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I come to my last point : what is proposed? If it was a faithful reconstruction of the Crystal Palace, if it was still enshrining the old visions of the Victorians and if it was to be a public building, providing a great addition to the facilities for ordinary people in south-east and south London generally, I would not object to the scheme, other than perhaps to have a go at Bromley borough council about something or other. Because the proposed scheme does not fit the image that I have tried to describe and because it does not follow the traditions of the old Crystal Palace, I object to it. David Prout, the architectural adviser to the Victorian Society, wrote a good letter in which he said :
"We are extremely worried about the cynical exploitation of the dream of rebuilding the Crystal Palace in order to promote the use of the site for the construction of a luxury hotel and shopping centre. We wish to condemn the present scheme and emphasise that the lip service paid by the developers to the old Palace should not prejudice opinion in their favour."
That is a full answer to the hon. Member for Orpington. Mr. Prout continued :
"Architecturally the Crystal Palace was one of the most significant buildings of the 19th century. This building having disappeared, however, it is more important to remember that for the second half of the 19th century the Palace was a place of public entertainment and education, comparable in importance to the South Bank centre in modern London."
I can see how the Crystal Palace and the south bank centre are being linked. It is coincidental that the House is considering reconstruction at Crystal Palace and also the proposed development at the south bank around the site of the 1951 exhibition. In neither case is the proposed reconstruction fitting to the traditions of the historic past.
David Prout continued :
"Rather than a great public building, however, the present plans envisage a typical suburban commercial development with luxury hotel, shopping facilities and leisure centre. This is a wasteful abuse of a location which is a natural site for a public building. It utterly ignores the influential historic role of this nationally important site and the possibility of restoring this role.
As if in compensation for this, the developers propose to build a new' Crystal Palace. The resulting conservation modernism", however, is totally unacceptable. The curtain wall structure with a mirror glass skin is pastiche revivalism of the very worst kind. Not only is it a pastiche architecturally, but it is a fraudulent abuse of the Crystal Palace dream."
Perhaps I would not have put it so exotically, but I could not have put it better than David Prout.
I have raised my three sets of objections. I do not like the London borough of Bromley, and never will until it becomes Labour controlled, which I expect it to, very soon. Secondly, I do not think that the proposal fits in with the image and vision or, indeed, the use of the old Crystal Palace. Thirdly, this is further evidence of the abuse of the private Bill procedure. It is for those three reasons that I wanted the Bill to be brought to the Floor of the House for a short debate.
Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington) : I had not realised that the hon. Member for Newham, North West (Mr. Banks) has a similar background to mine. It is different because we are both Londoners, but I was born north of the Thames
Column 383and now represent a London constituency south of the Thames. Like the hon. Gentleman, I find that the gracious river separates London in many ways besides the geographical division. Nevertheless, one has great affection for London's institutions, including Crystal Palace. I remember, possibly unlike the hon. Gentleman, the night when the Crystal Palace was burning. I heard about it on the wireless and went out and saw a red glow in the sky to the south. I thought how terrible it was. But times have moved on and in the past 50 years the site has been cut off from the public and has not been developed for any public or useful purpose. I am beginning to think that this is a repetition of the old story of an area in London that could not be developed because the local authorities could never agree with each other. The London docks are the best example of bureaucratic, official, municipal inertia ; no one could agree on the best way forward, so nothing was done for 50 years.
When I asked the hon. Gentleman what the Greater London council had done about Crystal Palace he seemed confident that there was a solution to the problem and he had grandiose ideas about what might have been done. In some ways one sympathises with him : it might have been nice to rebuild Crystal Palace to serve the purposes of its original design, or at least to be of some public benefit. Unfortunately, those Socialist pipe dreams of local councils and the Greater London council were never achieved and translated into practicality. Like the London docks, the solution depended on the enterprising authority of the London borough of Bromley, which decided to develop the site at last, using funds from the private sector. The splendid London docks development has been rejuvenated in that way with the assistance of private money. Almost everyone, even those wretched borough councils that refused to co-operate with each other, now admit that that splendid progressive development has benefited all of London. I believe that the same will result at Crystal Palace.
