentage change in the level of council tax by each London borough since 1996-971

Authority

1996-97

1997-98

1998-99

1999-2000

2000-01

2001-02

Barking and Dagenham

8.8

9.4

8.7

5.3

4.5

5.5

Barnet

6.9

3.0

8.3

3.8

5.5

4.6

Bexley

4.2

5.5

10.5

7.7

5.3

7.6

Brent

-3.3

22.5

4.4

16.4

7.6

5.2

Bromley

9.6

6.2

2.9

10.1

8.4

10.3

Camden

14.6

1.4

9.5

1.4

-1.3

4.3

City of London

4.0

4.8

8.3

4.3

3.2

4.4

Croydon

2.8

3.9

9.7

9.7

4.8

-1.7

Ealing

2.6

9.0

8.6

9.5

5.8

6.2

Enfield

5.4

1.8

5.0

7.5

7.4

8.8

Greenwich

19.6

6.8

6.9

-0.9

-2.6

2.3

Hackney

10.5

-9.2

-2.9

-1.0

4.8

10.0

Hammersmith and Fulham

19.0

8.4

-1.9

4.5

4.5

4.6

Haringey

3.0

5.0

1.9

4.4

2.0

0.0

Harrow

3.4

15.2

6.9

8.8

6.9

8.0

Havering

8.7

9.1

9.7

9.1

6.6

10.7

Hillingdon

3.8

4.3

11.3

8.4

6.4

8.5

Hounslow

7.7

3.0

4.0

8.9

6.8

9.1

Islington

16.1

1.8

2.6

-0.8

-5.6

-2.8

Kensington and Chelsea

3.0

0.8

0.8

7.5

5.0

13.1

Kingston upon Thames

4.6

6.3

8.8

13.2

7.5

7.5

Lambeth

-1.0

-3.8

-3.8

-2.2

-1.1

14.3

Lewisham

6.0

3.1

2.3

6.6

8.4

10.2

Merton

5.8

6.8

6.1

4.3

9.1

7.7

Newham

2.8

8.1

3.0

2.8

7.6

4.9

Redbridge

4.1

6.8

6.3

11.3

6.7

4.5

Richmond upon Thames

4.1

3.3

0.4

9.5

7.7

7.9

Southwark

27.4

0.8

4.0

2.3

2.5

6.1

Sutton

4.0

4.8

9.7

6.3

4.5

7.3

Tower Hamlets

17.0

-2.1

0.0

1.6

5.9

7.3

Waltham Forest

10.5

11.6

-3.7

2.5

2.6

3.0

Wandsworth

-1.3

-6.8

-35.2

21.5

3.2

16.7

Westminster

9.0

-1.3

4.0

8.7

2.3

10.2

Authority

2002-03

2003-04

2004-05

2005-06

2006-07

Barking and Dagenham

5.7

11.7

5.5

3.5

3.5

Barnet

2.5

22.8

6.8

1.9

2.0

Bexley

4.5

14.9

7.5

4.7

3.9

Brent

8.5

20.8

5.8

3.3

2.2

Bromley

4.5

6.0

6.8

4.9

4.0

Camden

4.1

12.1

2.8

2.0~

1.9

City of London

5.3

17.3

5.9

4.5

4.6

Croydon

1.0

26.8

7.2

5.0

4.4

Ealing

5.7

25.1

6.8

4.8

2.5

Enfield

6.4

15.0

5.9

2.4

2.5

Greenwich

2.6

10.8

4.1

2.9

0.9

Hackney

10.0

10.0

4.9

1.9

0.0

Hammersmith and Fulham

0.0

9.8

4.9

1.5

1.5

Haringey

0.0

17.4

7.2

4.9

2.5

Harrow

6.0

19.8

3.3

0.7

2.5

Havering

6.8

14.9

5.2

2.9

1.7

Hillingdon

7.6

13.5

4.8

3.9

2.9

Hounslow

5.5

12.7

6.8

4.4

2.3

Islington

-4.5

19.0

5.0

4.2

0.0

Kensington and Chelsea

9.3

13.9

4.7

3.5

0.1

Kingston upon Thames

11.3

12.6

7.0

5.0

3.6

Lambeth

7.8

21.1

5.0

4.0

0.0

Lewisham

7.9

9.4

5.0

4.9

2.5

Merton

5.4

8.9

5.3

2.5

2.5

Newham

5.0

9.8

4.8

4.8

1.9

Redbridge

5.1

12.9

5.5

4.7

3.8

Richmond upon Thames

8.9

13,1

5.2

3.1

0.0

Southwark

3.7

4.3

2.4

1.8

0.0

Sutton

8.2

11.9

7.4

4.8

3.9

Tower Hamlets

2.0

14.0

4.7

4.0

0.0

Waltham Forest

3.6

17.5

6.0

4.6

2.5

Wandsworth

-25.0

57.3

0.0

0.0

0.0

Westminster

4.6

27.5

5.2

-0.1

1.9

1 Figures are based solely on the London borough’s element of the bill, which excludes the precepting amount from the Greater London Authority.

Departmental Expenditure

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much was spent by (a) her Department, (b) its agencies and (c) its non-departmental public bodies in respect of hotel and other similar privately-provided accommodation (i) in the UK and (ii) abroad for (A) Ministers, (B) staff and (C) other persons in each year since 2001-02. (91915)

The Department for Communities and Local Government does not hold the information in the form requested which can only be provided at disproportionate cost.

Information relating to overseas travel by Ministers is published on an annual basis. Information for the period 2 May 1997 to 31 March 2006 is available in the Library of the House. Information for the financial year 2006-07 will be published as soon as it is ready after the end of the current financial year.

All expenditure is made in accordance with published departmental guidance on financial procedures and propriety, based on principles set out in the Ministerial Code, Travel by Ministers, and the Civil Service Management Code.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what foreign visits were undertaken by her departmental staff on official business in the last 12 months. (94846)

Over the last 12 months departmental staff took in total 519 foreign trips on official business of which 479 were to Europe (outside UK); six trips to Africa; 26 trips to North America; one foreign trip to South America and seven trips to Asia (inc. Middle East).

Departmental Vacancies

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what proportion of vacancies in her Department in the last 12 months required candidates to have at least a grade C in (a) English and (b) mathematics GCSE. (96748)

The Department was created on 5 May 2006, so information is only available from that time.

The Department has recruited externally for seven specialist posts, all of which have required at least a degree standard of education.

