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Written Answers

Volume 457: debated on Thursday 8 March 2007

Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 8 March 2007

Work and Pensions

Departmental Websites

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many Jobcentre Plus staff were involved in administering the Jobcentre Plus website in each of the last 24 months. (118785)

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) e-Communications team is responsible for the administration of the Jobcentre Plus website. No Jobcentre Plus staff are involved in the administration of the site.

The information on the number of DWP e-Communications staff administering the website since February 2005 is in the following table.

Number of staff

2005

February

7

March

7

April

7

May

7

June

7

July

7

August

7

September

7

October

7

November

7

December

7

2006

January

7

February

7

March

7

April

8

May

8

June

8

July

8

August

8

September

8

October

8

November

8

December

8

2007

January

8

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what target he has set for Jobcentre Plus website user visits for 2006-07. (118787)

The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus, Lesley Strathie. I have asked her to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Lesley Strathie:

The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking what targets are set for Jobcentre Plus website user visits for 2006-07. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.

The Jobcentre Plus website does not have targets to increase visitors, nor to achieve a set target of user visits to the website. Jobcentre Plus does, however, encourage visitors by ensuring the website address is included in all of its marketing activity.

I hope this is helpful.

Deprived Areas Fund

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what Deprived Areas Fund allocation his Department has made to Wandsworth, Southwark and Lambeth district in 2007-08, broken down by ward; and if he will make a statement; (118421)

(2) what Deprived Areas Fund allocation his Department has made to Wandsworth, Southwark and Lambeth Jobcentre Plus district in 2006-07, split by ward; and if he will make a statement;

(3) how much Deprived Areas Fund spend allocated by his Department to Wandsworth, Southwark and Lambeth district in 2006-07 has been spent in the year to date, broken down by ward; and if he will make a statement.

[holding answer 2 February 2007]: The information on Deprived Areas Fund allocation for 2006-07 and 2007-08 in Wandsworth, Southwark and Lambeth district is in the following table.

Deprived areas fund allocation in Wandsworth, Southwark and Lambeth district

£

Ward code

Ward

2006-07

2007-08

OOAYFZ

Bishop’s

23,089

70,918

OOAYGA

Brixton Hill

24,639

75,678

OOAYGC

Clapham Town

23,811

73,134

OOAYGD

Coldharbour

28,808

88,484

OOAYGE

Ferndale

25,581

78,572

OOAYGF

Gipsy Hill

26,062

80,050

OOAYGG

Herne Hill

23,417

71,923

OOAYGH

Knight's Hill

25,762

79,126

OOAYGJ

Larkhall

28,307

86,944

OOAYGK

Oval

23,797

73,093

OOAYGL

Prince’s

23,363

71,759

OOAYGM

St. Leonard’s

21,833

67,060

OOAYGN

Stockwell

27,198

83,538

OOAYGP

Streatham Hill

24,091

73,996

OOAYGR

Streatham Wells

23,550

72,334

OOAYGS

Thornton

23,002

70,651

OOAYGU

Tulse Hill

26,764

82,204

OOAYGW

Vassall

25,942

79,680

OOBEGC

Brunswick Park

24,793

76,151

OOBEGD

Camberwell Green

26,410

81,117

OOBEGE

Cathedrals

36,251

111,344

OOBEGF

Chaucer

34,688

106,542

OOBEGJ

East Walworth

28,280

86,862

OOBEGK

Faraday

31,113

95,563

OOBEGL

Grange

26,797

82,307

OOBEGM

Livesey

28,421

87,294

OOBEGN

Newington

28,340

87,047

OOBEGP

Nunhead

22,114

67,921

OOBEGQ

Peckham

24,459

75,124

OOBEGR

Peckham Rye

20,256

62,217

OOBEGU

South Bermondsey

24,312

74,673

OOBEGW

South Camberwell

25,207

77,423

OOBEGY

The Lane

25,848

79,393

OOBJGG

Latchmere

24,759

76,048

OOBJGK

Queenstown

24,038

73,832

Total

905,103

2,780,000

To date, no spend through the Deprived Areas Fund has been recorded for the Wandsworth, Southwark and Lambeth district in 2006-07.

Disabled People: Poverty

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what percentage of disabled people were living in (a) relative and (b) absolute poverty in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. (112905)

I refer the hon. Member to the written answer I gave the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Laws) on 19 January 2007, Official Report, column 1436W.

External Consultants

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how much his Department has spent on external consultants in each year since 1996-97, broken down by project; what the purpose of each such project was; and if he will make a statement. (102201)

The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. The DWP was formed in June 2001 and I have provided the total spent on external consultants since formation.

The total cost of employing consultants in each year for the remaining years is in the following table.

£ million

Description

Management consultancy

IT consultancy

2001-02

23.79

70.67

2002-03

47.57

93.47

2003-04

223.35

83.37

2004-05

98.64

69.73

2005-06

77.59

52.70

Household Incomes

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of how many families living in (a) England, (b) Wales and (c) Scotland receive more than half of their gross income in cash benefits and tax credits. (102165)

The information is in the following table.

Family type

Country

All

Pensioner couple

England

1.4

Wales

0.1

Scotland

0.1

Northern Ireland

-

UK

1.7

Couple with children

England

0.5

Wales

*

Scotland

*

Northern Ireland

*

UK

0.6

Couple without children

England

0.4

Wales

*

Scotland

*

Northern Ireland

*

UK

0.5

Lone parent

England

0.9

Wales

*

Scotland

0.1

Northern Ireland

-

UK

1.1

Notes:

1. Income from benefits or tax credits: Income from any Social Security Benefit; i.e. income-related benefit and non-income related benefit and for this analysis also includes tax credits. See notes below for further definition of income- and non-income related benefits

2. The only way we can measure family income is by using the Benefit Unit definition of family. This is equivalent to a family unit but is not the same as a household. A household can contain one or more benefit units.

3. The estimates are based on sample counts that have been adjusted for non-response using multi-purpose grossing factors that control for tenure type, Council Tax Band and a number of demographic variables. Estimates are subject to sampling error and remaining response bias.

4. Benefit receipt is based on self-assessment and therefore may be subject to mis-reporting.

5. Percentage is rounded to the nearest percent

6. Income related benefits:

Social Security benefits included in this category are:

Back to Work Bonus

Extended Payment of Council Tax Benefit

Extended Payment of Housing Benefit

Income Support

Pension Credit

Housing Benefit

Council Tax Benefit

Rates Rebate

Disability Working Allowance

Social Fund Grant for Funeral Expenses

Social Fund Grant for Maternity Expenses

Jobseeker’s Allowance (Income based)

Community Care Grants

Return to Work Credit

Child Maintenance Bonus

7. Non-income related benefits/Non-income related state support:

Social Security benefits included in this category are:

Statutory Sick Pay

Statutory Maternity Pay

Statutory Paternity Pay

Statutory Adoption Pay

Disability Living Allowance

Child Benefit

Retirement Pension

Widowed Mother’s Allowance/Widowed Parents Allowance

Widow’s Payment/Bereavement Payment

Widow’s Pension/Bereavement Allowance

War Disablement Pension

War Widow’s Pension

Severe Disablement Allowance

Attendance Allowance

8. The estimates are based on sample counts that have been adjusted for non-response using multi-purpose grossing factors which align the FRS to Government Office Region populations by age and sex. Estimates are subject to sampling error and remaining response bias. Sample sizes are provided to help readers judge the robustness of the information.

9. Data are not provided for certain cells in the table because the sample sizes are too small to support reliable estimates of the statistics in question. (Represented with an *)

10. Evidence suggests that some items of income may be under reported in the survey, particularly self-employment and investment income; and estimates of average income are vulnerable to variations in the number of very high income households responding in each region; these figures should therefore be treated with caution.

11. Benefit receipt is based on self-assessment and therefore may be subject to misreporting.

Source:

Family Resources Survey (UK), 2004-05

Figures have been rounded to nearest 100 thousand.

Jobcentre Plus

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in which areas the 0800 number to contact Jobcentre Plus is available to claimants of working age benefit. (118790)

The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus, Lesley Strathie. I have asked her to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Lesley Strathie:

The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking in which areas the 0800 number to contact Jobcentre Plus is available to claimants of working age benefit. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.

The new 0800 telephone number is part of a wider package of measures being delivered to improve the process for New and Repeat Claims to Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Incapacity Benefit. These changes began in January 2007 at the contact centre in Grimsby.

The number is currently available to people calling from East Yorkshire and Humber, Calderdale, Kirklees & Wakefield and Leeds, including the Textphone service, and will continue with a gradual rollout to the remaining contact centres by the end of May 2007.

I hope this helpful.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to advise members of the public of the changes to the Jobcentre Plus dialling code. (118791)

The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus, Lesley Strathie. I have asked her to provide the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Lesley Strathie:

The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question asking what steps are being taken to advise the public of the changes to the Jobcentre Plus dialling code. This is something which falls within the responsibilities delegated to me as Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus.