Thank goodness for the London borough of Bromley, which has had the good sense, courage and enthusiasm to decide at last on the future development of that site. I hope that it will benefit all Londoners and will realise to some extent the worthy aims and ambitions of the hon. Member for Newham, North West. I welcome the Bill and hope that it goes through rapidly without further amendment.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mrs. Virginia Bottomley) : It may be helpful to the House to give abrief indication of the Government's view of the Bill. It is traditional on consideration of private Bills that the Government take a neutral stance, and this Bill is no exception to that rule. The Government have considered the content of the Bill and have no objection in principle to the powers sought by the London borough of Bromley. We have no points outstanding on the Bill.
It is for the promoters to persuade Parliament that the powers they are seeking are justified. Only one petitioner remains against the Bill for the Select Committee to consider. The Committee will be in a very much better
Column 384position than we are tonight to examine the issues involved in detail. It will have the added advantage of hearing expert evidence. I therefore hope that the Bill will be allowed to proceed in the usual way to Committee for this detailed consideration.
Sir Philip Goodhart : With the leave of the House, I shall respond to one or two of the points made by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). I am delighted that he began by explaining that his main reason for opposing the Bill was his prejudice against the London borough of Bromley. He is an honest Member of the House and we are glad to have that on the record.
The hon. Gentleman departed a little from his normal sense of honesty when he claimed the national sports centre for the GLC. I was present at the opening of the national sports centre, which took place slightly before the GLC came into being.
Mr. Tony Banks : I did not say that the GLC constructed the national sports centre ; I said that the national sports centre was the main recipient of expenditure devoted by the GLC to the Crystal Palace area. When I chaired the arts and recreation committee, I spent, on behalf of the hon. Gentleman and all other London ratepayers, large amounts of money, as I said, without any guilt, on upgrading and investing in the national sports centre. One can still see the result of that work around us today.
Sir Philip Goodhart : I am delighted that money was poured into the national sports centre. I am slightly less pleased because perhaps the hon. Gentleman, certainly some of his colleagues, removed me from the management committee at that time. No doubt the money would have been spent even more wisely if that had not happened.
I was fascinated by the hon. Gentleman's description of the splendid public building that would have emerged on the site if only the south bank regime had remained in power in London for another mere 50 years. However, there were 20 years when the GLC had control of that site. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman had some fascinating plans in his fascinating mind, but, during those 20 years he did not share those thoughts on the development of Crystal Palace with me, my constituents or the local inhabitants in any way. Since no scheme was produced by the hon. Gentleman, it is not surprising that the new scheme has been greeted with enthusiasm.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the concerts. They gave a great deal of pleasure to many people but they also caused some aggravation. By no means all my constituents were enthusiastic supporters. Financial problems have arisen and there are disputes over the contracts. Since legal action is pending, it would not be appropriate for me to go into those matters in detail. However, I hope that in future appropriate open-air concerts will be held on the site once again. The hon. Gentleman referred to the somewhat muted opposition from Lambeth council. It has not petitioned against the Bill. After its initial objections, it did not follow up those matters with the council, but I believe that its points about traffic management and parking problems have been dealt with.
Column 385The hon. Gentleman's main point was the suggestion that the London borough of Bromley was using this procedure because it wished to short-circuit the normal planning procedures. That is not the case. The private Bill procedure must be used because the site is governed and controlled by a private measure. To go outside the use of the site in terms of that measure, another private Bill is required.
Mr. Tony Banks : The proposal before us tonight could not proceed under Bromley's borough plan, which was adopted in 1985. I agree that Bromley must come to Parliament with a new Bill if it wishes to change the original measure. The 1985 plan took into account the original measure, and under those circumstances the borough is, in effect, getting round both procedures.
Sir Philip Goodhart : I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not argue that once a plan has been produced it can never be changed. We have procedures for changing a plan, and those procedures have been followed in this case.
The widest consultation took place. About 5,000 people locally were circulated, meetings were held and the overwhelming view of those consulted was that the plan should proceed. I hope that the House will support this legislation.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill read a Second time and committed.
Motion made, and Question proposed , That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Fallon.]