Digital Challenge

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) whether ethnic monitoring (a) has been and (b) will be undertaken in respect of Digital Challenge (i) shortlisted and (ii) successful bids; (98266)

(2) what steps she is taking to ensure ethnic minorities are fully involved in Digital Challenge bids;

(3) how many ethnic minority organisations are involved in Digital Challenge bids;

(4) what the criteria are for consideration of Digital Challenge bids.

Digital Challenge bids were shortlisted according to a number of criteria, including a focus on “socially excluded” groups. In evaluating bids, a focus on ethnic minority groups was not included as a specific criterion, as the effective use of ICT and benefits of digital inclusion cut across the sub-divisions of socially excluded populations including ethnic minority groups. Further information on the 79 proposals received and an analysis is available on the Digital Challenge website:

www.digitalchallenge.gov.uk.

The Digital Challenge Outline Prospectus made it clear to all bidders submitting proposals that bids should be inclusive and representative of their local communities. We have created an opportunity for organisations, including those representing ethnic minorities, to become engaged in the Digital Challenge process through the Digital Challenge Community Network (DCCN), an interdependent network for public, private, voluntary and academe to rise to the challenge of using ICT and innovation as enablers of digital and social inclusion. Further information on the network and the original prospectus are published on the Digital Challenge website.

It is not possible to definitively state the number of ethnic minority organisations involved in the Digital Challenge process. However, each of the remaining 10 bidders are actively engaging and working with ethnic minority organisations.

The full criteria for the Digital Challenge bids have been provided to all the 10 and are published on the Digital Challenge website at:

http://www.digitalchallenge.gov.uk/top-ten-finalists-1/top-ten-finalists-1/guidance-on-submitting-your-bid.

EU Business Support

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much EU funding was spent on small and medium-sized enterprises in the last period for which figures are available for (a) the South East England Development Agency and (b) all regional development agencies. (99664)

My Department is responsible for the implementation of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in England, one of the European Structural Funds targeted at EU regions whose economic development is lagging behind.

For the current round of ERDF programmes from 2000-06, £497,630,629 ERDF grant has been awarded to English RDAs from the mainstream programmes, of which £1,562,471 has been awarded to the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA).

Of the other two main Structural Funds, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is responsible for the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is responsible for the Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF).

I can report on behalf of the DWP, that £48,974,962 ESF has been granted to RDAs, which covers the three RDAs which are the co-financing organisations for ESF, including SEEDA. Of this, £13,691,402 has been awarded to SEEDA.

I can also report on behalf of DEFRA, that no EAGGF funds have been allocated to RDAs in any of the three regions which receive that fund.

Home Condition Reports/Information Packs

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 9 October 2006, Official Report, column 376W, on home condition reports, when she expects negotiations and procurement to have been completed. (95778)

Good progress is being made on the procurement and the negotiations for the home condition report register with the preferred supplier Landmark Information Group. We expect to award the contract shortly.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 4 September 2006, Official Report, column 1656W, on Home Condition Reports/Information Packs, if she will place in the Library copies of the written advice provided by the Information Commissioner. (94749)

The Department for Communities and Local Government had various discussions with the Information Commissioner’s Office on the Register of Home Condition Reports, The Information Commissioner’s Office did not provide a formal response document.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what her estimate is of the cost of a home information pack for an average leasehold (a) flat and (b) house. (94825)

I refer the hon. Member to my answer of 6 November 2006 (question 94852).

We do not have a separate assessment of the likely cost of packs for leasehold properties.

Homelessness

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many of those applying as homeless in Reading have been found to be (a) homeless and (b) not in priority need of temporary accommodation in each year since 1997. (100129)

The following table sets out the number of households who were found to be eligible for assistance, homeless and not in priority need by Reading borough council in each year since 1997.

Number

1997-98

106

1998-99

110

1999-2000

78

2000-01

137

2001-02

114

2002-03

69

2003-04

84

2004-05

53

2005-06

41

Information on English local authorities' activities under homelessness legislation is collected on quarterly P1(E) housing returns from local authorities and relates to households. This covers all decisions made in respect of homelessness applications to the authority and includes those which were found to be eligible, unintentionally homeless, but not in priority need. These households are not owed a main homelessness duty by the local authority.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the provision of hostel bed spaces for homeless people in Reading. (100131)

We are investing over £700,000 from our Hostels Capital Improvement Programme in Reading. This money is providing supported housing for six to eight rough sleepers with drug and alcohol issues and a new 40-bed hostel for young people.

In addition, Reading have received £250,000 non-ringfenced homelessness grant from DCLG in 2006-07.

In 2003 every local authority was required to put in place a homelessness strategy to prevent homelessness and provide accommodation and support. It is for local authorities to decide how to use their homelessness grant to effectively deliver their strategies.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent assessment she has made of the effectiveness of her Department's street count methodology in establishing an accurate picture of the extent of street homelessness in England. (100132)

The methodology and guidance for conducting street counts was developed by the former Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions in partnership with Shelter. Independent evaluation by the National Audit Office has shown that it is the most effective method for evaluating the changing levels of people sleeping rough.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much of the £70 million for homelessness prevention services made available by her Department to local authorities in 2006-07 is designated for the provision of additional hostel bed spaces for homeless rough sleepers during periods of severe weather. (100133)

Local authorities are expected to have plans in place to ensure that there is severe weather emergency provision for rough sleepers. The cost of meeting this provision is covered by DCLG's non-ringfenced homelessness grant to each local authority.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps she is taking to monitor the performance of local authorities in providing sufficient hostel bed spaces for homeless rough sleepers during periods of severe weather. (100134)

We will be writing to local authorities reminding them that they should have severe weather emergency provision plans in place for any rough sleepers.

Usually, the trigger for severe weather provision will be a forecast predicting three consecutive nights, or more, of a minimum temperature of zero degrees Celsius or lower.

It is up to local authorities how they make this provision.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many homeless rough sleepers her Department’s street count has identified in Reading in each year since 2001. (100135)

The number of rough sleepers in Reading in each year since 2001 is set out in the following table. The numbers represent rough sleepers identified by single night street counts conducted by the local authority as reported on the annual Housing Strategy Statistical Appendix (HSSA) return.