The new 0800 telephone number is part of a wider package of measures being delivered to improve the process for New and Repeat Claims to Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance and Incapacity Benefit. These changes are being rolled out across the country between January and May 2007 and will provide a better customer service, eliminate double handling and be more affordable.

The 0800 feature will give the majority of our customers the facility to make a benefit claim in a single call which will be free from landlines.

As part of this package of improvements we are taking a series of steps to inform customers of the new number:

As the number is introduced into our Contact Centres, posters showing the 0800 number will be prominently displayed at linked Jobcentres. Leaflets will be made available at Jobcentres for customers to take away with them. Posters and leaflets are also being distributed to local external partners such as the Citizens Advice Bureau to display and issue to customers as appropriate.

Jobcentres will also have cards available for customers, providing details of the 0800 number plus additional useful local contact numbers.

To support the transition to the new 0800 number, the current Contact Centre 0845 numbers will have a message redirecting customers to the new 0800 number. This will be in place for a period of 12 months.

Telephone directories will be updated as reprints become due.

The Jobcentre Plus Internet site will also be updated to reflect the change to the 0800 number as roll out progresses.

I hope this is helpful.

New Deal

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether he expects the Government’s Building on the New Deal policy to be included in the documents to be produced at the time of the Chancellor’s next Budget; and if he will make a statement. (104679)

We are unable to say what will be included in Budget documents.

We have been considering the Building on New Deal strategy in the light of Spending Review settlement resources, respective priorities, and commitments in the Welfare Reform Green Paper. We are still committed to the Building on New Deal principles of tailoring, personalisation, and devolution, and these are being taken forward through the introduction of the more far-reaching City Strategy.

Parliamentary Questions

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what systems are in place in his Department for classifying written parliamentary questions when they are tabled; and if he will make a statement. (103377)

Remploy

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many public contracts have been awarded in England to supported employers to (a) Remploy and (b) other similar organisations since January 2006; and if he will take steps to increase the number of contracts awarded to such employers. (112383)

Remploy has been awarded approximately 8,000 public contracts since January 2006 worth approximately £37 million. Often these are national contracts covering England, Scotland and Wales.

Information as to how many public contracts have been awarded to similar organisations in England is not available.

We are keen to see Remploy and other such organisations make the most of public procurement opportunities and as a first step officials have already arranged a meeting with Remploy, the GMB union National Secretary and officials from the Office of Government Commerce to discuss how to take this forward.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the total workforce is of Remploy; what proportion of the Remploy budget in 2006-07 is being spent on supporting those jobs; and what his policy is on redundancies in Remploy businesses. (118752)

The information is shown in the following table.

Number of people employed

As a percentage of the Remploy budget

Remploy Workforce Businesses

5,731

78

Employment Services Workforce

500

15

Number of WORKSTEP participants supported by Remploy Employment Services

4,057

Other Costs (pensions deficit etc.)

7

The policy is that there are to be no compulsory redundancies for disabled employees employed in Remploy businesses.

Special Advisers

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many of his Department’s civil servants work full-time to support departmental special advisers; and what the salary is of each such civil servant. (106501)

The special advisers in the Department of Work and Pensions are supported by three civil servants. The salary ranges are:

Range

Number of civil servants

£21,480 to £27,300

1

£27,240 to £36,480

2

Work

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many people in Edinburgh, North and Leith have received the In Work credit; (118854)

(2) how many people in Edinburgh, North and Leith have received the Lone Parent Work Search Premium.

We are now able to break down information on the In Work Credit and Work Search Premium at constituency level.

Since October 2004, 131 people have received the lone parent In Work credit, and nine people have received the lone parent Work Search Premium in Edinburgh, North and Leith.

International Development

Afghanistan: Overseas Aid

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what reconstruction and development objectives his Department set for (a) education, (b) water and sanitation, (c) healthcare, (d) microfinance and (e) poppy eradication prior to the invasion of Afghanistan; what assessment he has made of the extent to which they have been achieved; and if he will make a statement. (122749)

Prior to September 2001, DFID's development strategy for Afghanistan supported the UN-led strategic framework for Afghanistan. Between September 2001 and the fall of the Taliban regime, DFID's objectives were primarily humanitarian, specifically to:

Help meet immediate life-saving needs in areas such as food, water, healthcare and shelter;

Support refugee needs for assistance and protection in neighbouring countries (and cross-border operations where feasible), for example through programmes in health, food, water and sanitation;

Strengthen international humanitarian agency capacity and coordination;

Help re-establish the international community's presence in Afghanistan; and

Support peacemaking efforts and encourage forward planning for Afghanistan's post-conflict recovery.

Having helped to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and support the establishment of an interim Afghan Administration, DFID's focus shifted from humanitarian assistance to reconstruction and development.

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what (a) proposals and (b) strategies his Department had in place prior to the invasion of Afghanistan for the reconstruction and development of that country. (122768)

DFID's development strategy in Afghanistan prior to September 2001 was to support the UN-led strategic framework for Afghanistan. Prior to, during and immediately after the invasion our work was focused on supporting the humanitarian response and meeting immediate life-saving needs in areas such as food, water, healthcare and shelter. From late 2001, DFID's approach supported the Bonn agreement, which set out the key milestones to recreating a legitimate Afghan government. Our strategy has been to support such a government in identifying its priorities for Afghan reconstruction and development, which we can then support.

Details of specific proposals we received from UN agencies, NGOs and others are no longer easily accessible as they have been archived. Searching for the broad range of all proposals in place prior to the invasion would unfortunately, involve a disproportionate cost.

Disaster Relief: Orphans

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions he has had with his counterparts in the US about the impact of a new definition of orphans and vulnerable children on eligibility for support from the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief from March; and if he will make a statement. (124894)

We have regular discussions, at both ministerial and official level, with colleagues in the US Office of the Global AIDS Co-ordinator, who are responsible for the operation of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). We understand they have no plans to adopt a new definition of orphans and vulnerable children.

We believe the most widely adopted international definitions are those agreed by the members of the Joint United Nations Programme for HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Monitoring and Evaluation Reference Group. They define an orphan as a child below the age of 18 who has lost one or both parents. They further define a child made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS as below the age of 18 and:

Having lost one or both parents, or

Having a chronically ill parent (regardless of whether the parent lives in the same household as the child), or

Living in a household where in the past 12 months, at least one adult died and was sick for three of the 12 months before he/she died, or

Living in a household where at least one adult was seriously ill for at least three months in the past 12 months, or

Living outside of family care (i.e. living in an institution or on the streets).

DFID supports the UNICEF view, agreed at the 2004 and 2006 Global Partners Forums, that national and international partners should advance action for “children affected by AIDS” rather than “orphans and vulnerable children” to reflect the range of ways that HIV and AIDS can make children vulnerable, including children: living in households that have taken in orphans; living with HIV themselves; who have lost access to school; or whose parents are struggling with a terminal illness.

Overseas Aid: Education

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what total funding for education his Department allocated in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. (122216)

DFID bilateral expenditure on education in each of the last five years is shown at Table 1.

Table 1: DFID Bilateral expenditure on education

£000

Expenditure

2001-02

134,179

2002-03

165,133

2003-04

221,887

2004-05

269,761

2005-06

249,799

DFID also contributes to the funding of a range of multilateral organisations much of which will go towards education. The total amount of funding through the major relevant multilateral organisations is published in Statistics on International Development, a copy of which is available in the Library. Summary information is provided in Table 2.

Table 2: Total DFID expenditure on the funding of selected multilateral organisations

£ million

2001-02

2002-03

2003-04

2004-05

2005-06

Multilateral organisation

European Community

730

871

1,031

951

917

International Development Association

214

221

381

204

271

UNICEF

18

20

18

24

32

UNESCO

3

3

3

3

3

African Development Fund

29

33

32

35

34

Asian Development Fund

27

26

24

22

19

Culture, Media and Sport

Departments: St. George's Day

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what plans her Department has to celebrate St. George’s Day. (125695)

The Department will fly the St. George’s flag along side the Union Flag to celebrate St. George’s Day.

Gaming Clubs

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, pursuant to the answer of 28 February 2007, Official Report, column 1404W, on gaming clubs, for what reasons the research paper commissioned by the Casino Advisory Panel was not received in time to provide background to assist in the scoping phase of the panel’s work. (125854)

The research paper commissioned by the Casino Advisory Panel was not received in time to provide background to assist in the scoping phase of the Panel’s work because the process of conducting the research revealed that there was more material in existence than had been anticipated by the researcher.

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, pursuant to the answer of 28 February 2007, Official Report, column 1403W, on gaming clubs, which members of the Casino Advisory Panel had expertise in each of the categories of expertise stated in the answer to question 123659. (125855)

Biographical details of the five individuals selected to become the Chair and members of the Casino Advisory Panel were included in the press release, issued on 30 September 2005, which announced the establishment of the Panel.

