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Written Answers

Volume 485: debated on Tuesday 9 December 2008

Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Electoral Commission Committee

Liberal Democrats: Finance

To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission with reference to the answer of 4 March 2008, Official Report, column 2242W, on Liberal Democrats: finance, what the (a) status and (b) timetable is of the Electoral Commission's investigation into the permissibility of the donations by Mr. Michael Brown to the Liberal Democrat Party. (241769)

The Electoral Commission informs me that following the recent conclusion of criminal proceedings against Mr. Michael Brown, it has now resumed its investigation into the permissibility of donations made to the Liberal Democrat Party by Mr. Brown in 2005.

The Commission further informs me that it will now aim to conclude the investigation as quickly as possible, but that its priority must be to ensure that the process is fair and thorough.

Political Parties: Finance

To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission with reference to the memorandum submitted by the Electoral Commission to the Public Bill Committee of Session 2007-08 on the Political Parties and Elections Bill, in relation to the proposed new trigger rules, whether spending by an individual in relation to a campaign on local issues, but not in relation to their candidacy in a future election, would count as a trigger. (241815)

The Electoral Commission informs me that in the memorandum it submitted to the Public Bill Committee (PPE 04), which is available on the committee's webpage, it cited the issue of spending in relation to a campaign on local issues as one of the complex questions likely to arise under the proposed new trigger rules.

The Commission informs me that, if the triggering proposal is implemented, it will prepare and consult on guidance on the practical effect of the rules. However, as the Commission noted in its memorandum, the question of when the regulated period is triggered will depend on the specific facts in each particular case.

To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission what guidance the Electoral Commission has given on whether the underwriting of a political party and providing guarantees to auditors should be registered as a donation or a loan. (241848)

The Electoral Commission informs me that it has not issued guidance on the regulated status of general undertakings that do not amount to or relate to a specific transaction. However, the Commission informs me that its view is that such undertakings are not regulated transactions.

The Commission further informs me that it has published guidance for political parties on the types of donations and regulated transactions that must be reported to the Commission under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. That guidance explains that regulated transactions include guarantees given in respect of a loan, credit facility or other transaction involving the provision of property, services or facilities to a registered party.

Northern Ireland

Prostitution

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many brothels have been raided in Northern Ireland in each of the last three years. (240575)

That is an operational matter for the Chief Constable. I have asked him to reply directly to the hon. Member, and a copy of his letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Culture, Media and Sport

Sport England: Public Participation

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport which (a) individuals and (b) organisations responded to Sport England’s consultation on distribution of Lottery funding; which responded (i) positively and (ii) negatively; and if he will make a statement. (241668)

Sport England has advised that it recently published the results of a public consultation into the way it distributes around £45 million a year of National Lottery funding. 536 individuals and organisations took part in the consultation and more than 90 per cent. of them responded positively to the plans.

Sport England advised that they cannot identify the respondents by name without compromising anonymity. Respondents agreed for personal information to be used as part of the analysis of findings only. However, Sport England can provide information on the mix of respondent types.

Community and voluntary organisations (including community sports clubs) comprised the largest proportion of respondents (31 per cent.) followed by local authorities (18 per cent.). Private sector organisations constituted 8 per cent. of respondents and NGBs 7 per cent. This constitutes 33 per cent. of all National Governing Bodies who have applied for Whole Sport Plan Funding over the period 2009-13.

91 per cent. of respondents believed that the Sport England funding proposals were likely to meet the needs of organisations involved in community sport.

6 per cent. of respondents did not believe that the Sport England funding proposals were likely to meet the needs of organisations involved in community sport.

Transport

Aviation: Exhaust Emissions

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what level of radiative multiplier was incorporated in the calculations of the carbon emissions data shown in the Adding Capacity at Heathrow airport public consultation document; and if he will make a statement. (241995)

The Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport consultation document, page 138, explains that the relevant assumptions are set out in the UK Air Passenger Demand and CO2 Forecasts report, available at:

http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/aviation/environmentalissues/ukairdemandandco2forecasts/

The radiative forcing factor is set out on page 74 of that report. This factor is used by the Department for Transport to uplift the value of climate change impacts to account for the warming effects of non-carbon dioxide emissions released at altitude, and is equal to 1.9.

Driving Offences: Insurance

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the number of motorcycles which were being driven on the road without insurance in (a) 2006, (b) 2007 and (c) 2008. (241653)

There are no figures available for the number of motorcycles driven without insurance. Our latest estimate for uninsured driving is that in 2005 there were about 2.1 million licensed vehicles being driven uninsured (about 6.5 per cent. of the UK vehicle fleet). Information is not held by vehicle type.

Higher Civil Servants

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many people his Department employs who have an annual salary of over (a) £150,000 and (b) £200,000. (241213)

The Department for Transport employs fewer than five people who have an annual salary of (a) over £150,000 and therefore these details have been repressed on the grounds of confidentiality. There are no employees who have a salary of (b) over £200,000.

Maritime and Coastguard Agency: Finance

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 19 November 2008, Official Report, column 482W, if he will list the reasons why the Maritime and Coastguard Agency was given a spring supplementary estimate of £13,310,000 for financial year 2007-08. (241985)

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency was given a spring supplementary of £13,310,000 in financial year 2007-08 to cover the additional costs of:

the construction of their new search and rescue helicopter hanger at Lee-on-Solent; higher than expected fuel costs;

additional regulatory and enforcement work; and

additional support for the training of seafarers under the Support for Maritime Training (SMarT) Scheme.

Motorways: Accidents

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what studies his Department has carried out into the causes of road deaths on motorways; and if he will make a statement. (241211)

All road deaths on motorways are investigated by the police authorities. Information on the deaths is summarised on a stats 19 form that contains detailed information on the contributing factors that led to the incident.

The data can then be disaggregated to allow analysis of specific factors influencing road user groups or causation trends and thus enrich research into ways that road death and serious injury can be reduced, not only on motorways but on all roads.

The Highways Agency also utilises road traffic accident statistics to provide the basis for assessing the effectiveness of road safety policies and the development of engineering design standards.

Home Department

Asylum: Interpreters

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many interpreters her Department employs for assistance with asylum claims. (241020)

[holding answer 8 December 2008]: The United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) has a panel of freelance interpreters to assist with asylum claims. As at 4 December 2008, the number of interpreters registered with the UKBA Panel was 2,378.

Brussels

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much her Department spent on visits by its staff to Brussels in 2007-08; and how many such visits were made by (a) air and (b) rail. (241256)

All travel by civil servants is undertaken in accordance with the guidelines set out in the Civil Service Management Code and departmental staff handbooks.

The Department’s accounting system does not separate expenditure on travel, by destination. An answer could not be provided without incurring disproportionate cost.

Departmental Mass Media

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department which organisations provided media monitoring services to (a) her Department, (b) its agencies and (c) its non-departmental public bodies in each of the last three years; and what the cost of each such contract was over that period. (240955)

Media monitoring services have been provided to the Department and its agencies by five companies in the past three years. The following table includes the names of the companies contracted and the total cost incurred in each financial year. The information on contracts held by non-departmental public bodies is not held centrally and could not be provided without incurring disproportionate cost.

£

2005-06

2006-07

2007-08

EDS

81,012

213,145

166,711

The Profile Group

3,574

0.00

0.00

Press Association

3,773

3,452

12,583

Durrants

16,686

0.00

0.00

TNS Media Intelligence

1,912

0.00

0.00

Total

106,957

216,597

179,294

Departmental Official Hospitality

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what records her Department maintains of its expenditure on (a) official hospitality and (b) alcohol for official hospitality. (240469)

Home Office expenditure on official hospitality, including alcohol, conforms to departmental guidance on financial procedures and propriety, which complies with the principles of Managing Public Money and the Treasury handbook on Regularity and Propriety.