Last Friday, my constituent Michelle Renshaw was sentenced to a week's imprisonment for contempt of court when she refused to give evidence against someone who had threatened her with violence because she was frightened to give that evidence.
It may not seem immediately apparent why I am referring to that case in a debate on the voluntary sector. I am doing so because there is widespread concern, which the Renshaw case has aroused, over the effect that that case will have on many women facing violence, who it is feared will not be prepared in future to come forward and make a complaint for fear that they might finish up in prison in the way Michelle Renshaw did last weekend.
It is also relevant for me to mention the case of Michelle Renshaw, and the fears that many women threatened with violence will have of coming forward, because one of my local voluntary organisations threatened with closure is the Bradford Gingerbread centre, which provides support and self-help for lone parents and their children. There are only a handful of such agencies in Bradford and if the Gingerbread centre closes, it will be another door shut in the face of worried women in Bradford, who are desperately looking for advice, help and support. Undoubtedly, after the Michelle Renshaw case, the work of such organisations will become more, and not less, important.
When Bradford Gingerbread centre was threatened with closure a few days ago, I contacted a large number of agencies and individuals who had used its services over many years. I shall give three of the views expressed by people who have used the centre. One said : "Coming to the centre means that I am not on my own and I can share my problems with other Single parents. I am disabled and my son is 7 . Coming here shows my son that he is not the only child without a dad."
Another said :
"For many parents, the centre is a lifeline, it offers security knowing that people care about you as an individual, without the centre people will feel isolated."
The third said :
"For me personally it has built up my confidence and gives me something to look forward to."
These examples demonstrate the genuine strength of feeling and underline the importance of the Gingerbread centres in Bradford and Keighley which should be kept open and allowed to continue to serve the vulnerable people in our deprived and disadvantaged community in Bradford.
It is always a pleasure to debate with the hon. Member for Surrey, South- West (Mrs. Bottomley) but I am rather disappointed not to be debating with the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Mr. Trippier) who is visiting Bradford tomorrow--perhaps that is why he is not here tonight. I understand that when he is there he will visit the enterprise centre, which is a new, plush, city centre project with uniformed staff, colour-matched furniture and
Column 387fittings, and rubber plants. It is sad that there is no wheelchair access to the library and information centre, which are said to have cost a total of £200,000.
It is sad for those working in voluntary organisations in Bradford to see such vast expenditure on a new city centre project when genuine community- based projects such as the West Bowling enterprise--which helped more than 300 people in a recent 12-day period--has no money with which to pay the workers. It is sad that Bradford will lose those important community services.
It would be a scandal if the Bradford Cyrenians centre were forced to close. It is the only--I stress only--direct-access hostel for homeless men, especially young and old single men. One hundred men use this hostel every year and a staggering 400 are turned away. The Cyrenians have a long- stay home and furnished flats, which provide accommodation for 33 men. If its funding is withdrawn, the project will close, which will mean more and more homeless men sleeping rough in cardboard boxes, on benches and in doorways in Bradford. Such a scandalous state of affairs can be found in many cities, as well as Bradford, and is not just a grim feature of everyday life in London. On 7 March, the voluntary sector co-ordinating group issued a statement saying that 32 voluntary projects were facing closure or severe cuts in services at the end of this month as a result of the failure of Bradford council to pick up urban programme funding or former Manpower Services Commission grants. The statement went on to say that Councillor Pickles, the Conservative leader of Bradford council, had said that no money was available to fund these projects. It continued :
"There is at least £5 million allocated to next year's Council balances--money which will not be spent.
Councillor Pickles has said that the money going to the voluntary sector in 1989-90 will be at the same level--£5.1 million--as in 1988-89. However this claim is backed up by very dubious creative accounting. For example £400,000 of the money claimed to be going to the voluntary sector is in fact debt charges on capital purchases, some as many as ten years old. This money has never been mentioned before or included in any calculations about voluntary sector funding. In most cases, the property it represents was bought by the Council and is owned by the Council and never belongs to the groups--this is as if Council is forcing the voluntary sector to pay its mortgage.
In 1989-90, £200,000 of the money allocated for the voluntary sector will actually go towards the running costs of the community trust. Administration costs of grants have never before been included in the calculations. Coincidentally, the amount of money needed to pick up the threatened projects is around £600,000."