I am arranging for copies of the press release to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The press release is also available on the Panel’s website at:

www.culture.gov.uk/cap

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, pursuant to the answer of 28 February 2007, Official Report, column 1404W, on gaming clubs, on what date the Casino Advisory Panel asked her Department for its 2006 budget to be determined; and on what date the Panel was informed of its budget. (125856)

The Casino Advisory Panel’s budget was discussed and carefully monitored throughout the latter part of 2005 and during 2006. In the period leading up to the examinations in public, held in August and September 2006 for the local authority areas short listed for the regional casino, funding for the remainder of 2006 was confirmed and extra staffing was allocated to the Panel. This is recorded in the minutes of the Casino Advisory Panel meeting held on 5 July 2006, which are available on the Panel’s website at:

www.culture.gov.uk/cap

Olympic Games: Finance

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what assessment she has made of the implications for the Big Five Lottery distributors of changes in funding levels resulting from preparations for the 2012 Olympic Games. (125462)

It was always understood when we bid that National Lottery funding for London 2012 would involve some loss of income to the non-Olympic good causes. Non-Olympic distributors may lose an average of 5 per cent. of their income because of sales diversion to Olympic Lottery games over the period 2005-06 to 2012-13. In addition, we have already announced that £410 million will be taken from non-Olympic Lottery proceeds between 2009 and 2012. No decision has been made about how that amount will be shared between the various non-Olympic good causes.

The Government are currently considering how the additional Olympic costs of £900 million should be met. No conclusions have yet been reached on the further use of Lottery funding.

Olympic Games: Greater London

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what her most recent estimate is of the cost of the London 2012 Olympic Games, broken down by main cost area. (124799)

I refer the hon. Member to the Committee for Culture, Media and Sport hearing on 21 November 2006, where I gave a detailed breakdown of the recent estimate into the costs of the London 2012 Olympic Games. The transcript is available in the Committee’s Second Report of the Session 2006-07, London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games: funding and legacy (HC 69-ii).

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what consideration the Government has given to the exclusion of Zimbabwe from participating in the London 2012 Olympic Games; and if she will make a statement. (125294)

The involvement of individual nations or territories in the Olympic Games is a matter for the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Nations of the world send competitors to the Games under the auspices of their respective National Olympic Committee (NOC). The IOC grants recognition to individual NOCs, and then invites them to participate in each Games.

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport whether Zimbabwe meets the criteria for participating in the London 2012 Olympic Games; and if she will make a statement. (125295)

The main role of the 203 National Olympic Committees, as recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), is to ensure that athletes from their respective nations attend the Olympic Games. Only a NOC is able to select and send teams and competitors for participation in the Olympic Games. Responsibility for establishing and applying the criteria for participating in the Games is a matter for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and, depending upon the sport in question, the appropriate International Sports Federation.

Radio: Advertising

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what assessment she has made of the impact on commercial radio serving local communities of changes in advertising revenue over the last three years. (126069)

None. However, Ofcom’s review of radio which has outlined a number of challenges currently facing the industry, including the impact of falling advertising revenue to the commercial radio sector. The next stage of their review will be published shortly.

Sport England: Manpower

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many members of staff are employed by Sport England (a) centrally and (b) in each of the regional offices; and what the salary bill was in the most recent month for which figures are available. (126206)

Sport England employ 264 staff; 92 of which are employed centrally and 172 are employed across the regions. Their gross salary bill for February 2007 was £820,000.

Sports: Drugs

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if she will list the Olympic (a) summer and (b) winter sports that are not compliant with the requirements of UK Sport’s drug testing regime. (126211)

UK Sport’s drug testing programme requires sports to be compliant with their anti-doping ‘Model Rules’.

These ‘Model Rules’ set out the rules and regulations which sports should have in place to be compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code.

Listed are the Olympic summer and winter sports which are not currently compliant, but with whom UK Sport is working to achieve compliance. It should be noted that testing continues to be undertaken on these sports and that sanctions can be applied for any anti-doping rule violation.

Summer sports

Delays due to jurisdiction issues:

Badminton (Scotland only)

Baseball

Basketball (Wales only)

Boxing

Volleyball (except England)

Rules have been submitted and reviewed—final versions yet to be produced:

Gymnastics

Rowing

Rules near sign off:

Equestrian

Delays due to sport new to Olympics:

Handball

Winter sports

Rules have been submitted and reviewed—final versions yet to be produced:

Bobsleigh

Transport

Aviation: Heathrow Airport

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the number and proportion of flights from Heathrow Airport which were to UK destinations in the last three years for which figures are available. (126059)

The estimated number and proportion of flights from Heathrow airport to UK destinations in the last three years were as follows:

Total number of flights from Heathrow (Thousand)

Number of flights to UK destinations (Thousand)

Percentage of flights from Heathrow to UK destinations

2003

229

30

13

2004

235

31

13

2005

236

32

13

Source:

Civil Aviation Authority

Biofuels

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent assessment he has made of performance against the Government’s targets for increasing the use of biofuels. (125911)

Details of monthly and annual biofuel sales are available via http://www.uktradeinfo.com/ index.cfm?task=bullhydro. Biofuel sales have increased steadily in the UK since the introduction of the 20p per litre fuel duty incentive for biodiesel and bioethanol, and in January 2007 accounted for some 0.8 per cent. of total transport fuel sales. During the calendar year 2005, biofuel sales made up some 0.25 per cent. of total transport fuel sales against the target of 0.3 per cent. which the UK set under the European Union’s Biofuels Directive (2003/30/EC).

The Government have announced that they will introduce a renewable transport fuel obligation (RTFO) in April 2008, which will require transport fuel suppliers to ensure that a certain percentage of their total transport fuel sale comes from biofuels. The level of the RTFO will be 2.5 per cent. in the financial year 2008-09, rising to 3.75 per cent. in 2009-10 and 5 per cent. in 2010-11. The Government are currently consulting on both the detailed design of the RTFO and how it might evolve over time.

Excise Duty (Reduced Pollution) (Amendment) Regulations 2000

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the (a) one-off and (b) recurring cost of implementing the Excise Duty (Reduced Pollution) (Amendment) Regulations 2000 (EU Pollution Directive 98/69/EC) to (i) businesses and (ii) the regulators. (125609)

The Reduced Pollution Certificate (RPC) scheme offers reduced rates of vehicle excise duty to heavy goods vehicle and public service vehicle operators who take action, generally by fitting a particulate trap, to reduce the particulate emissions of their vehicles to a target level below what would be required for a vehicle constructed to the Euro standard of that vehicle.

The initial regulations passed in 1998 were amended by the 2000 regulations. The principal purpose was to replace what had been the anticipated particulate standard for Euro 4 and 5 vehicles (the level that Euro 2 and 3 vehicles respectively had to reach to obtain an RPC) with the more stringent level actually agreed by the EU. This closed a loophole that had enabled a number of operators to obtain RPCs while taking little, if any, positive action to retrofit their vehicles.

The costs to business per vehicle with an RPC are estimated as follows:

fitting participate trap or fitting or converting engine to gas (£4,300 average)

test/certification fee. The initial RPC runs for just under two years initially, with retest fee payable annually thereafter. A test carried out in isolation currently costs £27, whereas a test in conjunction with a roadworthiness or other test costs £16 above those test fees

cost of presenting the vehicle for test—estimated to be £100 but this can be avoided where, as is usually the case, the test is conducted on the same day as the vehicle’s annual roadworthiness test

In 2003-04, a total of 30,080 RPCs were issued, of which 6,776 were first RPCs. Assuming maximum costs under each of the last two aforementioned points (£27 and £100) apply to all RPCs, but retrofitment costs (£4,300) only to the first RPCs, yields an aggregate cost for 2003-04 of £32.9 million.

Costs to the regulator are met through the fees for certification and testing.

First Great Western

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps First Great Western is taking to reduce emissions from their locomotives; what its published commitments to the Government are for reducing the company’s carbon footprint; and what recent assessment has been made by the Department on progress with reduction of emissions. (125663)

The engines in all the power cars of the high speed trains operated by First Great Western (FGW) are being replaced by modern engines with lower emissions and lower fuel consumption. FGW is committed under its franchise agreement to completing this programme at the latest by the end of June 2008.

Railway passenger operators are required by their passenger licences to establish a written policy to protect the environment from the effect of licensed activities. A copy of FGW’s policy is available from the Office of Rail Regulation’s public register.

The Department monitors progress on implementation of FGW’s contractual commitments.

Highways Agency: Vehicles

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many Highways Agency traffic officer patrol cars (a) entered and (b) left service in each of the last three years. (124185)

The information requested in the following table.

Period

Vehicles entering service

Vehicles leaving service

April 2004 to March 2005

25

0

April 2005 to March 2006

139

1

April 2006 to date

27

28

Lorries: Accidents

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many accidents involving heavy goods vehicles were reported to the police in each of the last five years for which figures are available; and how many involved foreign-registered heavy goods vehicles. (126034)

I refer the hon. Member to my answer of 29 June 2006, Official Report, columns 562-63W. The requested information is updated on an annual basis. 2006 data will be published in summer 2007.