Number

2001

18

2002

7

2003

4

2004

6

2005

11

2006

2

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much funding was allocated by her Department to each voluntary sector organisation helping homeless people in Reading in each of the last five years. (100136)

The Department has allocated capital funding of £165,000 in 2005-06 and £69,000 in 2006-07. The Department does not provide any direct revenue funding to voluntary sector organisations in Reading.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will place in the Library a copy of the letter sent to local authorities in December 2005 on hostel spaces for the accommodation of homeless rough sleepers during the winter of 2005-06. (100138)

A copy of the letter sent to local authorities in December 2005 on severe weather provision for rough sleepers has now been placed in the Library.

Household Projections

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many additional households were attributable to migration in (a) 2003 and (b) 2004; what estimate the Government had previously made of additional households attributable to migration in these years for the purpose of household projections; and what plans she has to adjust future household projections to 2026 to take account of the actual level of migration in 2003 and 2004. (94217)

DCLG household projections which are used to estimate future housing requirements are based on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) population projections. The assumptions about international migration in these are then translated into the DCLG household projections. The migration from the eight accession countries is not accounted for separately.

The DCLG 2003 based household projections show a projected increase in households in England between 2003 and 2006 of 580,000 of which 105,000 (18 per cent.) is attributable to net migration.

The 2003 based household projections were based on the ONS 2003 based population projections that assumed a long-term net migration into the UK of 130,000 per year. ONS has subsequently released 2004 based population projections that involve an assumed long-term figure of 145,000 per year. This latest projection also includes higher short-term figures in order to take account of A8. The Department for Communities and Local Government plans to produce updated household projections that take account of the 2004 based population projections.

Housing (Migration)

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 19 October 2006, Official Report, column 1416W, on housing (migration), what account is taken of migrants from the 2004 EU accession states in the 2003 household projections. (97179)

Housing Act

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many final Empty Dwelling Management Orders under the Housing Act 2004 the Government expect to be granted; what extra resources are planned to be allocated to residential property tribunals for hearing EDMO cases; under what circumstances a property owner will be able to ask for a final EDMO to be lifted within the seven-year period; what rights a property owner has in respect of a local housing authority which is not managing a property which is subject to an EDMO to a reasonable standard; whether a local housing authority will be able to charge a reasonable management fee; and what rights neighbours will have in respect of tenants of a property subject to an EDMO in cases of anti-social behaviour. (75592)

We do not know how many Empty Dwelling Management Orders will be made in practice since they have been introduced, as many local authorities are finding them a helpful backstop which encourages greater voluntary action to bring properties back into use.

An additional £1 million is being made available annually to the Residential Property Tribunal Service (RPTS) to cover its new jurisdictions under the Housing Act 2004.

A property owner may at any time ask for a final EDMO to be revoked early by the council. If the council refuses to revoke the order, the property owner can appeal to the RPTS. A local authority may revoke the order if it concludes: there are no steps which it could appropriately take to secure occupation of the dwelling; that keeping the order in force is not necessary; it is satisfied the dwelling will become either or continue to be occupied despite the revocation; it is satisfied the dwelling will be sold; it would be appropriate to revoke the order to prevent or stop interference with the rights of a third party; a further final EDMO will be made to replace the existing order; or in any other circumstances the local authority consider it would be appropriate to revoke the order.

A local authority must take such steps it considers appropriate when an Empty Dwelling Management Order is in force to ensure proper management of the dwelling. A final EDMO must contain a management scheme setting out how the local authority intends to manage the property. A property owner may apply to the residential property tribunal for an order requiring the authority to manage the dwelling in accordance with the scheme.

A local authority is not restricted in setting a management fee in respect of a dwelling subject to an EDMO and would seek to recover its fees (or those of its appointed manager) from any rental income accrued from letting the dwelling.

Neighbouring property owners would be entitled to complain to the local authority about the behaviour of tenants of a property subject to an EDMO in the same way they would be entitled to complain to any property manager.

International GCSE

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether her Department recognises the International GCSE as an acceptable substitute for a GCSE for the purposes of recruitment. (96731)

My Department recognises the International GCSE but it is accepted only from those countries which come under the civil service nationality rules. It is accepted from nationals of European Economic Area member states, members of the Commonwealth and Swiss nationals who have the right to work in the UK.

Interreg

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much her Department has spent on the EU Interreg programme. (94642)

The European Union Interreg Community Initiative is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, not the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Member states involved in programmes funded from the Interreg Community Initiative are expected to contribute to the technical assistance budget for the programme, which is allocated to cover the administrative costs of the programme. The Department and its predecessors have contributed just over £5 million in total since 2003. The Department and its predecessors have also provided some match funding for projects in England and other activity designed to support the programmes. This has amounted to around £7 million in total in the three years 2003-04 to 2005-06.

Land Use

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate her Department has made of the number of local authorities which have introduced technology which is able fully to interact with the National Land Information Service. (94619)

The National Land Information Service (NLIS) is a system allowing land and property searches to be made electronically, speeding up the conveyancing process. As at April 2006, all local authorities can accept searches via NLIS. Over 100 authorities can accept the delivery of searches straight into their Local Land Charges system, i.e. they can fully interact with NLIS.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what (a) targets were set and (b) (i) traffic lights and (ii) benchmarks were applied to local authorities by the Implementing Electronic Government programmes in relation to the implementation of the National Land Information Service. (94620)

In December 1998, the National Land Information Service (NLIS) project was awarded £2.3 million from the Government’s Invest to Save Budget. Evaluation of this project is in line with standard procedures for ISB funded work and did not fall within traffic light targets for Implementing Electronic Government (IEG) programmes.

Landlords

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many registered social landlord (RSL) homes were sold in 2005-06, broken down by (a) RSL and (b) local authority area. (96369)

Sales of the numbers of registered social landlord (RSLs) homes to sitting tenants for RSLs operating in England are collected by the Regulatory and Statistical Return of the Housing Corporation and can be analysed by RSL or local authority. The Regulatory and Statistical Return long form is only completed by those RSLs that own more than 250 dwellings and bedspaces. The return is split into 12 parts with only two parts containing information across local authority areas. Therefore not all the information about RSL sales to sitting tenants is available at local authority level.

Information has been placed in the Library of the House as follows:

Table 1 shows sales to sitting tenants in 2005-06 by RSLs for only those RSLs that reported sales. Split into those sales there were Right to Buy/Right to Acquire and all other sales to sitting tenants; Source: Part K Housing Corporation Regulatory and Statistical Return (long) 2006.