Identity Cards: Finance

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how much her Department expects will be spent on the national identity card scheme in its (a) first and (b) second year of operation. (240926)

The National Identity Scheme Cost Report gives a breakdown of the estimated cost of implementing the scheme over the next 10 years. The latest report was published on 6 November 2008.

An electronic copy of the report may be found at:

http://www.ips.gov.uk/identity/downloads/IPS-Cost-report-Nov2008.pdf

I would refer the hon. Member to that report.

Members: Correspondence

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when a reply will be sent to the hon. Member for Walsall North's letter of 4 November 2008, regarding a constituent; (HO ref: P1120638). (240352)

The deputy chief executive of the UK Border Agency, Jonathan Sedgwick, wrote to my hon. Friend on 5 December.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when she plans to reply to the letters dated 9 October and 7 November 2008 from the hon. Member for Billericay regarding a constituent, Mr I Adewunmi. (240684)

[holding answer 8 December 2008]: The UK Border Agency replied to the first letter on 27 October 2008 and Jonathan Sedgwick, deputy chief executive replied to the hon. Member on 3 December 2008 in answer to the second letter.

Olympic Games 2012: Security

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many buildings are under consideration for the headquarters of the security function for the London 2012 Olympics; and what criteria will apply to the selection of such headquarters; (240315)

(2) how much of the £600 million London 2012 security budget has been provisionally allocated for the headquarters’ building.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how much of the £600 million security budget for the London 2012 Olympics has been provisionally allocated for the headquarters building; (241283)

(2) how many buildings are under consideration to house the headquarters of the security function for the London 2012 Olympics; and by what criteria the buildings under consideration will be judged.

[holding answer 8 December 2008]: Work is continuing to finalise the strategy and plans for the security of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. No decisions have been made on the headquarters of the security operations and no funds have been provisionally allocated for this purpose.

Any decisions will need to take account of the operational needs of the police and other security agencies, affordability with the total funding envelope and the need to secure value for money.

Police: Finance

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans she has to remove the system of floors and ceilings in the distribution of Government grant funding to police forces. (240343)

The Government made clear in the Green Paper ‘From the Neighbourhood to the National: Policing our communities together’ their intention to move to full implementation of the funding formula at the fastest pace that is compatible with ensuring the financial stability of all police authorities.

Proscribed Organisations

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many activists of organisations proscribed under terrorism legislation have been (a) arrested, (b) charged and (c) convicted for offences under that legislation in each year since its introduction; and if she will make a statement. (241069)

We are currently unable to provide the information requested.

The Home Office, Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General's Office are currently working with the National Coordinator for Terrorist Investigations to improve the quality of data relating to those arrested, charged, convicted and imprisoned under terrorist legislation and under other legislation but considered terrorist related. As soon as this is complete a Statistical Bulletin covering this information will be published by the Home Office.

This Statistical Bulletin will include figures from 11 September 2001 to 31 March 2008 showing the number of people arrested under section 41, of the Terrorism Act 2000 or under other legislation where the arrest is considered terrorist related. Arrest statistics cannot be broken down further into the alleged offence being investigated against each arrestee.

The bulletin will provide a breakdown of charges and convictions of terrorism related offences. It will show the numbers of people charged and convicted for the range of proscription offences as covered by sections 11, 12 and 13 of the Terrorism Act 2000, since 2001.

In addition we will not be able to provide information on the convictions the police consider investigating at the time of arrest. All individuals arrested for terrorism offences are arrested under section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

Terrorism: Detainees

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people suspected of offences under anti-terrorism legislation were held for more than 14 days before being charged in the last three years. (240928)

To date 11 individuals have been held for over 14 days pre-charge detention. Six of these 11 have been held for the maximum 27 to 28 days, three of which were charged and three released without charge.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Christmas

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much (a) his Department and (b) its agencies have spent on Christmas (i) cards, (ii) parties and (iii) decorations in the last 12 months. (240321)

In the last 12 months, core-DEFRA has not used paper Christmas cards, opting instead for a selection of e-greetings cards. The cost of the designs for these cards was £166.00. Everything else was produced in house; therefore there were no other direct charges.

In 2007, Christmas trees and decorations for the main public areas of the DEFRA’s estate were donated by Carillion, who were providing facilities management services to DEFRA at that time. To date in 2008, DEFRA has not received any donations or paid for any Christmas trees or decorations.

DEFRA does not pay for Christmas parties for staff.

Departmental Electronic Equipment

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much his Department has spent on (a) flat screen televisions, (b) DVD players and (c) stereo equipment in each of the last three years. (240386)

The information is as follows:

2008-09 Financial Year

(a) Flat screen televisions: £2,698.94

(b) DVD players: £509.96

(c) Stereo equipment: £0

2007-08 Financial Year

(a) Flat screen televisions: £4,707.00

(b) DVD players: £412.00

(c) Stereo equipment: £12,572.00

2006-07 Financial Year

(a) Flat screen televisions: £6,837.00

(b) DVD players: £0

(c) Stereo equipment: £0

Flooding Lessons Learned Review

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he intends to implement the recommendations of the Pitt Review. (240509)

[holding answer 8 December 2008]: The Government's detailed response and a prioritised action plan will be published shortly.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) which of the recommendations contained in Sir Michael Pitt's final report on the 2007 floods have been, or are in the process of being, implemented; (240886)

(2) when he expects to publish the full programme for implementation of the Pitt Report; and if he will make a statement;

(3) which of the recommendations contained in Sir Michael Pitt's interim report on the 2007 floods (a) have been and (b) are in the process of being implemented.

We have already taken a number of steps in response to Sir Michael Pitt's findings and will be publishing a detailed response together with a prioritised action plan shortly.

Floods and Water Bill: Draft

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he will publish a draft Floods and Water Bill. (240510)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he expects to publish the draft Floods and Water Bill. (240957)

[holding answer 8 December 2008]: The current timetable is for the draft Bill to be published in spring 2009 for pre-legislative scrutiny and public consultation. The final Bill will then be available for introduction in a later parliamentary session.

Forestry Commission

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs with reference to page 119 of the pre-Budget report Cm 7684, what options there are for delivery of public value from the state in the long term in respect of the Forestry Commission; and if he will make a statement. (240393)

A study of the public forest estate in England was announced by written ministerial statement on 24 November 2008, Official Report, column 37WS.

This study will take approximately 12 months to complete and will include a full public consultation.

As outlined in the pre-Budget report this study will also contribute evidence to the Operational Efficiency Programme as findings emerge.

Ivory: China

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions he has had with overseas counterparts on the illegal ivory trade in China; and if he will make a statement. (240969)

No formal discussions have occurred since the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Standing Committee meeting, held during July 2008 in Geneva, approved the one-off sale of legally stockpiled ivory in an attempt to reduce the demand for illegal ivory. We have been monitoring the lead up to the auctions of the legally stockpiled ivory, which took place at the end of October and beginning of November and will continue to keep in touch with the CITES Secretariat to assess its effects on the illegal trade in ivory.

Marine Management Organisation

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment has been made of the effects of the proposed relocation of the London headquarters of the Marine Management Organisation on the services provided. (241137)

Much of the work undertaken by Marine Fisheries Agency (MFA) HQ is of a specialised nature, and includes meeting EU obligations. For these reasons, an Marine Management Organisation (MMO) skeleton body will be set up to start running from autumn 2009 to run in parallel with the MFA until 31 March 2010 to mitigate any risks to the current high standards of service, and provide the opportunity for knowledge transfer between new and existing staff.