Official Cars

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport which vehicle models are used by the Government Car and Despatch Agency; and how many of each type of vehicle are owned by the agency. (124613)

The Government Car and Despatch Agency uses the vehicles shown in the following table.

Vehicle

Type

Total

Hyundai Sonata

Car

7

Jaguar saloon

Car

20

Rover 75

Car

11

Toyota Prius

Car

77

Ford Galaxy

Car

6

Ford Mondeo

Car

36

Ford Transit

Van

35

Ford Connect

Van

12

Ford Sierra

Car

1

Vauxhall Vectra

Car

10

Vauxhall Corsa

Car

5

Vauxhall Astra

Car

2

Vauxhall Omega

Car

8

Volvo S80

Car

2

Peugeot 607

Car

7

Peugeot Partner

Van

1

Isuzu NQR70

Truck

1

Land Rover Discovery

Car

1

Daimler Limo

Car

1

7.5 tonne Leyland DAF

Truck

3

Mercedes Sprinter

Van

2

18 tonne MAN

Truck

1

Mercedes Vito

Van

1

The GCDA operates two core businesses—Government Cars, providing long and short term chauffeur and car hire services for the secure movement of Ministers, officials and others; and Government Mail, providing secure mail distribution services within Government and the wider public sector.

Ports: Planning Permission

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 8 February 2007, Official Report, columns 1065-66W, on ports: planning permission, which of the projects (a) have received and (b) are expected to receive a subsidy from public funds. (124498)

Of the ports for which the Department has approved Harbour Works Orders since 1998, (a) Liverpool city council has received European regional development funding (ERDF) of £7.85 million towards construction of the new city centre cruise terminal; and (b) East Port Great Yarmouth has been granted (but not yet received) a composite package of public funding totalling £18.75 million towards construction of an outer harbour.

Public Transport: Cambridge

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will place in the Library a copy of the Cambridge Capacity Study. (126052)

It is my intention to make a copy of the study available in the House Library. This will take account of any commercial sensitivities and will be available once the evaluation of the study's options is complete.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the timetable is for a decision on the Cambridge Capacity Study. (126053)

DfT is currently in the process of evaluating the options proposed by the study, which was received in late December 2006. In order to take full advantage of potential minor infrastructure enhancements, a decision on the preferred option would be required by summer 2007.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what changes to the rail timetable are proposed in the Cambridge Capacity Study. (126054)

The options currently under evaluation represent a combination of amending the current service pattern to make better use of the available train capacity, running a small number of additional services and some train lengthening.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects to consult on rail timetable changes proposed in the Cambridge Capacity Study. (126055)

To the extent that any proposed changes to the timetable arising from the preferred option are beyond the current First Capital Connect (FCC) service level commitment, FCC, not the Department for Transport, is obliged to consult with all statutory stakeholders.

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether the Cambridge Capacity Study includes estimates of the likely changes to journey times for commuters in North East Hertfordshire; and if he will make a statement. (126056)

The study includes various timetable options which may result in some journey time changes. To the extent that any of the options are taken forward and are in excess of the journey time specified in the current service level commitment, First Capital Connect is obliged to consult with all statutory stakeholders.

Railways: Thames Valley

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment of maximum passenger capacity was made prior to finalising Service Level Commitment 2 for the Greater Western Franchise. (123548)

Bidders for the franchise were required to assess demand and propose plans to meet it. The Department for Transport, as part of its technical evaluation of bids, assessed bidders’ plans to meet their forecast demand, and concluded that the bid from First, to whom the franchise was awarded, was in this respect acceptable in terms of delivery.

First Great Western’s franchise contains ongoing obligations in relation to capacity.

Railways: Timetables

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he last discussed the future of the printed version of the National Rail Timetable with (a) Network Rail and (b) the train operating companies; and if he will make a statement. (125967)

Any decision to change the content, publication and distribution of the National Rail Timetable is the responsibility of Network Rail.

My hon. Friend should contact Network Rail’s Chief Executive at the following address for an answer to his question:

John Armitt,

Chief Executive,

Network Rail,

40 Melton Street,

London NW1 2EE.

Road Works: Regulation

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress is being made in controlling and regulating road works by utilities. (125995)

The Government are currently implementing regulations under parts 3 and 4 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 to update the current system of managing roadworks by utilities, known as street works, and giving local highway authorities powers to implement more proactive controls by allowing them to apply to use permit schemes.

Safety Belts

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what funding his Department allocated in each of the last five years to means of raising awareness of the dangers of travelling by car without using a seatbelt. (124614)

The dangers of travelling by car without using a seat belt form part of the Government’s THINK! road safety campaign. The Government are investing around £17 million in the THINK! campaign in this fiscal year (FY2006-07).

The total campaign costs for the THINK! seat belts campaign since the 2002-03 fiscal year are as follows:

THINK! seat belts campaign costs

Fiscal year

£

2002-03

1.49 million

2003-04

2.03 million

2004-05

1.50 million

2005-06

1.57 million

2006-07

1225,000

1 Expected outturn.

The expenditure for the THINK! seat belts campaign for this fiscal year (FY2006-07) was reduced so that more resource could be devoted to raising awareness to the changes in the law on mobile phones and child car seats.

Shipping: Safety

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the compliance with the UK’s treaty obligations under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea of introducing a price mechanism into the maritime radio spectrum; and if he will make a statement. (122450)

The Independent Audit of Spectrum Holdings and the subsequent Government response, agreeing with the audit, found that there is scope for more effective use of public sector radio spectrum. The Office for Communications (Ofcom) and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) are charged with beginning work to introduce Administered Incentive Pricing (AIP—the ‘price mechanism’) to some elements of maritime radio spectrum use, including radar and communications. In its response to the audit, the MCA stressed that the safety case is paramount in any proposals to introduce pricing and bandsharing. In respect of obligations both within the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Department is considering its position. There are no substantive proposals at this stage as to whether and how AIP should be applied to the maritime sector. Before any proposals are progressed, full technical trials will be undertaken together with assessments of conformity with relevant international conventions.

Smith Institute

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much money from the public purse (a) his Department and (b) its agencies gave to (i) the Smith Institute and (ii) its subsidiary SI Events Limited in each year since 1997; and for what purpose each payment was made. (123101)

We have no record of money having been spent by the Department for Transport with the Smith Institute or SI Events Limited since the Department was formed in May 2002.

Transport: Orders and Regulations

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the (a) one-off cost and (b) ongoing costs of implementing the Non-Road Mobile Machinery (Emission of Gaseous and Particulate Pollutants) (Amendment) Regulations 2004 to (i) businesses and (ii) the regulators. (126658)

These regulations introduced emissions requirements for small off-road petrol engines and portable diesel generating set engines in order to reduce emissions and contribute towards the Government’s air quality objectives. The costs, as set out in the regulatory impact assessment, are an average ongoing cost of £9.8 million per annum to purchasers of new, internal combustion engined, off-road equipment.

The regulations did not impose any costs on the Department.

Transport: Wales

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what additional funding will be made available for Wales from the Local Transport Capital Settlement for 2007-08. (125102)

The Local Transport Capital Settlement covers local authorities in England (outside London). The equivalent funding support for Welsh local authorities is distributed by the devolved Welsh Administration.

Trade and Industry

Departments: Electronic Equipment

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many items of electrical equipment were discarded by his Department in each year since 2001; and what percentage of those were recycled. (126017)

The Department of Trade and Industry did not maintain records of discarded electrical items until 2 January 2007. Since that date we have not discarded any electrical items.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what guidance his Department has issued to other departments on the disposal of electrical equipment. (126019)

The Department of Trade and Industry published Guidance Notes on the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations on 28 February 2007. These include information for users of electrical equipment on options available for the disposal of WEEE once the WEEE Regulations come into full effect on 1 July 2007.

Departments: Redundancy

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much was spent on (a) involuntary and (b) voluntary staff exit schemes in (i) his Department and (ii) each agency of the Department in each year since 1997-98; how much is planned to be spent for 2007-08; and if he will make a statement. (123930)

The Department has spent the following on voluntary and involuntary exit schemes:

£ million

Voluntary

Involuntary

2004-05

5.23

0.05

2005-06

11.98

0.16

2006-07

18.43

1.20

1Estimated

The information for earlier years could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

The Department will always try to deal with staff surpluses by means other than redundancy. If redundancies become unavoidable the Department will endeavour to reduce staff by voluntary rather than involuntary means wherever possible. The Department is currently restructuring and is administering a voluntary exit scheme to deal with emerging surpluses which will run into 2007-08. The full extent of voluntary and involuntary exit costs is not yet available.

Letters from the Department's agencies—the Companies House, Insolvency Service, National Weights and Measures Laboratory, and the Patent Office—are provided separately.