Table 2 shows for all local authorities irrespective of whether or not sales were reported in their area the number of Right to Buy/Right to Acquire sales in 2005-06; Source: Part O Housing Corporation Regulatory and Statistical Return (long) 2006.

There were four Right to Buy/Right to Acquire sales in Scotland in 2005-06 included in Table 1.

Millennium Dome

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether the Exchequer would receive a profit share from the operation of a casino on the Millennium Dome site. (84602)

[holding answer 11 July 2006]: I refer the hon. Member to the Government’s response in the Treasury Minute on the Second Report from the Committee of Public Accounts 2005-06 on “The Regeneration of the Millennium dome and Associated Land” (copies of which are in the Libraries of both Houses).

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate the Government have made of the revenue to the Exchequer from the millennium/02 dome once it is open to the public as an entertainment venue as part of the profit share agreement; and whether this estimate has assumed a casino usage for the site. (85689)

Office of Public Sector Information

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how frequently she meets representatives of the Office of Public Sector Information. (100204)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has not met with representatives of the Office of Public Sector Information.

Online Services

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the levels of take-up have been of online services since the Connect to Your Council campaign was instigated, broken down by local authority. (96337)

Among internet users, market research figures show that people accessing council websites has risen by 88 per cent. from 1 in 11 pre-campaign to 1 in 6 post-campaign. The level of online service take-up since the commencement of the campaign broken down by individual local authority is not recorded, but independent evidence from both the Society of Information Technology Management (SOCITM) and web traffic monitoring company Hitwise show Directgov accounting for 10 per cent. of total visits to local authority websites in June. Copies of the Central Office of Information (COI) evaluation report on the impact of the first burst of the campaign are available from the Department for Communities and Local Government website.

Pensions

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what the arrangements are for the payment of pensions to people who retire early through ill-health for each pension scheme for which her Department is responsible; what the incidence of ill-health retirement was as a percentage of all retirement in such schemes in each year since 1988-89; and if she will make a statement; (96022)

(2) what the current rate of ill-health retirement is for each public sector pension scheme for which her Department is responsible; and if she will make a statement.

The information is as follows.

Local Government Pension Scheme

Under the current provisions of the Local Government Pension Scheme in England and Wales, ill-health retirement benefits are paid to scheme members who cease a local government, or comparable employment, by reason of permanent ill-health or infirmity of mind or body. The benefits are enhanced incrementally depending on the length of scheme membership.

The incidence of ill-health retirement in the scheme, as a percentage of all retirements since 2000-01 is shown in the following table. Information before 2000-01 is not held centrally.

Ill-health retirements

All retirements

Ill-health retirements as percentage of total

2000-01

10,611

41,360

26

2001-02

9,805

36,741

27

2002-03

7,515

34,855

22

2003-04

6,784

37,373

18

2004-05

6,079

38,964

16

2005-06

5,213

40,083

13+

Firefighters Pension Scheme

Prior to September 2004, a member of the Firefighters Pension Scheme 1992 was entitled to an ill-health retirement pension if permanently disabled from engaging in firefighting. Thereafter, the scheme was amended to limit the entitlement to a person who is permanently unfit for engaging in firefighting or performing other duties appropriate to his role as a firefighter, other than or in addition to engaging in firefighting.

The 1992 Pension Scheme was further amended in July 2006 to introduce two tier ill-health retirement arrangements. A person is entitled to an upper tier award if incapable of undertaking regular work. Regular employment is defined as meaning employment for 30 hours a week on average over a period of not less than 12 consecutive months. The accrued pension is enhanced. The pension of a person with a lower tier award is not enhanced.

Similar provisions will apply in the New Firefighters Pension Scheme 2006.

In the period 1994-99, the incidence of ill-health retirements as a percentage of all retirements was 68 per cent. From 1999-2000 to 2004-05 the figures were as shown as follows. Figures for 2005-06 are not yet available.

It is expected that due to the scheme amendments outlined above, figures for 2005-06 and 2006-07 will show a continuing substantial decline.

Ill-health retirements for regular firefighters in England

Ill-health retirements

Percentage

1999-2000

547

51.7

2000-01

565

54.5

2001-02

437

43.7

2002-03

554

42.8

2003-04

485

46.5

2004-05

323

24.7

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what the (a) present and (b) future retirement age arrangements are for each public sector pension scheme for which her Department has responsibility; and if she will make a statement; (96029)

(2) what the current (a) accrual rate and (b) normal retirement age is for each public sector pension scheme for which her Department is responsible; and if she will make a statement.

The normal retirement age in the Local Government Pension Scheme is 65. Members can choose to retire early without employer consent from age 60, or with employer consent between 50 and 60, and in these cases the pension may be subject to actuarial reduction. From age 50 pension can also come into payment on grounds of efficiency or redundancy. The scheme also provides for pension on grounds of ill health at any age once the qualification test is satisfied.

The normal pension age for members of the Firefighters' Pension Scheme 1992 is 55 and there are no proposals to change this position.

The Local Government Pension Scheme has an accrual rate of l/80th per year of membership with an automatic lump sum accruing at 3/80ths.

The accrual rate for the 1992 Firefighters' Pension Scheme are l/60th of pensionable pay for each year of the first 20 years of service and 2/60th for the remaining 10 years, to give a maximum of 40/60th.

The 1992 scheme is now closed to new members and firefighters recruited since 6 April 2006 will be members of the New Firefighters' Pension Scheme 2006. The new scheme has been subject to consultation and we expect to make the order bringing the new scheme into operation shortly. The normal retirement age for members of the 2006 scheme will be 60.

The accrual rate for the 2006 scheme will be l/60th of pensionable pay. There will be no maximum.

Neither firefighters' scheme provides for compulsory retirement and, subject to the agreement of the employing authority, members may continue in employment with membership of the relevant pension scheme once they reach the normal pension/retirement age.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what savings estimate she has made of the effect on costs of the reforms to public sector pensions agreed with trades unions in 2005 for each year between 2006-07 and 2050-51; and if she will make a statement. (96045)

The changes made this year to the Local Government Pension Schemes after extensive consultations with major stakeholders will produce savings of some 2.5 per cent. to 3 per cent. of pensionable payroll. Some 50 per cent. of this saving is being used to provide either transitional protection or is being recycled into a new-look scheme for scheme members, planned to come into force from 1 April 2008.