To ensure there is no loss in knowledge and skills from the MFA between now and autumn 2009, I will be announcing a decision on the MMO HQ’s location as soon as possible. This is to ensure we have sufficient staff to cover the business over the transition period. We will ensure that existing staff work closely with both the MFA’s senior management team and the MMO implementation team to capture knowledge and pass it to MMO staff who will begin to populate the skeleton body.

Members: Correspondence

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he plans to reply to the letter from the hon. Member for West Worcestershire, dated 21 October 2008, on value added tax on flood defences. (241382)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when the Minister of State plans to reply to the letter from the hon. Member for West Worcestershire, dated 14 October 2008, on climate change. (241384)

The Minister for Sustainable Development and Energy Innovation, Lord Hunt, replied to the letter from the hon. Member for West Worcestershire on 24 November 2008.

Poultry: Death

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the average mortality rate is of chickens bred and reared in captivity for meat. (241214)

Sewers

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what progress his Department has made towards implementing recommendation 21 from Sir Michael Pitt on flooding regarding risk-based standards for public sewerage systems; (241292)

(2) what progress his Department has made towards implementing recommendation 22 from Sir Michael Pitt on flooding regarding industry pricing reviews and the sewerage network.

Water Charges

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with Ofwat on the role of climate change adaptation in the Ofwat Price Review 2009; and if he will make a statement. (241185)

Ministers have regular discussions with Ofwat on a range of issues, including the 2009 Price Review. DEFRA has issued statutory Social and Environmental Guidance to Ofwat. This provides Ofwat with a steer on the key social and environmental policies that the Government expect it to contribute to in carrying out its role as the independent economic regulator of the water industry. This includes adaptation to climate change. The report is available on the water pages of the DEFRA website.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what his Department’s position is on the priorities to be achieved by the Ofwat Price Review 2009. (241187)

DEFRA’s priorities for the 2009 Price Review are set out in its Statement of Obligations to water companies and regulators and its statutory Social and Environmental Guidance to Ofwat. Copies of both documents are available on the water pages of the DEFRA website.

Work and Pensions

Autism

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what percentage of employees in his Department have been diagnosed with autism-specific disorders. (241983)

The Department does not collect data on the number of its staff with autism-specific disorders, and to provide information on this could be only at a disproportionate cost. Staff are encouraged to declare whether they consider themselves disabled, but are not asked to state the nature of the disability.

Post Office Card Account

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions with reference to his Statement of 13 November 2008, Official Report, column 970, on Post Office card account, if he will place in the Library a copy of the legal advice which said that his decision was the right way to proceed. (241023)

[holding answer 8 December 2008]: Legal advice to the Government is confidential, and is covered by legal professional privilege. This enables the Government to obtain full and frank legal advice. For that reason, the Department does not intend to publish any legal advice it has received relating to the Post Office card account.

Social Security Benefits

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what consideration he has given to a contemporaneous assessment of the effects on genuine claimants of lie detector tests for applicants for housing and council tax benefit. (241566)

The Department for Work and Pensions is funding 25 local authority pilots of Voice Risk Analysis in housing and council tax benefit as part of wider efforts to improve customer service and reduce fraud. Evaluation of these pilots will include independent social research to determine the impact on customers’ behaviour.

State Retirement Pensions

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what guidance the Benefits Agency has issued to its staff on the practice of cold-calling pensioners to encourage them to receive their pensions directly into their bank accounts. (241567)

Services to pensioners are provided by the Pension, Disability and Carers Service (PDCS)—the Benefits Agency ceased to exist some years ago.

No such cold calling is being undertaken by PDCS. They are, however, contacting some pensioners to follow-up recent mailings about the payment options available to them.

Prime Minister

Members: Electronic Surveillance

To ask the Prime Minister if it is his policy that no (a) telephone tapping, (b) other interception of communications and (c) electronic surveillance shall be authorised in respect of hon. Members; and on how many occasions since 1975, where the interception of communications instigated by hon. Members has been allowed, the interception has not yet been reported to the House. (241438)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) on 8 December 2008, Official Report, column 15W.

Duchy of Lancaster

Damian Green

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when an official of his Department was first made aware that the hon. Member of Ashford was the subject of the police investigation which led to his arrest; when this information was passed on to a Minister; and to which Minister this information was passed on. (240959)

I am advised that Cabinet Office officials were not aware that it was the hon. Member for Ashford who was the subject of the police investigation until after his arrest. Cabinet Office Ministers learnt about the arrest in reports emanating from the media. A description of the exchanges between Cabinet Office officials and the police is being submitted to the Public Administration Select Committee.

Departmental Disclosure of Information

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many civil servants have contacted the Civil Service Commission in the last 12 months to draw attention to alleged impropriety in their Department. (241411)

I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office (Mr. Watson) to the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) on 6 October 2008, Official Report, column 90W.

Futurebuilders: Catz Club

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster with reference to the Answer to the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood, of 28 October 2008, Official Report, column 16W, on Catz Club, which other press releases have been removed from the Futurebuilders website on the basis that they are no longer an investee of Futurebuilders. (241887)

Futurebuilders England Ltd. (FBE) has confirmed that it has removed a press release about “Who Cares? Trust” on the basis that it is no longer a Futurebuilders investee.

House of Commons Commission

E-mail

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission who requested the suspension of the hon. Member for Ashford’s parliamentary email account at the time of his arrest; for what reasons; and who authorised its suspension. (240504)

This is not a matter for the Commission. The House has decided to set up a committee to review this matter.

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission to which House official the police would be required to submit any request for access to the Parliamentary email system. (241250)

This is not a matter for the Commission. However the matter is covered in Mr. Speaker’s protocol sent to individual hon. Members.

Right of Search

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what legal advice the Serjeant at Arms sought in the period between her two meetings with the police, on 26 and 27 November; and from whom she sought that advice. (241388)

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission which hon. Members have (a) had materials from their place of work taken from the Parliamentary Estate by the police and (b) had computer files read (i) on and (ii) off the Estate by the police in the last 10 years. (241392)

This is not a matter for the Commission. The House has decided to set up a Committee to review this matter.

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission on what terms an hon. Member occupies office accommodation granted by the House; which officers of the House are authorised to grant access to the offices of hon. Members under the terms of Code of Practice B issued under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984; and if he will make a statement. (241440)

The House provides office accommodation and facilities to help hon. Members carry out their parliamentary duties effectively.

Access to the offices of hon. Members by the police is not a matter for the Commission. However the matter is covered in Mr. Speaker’s protocol sent to individual hon. Members.

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission which House officials are authorised to grant a request from the police for access to (a) the Parliamentary Data and Video Network (PDVN), (b) PDVN email accounts and (c) PDVN shared drives containing data belonging to hon. Members. (241987)

This is not a matter for the Commission. However the matter is covered in Mr. Speaker’s protocol sent to individual hon. Members and in Mr. Speaker’s statement today.

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission whether the House authorities require a search warrant to be issued in support of a police request for access to (a) the Parliamentary Data and Video Network (PDVN), (b) PDVN email accounts and (c) PDVN shared drives containing data belonging to hon. Members; and what factors the House authorities take into account in reaching a decision on granting access. (241988)

This is not a matter for the Commission. However the matter is covered in Mr. Speaker’s protocol sent to individual hon. Members and in Mr. Speaker’s statement today.