Letter from Jeff Llewellyn, dated 8 March 2007:

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has asked me to reply on behalf of the National Weights and Measures Laboratory (NWML) to your question regarding “how much was spent on (a) involuntary and (b) voluntary staff exit schemes in (i) his Department and (ii) each agency of the Department in each year since 1997-98; how much is planned to be spent for 2007-08; and if he will make a statement. 123930”.

The National Weights & Measures Laboratory has not conducted any such schemes in any year since 1997-1998, and has no plans to introduce any during the period 2007-2008.

Letter from Desmond Flynn, dated 8 March 2007:

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has asked me to reply to you directly on behalf of the Insolvency Service in respect of your question (1343/2006), asking how much was spent on (a) involuntary and (b) voluntary staff exit schemes in (i) his Department and (ii) each agency of the Department in each year since 1997-98, and how much is planned to be spent for 2007-08.

No members of Insolvency Service staff have been included in such exit schemes during the relevant period. The Insolvency Service currently has no plans to offer exit schemes to its staff during 2007-08.

Letter from Ron Marchant, dated 8 March 2007:

Please see the following, from the Patent Office, in response to your recent parliamentary questions.

Written PQ 2006/1343: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, how much was spent on (a) involuntary and (b) voluntary staff exit schemes in (i) his Department and (ii) each agency of the Department in each year since 1997-98; how much is planned to be spent for 2007-08; and if he will make a statement. 123930

There were no involuntary staff exist schemes in the Patent Office in this period. The full cost of voluntary early retirement and severance schemes is charged to the office in the year the decision is made. The full figures charged to our accounts are:

£000

1997-98

155

1998-99

562

1999-2000

197

2000-01

289

2001-02

34

2002-03

237

2003-04

16

2004-05

13

2005-06

2,444

Letter from Tim Moss, dated 8 March 2007:

I am responding to your recently tabled Parliamentary Question to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on behalf of Companies House, which is an Executive Agency of the DTI.

Since 1997, Companies House has run staff exit schemes as follows:

Cost (£)

Description

1999

795,000

Compulsory early retirement/early severance

2003

250,000

Compulsory early retirement/early severance

2006

955,447

Voluntary early retirement—flexible

2007-08

1

1 Budgeted cost of £2.2 million for flexible voluntary early retirement/severance

Smith Institute

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much money from the public purse (a) his Department and (b) its agencies have given to (i) the Smith Institute and (ii) its subsidiary SI Events Ltd. in each year since 1997; and for what purpose each payment was made. (123102)

Data are not held centrally at this level of detail for the Department’s agencies. Data before 1999 are kept on microfiche and cannot be retrieved without disproportionate cost.

FY

Amount to Smith Institute

Amount to SI Events Ltd.

Purpose

1999-2000

8,000

Contribution to project study

2000-01

60

Publications

2001-02

0

2002-03

6,800

Economic Summit

2003-04

3,200

Economic Summit

2004-05

0

2005-06

110,438

27,050

1,2

2006-07

50

Membership fee

1 Debate on procmt policy and round table event

2 Debate on procmt policy

Insolvency: East Sussex

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many people were declared insolvent in (a) Eastbourne and (b) East Sussex in each of the last five years. (125488)

Regional insolvency statistics are only available on the basis of the locations of official receivers offices, each of which cover a group of county courts where the cases are heard and the courts having jurisdiction over these. It is not possible to provide bankruptcy statistics by constituency, county or Government office region. The following table provides the bankruptcy order statistics considered to be closest to those of interest, but they should not be treated as reliable estimates for the administrative geographies requested.

Eastbourne county court

Brighton OR’s office1

South East region (OR based)

2002

84

797

3,052

2003

148

958

4,618

2004

190

1,086

5,616

2005

263

1,653

7,328

2006

307

1,808

9,536

1 Brighton OR’s office covers the following county courts: Bognor Regis, Brighton, Chichester, Eastbourne, Hastings, Haywards Heath, Horsham, Lewes and Worthing.

Mining: Pensions

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many members of the Mineworkers Pension Scheme are receiving a pension of less than £10 a week. (125570)

I understand that, as at 5 March 2007, of the pensions in payment by the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme 24,444 were for less than £10 a week.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what percentage increase in payments has been made to (a) the chairman and trustees and (b) the members of the Mineworkers Pension Scheme and the British Coal Staff Superannuation Scheme since 1994. (125571)

I understand that the Chairmen of the Mineworkers' Pension Scheme (MPS) Trustees and British Coal Staff Superannuation Scheme (BCSSS) Trustees were not remunerated by the schemes until 1995 in the case of the BCSSS and 1996 in the case of the MPS. The current rate of remuneration for chairing the Committee of Management for each scheme is £30,000 a year, an increase of 100 per cent. since inception. In addition, the current Chairman of the BCSSS receives an additional £5,000 for also chairing the Investment Sub-Committee. Other Trustees were not remunerated by the schemes until 1997 in the case of the BCSSS and 1999 in the case of the MPS. The current rate of remuneration for Trustees is £13,000 a year, an increase since inception of 73 per cent. in the case of the BCSSS and 53 per cent. in the case of the MPS. Additional remuneration is also payable to other Trustees for chairing sub-committees. This amounts to £7,000 a year for the Chairman of the Investment Sub-Committee and £2,000 a year for the Chairmen of other sub-committees.

I understand that, including the new bonuses payable from April 2007, BCSSS pensions in payment will have increased by 82 per cent. since 1994 and deferred pensions by 89 per cent. For MPS the increases, effective from September 2006, are just under 78 per cent. for pensions in payment and 83 per cent. for deferred pensions.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether the Government will contribute to the £68 million set aside for deferred members by the Mineworkers Pension Scheme in 2006. (125572)

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how much has been received by the Government from the Mineworkers Pension Scheme and the Bristol Coal Staff Superannuation Scheme since 1994; and what estimate was made by the National Audit Office of what this sum would be. (125573)

As part of the guarantee arrangements for these schemes the Government receives 50 per cent. of any surplus declared in the triennial actuarial valuations undertaken by the Government Actuary. The Government’s share of each surplus, if any, is paid out over 10 years. The other 50 per cent. is used to enhance members’ benefits. Between October 1994 and December 2006 the Government received £1,785 million in respect of such payments from the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme (MPS) and £1,470 million from the British Coal Staff Superannuation Scheme (BCSSS). A further receipt of £242 million is expected from the BCSSS this month. In addition, the Government have used just over £68 million from the MPS Investment Reserve to fund lump-sum payments to members of the MPS on low pensions, and received £154 million from the BCSSS Investment Reserve, of which over £90 million has been used to fund pension liabilities inherited from British Coal. A further payment of 10 million from the BCSSS Investment Reserve is expected this month.

All payments to the Government as scheme Guarantor are reported in each scheme’s published Annual Report and Accounts. Copies of the latest reports are available on each scheme’s website

www.mps-pension.org.uk

and

www.bcsss-pension.org.uk

I understand that a report for the National Audit Office by Binder Hamlyn in 1995 suggested total gross payments to the Treasury from both schemes over 25 years of £8 billion.

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether it is still the intention that the investment reserve within the miners’ pension schemes will be repaid to the Government in 2019; and what assessment has been made of the impact on the investment strategy of the funds and the future protection of scheme members. (125574)

The Investment Reserves are British Coal’s share of pre-privatisation surpluses that the Government agreed to leave in the schemes’ funds as part of the guarantee arrangements. Under the schemes’ provisions, and subject to the need to make good any deficits in the funds, they are due to be paid to the Government as guarantor over a period of 25 years from the Guarantee Date of 31 October 1994, or such longer period as the Government may from time to time determine. The Government have not extended this period. I understand that the trustees of each scheme will be looking at the potential effect of this on their investment strategies later this year as part of their regular review process.

The Government have guaranteed that the pensions to which scheme members were entitled at privatisation, increased each year in line with the retail prices index, will always be paid and that their total pension entitlement, including bonuses funded from the members’ share of surpluses, will never fall in cash terms. This guarantee applies, and will be honoured by the Government, regardless of the value of the investment reserves or the solvency of the schemes at any time.

Natural Gas: Wales

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent discussions he has had on the Felindre to Tirley pipeline. (125881)

Since the Department of Trade and Industry consented to this pipeline on 7 February, officials have continued to have discussions about related issues with a range of stakeholders, including the Environment Agency, the Countryside Commission for Wales, the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority and Natural England, as well as National Grid. The discussions have covered various issues, including method working statements and the effective discharge of the consent conditions.

Petrol: Lancashire

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the average price of petrol was in Lancashire in each of the last five years. (126158)

The average pence per litre price of petrol and diesel in the UK over the last five years has been as follows:

Unleaded

Diesel

2002

73.2

75.5

2003

76.0

77.9

2004

80.2

81.9

2005

86.8

90.9

2006

91.3

95.2

Data on petrol prices are not collected regionally.