The pension arrangements for firefighters were also reviewed outside the Public Service Forum and details of the new arrangements aimed at modernising and tackling the high cost and inflexibility of the Firefighters' Pension Scheme 1992 were announced on 8 September 2005, in Firefighters' Pension Scheme circular 2/2005, following public consultation.

The new arrangements which were implemented for entrants to the fire and rescue service from 6 April are estimated to cost 22.7 per cent. of pensionable pay compared with 37.5 per cent. from the 1992 scheme.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the current estimate is of the unfunded liability, in present value terms, of each public sector pension scheme for which her Department is responsible; and on what assumptions for (a) discount rate and (b) longevity the estimate is based. (96047)

The latest available information about the unfunded liabilities of the Firefighters' Pension Scheme is set out in the note laid in the House of Commons Library by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary on 2 March 2006. The Local Government Pension Scheme is a funded scheme.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent estimate she has made of the (a) rate and (b) annual cost of employer contributions in each public sector pension scheme for which her Department has responsibility; and if she will make a statement. (96063)

For the period up to the financial year 2007-08,1 refer to the answer given on 17 July 2005, Official Report, column 125W, to the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman). Employer contribution rates are set for three-year periods by the actuarial valuation undertaken for each local government pension scheme administering authority. The next valuation, due at 31 March 2007, will set new employer costs for a three-year period from 1 April 2008 onwards. Employers' contributions in 2005-06 totalled £4.1 billion.

The rate of the employer contribution for each member of the Firefighters' Pension Scheme 1992 is 26.5 per cent. of pensionable pay, and for each member of the New Firefighters' Pension Scheme 2006, 14.2 per cent. Total current estimated employers' costs are approximately £215 million.

Planning

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many complaints she received about the Planning Inspectorate in each of the last five years. (100223)

The number of complaints that were received by the Planning Inspectorate in the last five years is as follows:

Period

Number of complaints received

2005-06

2,785

2004-05

2,283

2003-04

2,095

2002-03

2,063

2001-02

2,655

The Planning Inspectorate inevitably deals with the most contested and controversial planning applications and this can generate strong views and complaints in addition to justified complaints about procedures.

Slave Trade

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans she has for a national day to mark the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire. (99817)

The Government will be making announcements in due course on a package of action, how we communicate what we are doing on slavery and on race equality more widely.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when she will announce her plans to commemorate the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire. (99818)

The Government are working with stakeholders to develop plans to mark the 200th anniversary of the 1807 Abolition of the Slave Trade Act.

The 2007 Bicentenary Advisory Group met on 17 October and the Government will be making an announcement in due course about their plans to mark the bicentenary.

Preparations in central Government are well under way and there will be a number of activities to ensure the bicentenary is properly recognised.

The Advisory Group will galvanise action across cultural, faith and community sectors to ensure that 2007 makes an impact across the country and that the bicentenary is relevant to local communities.

Stronger and Prosperous Communities White Paper

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will list the 200 outcome-based indicators referred to in the Strong and Prosperous Communities White Paper. (100221)

The Local Government White Paper “Strong and Prosperous Communities”, published on 26 October, set out our aim to radically reduce the number of nationally-set performance indicators which local government must report to central Government. The content of the single set of around 200 national indicators will be determined through the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review process.

Supporting People Programme

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the development of cross-authority funding arrangements in the use of the Supporting People programme by administering authorities. (99017)

There are currently no cross-authority funding arrangements in place for the use of Supporting People funding by administering authorities. However the Department for Communities and Local Government is aware that there are some authorities currently developing cross-authority funding arrangements.

Sustainable Buildings

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the performance of local authority energy managers in increasing the energy efficiency of buildings managed by local authorities. (100145)

Information about the energy efficiency of housing stock owned by local authorities is collected annually. Between 2000-01 and 2004-05, the average Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) rating of local authority owned dwellings increased from 52 to 641. SAP is an index of the annual cost of heating a dwelling to achieve a standard heating regime and runs from one (highly inefficient) to 120 (highly efficient). We do not collect data on the energy efficiency of other local authority buildings.

1 Source:

Best Value Performance Indicator 63.

Tenant Referencing

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of local authority tenant referencing schemes in tackling antisocial behaviour in communities with a high proportion of private sector landlords. (98940)

The Department encourages local authorities to work constructively with private landlords. It is for each local authority to decide how best it works with private landlords on tenant management issues and assess the effectiveness of any scheme it puts in place locally.

Thames Gateway

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what meetings officials in her Department had with (a) Thames Gateway South Essex Partnership, (b) Thames Gateway Kent Partnership and (c) Thames Gateway London Partnership during 2006; which officials were in attendance; which other organisations were represented at the meetings; and if she will place the minutes of the meetings in the Library. (86159)

During the course of 2006 the following formal board meetings have taken place, at which DCLG officials have been in attendance. The meetings are listed with officials who attended as follows:

(a) Thames Gateway South Essex Partnership (TGSEP) has held three board meetings

8 February—DCLG Hulya Mustafa

29 March—DCLG Hulya Mustafa

10 May—DCLG Elizabeth Cowie, Jeff Channing

(b) Thames Gateway Kent Partnership (TGKP) has held two board meetings

28 February—DCLG Ben Stoneman

23 May—DCLG Ros Dunn, Andy De Lord and Ben Stoneman

30 June—Discussion on the Thames Gateway Strategic Framework, DCLG Ros Dunn

(c) Thames Gateway London Partnership (TGLP) has held two board meetings

21 February—DCLG Jey Jeyaraj

27 June—Jey Jeyaraj

These meetings have core board members plus guest speakers who vary from meeting to meeting. The following organisations have been present at the meetings in 2006.

(a) TGSEP: Essex County Council, Baker Tilly, Castle Point Borough Council, Thurrock Council, Rochford District Council, GO East, Thurrock PCT, TTGDC, Basildon District Council, Finishing Line, Southend Borough Council, Greengrid Partnership, LSC, Social Regeneration Forum, Renaissance Southend.

(b) TGKP: Environment Agency, Highways Agency, Medway Council, Swale Borough Council, Sport England South East, Culture Thames Gateway, TGKP CE, Swale Forward, Kent County Council, Genecon, Kent Thameside Delivery Board, Press, Gravesham Borough Council.

(c) TGLP: London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Barking and Dagenham, Bexley, Greenwich, Hackney, Havering, Redbridge, Waltham Forest, and also SELSHA, Goldsmiths University, ECCIC, and TfL.