To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission whether access to (a) the Parliamentary Data and Video Network (PDVN), (b) PDVN email facilities and (c) PDVN shared drives containing data belonging to hon., Members, was granted to the Metropolitan Police as part of their search of the premises and property of the hon. Member for Ashford to the extent of (i) data belonging to the hon. Member for Ashford and (ii) data belonging to other hon. Members; in each case whether such access was supported by a search warrant; and what factors House authorities took into account in reaching a decision on such access. (241989)

This is not a matter for the Commission. However, the matter is covered in Mr. Speaker’s statement today.

Treasury

Child Care Vouchers

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many companies had taken up the child care vouchers scheme at the latest date for which figures are available. (241318)

No official data are collected from employers regarding the offer of child care voucher schemes to employees. Child care voucher schemes are voluntary schemes and employers are not required to inform HMRC that they offer these arrangements to their employees. Research undertaken in 2006 estimated that approximately 2.5 per cent. of employers offered child care voucher schemes or another form of employer supported child care to their employees. This research can be found at the following link:

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/research/report23-final.pdf

Exchange Rates

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the (a) sterling and (b) foreign currency liabilities due to non-residents in less than six months (i) in cash terms, (ii) as a proportion of UK gross domestic product and (iii) as a proportion of short-term foreign currency assets of the UK authorities and banking institutions. (240301)

I have been asked to reply.

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.

Letter from Joe Grice, dated December 2008:

The National Statistician has been asked to reply to your recent question asking for the a) sterling and (b) foreign currency liabilities due to non-residents in fewer than six months (i) in cash terms, (ii) as a proportion of UK gross domestic product and (iii) as a proportion of short-term foreign currency assets of the UK authorities and banking institutions. I am replying in her absence. (240301)

The Office for National Statistics does not collect data for the remaining time to maturity for liabilities due to non-residents; they are solely recorded on the basis of their original time to maturity. Therefore, the information requested is not available from official sources.

Quarterly data for UK short term assets with, and liabilities to, non-residents are published in tables B17, B18, B19 and B20 of United Kingdom Economic Accounts, copies of which have been placed in the Library of the House.

Excise Duties: Motor Vehicles

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer with reference to the answer of 24 November 2008, Official Report, column 951W, on excise duties: motor vehicles, for what reason comprehensive data on the carbon dioxide emissions of light goods vehicles is not available to his Department; and if he will make a statement. (241571)

Carbon dioxide based Vehicle Excise Duty for cars rests on data produced through the European Union-wide system of vehicle type approval. This system does not produce carbon dioxide data for vans.

Kaupthing Singer and Friedlander

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what date the concerns of the Financial Services Authority about the position of Kaupthing, Singer and Friedlander Bank which had been communicated to the Tripartite were first drawn to his attention. (241437)

As the Memorandum of Understanding between HM Treasury, the Bank of England and the FSA sets out, the FSA informs the Tripartite of its concerns on a regular basis.

Mortgages

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer with reference to the Prime Minister’s statement of 3 December 2008, Official Report, columns 34-5, how many mortgage-holders have outstanding mortgage balances of (a) less than £200,000, (b) between £200,000 and £299,000, (c) between £300,000 and £399,000 and (d) £400,000 or above in (i) the UK, (ii) each English region and (iii) each of the smallest sub-regions for which figures are available. (241559)

The information requested is not available in the format requested. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) or the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) both publish data on the mortgage market, available at:

http://www.fsa.gov.uk/pages/Doing/Regulated/Returns/IRR/statistics/index.shtml

and

http://www.cml.org.uk/cml/statistics.

National Insurance Centre: Newcastle

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much the Newcastle national insurance centre cost to run in each of the last three years. (241565)

The National Insurance Contributions Office (NICO) is only one of many occupants of the Benton Park View site, Newcastle. It is therefore not possible to accurately identify estates costs for just NICO.

Political Parties: Finance

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer with reference to the answer of 10 November 2008, Official Report, columns 936-37W, on political parties: finance, (1) if he will place a copy of the booklet in the Library; (242040)

(2) whether it is the policy of HM Revenue and Customs that payments made to the Parliamentary Labour Party by hon. Members are tax-deductible.

I have arranged for a copy of the booklet, a copy of which is sent to MPs at the start of each Parliament, to be placed in the House of Commons Library.

Tax law imposes strict tests on what relief is available for personal expenditure. In general, relief is only available for costs incurred by employees or office holders that are incurred wholly, exclusively and necessarily in the performance of the duties of the employment or office. No relief is available for MPs’ personal donations to political parties which do not satisfy this rule. HMRC’s policy in interpreting this is set out in the booklet where it makes clear that tax relief is not due for payments to political organisations for party political purposes.

Tax Credit

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many individual cases of tax credit overpayments his Department has taken to court to seek recovery of overpayments in (a) each month of 2008-09 and (b) each year from 2003-04 to 2007-08; and if he will make a statement. (240303)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave her on 26 November 2008, Official Report, columns 1926-27W.

Taxation: Medical Treatments

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the amount of tax revenue received by the Exchequer from taxation of private medical treatment provided by employers to employees in 2007-08. (240807)

HMRC does not yet have information on the tax revenue received from the taxation of private medical treatment in 2007-08. The tax liability as a result of all taxable benefits provided by employers to employees is published annually on the HMRC website in Table 4.5 at this address:

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/stats/taxable_benefits/menu.htm.

A forecast of the total tax liability from private medical and dental treatment or insurance provided to employees by their employers in 2007-08 will be published in spring 2009.

VAT

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish his estimate of the cost to businesses of his announced change in the rate of value added tax. (241381)

The impact assessment setting out the compliance costs for business can be found on the HM Treasury website at the following address:

http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/pbr08_vat_1845.pdf

Defence

Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many British service personnel have been (a) injured and (b) killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan since 2001. (240349)

The numbers of service personnel killed and injured while serving in Afghanistan are published on the Departmental website at fortnightly intervals, two weeks in arrears, at the following address:

http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/AboutDefence/CorporatePublications/DoctrineOperationsand DiplomacyPublications/OperationsInAfghanistan/OpHerrickCasualtyAndFatalityTables.htm

For convenience, the figures to 15 November 2008, the latest available, are reproduced in the following table:

Casualties (very seriously or seriously injured)

Fatalities

2001

0

0

2002

1

3

2003

1

0

2004

6

1

2005

2

1

2006

31

39

2007

63

42

2008

58

39

It is not possible to provide precise figures for injuries or fatalities resulting from action by friendly forces since it is not possible in each and every case precisely to determine definitively whether incidents were caused by enemy, Afghan or coalition forces.

Armed Forces

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what definition his Department uses of harmony with regard to each of the three services. (240495)

[holding answer 8 December 2008]: Harmony Guidelines are formulated by the single services. Each of the services has a slightly different metric that reflects the ethos and expectations of armed forces personnel. The guidelines are kept under regular review in order to ensure that they reflect the operational requirement of the Department but remain balanced with the requirement of training and recuperation, including leave. Part of recuperation considers retention issues and the assessment of the work/life dynamic is of particular concern. Harmony is split into two related but separate requirements: unit harmony, that primarily relates to force structures and commitments; and individual harmony, that relates to the effect of all separation on individual service personnel.

The Harmony Guidelines are given in the following table.