Post Office Card Account

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many post office card accounts (a) were closed and (b) expired in each of the last three years. (125865)

This is an operational matter for Post Office Ltd. Alan Cook the managing director has been asked to reply direct to the hon. Member.

Defence

Afghanistan: Peace Keeping Operations

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Apache helicopters in Afghanistan have been taken out of operation due to problems with the Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor system; and what the average time to repair the malfunction has been. (123035)

[holding answer 28 February 2007]: Data for faults arising from Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor system (TADS/PNVS) on Apache helicopters in Afghanistan are only available for the period 1 May 2006 to 31 January 2007. During this time there were 60 cases with maintenance recorded against them; these may have led to restrictions on aircraft availability. It is not possible to give a definitive answer because we are unable to determine if rectification took place concurrent with routine servicing or other fault rectification.

It is not possible to give the average repair time, as this information is not held centrally.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the delivery of the M270 tracked multiple launch rocket system to British forces in Afghanistan. (125032)

My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Defence, announced the deployment of a troop of guided multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), which are based on the M270 platform, to Afghanistan on 26 February 2007, Official Report, column 620. They will operate alongside other units of the Royal Artillery in support of UK and ISAF troops in response to NATO’s request for additional forces in the South and East of Afghanistan.

Aircraft Carriers: Harrier Aircraft

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Harrier aircraft are currently deployed on each Royal Navy carrier. (125682)

[holding answer 6 March 2007]: There are currently six Harrier aircraft embarked on HMS Illustrious. There are no Harriers embarked on any other Royal Navy ships.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Harrier pilots are certificated for night take-off from, and landings onto, Royal Navy aircraft carriers. (125683)

[holding answer 6 March 2007]: I am withholding the number of pilots qualified as this information would, or would be likely to, prejudice the security of our armed forces. Joint Force Harrier maintains a cadre of sufficient night certificated pilots to meet its contingent liabilities.

Armed Forces: Health Services

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether facilities are being made available for treatment of Iraq and Afghanistan military casualties in addition to those at Selly Oak Hospital. (119390)

Since April 2001, the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (RCDM) at University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHBFT) has been the main centre for the receipt of UK armed forces casualties aeromedically evacuated from all over the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan. UHBFT runs the Selly Oak and Queen Elizabeth hospital sites. In a few individual cases, operational casualties have been placed initially for clinical reasons in other hospitals in the Birmingham area and elsewhere, but UHBFT has the capacity to cope with surges in the number of military casualties. In the event of a significant casualty surge, the MOD and UHBFT would jointly manage the receipt under the existing reception arrangements for military patients (RAMP) plan.

Patients with moderate/minor musculoskeletal injuries, once they have been assessed and provided with a working diagnosis and a planned care pathway, may be referred to the MOD regional rehabilitation unit most convenient for access from the patient's home or parent unit. There are 15 such units throughout the UK and Germany.

In addition, patients who have received their initial treatment at Birmingham may subsequently be transferred from there to another NHS hospital nearer to their home or parent unit. Patients with multiple injuries (including amputees and those with brain injury) will be transferred at the appropriate stage of their treatment to a rehabilitation facility for further specialist treatment. Dependent on clinical need, this referral is most likely to be to the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court, Surrey.

Armed Forces: Orthopaedics

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what medical, therapeutic or support provision has been made for members of the armed forces who have had to undergo amputation of one or more of their limbs. (119394)

Service patients who have had to undergo amputation of one or more of their limbs will usually be treated at first in an NHS hospital, generally the Royal College of Defence Medicine (RCDM), where they will be fitted with an initial basic limb. At the appropriate stage in their recovery, they will be transferred to the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC) at Headley Court, Surrey.

DMRC is the principal medical rehabilitation centre run by the armed forces and contains the complex rehabilitation and amputee unit. Here, an individually moulded and appropriate prosthetic limb is manufactured on site and tailored to the specific patient. MOD also has a contract with an external prosthetics provider, whose personnel attend DMRC and contribute to the assessment of the individual. A range of technicians and therapists will be involved in the day-to-day care and treatment, including those employed by the prosthetics contractor.

A high priority is given to enabling personnel to return to service duty in the same or a similar role to the one they occupied before their injury if at all possible. During their continuing service career, any maintenance of officially-issued prosthetics is provided by the Defence Medical Services. This will usually be provided at one of 15 MOD regional rehabilitation units across the UK and in Germany.

Army: Pay

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the average annual pay is of (a) a British soldier and (b) a soldier from Gibraltar serving in Iraq; and if he will make a statement. (125549)

From 1 April 2007, a trained private in the British Army will receive between £15,677 and £24,328 depending on their trade and length of service. A trained private in the Royal Gibraltar Regiment who deploys for service away from the Territory will receive the same rate of annual pay as his/her UK regular counterpart.

Departments: Incentives

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much was spent by his Department on the Golden Hello programme in each year since 1997. (124459)

The first of the current Golden Hello schemes was introduced in 2002. Information is not currently centrally held on costs on a year by year basis, across all schemes, but their overall cost since 2002 has been £7.24 million.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the Golden Hello programme has been (a) suspended and (b) partially suspended at any time. (124471)

There has been no suspension or partial suspension of the current Golden Hello schemes since the first was introduced in 2002.

Engagements

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on what dates Ministers in his Department made official visits to the London boroughs of (a) Tower Hamlets, (b) Newham and (c) Waltham Forest in each year since 1997. (115742)

The Department does not maintain details about the local authority areas visited on official visits. The retrospective collection of the information would incur disproportionate cost.

Hercules Aircraft

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what consideration he has given to operationally resting a number of C130 airframes. (125001)

We routinely rest aircraft during normal operations for planned scheduled maintenance and to carry out any required upgrades. This ensures that airworthiness and safety are never compromised.

In financial year 2006-07 a decision was made to retire four C130 Hercules aircraft at the end of the financial year. Three of these aircraft were then operationally paused because they were either due scheduled maintenance or had reached the end of their outer wing safe life. It was therefore deemed as uneconomical to carry out this scheduled maintenance or wing replacement activity prior to their formal retirement from service.

Iraq: Peace Keeping Operations

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many soldiers in Welsh regiments have been killed in Iraq, broken down by cause of death. (126130)

Five armed forces personnel from Welsh regiments have been killed in Iraq since March 2003, three were killed in operational accidents (road traffic accidents), one was killed in action and one died of wounds sustained from hostile action.

Navy: Surveys

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what ships were represented by the survey of Royal Navy personnel at sea on 9 January. (124589)

The ships at sea on 9 January 2007, representing those from which we calculated the number of Royal Navy personnel at sea, were Her Majesty’s Ships:

Ark Royal

Edinburgh

Gloucester

Manchester

Campbeltown

Sutherland

Montrose

Iron Duke

Lancaster

Richmond

St. Albans

Endurance

Walney

Atherstone

Cattistock

Pembroke

Quorn

Tyne

Mersey

Clyde

Dumbarton Castle

Enterprise

Scott

Gleaner

Sabre

Scimitar

Dasher

Pursuer

Ramsey

Blyth

Echo

In addition, we were maintaining the continuous at sea deterrent. Of the Royal Fleet Auxiliaries at sea on 9 January, only RFA Fort George has permanently embarked Royal Navy personnel.

Prisoners of War: World War II

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what reason some information provided in the 1945 General Questionnaire for British/American Ex-Prisoners of War has not been released into the public domain; when he expects to be able to release that information; and if he will make a statement. (123688)

[holding answer 1 March 2007]: The surviving cache of War Office Directorate of Military Intelligence Liberated Prisoner of War Interrogation Questionnaires totalling more than 400 boxes was transferred to The National Archives (TNA) in 2004 into TNA class WO344. No information from these questionnaires remains closed in MOD.

Where allied prisoners of war reported that they had witnessed or obtained information about war crimes, supplementary questionnaires might have been completed. These ‘Form Q’ questionnaires were often passed to war crime investigation units, and surviving files copies may be at TNA in classes WO235, WO309, WO310, WO311 and WO325.

In recent months around 500 files covering World War II war crime investigation have been transferred by MOD to TNA with another, final, transfer of 600 files due in the next few months. These files are known to contain a small number of “Q” questionnaires linked to specific war crime investigations.

Trident

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if he will update the committed and contingent figures in table 7 of Annexe B to Supporting Essay 6 of the Strategic Defence Review 1998; (124047)

(2) what the estimated annual operating cost is of conventional forces (a) committed to the protection of Trident and (b) with a contingent role in the protection of Trident, calculated on the same basis as the figures provided in the answer to the hon. Member for Crawley of 2 November 1998, Official Report, columns 349-50W, on Trident.

In addition to the four Vanguard-class submarines, all of which are dedicated to Military Task 1.2—Nuclear Deterrence—the current planned force elements assigned to support nuclear deterrence are shown in the following table. The changes in both committed and contingent forces since publication of Supporting Essay 6 of the Strategic Defence Review reflect the changing nature of the threat to the deterrent, and of our response to that threat as described in paragraphs 2.7 and 2.8 of the 2004 White Paper, ‘Delivering Security in a Changing World—Future Capabilities’ (CM6269).