Minutes of meetings for this year will be placed in the House Library for TGKP and TGLP, and minutes from the 19 July 2006 onwards will be placed in the Library of the House.

As part of their normal business, DCLG officials have also spoken with and met a number of representatives from all three partnerships.

Travellers' Sites

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the letter of 11 October 2006 from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Meg Munn) to the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner), what the evidential basis is for her statement that local authority Travellers’ sites are accepted as a part of their local communities. (100128)

The Department’s Gypsy and Traveller Unit has extensive contact with local authorities and others who are responsible for socially rented Gypsy and Traveller caravan sites. They report many examples of well managed and maintained sites where the residents live alongside the settled community with no reported tensions. There are numerous examples of site residents becoming involved in local events and, for example, participating in neighbourhood watch schemes. Where tensions with the settled community do occur in particular cases, the Government have provided strong powers for local authorities to address unauthorised camping and antisocial behaviour. It would be wrong to allow a few high-profile cases to distort the overall picture.

Valuation Office Agency

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will place in the Library a copy of the (a) presentation, (b) speech and (c) handout given by the Valuation Office Agency’s Paul Sanderson at the International Property Tax Institute Conference in Kuala Lumpur on 23 August 2006. (94658)

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Hands) of 4 September 2006, Official Report, column 1680W, on the Valuation Office Agency, what the numeric value is of the co-efficient applied to variable for the FC dwellinghouse code in the multiple regression formula. (99414)

[holding answer 6 November 2006]: With the council tax revaluation in England postponed until after at least this Parliament the issue does not arise.

Waste Management

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans she has for extra support to local authorities under the Local Government Financial Settlement to enable them to meet targets on recycling and waste management. (97484)

The need to meet waste targets was factored into Spending Review 2004. Overall Government grant, which includes grants for specific services, increased by £2.7 billion in 2006-07 and is set to increase by £3.1 billion in 2007-08. This includes the extra funding taking the Waste Performance and Efficiency Grant to £105 million in 2006-07 and £110 million in 2007-08. There are no plans to re-open the Local Government Finance Settlement in 2007-08.

Wales

Dee Estuary

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what agencies are involved in the administration of the Dee estuary. (99374)

There are two agencies involved in the administration of the Dee estuary: the DEFRA Marine Fisheries Agency acting in its own right in the English zone, and acting on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government in the Welsh zone; and the Environment Agency, acting as a Sea Fisheries Committee under the Sea Fisheries Regulation Act 1966.

Olympic Games

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with the Welsh Assembly Government on the use of Welsh sporting venues in connection with the 2012 London Olympics. (100037)

Wales has an important contribution to make to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and I meet with relevant Assembly Government Ministers on a regular basis to discuss the opportunities presented. In addition, the Welsh Assembly Government are represented on the nations and regions group of the London Organising Committee.

I am delighted that the millennium stadium in Cardiff will be hosting part of the football tournament. Wales has many excellent training facilities and will offer a warm welcome to visiting teams and their supporters.

House of Commons Commission

Weekly Information Bulletin

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission if the Commission will arrange for the Weekly Information Bulletins to be made available in PDF format; and if he will make a statement. (99277)

The House of Commons Information Office will arrange for a PDF version of the Weekly Information Bulletin to be published on the parliamentary intranet from the start of the next Session.

A project is currently under way to redesign the Bulletin to improve the layout and clarity of information presented. Readers and subscribers were surveyed over the summer for their views and suggestions, which are being incorporated into a development plan for the Bulletin that will be implemented over the coming year.

Scotland

Climate Change

10. To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps his Department is taking to assist in combating climate change in Scotland. (98834)

Scotland shares in the various national and international actions which the Government have been supporting to combat carbon emissions and address the problems of climate change.

15. To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what assessment he has made of the impact of climate change on Scotland; and if he will make a statement. (98839)

The UK Climate Impacts Programme provides a series of climate change scenarios. The Scottish Executive have published a number of research projects and a handbook of climate trends over the last century. Together these give practitioners in Scotland access to some of the best climate information available.

Terrorism

11. To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for the Home Department on counter-terrorism measures in Scotland. (98835)

Wild Salmon

12. To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many wild salmon were caught by commercial nets in Scotland in 2004 and 2005. (98836)

The figures for wild salmon caught by commercial nets in Scotland were 27,160 in 2004 and 29,137 in 2005.

Community Cohesion

13. To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on engaging more effectively with the Muslim community in Scotland. (98837)

My right hon. Friend regularly meets Cabinet colleagues to discuss a wide range of issues. Both he and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government are members of the Ministerial Committee on Domestic Affairs at which issues on engaging with the Muslim community are discussed.

Economic Growth

14. To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what the prospects are for growth in the Scottish economy; and if he will make a statement. (98838)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Ms Clark).

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what assessment he has made of the most recent gross domestic product growth figures for Scotland; and if he will make a statement. (98830)

Scotland continues to benefit from the economic stability delivered by this Government, which is demonstrated by the recent gross domestic product data. I welcome these figures that show output growth of 0.6 per cent. over the last quarter and 2.2 per cent. over the last year, which is above the long-term trend rate of growth for the Scottish economy.

Departmental Expenditure

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how much his Department spent on its press office in each year since 1999 (a) in total and (b) per press officer. (96465)

The figures are as follows:

Cost1 (£)

Cost per press officer2 (£)

1999-20003

44,078

11,019

2000-01

178,236

44,559

2001-02

157,826

39,456

2002-03

162,021

40,505

2003-04

136,932

45,644

2004-05

131,149

43,716

2005-06

122,375

61,187

1 This includes expenditure that can be directly attributable to the press office, such as salaries, overtime, ERNIC, on-call allowances, travel and press cuttings service; it does not include overhead costs, such as accommodation, utilities and corporate services, which are paid centrally. 2 The cost per press officer is obtained by dividing the total cost each year by the number of press officers in post at 31 March at the end of the relevant year. It does not therefore reflect any variations in the number of press officers during each year. 3 Part-year cost from 1 July 1999, when the office was created, to 31 March 2000.

Departmental Redundancies

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many redundancies there were in his Department in each year since 1997; what the cost of such redundancies was in each such year; how many temporary staff were employed in each such year; and how many staff were seconded by outside organisations to the Department in each such year. (95269)

The Scotland Office was established in July 1999; since this date there have been no redundancies from the Office.