Unit Harmony Guideline

Individual Harmony Guideline

Royal Navy

Force planners assume that RN and RM units will, over a three year period, spend a maximum of 60 per cent. of their time deployed and 40 per cent. of their time in their base port

The Royal Navy sets Separated Service as a maximum of 660 days Separated Service in a rolling three year period

Army

The Army uses FORM (Formation Operational Readiness Mechanism) to plan for Army units to conduct a six month operational tour followed by an interval of 24 months

The Army tries to adhere to 415 days Separated Service in a 30 month rolling period

Royal Air Force

On the whole, the RAF deploys personnel on individual basis with the RAF Regt being the major exception. The RAF utilises the Operational Deployment Guideline to plan for personnel and units to spend four months on deployed operations followed by 16 months at base

The Royal Air Force has a Separated Service planning target of 280 days in a 24-month rolling period

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if he will break down the basic salary levels in the armed forces by (a) service and (b) rank; (241749)

(2) what the pay grades are of officers above the NATO rank of OF-3 in all three services, broken down by rank.

Pay rates for all members of the armed forces up to the rank of Brigadier and equivalent are recommended by the independent Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body (AFPRB) in its annual report to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence. Copies of the AFPRB’s 37th report—2008 (Cm 7315) and its Supplement (Cm 7347), which covers the pay of service medical and dental officers, are available in the Library of the House. Both reports show the recommended pay rates for officers and other ranks, for financial year 2008-09, by service rank (including NATO equivalent) and spine point. The recommendations contained in both reports have been accepted in full by the Government and implemented with effect from 1 April 2008.

Pay rates for all senior service officers of the ranks shown as follows are recommended by the independent Review Body on Senior Salaries (SSRB) in its annual report to the Prime Minister, the Lord Chancellor, the Secretary of State for Defence and the Secretary of State for Health.

2 Star—Rear Admiral/Major General/Air Vice Marshal (NATO Equivalent—OF7)

3 Star—Vice Admiral/Lieutenant General/Air Marshal (NATO Equivalent—OF8)

4 Star—Admiral/General/Air Chief Marshal (NATO Equivalent—OF9)

Chief of the Defence Staff

Copies of the SSRB’s 30th report on senior salaries (Cm 7388) are available in the Library of the House. The recommendations contained in the report in respect of senior service officers have been accepted in full by the Government and implemented with effect from 1 April 2008.

Armed Forces: Deployment

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many members of the armed forces will be on active duty abroad on 25 December 2008, broken down by location. (241982)

The endorsed force level for UK military operations are set out in the table. While we do not routinely comment on future troop deployments, we have no reason to believe these figures will change significantly by 25 December 2008.

Location

Endorsed number (at 5 December 2008)1

Afghanistan

8,050

Southern Iraq

4,100

Baghdad2

250

At sea

1,050

Falklands/South Atlantic

1,500

Qatar

700

Cyprus

300

Kuwait

550

Kosovo

150

Bahrain

50

Bosnia

Less than 50

Other3

150

1 Rounded.

2 Providing support to the Senior British Military Representative—Iraq.

3 Small scale deployments in support of EU and UN missions, and headquarters liaison officers.

The precise number of personnel in each theatre at any one time fluctuates on a daily basis for a variety of reasons, including mid-tour rest and recuperation, temporary absence for training, evacuation for medical reasons, the roulement of forces, visits and other factors.

Armed Forces: Housing

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many of his Department's housing sites have reported infestations from (a) vermin, (b) insects and (c) any other pests in the last 24 months. (241979)

Armed Forces: Manpower

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many service personnel there are, broken down by (a) service, (b) rank, (c) age and (d) sex. (241751)

Information on service and sex can be found in table 1 of Tri Service Publication (TSP) 1—Total Strength of UK Regular Forces by gender. TSP 1 is published on monthly basis and the latest information as at 1 October 2008 can be found at:

http://www.dasa.mod.uk/applications/newWeb/www/apps/publications/pubViewFile.php?content=3l&date=2008-ll-27&type=html&PublishTime=09:30:00

Information on rank can be found in table 1 of Tri Service Publication (TSP) 9—UK Regular Forces Rank Structure. TSP 9 is published on quarterly basis and the latest information as at 1 October 2008 can be found at:

http://www.dasa.mod.uk/applications/newWeb/www/apps/publications/pubViewFile.php?content=90.15&date=2008-12-03&type=html&PublishTime=09:30:00

Information on age can be found in table 1 of Tri Service Publication (TSP) 8—UK Regular Forces by age and sex. TSP 8 is published on an annual basis and the latest information as at 1 April 2008 can be found at:

http://www.dasa.mod.uk/applications/newWeb/www/index.php?page=48&pubType=l&thiscontent=80&PublishTime =09:30:00&date=20080529&disText=01%20April%202008&from =listing&topDate=2008-05-29

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many officers with the NATO rank of OF-3 or above are employed by each of the three services, broken down by rank. (242031)

Information on the number of officers with the NATO rank of OF-3 or above employed by each of the three services, broken down by rank can be found in table 1 of Tri Service Publication (TSP) 9—UK Regular Forces rank structure. TSP 9 is published on quarterly basis and the latest information as at 1 October 2008 can be found at:

http://www.dasa.mod.uk/

Armed Forces: Parcels

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the number of parcels sent from members of the public to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan but not addressed to an individual which had not been delivered in the latest period for which figures are available; and how such parcels were treated by the British Forces Post Office. (240451)

[holding answer 8 December 2008]: We do not record separately the number of unsolicited parcels received from members of the public by personnel deployed on operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The British Forces Post Office (BFPO) policy is that unsolicited mail will be moved to operational theatres as and when there is sufficient spare capacity to move it without affecting the mail from family and friends. The recent MOD publicity campaign seeking to discourage unsolicited parcels has significantly reduced the volumes of unsolicited mail currently being processed by the BFPO and as a result the relatively small quantities of such mail are being processed with minimal delay. I should, however, emphasise that any return to the sorts of volumes of unsolicited mail witnessed last year could result in substantial delays to personal mail and we cannot allow that to happen.

Armed Forces: Pensions

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what ongoing pension scheme commitment is given to service personnel, broken down by (a) rank and (b) length of service. (241748)

All individuals are provided with an induction pack on joining the armed forces which contains information about pension provision. Similarly, when they leave service, they receive a leaver’s pack which includes details about their pension benefits.

Full details of all the armed forces pension schemes and their provisions are in the public domain and can be found at:

http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/AboutDefence/WhatWeDo/Personnel/Pensions/ArmedForcesPensions/

Armoured Fighting Vehicles

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many armoured or protected Land Rovers of each type were deployed to Iraq prior to October 2003; and when they were deployed. (241279)

No armoured or protected Land Rovers were deployed in Iraq prior to October 2003. 208 Snatch Mk1 protected vehicles were deployed to Iraq in November 2003.

Departmental Lost Property

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what (a) equipment and (b) data was lost by his Department in the last 12 months. (241980)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 26 November 2008, Official Report, columns 1542-43W, by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces, to the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps).

Departmental Official Hospitality

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what records his Department maintains of its expenditure on (a) official hospitality and (b) alcohol for official hospitality. (240474)

MOD budget managers are required to retain the original claim forms for the reimbursement of official entertainment, and supporting evidence, for a minimum of seven financial years. The supporting evidence will show where authorisation has been given for both the consumption of alcohol at public expense and any incidental expenditure (such as service charges).

Expenditure on official entertainment is recorded as a single discrete item in the MOD’s Chart of Accounts (Joint Service Publication 530) and reported annually in the MOD’s Departmental Resource Accounts, most recently on page 298 of the Annual Report and Accounts 2007-08 (HC 850-1).