Force element

Committed l

Contingent2

Attack submarines

0

2

Destroyers and frigates

0

1

Minewarfare vessels

1

3

Royal fleet auxiliary vessels

0

1

Survey vessels

1

0

Merlin ASW helicopters

0

5

Maritime and reconnaissance aircraft

0

8

1 Force elements committed to the military task as their primary role

2 Force elements held contingent are assigned to a number of tasks and are not planned routinely to deploy in support of the deterrent.

We do not routinely calculate the operating cost of specific committed or contingent force elements in support of the deterrent, and such estimates are necessarily illustrative, given the differing cost of varied operating patterns. A broad order estimate, however, of the annual operating costs of committed conventional force elements would be around £25-30 million.

A similar estimate for contingent conventional force elements would be around £250-300 million, although this is the estimated cost of generating these force elements for a range of tasks and it is not the cost of support to the deterrent.

These estimated costs are not directly comparable to those given in 1998, as the calculation has been conducted on a different basis using a more recent methodology.

Warships

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will identify the four warships of destroyer or frigate size and above at (a) low and (b) very low readiness due to their being in refit referred to in his letter of 12 February 2007 to the hon. Member for New Forest, East; and if he will identify the sixth such warship, other than those four vessels and HMS Invincible, which is also in such a readiness state. (124669)

[holding answer 6 March 2007]: I refer the hon. Member to my letter of 6 March 2007, a copy of which has been placed in the Library of the House.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the future programme of activities is for (a) HMS Albion, (b) HMS Bulwark and (c) HMS Ocean. (124812)

[holding answer 6 March 2007]: I am withholding the information as it would, or would be likely to, prejudice the security of our armed forces.

Warships: Portsmouth

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence for what reasons the number of warships based at Portsmouth has been reduced since 2004. (122371)

[holding answer 26 February 2007]: The number of warships based in Portsmouth, as in any port, will change as old warships are taken out of service and new warships enter service. Warships may also from time to time be reassigned to a different base port. A number of Portsmouth-based warships have been taken out of service since 2004: three Type 42 destroyers, two Type 23 frigates, two mine counter measures vessels and one offshore patrol vessel.

Prime Minister

Departments: Ministerial Policy Advisers

To ask the Prime Minister how much has been allocated for political advisers for the Prime Minister for 2007-08. (126136)

Since 2003, the Government have published on an annual basis the names and overall cost of special advisers and the number in each pay band.

I refer the hon. Member to the written ministerial statement I made on 24 July 2006, Official Report, columns 86-91WS. Information on the number of special advisers before 2003 was provided at regular intervals. This information is available in the Libraries of the House. Information on special advisers for 2007-08 will be published in the normal way.

Petitions: Internet

To ask the Prime Minister whether he plans to respond to each person who signs up to support each petition on the Number 10 website. (126051)

To ask the Prime Minister (1) whether the email addresses of individuals who sign an e-petition on the Downing street website are kept after the deadline for signing has passed; (126194)

(2) how many individual email addresses were collected as they signed e-petitions on the Downing street website.

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) on 5 March 2007, Official Report, column 1668W.

Leader of the House

Written Questions

To ask the Leader of the House if he will assess the merits of arranging for the publication in the Official Report of all letters written to hon. Members by Ministers and from chief executives of non departmental public bodies in lieu of a written parliamentary answer. (125344)

Yes. As a result of the hon. Member’s question, I have put in hand the assessment he suggests. I will issue a written ministerial statement when it is complete.

Constitutional Affairs

Committees: Ministerial Attendance

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs on what occasions (a) she and (b) departmental Ministers have been requested to appear before committees of (i) devolved institutions and (ii) the European Parliament since 2004; on what topic in each case; how many and what proportion of such requests were accepted; and if she will make a statement. (111572)

It is not possible to find out whether DCA Ministers have been requested to appear before these committees since 2004 without incurring disproportionate cost.

Lord Chancellor: Functions

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs pursuant to the answer of 6 February 2007, Official Report, column 881W, on the Lord Chancellor: functions, what the (a) purpose and (b) occasion was of the seven functions that were funded through the public purse. (123762)

Magistrates Courts: Legal Aid

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what recent representations she has received on access to legal aid in cases before magistrates courts. (125461)

Since 2 October 2006, the issue of access to legal aid in cases before the magistrates courts has been raised in approximately 20 pieces of correspondence to my Department.

Smith Institute

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how much money from the public purse (a) her Department and (b) its agencies gave to (i) the Smith Institute and (ii) its subsidiary SI Events Ltd. in each year since 1997; and for what purpose each payment was made. (123107)

The Department and its agencies have not given or paid any monies from the public purse in any year since 1997 to the Smith Institute or its subsidiary SI Events Ltd.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

British Overseas Territories

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which (a) uninhabited and (b) other overseas island territories are UK possessions. (125860)

The British Overseas Territories of the British Antarctic Territory, the British Indian Ocean Territory, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands have no indigenous populations. The other British Overseas Territories are Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, the Pitcairn Islands, St. Helena and its dependencies (Ascension and Tristan da Cunha), the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia in Cyprus. The British Antarctic Territory and Gibraltar are not islands.

Brunei

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when her Department last engaged in formal discussions with the government of Brunei Darussalam; and what was discussed at that meeting. (125847)

I met Pehim Lim, Second Minister of Foreign Affairs, on 4 December 2006. This was the most recent formal ministerial-level meeting. We discussed the close and constructive UK-Brunei bilateral relationship, the Association of South East Asian Nations, Burma and interfaith issues.

We also have regular discussions with the Bruneian government at an official level on a range of issues, in London and Bandar Seri Begawan.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether (a) she and (b) representatives from her Department have any plans to visit Brunei Darussalam in 2007 to build bilateral relations. (125848)

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has no current plans to visit Brunei, but there are regular visits by officials in both directions. The bilateral relationship between the UK and Brunei is close, based on historical ties, with strong defence, education and trade links.

I met Pehim Lim, Second Minister of Foreign Affairs, on 4 December 2006. This was the most recent formal ministerial-level meeting. We discussed the close and constructive UK-Brunei bilateral relationship, the Association of South East Asian Nations, Burma and interfaith issues.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Armed Conflict

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations her Department has made to the United Nations on resolving the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo; and what estimate she has made of the impact this conflict has had on numbers of people seeking asylum from that country within the United Kingdom. (125846)

Our embassy in Kinshasa works closely with MONUC (UN peacekeeping force) and the UN Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), William Swing. We also work closely with the UN in New York in our efforts to achieving durable peace in the DRC. I met William Swing on 2 March in London to discuss the situation in the DRC, as did my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development, and officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development and Ministry of Defence.

We welcome the progress made in bringing peace and stability to the DRC following recent democratic elections. But we remain concerned by pockets of ongoing conflict in eastern DRC. We continue to encourage MONUC to act robustly against militia groups who threaten the civilian population and support their current mandate and troop strength to do this.

We are aware that conflict can cause people to leave their countries and claim asylum elsewhere. The number of people from the DRC claiming asylum in the UK has fallen since the country began to stabilise in 2003.

Eastern Europe: Official Visits

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the outcomes were of the Minister of State for Europe's recent visit to the Ukraine and Moldovia; and if she will make a statement. (125839)

[holding answer 7 March 2007]: During my visit to Ukraine I had the opportunity to discuss with the President and the Prime Minister, as well as other opinion formers, Ukraine’s aim of closer integration with the EU. I underlined the UK’s strong support for this objective. I observed the progress that has been made in consolidating democracy and media freedom since the Orange revolution and encouraged those I met to continue to build on these changes. I also underlined the UK’s support for Ukraine’s reform programme which will bring them closer to the EU’s standards and norms and allow Ukraine’s relationship with the EU to be further developed.

During my visit to Moldova I met with President Voronin as well as other Ministers and leading opinion formers. I discussed Moldova’s aim of closer integration with the EU, and their implementation of the EU Moldova Action Plan. I was able to hear in more detail Moldova’s priorities for reform, and to restate the UK’s support for closer EU integration as well as practical support for the process of reform. I also met civil society representatives and heard their views of the major issues Moldova faces.

Iran: Nuclear Power

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations her Department has made to the United Nations on the refusal by Iran to meet the deadline imposed by the International Atomic Energy Agency on its uranium enrichment programme. (125849)

As the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Dr. Mohammed El-Baradei, made clear in his most recent report on 22 February, Iran has failed to take the steps required by the United Nations Security Council, including full suspension of all uranium enrichment related, reprocessing and heavy water related activities. The Security Council said in resolution 1737, adopted unanimously on 23 December 2006, that it would adopt further sanctions if Iran did not comply. Senior officials from the ‘E3+3’ (France, Germany, UK + China, Russia, US) met in London on 24 February to discuss next steps and E3+3 permanent representatives in New York did so on 5 March. We expect to discuss a further resolution with Security Council members soon.