The information on temporary staff is shown in the table. The figures relate to the total number of temporary staff—sometimes reflecting several such temporary staff filling posts in succession. They do not reflect the total number of posts filled by temporary staff.

Number

Scotland Office and Office of the Advocate-General for Scotland

1999-2000

13

2000-01

16

2001-02

19

2002-03

15

2003-04

20

2004-05

6

Scotland Office

2005-06

0

Office of the Advocate-General for Scotland

2005-06

7

Note: Prior to 2005-06, separate figures were not maintained for SO and OAG.

One individual was seconded in 2001 and three were seconded in 2002 from outside organisations.

Departmental Staff

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if his Department will (a) carry out an age audit of its staff to establish an age profile of its work force, (b) negotiate an age management policy with trade unions and employees to eliminate age discrimination and retain older workers, (c) identify and support training needs and offer older staff flexible working to downshift towards retirement and (d) extend to over-fifties the right to request to work flexibly and the right to training with paid time off; and if he will make a statement. (96501)

All staff in the Scotland Office are on secondment from either the Department for Constitutional Affairs or the Scottish Executive and are covered under any age-related policies or initiatives operated by their parent Departments.

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) what proportion of vacancies in his Department in the last 12 months required candidates to have at least a grade C in (a) English and (b) mathematics GCSE; (96741)

(2) whether his Department recognises the International GCSE as an acceptable substitute for a GCSE for the purposes of recruitment.

The Scotland Office does not recruit staff directly and all staff are on secondment from either the Department for Constitutional Affairs or the Scottish Executive. Posts in the Office are filled by civil servants who meet the competencies and skills relevant to that post.

Devolution

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent devolution issues the Advocate-General has considered. (99097)

Since 10 October, 62 devolution issues have been intimated to the Advocate-General. Of these 62 devolution issues, 45 related to civil proceedings and 17 related to criminal proceedings.

Dover House

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many times his Department’s offices in Dover house have been used by Ministers from the Scottish Executive in each month since May 2005; and what the length of stay was on each occasion. (99543)

The following table shows the number of visits to Dover house by Scottish Executive Ministers and Law Officers in each of the months from May 2005 to October 2006.

Number of visits

2005

May

5

June

6

July

5

August

1

September

5

October

4

November

3

December

16

2006

January

5

February

5

March

5

April

2

May

3

June

2

July

12

August

0

September

0

October

3

Total (18 months)

82

A visit is counted as a day or part of a day. More precise information on the length of stay is not available.

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what training his Department’s security staff based in Dover house have received since 5 May 2005 in (a) counter-terrorism and (b) customer service. (100021)

The security guards employed in Dover house are all licensed by the Security Industry Authority. In accordance with the terms of their licences, they have received and will continue to receive appropriate training in all their duties.

Ministerial Travel

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he has taken to offset the carbon dioxide emissions caused by ministerial travel in his Office. (98733)

The Scotland Office subscribes to the principles of environmental performance adopted by the Department for Constitutional Affairs.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given today by the Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Redcar (Vera Baird).

Treasury

2018 World Cup

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when his Department will publish its feasibility study on the UK hosting the 2018 World Cup; and if he will make a statement. (100158)

A study into the feasibility of England hosting a future football World Cup Championship will be published jointly in due course by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Treasury.

Al-Qaeda

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many organisations found to have links with al-Qaeda have had their assets frozen; how much has been frozen in total; how much of this has been returned to legitimate authorities; and if he will make a statement. (99661)

A total of 359 individuals and 124 organisations suspected of having links with al-Qaeda and the Taliban have been designated by the UN Sanctions Committee, the EU and the UK Government.

Financial assets frozen in the UK under the al-Qaeda and Taliban (United Nations Measures) Order 2002 total approximately £560,866, of which £85,337 belongs to organisations.

The fight against terrorist financing is an international issue that has been successful in freezing $94 million across 34 countries.

The asset freezing regime is designed to prevent funds, economic resources and financial services from being made available to anyone who is designated under the order on suspicion of involvement with terrorism, and does not include a power to seize assets.

Asset Freezing Working Group

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when the report of his Department's Asset Freezing Working Group will be published. (97195)

I refer my hon. Friend to the written ministerial statement to Parliament on terrorist finance on 10 October 2006.

On this basis, the Government would expect to publish its first quarterly report to Parliament by early in the New Year. The Government do not publish reports considered by the Asset Freezing Working Group on individual cases.

Authorised Press Officials

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to his answer of 24 October 2006, Official Report, column 1829W, on authorised press officials, which special advisers and members of his Council of Economic Advisers he has authorised to represent his views to the media. (99588)

All contact with the press by Treasury officials or special advisers is conducted in accordance with the Civil Service Code and the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers respectively.

Cadet Forces

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much has been spent on School Combined Cadet Forces in the last 12 months. (99395)

Call Centres

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) pursuant to the answer of 10 March 2006, Official Report, columns 1801-2W, on call centres, how many and what proportion of calls to his Department and its agencies in (a) 2003-04, (b) 2004-05, (c) 2005-06 and (d) 2006-07 were (i) handled by an adviser, (ii) received but abandoned and (iii) received an engaged tone in each year, broken down by line of business; (93487)

(2) how many calls to HM Revenue and Customs helplines received an engaged tone in each month from 1 April to 31 October.

The requested data are not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost

Carers

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of how many carers between (a) five and 15 and (b) 16 and 18-years-old in (i) England, (ii) Hemel Hempstead and (iii) the Dacorum borough council area are providing unpaid care. (100206)

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.

Letter from Colin Mowl, dated 7 November 2006:

The National Statistician and Registrar General for England and Wales has been asked to reply to your recent parliamentary question asking how many carers (a) under the age of 18 years and (b) between five and 15 years in (i) England, (ii) Kernel Hempstead and (iii) Dacorum borough councils area are providing unpaid care. I am replying in her absence. (100206)

The table below shows the number of people aged between 0-17 and 5-15 in (a) England, (b) Hemel Hempstead parliamentary constituency (PC) and (c) Dacorum borough council (BC) who on Census day (29 April 2001) were providing unpaid care. Data for Hemel Hempstead PC has been extracted from the 2001 Census database; data for both England and Dacorum borough council have been taken from table S025 in “Census 2001 National Report for England and Wales pt 1” which is available in the House of Commons Library.