The regulations on the provision of official entertainment at public expense are set out in chapter 45 of the MOD’s Financial Management Policy Manual (Joint Service Publication 462).

Copies of all publications referred to are available in the Library of the House.

Departmental Public Consultation

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what (a) listening exercises and (b) public forums his Department has held in each of the last two years; what the (i) purpose and (ii) cost was in each case; which private contractors were contracted in respect of such exercises; and how much each was paid. (242269)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 26 November 2008, Official Report, column 1548W.

Departmental Recruitment

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many people have joined his Department in a (a) civilian and (b) military capacity in each of the last three years, broken down by service. (241981)

Information on intake of civilian personnel in each of the last three financial years can be found in Table 2.33 of UKDS 2008—Intake and Outflow of Civilian Personnel. This information can be found at:

http://www.dasa.mod.uk/UKDS2008/c2/table233.html

Information on intake from civil life to the UK regular forces personnel in each of the last three financial years can be found in Table 2.19 of UKDS 2008—Intake to UK Regular Forces by Service and Sex. This information can be found at:

http://www.dasa.mod.uk/UKDS2008/c2/table219.html

Copies of UKDS are also available in the Library of the House.

Departmental Responsibilities

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which projects his Department has commissioned from (a) think tanks and (b) charities in each of the last two years for which figures are available; what the aim of each project was; which think tank or charity was commissioned in each case; and how much was paid. (242215)

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 26 November 2008, Official Report, column 1547W.

Departmental Temporary Employment

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence with reference to the answer of 27 October 2008, Official Report, columns 631-32W, on departmental temporary employment, how many staff were recruited through each company in each year; and for how long on average staff recruited through these companies worked for the Department in each year. (242315)

I am withholding the information requested as its release would, or would be likely to, prejudice commercial interests. It is departmental policy that temporary staff can be engaged for periods of up to 11 months only.

Gulf War

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many British service personnel were (a) injured and (b) killed by friendly fire during the 1990-91 Gulf War. (241264)

Information on casualties has only been centrally compiled since 2001 and it is therefore not possible to identify UK Service personnel injured during the Gulf War 1990-91 without incurring disproportionate cost.

During the 1990-91 Gulf War, nine UK Service personnel died as a result of friendly fire.

Iraq: Peacekeeping Operations

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether any of the Jaish-al-Mahdi prisoners released under the prisoner release scheme agreed by the British Army and the Iraqi Government had been involved in attacks on British forces. (240443)

[holding answer 8 December 2008]: Under UN Security Council Resolution 1546 and subsequent resolutions, UK forces in Iraq are authorised to detain persons whom they judge to represent an imperative threat to security. This could include members of groups which may have been involved in attacks against Iraqi or coalition forces or have been planning such attacks.

For all individuals detained by UK forces, the decision to release was taken by the Divisional Internment Review Committee on the basis that these individuals no longer represented an imperative threat to security. We do not comment on cases or circumstances relating to individual detainees.

Joint Force Harrier

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence with reference to the Answer to the hon. Member for North East Milton Keynes of 26 November 2008, Official Report, column 1554W, on the Joint Force Harrier, where the harmony records for the Joint Force Harrier are kept. (242052)

Harmony records for the Joint Force Harrier are not held centrally. Deployment records for individual personnel are held on the Joint Personnel Administration system. Translating these into exact Harmony records for units could be done only at disproportionate cost.

Piracy

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library a copy of the guidance issued to commanders in relation to (a) detention of pirates and (b) applications for asylum by pirates detained on Royal Navy vessels. (240452)

[holding answer 8 December 2008]: Commanding officers of Royal Navy ships are issued with guidance on the applicable law and principles relating to the handling and detention of those suspected of committing offences on the high seas. I am withholding this information as it would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of our armed forces.

With respect to applications for asylum, I refer the hon. Member to the answer my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State and Minister for Veterans gave on 20 November 2008, Official Report, column 669W, to the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin).

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what guidance Royal Navy personnel (a) have been and (b) will be given in (i) the impact of human rights legislation on the ability to transfer captured pirates to other countries, including their own, (ii) the prospect of such captives claiming rights and benefits in the United Kingdom and (iii) whether to take pirates into captivity on Royal Navy vessels. (241991)

Commanding Officers of Royal Navy ships are issued with guidance on the applicable law and principles relating to the handling and detention of those suspected of committing offences on the high seas. More detailed guidance, specific to the particular operations or circumstances, is issued when required.

Commanding Officers are not empowered to decide on an individual’s entitlement to rights and benefits, including applications for asylum; that is a matter for the Home Office.

Tornado Aircraft

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether Terma self-defence suite will be part of the initial operating capability of Tornados deployed on Operation Herrick from 1 April 2009. (241358)

[holding answer 8 December 2008]: The Department has a policy of not commenting on the details of its defensive aids capabilities. The release of this information would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of our armed forces.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence with reference to the Answer to the hon. Member for North East Milton Keynes of 26 November 2008, Official Report, columns 1559-60W, on Tornado GR4, whether the interim Paveway IV capability will have been integrated onto the Tornado before its deployment of Operation Herrick. (241359)

[holding answer 8 December 2008]: I am withholding the information requested as its release would, or would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of our armed forces.

Trident Submarines

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Trident submarines are on active service; how many are being repaired; and if he will make a statement. (241353)

There are currently two Vanguard Class submarines in the operational fleet, which will be joined next year by a third boat on completion of sea trials following a Long Overhaul Period (Refuel) (LOP(R)). The fourth boat is currently undergoing a LOP(R).

Veterans: Compensation

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence with reference to the Prime Minister’s Answer to the hon. Member for Billericay of 14 November 2007, Official Report, column 664, what measures the Government have taken to reconsider the atomic test veterans’ claim in light of the most recent scientific evidence. (242033)

We have a responsibility to investigate all new research regarding the possibility of any harmful health effects of the nuclear tests we have carried out in the past. The Government have, therefore, studied the most recent scientific evidence from Massey University New Zealand on genetic damage in a group of Royal New Zealand Navy participants in the British nuclear tests. The study report expressly states that its findings throw no light on health effects. The Government’s position remains the same, as previously stated, in relation to the common law claim brought by a group of veterans and deceased veterans’ dependants or beneficiaries, of the UK's nuclear weapon testing programme. A preliminary trial on limitation is due to commence at the High Court on 19 January 2009.

The wider published peer-reviewed epidemiological evidence to date has not demonstrated a general link between ill-health and participation in the tests. In the event, the vast majority of participants in the UK nuclear weapons trials did not receive any recorded dose of ionising radiation. Some participants received doses that were not significantly above zero. A very few individuals, because of their specialist roles, received higher dose levels, but within the safety limits appropriate at the time. Where the health of these participants has been affected by their service, we pay compensation under our no-fault compensation arrangements.

I am determined to ensure that all avenues of research are looked at. I am therefore pleased to report that I had a constructive meeting with the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association (BNTVA) in late October to discuss the possibility of a new MOD study into health issues, particularly in relation to offspring. My officials are now in discussion with the BNTVA and scientific advisers on the scientific and ethical issues relevant to a further study. I am hopeful that I will be able to make an announcement early in the new year.

Communities and Local Government

Central Fire Brigades Advisory Council

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on what dates the central fire service advisory committee has met since it was established; what the main outcomes were of such meetings; and if she will make a statement. (241429)

The Central Fire Brigades Advisory Council was set up under section 29 of the Fire Services Act 1947. The council was abolished under section 51 of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004. The information requested could be collated only at disproportionate cost.