The statement concluded :
"We understand that the Council has obtained permission from the Department of the Environment to refund 3 projects (around £100,000) out of next year's Urban Programme grant. While we welcome this, it is important to stress that it is not new money--it means that less will be available for other urban programme spending next year. When the Labour controlled Council approached the DoE for a similar solution in September they were refused."
This raises a number of interesting questions, not least why the Department of the Environment was prepared a few days ago to give £100,000 to enable three voluntary organisations to continue when last September it was not prepared in identical circumstances to allow such an allocation of urban programme money. The voluntary sector co-ordinating group rightly pointed out that 62 full
Column 388and part-time jobs will be lost if these 32 voluntary projects are closed down or if their services are severely cut. The cost of making these people redundant will be at least £55,000, which is enough to fund essential services.
The statement went on :
"Next year 400 people would have come to the Volunteer Bureau looking for the chance to do voluntary work--where will they go? 6,000 people would have come to Gingerbread in Bradford and Keighley for advice and support-- where will they go? 7,000 children will be looking for playschemes, toy libraries, holidays and trips out--where will they go?"
All these cuts and closures and lost services come on top of a catalogue of cuts that have hit the poorest people in Bradford extremely hard. Earlier this year our benefit advice shops were closed. Our school meals charges are now the third highest in Britain and our council house rents have been increased by £5 a week. Charges across the board, from home helps to car parks, have been greatly increased.
We know that these massive cuts are deliberately undertaken to reduce the poll tax so that middle-class people living in middle-class areas will pay less poll tax, while the people I represent--the unemployed, the poor, the deprived and the disadvantaged--who live in difficult areas, will pay a high poll tax. The price that they will pay for that will be cuts in services and increased charges for all the things on which they depend in their daily lives.
I want quickly to refer to some of the organisations that are threatened with closure. The first is the Asian women and girls centre. Based in Manningham, it offers support for Asian women and girls. Its activities include sewing and craft classes, English classes, a playgroup and advice counselling. More than 100 women use the centre each week. Bradford Metro Childminders employs a part-time worker to offer support to registered childminders in the district--of whom there are 800, and more than 250 of them use the service. The Bradford metropolitan council for voluntary service is particularly hard hit. I have already mentioned its volunteer bureau. Its employment development projects offers advice and support to groups that work with the unemployed, and encourages the development of projects that offer employment and training. There is also the Asian development project.
The Bradford parent and toddler association employs a part-time worker to offer advice and support to about 70 PTAs in Bradford. It runs a toy library, a bulk-buy service and training for parents and play leaders. All its services would be lost. DIAL grant funds an advice line service. It is part of the Bradford voluntary action group for the disabled and provides advice and information for disabled people.
Keighley Gingerbread family support unit offers a comprehensive advice and support service to single parents in Keighley. It deals with a wide range of problems and develops activities to support single parents, such as housing projects and self-help groups. It will close without funding. It dealt with more than 3,000 inquiries in 1987-88.
Thorpe Edge encourages the development of a range of local groups, including tenants associations and a credit union and provides equipment, facilities and meeting places. There are many more of these organisations, but time does not permit me to mention them all.
Great anxiety and uncertainty hangs over all these voluntary organisations and the thousands of men, women and children who depend on them to improve the quality of their life.
Column 389A letter dated 23 February, written by Barry Clark, the chair of Bradford metropolitan council for voluntary service, to Councillor Pickles says :
"In your telephone conversation you said that everyone knew that these cuts would take place, and that no reasonable person could have expected otherwise'. This is in direct contradiction to what you, your deputy, Richard Wightman, and Council officers, have been telling Voluntary organisations and the press since the full council meeting on October 25th
Time after time we and others have asked for assurances that your promise to fund the voluntary sector at the level of funding received in 1988/9, plus inflation, was a real commitment, and not just political rhetoric. Time after time you assured us that The Council is already committed to maintaining the current level of funding support to the voluntary sector in 1989/90 plus inflation' and that you will note that so far the voluntary sector has escaped any cuts in real terms at the expense of cuts in council services'--your letter to Val Mills on the 30th January
Is it really your intention to cause the voluntary sector serious harm by depriving it of essential funding for core services, and if this is your intention, why did you not say so at a much earlier date? Why, particularly, have you left it until a few weeks before the beginning of a new financial year before informing voluntary sector groups of your intentions to cut or remove their funding, and why have you, or your officers, not even had the courtesy to inform affected groups that they were even being considered for such drastic cuts?"