All people in households—England

All people providing unpaid care

Area

0-17

5-15

England

139,199

90,431

Hemel Hempstead PC

250

166

Dacorum BC

325

215

Sources:

2001 Census data and table S025 in Census 2001 National Report for England and Wales pt 1

Child Benefit

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the cost of uprating child benefit in line with average earnings in each year from 2007-08 to 2012-13; what assessment he has made of the effect that uprating would have on child poverty; and if he will make a statement. (100059)

The cost of uprating child benefit in line with average earnings for each year from 2007-08 to 2012-13 is shown in the table.

Cost of uprating child benefit in line with average earnings: 2007-08 to 2012-13

Cost (£ million)

2007-08

200

2008-09

400

2009-10

600

2010-11

900

2011-12

1,100

2012-13

1,400

The Government do not produce a forecast for average earnings growth to 2012-13, so for this analysis we have assumed earnings growth in line with the estimated trend growth in labour productivity. See “Budget 2006”, Table B2. We have further assumed growth of retail prices in line with the projections published in “Budget 2006”, Table C3.

Uprating child benefit by earnings for a period of six years would amount to a cumulative increase of around 12 per cent. compared with uprating by prices. Based on a 60 per cent. contemporary median income threshold, it is estimated that a similar real terms increase implemented today could lower child poverty by between 130,000 and 160,000, depending on the choice of equivalisation scale for household incomes.

Child Care Vouchers

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many child care vouchers have been issued since their introduction in April 2005, broken down by local authority area. (99820)

This information is not available. Employers and employees are not required to report the provision of tax-free employer supported child care vouchers provided to employees since the tax and national insurance contributions exemptions were introduced in April 2005.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer which public bodies in Scotland offer their staff salary-sacrifice child care vouchers in accordance with the provisions introduced in the Finance Act 2004. (100056)

Child Trust Funds

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many child trust fund vouchers have been issued for children born in (a) the UK and (b) Wansbeck constituency; and how many have resulted in accounts being opened in each case. (100053)

The latest set of child trust fund statistics showing UK-wide information was published by HM Revenue and Customs on 29 September at www.hmrc.gov.uk/stats/child_trust_funds/child-trust-funds.htm. These show that over 75 per cent. of parents are using their child’s voucher to open a child trust fund account.

Child trust fund information at constituency level would currently be available only at disproportionate cost. However, it is anticipated that this information should become available later this year.

Climate Change

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the total cost was of the supporting research commissioned as part of the Stern Review into the economics of climate change; and what proportion of the total cost of producing the Stern Review that research comprised. (100142)

The Stern Review spent £62,300 on supporting research. This represents five per cent. of the total £1.26 million Review budget. In addition, other Government Departments contributed £136,300 to research commissioned by the Stern Review.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the total cost was of the review on the economics of climate change; how many paper copies of the report were printed; and to which bodies they have been distributed. (99334)

Sir Nicholas Stern’s review of the economics of climate change was an independent review jointly funded by the Treasury and the Cabinet Office. The total budget was £1.26 million. The report was published on the review website at www.sternreview.org.uk

Comprehensive Spending Review

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the (a) dates and (b) locations were of each event he has held as part of the public debate on the Comprehensive Spending Review. (97964)

The Chancellor is keen to ensure the Comprehensive Spending Review is fully informed by widespread public engagement on the long-term challenges facing the UK. To analyse these challenges, the Government have undertaken extensive consultation with third sector organizations, services users, frontline professionals, businesses, think-tanks and academics among others. We will be publishing our analysis of the long-term challenges facing the UK later this year, and this will provide the basis for further debate.

Conference Bookings

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 25 October 2006, Official Report, column 1943W, on conference bookings, what the total value was of the contracts with Travelocity (formerly First Option) that were cancelled in each of the last three years; and if he will make a statement. (99601)

In respect of HM Revenue and Customs’ contract with Travelocity for hotels and conference venue bookings, the cost of cancellations of conferences in the 12 month period up to June 2006 was £173,599. The information requested for the preceding two years cannot be easily extracted from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs own records.

Correspondence

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he expects to reply to the letters from Mr. P. B. Waggott of Castle Cary, Somerset, of 25 March, 10 July and 18 August. (98654)

Officials have replied to Mr. Waggott on 12 May, 14 August and 30 October. I have arranged for copies to be forwarded to the hon. Gentleman and to Mr. Waggott.

Debt Collection

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much has been recovered by debt collectors in his Departments in each of the last five years for which information is available, broken down by (a) Department and (b) the tax the recovery related to; and if he will make a statement. (99655)

The amount of tax and duty recovered by the debt recovery arm of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is included in the figures recorded in HMRC’s Annual Report 2004-05 and Autumn Performance Report 2005.

Prior to the merger of Inland Revenue and Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise, the figures were recorded separately in each Department’s Annual Report and Accounts.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many employees in each of his departments worked on debt collection in each of the last five years for which data are available; and if he will make a statement. (99656)

In April 2005 the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise merged to form Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Debt Management and Banking (DMB) is the arm of HMRC responsible for recovery of debt. In the last five years the DMB joint staffing allocation (in full-time equivalent terms) has been:

Number

2001-02

9,204

2002-03

8,934

2003-04

9,319

2004-05

9,726

2005-06

9,321

HMRC has taken on new work over recent years and that has affected the staffing profile while resources have had to be used flexibly to support HMRC's work, but on average about 75 per cent. of the above numbers have been directly involved in debt recovery.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the number of individuals granted debtors' petitions while being actively pursued for debts by each of his departments in each of the last five years for which information is available, broken down by department; and if he will make a statement. (99659)

In the pursuit of debt Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) handle cases where the debtor or another creditor has already filed for bankruptcy. In such cases HMRC lodge their claim like any other creditor but do not keep a separate record of the number of individuals who are granted debtors' petitions.

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many creditors' petitions for bankruptcy have been granted to his departments in respect of individuals in each of the last five years for which information is available; and if he will make a statement. (99660)

The number of creditor petitions granted to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in the last three years is:

Number

2003-04

3,764

2004-05

3,052

2005-06

3,972

HMRC does not have this information for earlier years.

Departmental Staff

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many of his Department’s staff were (a) under 20, (b) 21 to 30, (c) 31 to 40, (d) 41 to 50, (e) 51 to 60 and (f) over 60 years of age (i) in 1997 and (ii) in the last 12 months. (97909)