Coastal Town Network

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government with reference to the answer of 25 November 2008, Official Report, columns 1276-77W, on regeneration: coastal areas, which central Government Departments were involved in the Coastal Town Network (CTN); how many times the CTN met; at what level each department was represented; and which local authorities were represented. (241508)

Officials from six Departments (BERR, CLG, DCMS, DEFRA, DIUS and DWP) have been involved in the work of the Coastal Towns Network (CTN) so far. The CTN has met twice to date: in July and October 2008, with the next meeting planned for January 2009. Central Government Departments are represented at deputy director (Grade 5) and senior management (Grades 6 or 7) levels.

The city of Brighton and Hove and Kent county council attended the first meeting of the Network in Brighton. East Lindsey district council, Boston district council and Lincolnshire county council attended the Network's second meeting in Skegness.

Local authorities are also represented at the meetings through bodies like the British Resorts and Destinations Association, the Coastal Communities Alliance and the BURA—British Urban Regeneration Association—Seaside Network.

Departmental Official Hospitality

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what records her Department maintains of its expenditure on (a) official hospitality and (b) alcohol for official hospitality. (240476)

All expenditure on official hospitality is recorded on the Department’s finance system. I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 30 October 2008, Official Report, column 1261W, to the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald).

Fire Services: Floods

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent representations she has received from fire fighters on their status as statutory consultees on flooding emergencies. (241641)

Following the extensive floods during the summer of 2007 Sir Ken Knight, Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser conducted a review into the response of the fire and rescue service to the floods, and Sir Michael Pitt conducted a wide-ranging, independent review into floods. During the course of these two reviews and ensuing work, many representations were received from the fire and rescue service, including the Chief Fire Officers Association and the Fire Brigades Union. The two reviews were published earlier this year. The Government’s response to Sir Michael’s report is expected to be published shortly.

Fire Services: Manpower

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many (a) full-time and (b) retained fire officers there were in each year since 1997; and if she will make a statement. (241430)

The number of whole-time and retained firefighters in England since 1997, as at 31 March each year, is shown as follows.

Whole-time and retained duty system firefighters in England

Whole-time

Retained

Total

1997

32,033

13,016

45,049

1998

31,855

12,847

44,702

1999

31,918

13,022

44,940

2000

31,616

13,021

44,637

2001

31,597

13,097

44,694

2002

31,592

13,013

44,605

2003

31,614

13,044

44,658

2004

31,856

13,015

44,871

2005

31,053

13,543

44,596

2006

30,744

13,927

44,671

2007

30,804

14,212

45,016

2008

30,824

14,166

44,990

Source:

Annual Returns to Communities and Local Government

Fire Services: Training

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many weeks intensive training is required to be undertaken by fire service recruits in each of the fire authority areas in each of the last six years. (241431)

Fire Services: Urban Areas

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate she has made of the number of lives saved through the Urban Search and Rescue programme since its inception in February 2008. (240808)

Different elements of the urban search and rescue capability are used routinely by Fire and Rescue Services at the local level. The Department does not hold statistics on the number of lives saved through deployment of the urban search and rescue capability.

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how the welfare of dogs involved in the Fire Service’s Urban Search and Rescue programme is monitored; and with whom responsibility for such monitoring lies. (240809)

As part of the New Dimension programme, CLG has provided funding for 20 Urban Search and Rescue teams, hosted by Fire and Rescue Services across the country. As part of each of these teams, the Department has made provision for a search and rescue dog and a handler. Responsibility for the welfare of the dogs lies with the host brigades.

Home Information Packs

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what research her Department has carried out on the effect of home information packs on the housing market; and if she will make a statement. (241212)

I refer the right hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) on 14 October 2008, Official Report, column 1089W.

Homelessness: Essex

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many homeless (a) children and (b) adults are in temporary accommodation in each local authority area in Essex. (240295)

Information about English local authorities' actions under the homelessness legislation (Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996) is collected quarterly at local authority level, about households rather than individuals.

Data collected include the number of households accepted by local housing authorities as eligible for assistance, unintentionally homeless and in priority need, and therefore owed a main homelessness duty (to secure that suitable accommodation is available). If a settled home is not immediately available, the authority must secure temporary accommodation until a settled home becomes available.

Information on the numbers of households housed in temporary accommodation is reported quarterly by local authorities as at the last day of each quarter. The figures include: those households which have been accepted as owed the main homelessness duty; those for which inquiries are pending; those being accommodated for a limited period because they have been found intentionally homeless and in priority need; those being accommodated pending possible referral to another authority, and those being accommodated pending the outcome of a local authority review or county court appeal.

The number of dependent children (or expected children) in these households is also collected, but data on the number of adults is not. The latest (end June 2008) figures for total households and total children reported by the Essex authorities are shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Households in temporary accommodation, and number of children within these households (as at 30 June 2008)

Local authority

Total households in TA arranged by authority

Total children (and expected children) within these households

Basildon

315

382

Braintree

67

75

Brentwood

92

139

Castle Point

118

176

Chelmsford

83

57

Colchester

191

265

Epping Forest

79

98

Harlow

233

229

Maldon

38

49

Rochford

34

51

Southend-on-Sea

49

103

Tendring

172

206

Thurrock

66

74

Uttlesford

27

27

Authorities also report the number of households in temporary accommodation arranged by each authority, who have been housed outside the borough. Latest figures reported by the Essex authorities are shown in Table 2. Data specifically on the number of children and adults housed outside the borough are not held centrally.

Table 2: Households in temporary accommodation, and of which those housed outside the borough (as at 30 June 2008)

Local authority

Total households in TA arranged by authority

of which the number housed outside borough

Basildon

315

0

Braintree

67

0

Brentwood

92

0

Castle Point

118

10

Chelmsford

83

0

Colchester

191

6

Epping Forest

79

7

Harlow

233

0

Maldon

38

4

Rochford

34

15

Southend-on-Sea

49

0

Tendring

172

0

Thurrock

66

3

Uttlesford

27

0

Housing Revenue Accounts

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what figures were included within the formula to account for provision for debt servicing for those authorities that received positive subsidy under the Housing Revenue Account subsidy system for 2008-09. (241485)

Out of 204 local authorities with a Housing Revenue Account, 178 have the servicing of a notional level of debt, the Subsidy Capital Financing Requirement (SCFR) supported by the HRA subsidy system. The remaining 26 are considered to be debt free and have a zero or negative SCFR. Of the 178 local authorities that have a level of debt supported by the HRA subsidy system 43 are in positive subsidy. In addition those authorities in Rounds 1 and 2 of the ALMO (Arms Length Management Organisation) programme receive an ALMO allowance to support the associated borrowing. For all other ALMOs the support for the associated borrowing is included within the SCFR. The support for debt servicing is then offset against other elements of the subsidy system to determine net subsidy entitlement.

The following table lists the SCFR and ALMO allowance for authorities likely to be in receipt of subsidy for 2008-09.