There is widespread anxiety about the community trust which is proposed for Bradford. I gather that there are about 50 others around Britain. I understand that none have budgets of more than about £100, 000. In Bradford, it is proposed that the community trust would allocate more than £5 million. There are worries about the legalities and constitution of a community trust. I understand that the Conservative council intended to allocate section 11 and urban programme moneys through the community trust, but it has been advised that that would be illegal. There is concern that the community trust will be unelected and unaccountable. It is seen as a buffer between the public and the council that is extremely unwelcome. I hope that the Government will persuade Bradford council that it would be monstrous for an unelected and unaccountable body such as the community trust to allocate enormous amounts of money.
For many years, the voluntary sector in Bradford has offered vital service to a city that suffers from acute deprivation and disadvantage. We hope that the Minister will make clear that the Government will provide the £600,000 that is necessary to enable the 32 voluntary organisations to continue. That sum is peanuts, and I hope that the Government will recognise that on a day when the Chancellor of the Exchequer has allocated £10 million to repay the national debt and spent only £2,000 million on the people of this country. Many people who depend on the voluntary sector in Bradford will not see an extra penny piece from today's Budget.
I received a reply to a question that I tabled to the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Mr. Trippier). He said :
"I understand that several projects which have reached the end of their approved funding period, and which were not included in next year's programme, may come forward for consideration. I will of course examine these very closely.--[ Official Report, 9 March 1989 ; Vol. 148, c. 669 .]
The Government should put their money where their mouth is. If the Government and Councillor Pickles believe that the voluntary sector is important and should be protected, they should provide the extra £600,000 that
Column 390the voluntary sector so badly needs and not allow it to fall victim to the political whims and prejudices of Conservative councillors and Ministers.
I hope that the Minister will make it clear that that £600,000 will be made available, that funding will be guaranteed indefinitely and that the voluntary sector in Bradford can continue doing the excellent job that it has done for many years, served by dedicated men and women whose only desire is to serve the community. 10.37 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mrs. Virginia Bottomley) : I apologise for not being my hon. Friendthe Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Mr. Trippier), but I assure the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) that I will pass to my hon. Friend the observations that have been made in the debate. I may be an appropriate Minister to reply to the debate, because I have a long experience of work with the voluntary sector. It has pioneered many of our greatest and most important social reforms. Often, it has set up services on a shoestring budget to meet a previously unrecognised need and has developed sources of funding until they become stable within the community.
It is naive of the hon. Gentleman to think that the funding of the voluntary sector has ever been predictable and secure. Some uncertainty about finance is often inherent in voluntary sector organisations. I fully appreciate that those involved want to bring an end to the present uncertainty, and I hope that by putting the hon. Gentleman's remarks in the context of the variety of sources of funding for voluntary groups I shall be able to throw some light on these problems.
I want to make it unequivocally clear that the Government believe that the role of the voluntary sector is profoundly important. The Government have been a major supporter of the voluntary sector. In 1986-87, voluntary organisations received £280 million in grant from Departments, which is an increase in real terms of 90 per cent. since 1979. Overall funding from Government sources amounted to over £2 billion. In addition, many voluntary organisations are charities and so benefit from tax relief, which in 1986-87 amounted to £600 million.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Budget, which offered further assistance to charities, both in terms of VAT relief and in terms of the doubling of the tax relief that will be available for payroll giving. We believe that, although the funding of the voluntary sector should come from Government and local authority sources, the individual, the company, the church and other groups have an important part to play.
Voluntary organisations must look widely for funding and for support. Anyone who has worked with a voluntary organisation will know that there are various sources of support and assistance. Such support is no longer limited to cash donations, as secondments, provision of equipment and facilities, gifts in kind and sponsorship are increasingly the norm.