Iraq: United Nations

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what account she has taken of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 in formulating UK foreign policy in Iraq. (125493)

The UK maintains a regular dialogue with the Iraqi government, at various levels, about the important role of women in society. The Iraqi Constitution contains provisions that protects womens’ rights and their role in national decision making, for example electoral law must aim to achieve at least 25 per cent. female representation in the Council of Representatives. The UK has taken a number of steps to support this, most recently we:

part-funded a conference on using international human rights law and Iraqi domestic law to protect women's rights, for Iraqi judges, parliamentarians and women’s activists;

brought a delegation of senior officials from Basra’s judiciary, police and prison service to the UK, to examine how the UK deals with women and juvenile issues in detention;

are supporting a professional skills workshop for women journalists, aimed at ensuring a more diverse and gender-sensitive media; and

are supporting a seminar for Iraqi civil society organisations to develop projects to highlight the impact of the Iraqi Constitution, currently being reviewed, on women.

Somalia: Official Visits

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions the Minister for Africa had with the President of the Transitional Federal government of Somalia on the security situation in Somalia at their recent meeting; whether they agree on who is responsible for the recent violence in Somalia; and if she will make a statement. (123974)

The President of the Transitional Federal Republic of Somalia and my noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, spoke about the security situation in Somalia at their recent meeting. They agreed that the arrival of the African Union Mission in Somalia would help to improve security in Somalia. Despite efforts by the Transitional Federal government of Somalia, some rogue elements continue to mount limited attacks. We condemn those responsible for the recent attacks in Mogadishu and call on all parties to reject violence and commit to peaceful dialogue.

Sudan

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received on the recent visit of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran to Sudan; whether she has made representations to the governments of those countries on introducing UN-UK hybrid force units into Darfur; and if she will make a statement. (125678)

[holding answer 7 March 2007]: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran visited Sudan from 28 February to 1 March following an invitation from President Bashir. President Bashir had previously visited Iran on 24-27 April 2006.

Press reports suggest that the Presidents discussed bilateral and regional issues. There is no suggestion that President Ahmadinejad pressed President Bashir on the need to accept the hybrid force.

We regularly press the Government of Sudan to make good on its pledge to accept a UN/African Union (AU) hybrid force, made at last year’s AU Abuja summit. We have lobbied a wide range of third countries which we believe would be prepared to use their influence with the Government of Sudan, urging them also to make the case for this.

Turks and Caicos Islands: Elections

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the general elections in the Turks and Caicos Islands on 9 February 2007; and whether they met international standards of being free and fair. (126714)

In their public statement the day after the election, the International Observers of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) elections concluded that the election was conducted in full accordance with electoral law. They will produce a report, with some recommendations on how to further improve the electoral process in the TCI.

UK Membership of EC

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will (a) make and (b) place in the Library an assessment of the effects on the UK of membership of the EU since 1973. (125538)

The Government’s assessments of the positive effects on the UK of EU membership have been set out on many occasions including in Parliamentary debates, speeches and publications. Membership of the EU has brought significant benefits to the UK, for example in terms of wealth, jobs, peace and security. British engagement in Europe is vital to Britain’s national interests and assists us in achieving our policy goals. As part of the EU, the UK is better able to deal with global issues like the environment and world trade, and tackle problems like crime, illegal immigration and terrorism.

As these assessments are already publicly available, including in information on the Government’s www.europe.gov.uk website, the Government have no plans to produce a separate assessment at this time.

UN Resolutions

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether any UN Resolutions requiring action by the UK Government have not been complied with; and if she will make a statement. (125818)

As a longstanding, committed and active member of the UN, the UK takes seriously all resolutions which are adopted by UN bodies. While the majority of these resolutions do not give rise to binding obligations, they are important expressions of the international community’s opinion on an issue. Only the UN Security Council can adopt binding resolutions. The Government considers that it is acting in compliance with all such legally-binding resolutions applicable to the UK.

USA: Embassies

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many United States citizens are employed by British embassies. (126179)

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office employs 13,592 staff in its missions overseas, of which 2,897 are UK-based and 10,695 are locally employed. UK-based staff are British citizens. We do not hold central records on the nationality of local staff. It would not be possible to obtain this information without incurring disproportionate cost.

War Crimes

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to the answer of 28 February 2007, Official Report, column 1374W, to the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, South-West (Dr. Starkey), on war crimes, for what reasons she has been reviewing the legal and practical issues raised by the issue of arrest warrants in international cases; and whether she has reached any conclusions. (125765)

I have been asked to reply.

The Government have been reviewing the legal and practical issues relating to the issue of arrest warrants in international cases in the light of experience of such cases in recent years, but we have not yet completed our consideration of these matters. Any proposals to change the legislation would be laid before Parliament in the normal way.

Communities and Local Government

Council Tax: Valuation

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will list the property performance indicators which are collected from local authorities. (124418)

Local authorities are no longer required to submit Property Performance Indicators information to the Department or the regional Government Offices. Although not required to submit this information, local authorities should continue to collect and use these Performance Indicators to help them to effectively manage their assets.

Fire Safety: Costs

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate she has made of the (a) one-off and (b) recurring costs of implementing the Fire Precautions (Workplace) (Amendment) Regulations 1999 to (i) businesses and (ii) the regulators. (125597)

The Government’s estimate is given in the regulatory impact assessment that accompanied the Fire Precautions (Workplace) (Amendment) Regulations 1999 when they were laid before the House. I have placed copies of that assessment in the Library.

Housing: Infrastructure

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what progress has been made with the cross-cutting review of infrastructure requirements for housing as part of the comprehensive spending review announced by her Department on 20th June 2006. (125580)

I have been asked to reply.

The Government's response to the Barker Review announced the Government would conduct an HM Treasury led CSR07 Policy Review into Supporting Housing Growth to determine the infrastructure implications of housing growth in different spatial forms and locations, establish a framework for sustainable and cost-effective patterns of growth, and ensure that departmental resources across government are targeted appropriately to support growth. The review is ongoing and will report to Treasury Ministers ahead of the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review.

Local Authorities: Disclosure of Information

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what measures her Department has taken to ensure consistency in the fees charged for securing public sector information from local authorities in the UK; (125147)

(2) what measures her Department has taken to improve consistency in the length of time it takes applicants to secure public sector information from local authorities.

It is for each local authority to ensure that it complies with all the applicable statutory requirements about the provision of information. The Department for Communities and Local Government has no role in the enforcement and monitoring of such compliance.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what plans her Department has to ensure that local authorities implement the recommendations of the Office of Fair Trading’s report on public sector information; (125153)

(2) what measures she plans to put in place in relation to local authorities which fail to meet the standards recommended in the Office of Fair Trading’s report on public sector information.

The Government welcome the Office of Fair Trading’s report on public sector information and is continuing to study the detail and potential impacts before responding to the recommendations. The Government plan to respond shortly after the local and devolved administrations’ elections.

Local Authorities: Members

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what guidance she has issued on whether local authorities should invite local hon. Members to (a) area forums and (b) Strategic Partnership Board meetings; and if she will make a statement. (125724)

The current non-statutory LSP guidance issued in 2001 does not prescribe a role for local hon. Members, instead it states that

“the membership, structure and scope of an LSP should reflect both its aims and the breadth of issues that fall within its scope. The precise membership of any partnership will depend on local circumstances and priorities; but LSPs will only be effective if their core membership includes the public, private, community and voluntary sectors”.

The expectation in relation to informal area forums covering a subsection of a local authority area would also be for the membership to be determined locally.

However, as I emphasised in the recent Commons Committee debate on the Local Government and Public involvement in Health Bill (22 February 2007), the role of Members of Parliament in LSPs and local area agreements in particular is rising up the policy agenda. Members of Parliament have unique experience both of the issues faced by local people and an understanding of the key national priorities and as such their involvement in LAAs will be critical.

Local Government Finance

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what criteria she used in the allocation of capitalisation permissions to local authorities. (122566)

The criteria used in the allocation of capitalisation directions to local authorities are available on the Communities and Local Government website at:

http://www.local.communities.gov.uk/finance/capital/capdirsum.htm

Successful applications for capitalisation in 2006-07 were approved at 57.19 per cent. of the amount applied for. This took into account the Secretary of State’s consideration of the effect on the national economy of granting capitalisation directions to local authorities in England for expenditure incurred in the financial year that began on 1 April 2006. The method chosen was considered to be simple, transparent and fair to all authorities. The only exceptions to this were to applications from two authorities where the Government have used its intervention or engagement powers, and whose applications were agreed earlier in the year as part of a wide ranging package of measures aimed at rebuilding the capacity of the authorities to deliver effective services. We are currently discussing a package of sector-led support to help drive forward improvement in Stoke.