£

SCFR

ALMO allowance (Round 1 and 2 only1)

Ashfield

34,093,939

4,425,600

Barnsley

132,249,400

11,328,000

Blackpool

33,850,983

0

Blyth Valley

34,843,948

3,868,640

Bolton

131,156,102

12,604,800

Braintree

7,356,989

0

Brent

343,290,867

4,320,000

Camden

523,110,271

0

City of London

13,990,928

0

Derby

111,264,305

7,774,080

Doncaster

219,278,605

0

Ealing

314,717,560

0

Easington

68,691,319

0

Eastbourne

45,731,010

0

Gateshead

266,985,653

0

Greenwich

418,654,476

0

Hackney

702,774,111

0

Hammersmith

384,753,640

0

Haringey

445,710,700

0

Hounslow

164,486,906

7,972,000

Islington

777,567,091

0

Kensington

150,637,763

3,475,120

Kingston-upon-Hull

225,648,897

0

Kirklees

127,168,814

11,984,000

Lambeth

566,740,126

0

Leeds

400,860,237

32,811,124

Leicester

209,008,128

0

Lewisham

372,292,767

0

Liverpool

564,864,169

0

Manchester

693,928,643

0

Newcastle-upon-Tyne

542,135,600

0

Newham

601,918,159

0

Nottingham

272,639,181

0

Oldham

127,656,709

6,912,000

Rochdale

134,476,958

8,504,000

Salford

269,162,203

0

Sheffield

746,430,799

0

South Norfolk2

0

0

Southwark

743,772,141

0

Stockton

85,651,501

5,040,000

Tower Hamlets

427,383,831

0

Waltham Forest

254,266,667

0

Westminster

183,093,347

5,920,000

Wigan

116,422,575

10,984,000

Wansbeck2

0

0

1 A Borrowing associated with later ALMO rounds is incorporated within the SCFR.

2 South Norfolk and Wansbeck have undertaken Large Scale Voluntary Transfer (LSVT) and are likely to receive very small amounts of residual subsidy in 2008-09.

Note:

All these figures are provisional and subject to change later in the financial year.

Housing: Low Incomes

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps have been taken to ensure that access to the MyChoiceHomeBuy scheme is equitable across regions and counties. (240870)

The MyChoiceHomeBuy scheme is delivered by equity loan providers, who were selected following a competitive bidding process to ensure national coverage and a choice for customers. The scheme is demand led. Initial allocations to providers followed the indicative regional split of the overall National Affordable Housing Programme, which is based on a formula that reflects key policy outcomes. Initial allocations are then reviewed periodically and adjusted according to levels of actual demand.

Housing: Wellingborough

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will visit Wellingborough to discuss future housing development in the area. (241414)

Communities and Local Government Ministers are more than happy to discuss housing development in Wellingborough when we next visit north Northamptonshire.

Regional Development Agencies: Political Impartiality

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what requirements in respect of political impartiality there are on directors of regional development agencies; and if she will make a statement. (240261)

I have been asked to reply.

Each regional development agency has a code of practice for all staff, including directors and board members, in line with the model code produced by the Cabinet Office. All staff are required to conduct themselves with integrity and impartiality, whatever their personal political views.

Regional Planning and Development: Northamptonshire

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether the West Northamptonshire Development Corporation is required to prepare a statement of community involvement. (240689)

West Northamptonshire Development Corporation (WNDC) is a local delivery vehicle. It does not have development plan powers and is not required to prepare a statement of community involvement.

Regional Planning and Development: South West

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when she expects to respond to the consultation on the South West Regional Spatial Strategy. (241329)

[holding answer 8 December 2008]: The Secretary of State received around 35,000 responses from individuals and organisations to the consultation on her Proposed Changes to the South West Regional Spatial Strategy. This is the largest number ever received to such a consultation. My officials at the Government Office for the South West are currently assessing the responses and the Secretary of State will consider proposals for a revised timetable shortly.

Sewers

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what progress has been made on the implementation of the recommendations in Sir Michael Pitt’s final report on the 2007 floods that the automatic right to connect surface water drainage from new developments to the sewerage system be removed. (240888)

I have been asked to reply.

We have already taken a number of steps in response to Sir Michael Pitt’s findings and will be publishing a detailed response together with a prioritised action plan shortly.

Tenants rights

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps her Department takes to protect tenants of private landlords who have their property repossessed. (240798)

We believe it is good practice where possible for the lender to let the tenancy run and use the rental payments to cover the mortgage repayments until the end of the tenancy or where the tenancy has become a periodic tenancy to give the statutory two month notice period as a minimum. Where this is not possible we would hope that as a matter of best practice the mortgage lender would feel able to keep the tenant informed and to give them as much notice as possible if they have to find alternative accommodation.

Officials are in discussions with the Council of Mortgage Lenders to explore ways in which best practice can be implemented and tenants can be kept better informed in these situations.

If a tenant becomes homeless as a result of their landlord's failure to keep up with mortgage payments the local council should be able to help in terms of providing temporary accommodation and assisting the tenant in their search for somewhere to live.

Travelling People: Coastal Areas

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) with reference to the answer of 25 November 2008, Official Report, columns 1287-88W, on Travelling people: coastal areas, what assessment her Department has made of the needs of non-migrant transient populations in seaside towns; (241510)

(2) with reference to the answer of 25 November 2008, Official Report, column 1280W, on the revenue support grant, if she will consider the introduction of an explicit measure of transient population as part of formula grant distribution system.

The CLG Committee report on coastal towns published in March 2007 defined 'transient populations' in the broadest sense to be composed of UK adults of working age (who may move with their children) and overseas migrant workers who move on a frequent basis.

There is, however, no consistent definition of transient populations and therefore no centrally produced measure of them. Given this, it is not possible to assess the needs of non-migrant transient populations in seaside towns or to include an explicit measure of such populations, as part of the formula distribution system.

Wind Power: Planning Permission

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what her reasons were for recovering the planning appeals relating to the wind farms at (a) Crook Hill, (b) Todmorden Moor and (c) Reaps Moss. (241412)

The reason for recovering these appeals was as a result of public interest in the proposals, being development of major importance having more than local significance, particularly bearing in mind the cumulative impact that the proposals could have.

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

Brussels

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how much his Department spent on visits by its staff to Brussels in 2007-08; and how many such visits were made by (a) air and (b) rail. (241258)

The Department spent £325,396 on visits to Brussels during the period 2007-08. This figure includes hotel accommodation.

The number of visits by air and rail was:

(a) air: 69

(b) rail: 1,334

All travel by Civil Servants is undertaken in accordance with the guidelines set out in the Civil Service Management Code and departmental handbook.

Departmental Ministerial Policy Advisers

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many full-time equivalent staff in his Department are employed to assist special advisers. (240385)

There are currently three full-time equivalent staff employed to assist the Special Advisers.

Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency: Telephone Services

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform with reference to the answer of 20 November 2008, Official Report, column 679W, on Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency: telephone services, when he expects Ofcom’s new guidance to be published. (241058)

Ofcom does not currently have any plans to issue further guidance for public bodies on the use of 03 or any other number. I understand that Department for Transport is waiting for the conclusion of Ofcom’s work on its proposals to make changes to charging arrangements for 0870 numbers. I understand that Ofcom is aiming to publish this policy statement by the end of this year.

EU Working Time Directive

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on the vote in the European Parliament scheduled for 17 December 2008 on amendments to the EU Working Time Directive; and if he will make a statement. (241085)

The Working Time Common Position that was agreed by the Employment Council in June of this year represents a good outcome for Europe—it provides a fair deal for workers, without damaging competitiveness and so putting jobs at risk. The UK remains fully committed to that Common Position, in particular its maintenance of the right of individuals to opt out of the maximum 48 week if they wish. UK Ministers have maintained regular contact with counterparts across the EU on this issue, and hope the European Parliament will vote to support the Common Position on 17 December.

Members: Correspondence

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform for what reasons the letter sent to his Department by the hon. Member for Walsall North dated 5 November 2008 regarding a constituent was not referred to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport until the end of November. (240351)

[holding answer 8 December 2008]: The letter from my hon. Friend was referred to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on 14 November.