For the most part, voluntary organisations--I recognise that there are some exceptions--should not be dependent upon long-term Government funding. It is in their own interests, as much as anything else, to move on and to become independent. Voluntary organisations can receive funding from a number of different Government Departments, depending on their areas of activity. Some
Column 391of the programmes are aimed specifically at the voluntary sector and in other cases voluntary organisations can obtain funding for projects of funding to provide services under more general schemes. The range of the programmes and the number of the organisations funded is such that it would not be possible, without detailed inquiries, to make a precise analysis of the full range of funding available to the voluntary organisations in Bradford.
The hon. Gentleman may have just learnt that Bradford has been chosen to form part of the safer cities programme, for which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is responsible. Projects supported by that programme aim to reduce crime, lessen the fear of crime and create the conditions within which economic enterprise can flourish. The hon. Gentleman mentioned Miss Renshaw and the need to overcome the fear of crime and build up confidence in the community is important. In Bradford, work is being done with the voluntary sector, with the council for voluntary service, the community relations council and others.
Bradford benefits greatly from section 11 funding, which is also the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. Last year, about £6.5 million was spent in the Bradford area, particularly to provide assistance for work with ethnic minorities of Commonwealth origin.
One of the major sources of funding for the voluntary sector, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, is the urban programme, which works in deprived inner-city areas. Through that grant machine local authorities, with severe inner-city problems, including Bradford, receive a yearly allocation from central Government to be spent on a variety of projects. Apart from inner- city Bradford, the surrounding district also benefits. Economic, environmental, social and housing schemes are all represented by that programme, and all sectors of society have an opportunity to participate in worthwhile projects aimed at inner-city regeneration.
The voluntary sector is particularly well represented and the Department of the Environment, through the urban programme, actively encourages community -based projects. A strong voluntary base has always been seen as a vital element in the Government's determination to uplift urban areas.
My professional experience of working in Peckham and Brixton strongly bears out the importance of working with voluntary groups rather than only working with and directing help to local authorities. The urban programme has made an impressive contribution to Bradford and in part explains why the hon. Gentleman was able to read out such a string of organisations that have benefited from that form of Government assistance.
In the year 1986-87 alone, some 116 voluntary projects, which accounted for £1.17 million, were approved. That
Column 392meant that 116 groups which could find no other source of income were given a new lease of life. In 1987-88 we had a similar story when 189 projects were helped and a further 120 projects, worth £1.29 million, have been approved in the current year. The type of project currently supported is almost unlimited and the hon. Gentleman has made reference to some. They cover such things as help for disabled community centres to help for single-parent families.
It is important to appreciate that the urban programme is not, and never has been, a bottomless pit for funding. It has always been a pump-priming grant, designed to get things started. Projects that prove their worth will, when they reach the end of their period of funding, often survive on their own or be taken over by the local authority.
The difficulty in Bradford is that many of the schemes to which the hon. Gentleman referred have already been re-funded, so there would not normally be an expectation that they would be funded again under the urban grant scheme. However, in exceptional circumstances, it is open to the local authority to resubmit a scheme for a further period of funding, although this would be expected to last for only a short time. The decisions on these important and valuable schemes are being taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Trippier). He hopes to make an announcement on these matters soon, and bring an end to the uncertainty.
The hon. Gentleman also referred to the establishment of community trusts. These are independent charitable trusts, drawing funds from a variety of sources to help the needs of the community. the idea came from the United States, where such trusts have been successful. They have only recently started to emerge here, but they offer a way to bring together the voluntary organisations, the local authorities, the business community and individuals. We believe that support for systems like this means that the local authority can extend its facilitative and enabling role within the community. Recently, the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives welcomed trusts as an important way to achieve a good working relationship with the voluntary sector.
Bradford has achieved a significant increase in Government grant of some £23 million, or 16 per cent., which has meant that its block grant goes up to £167 million next year. It is a matter for the authority how it spends those resources and it is making every effort to analyse and consider carefully the most effective and productive way to allocate the money. We have no doubt that voluntary organisations can play an important part in bringing people together and generating alternative sources of finance to meet the needs of the community in an effective and valued way.
Question put and agreed to.
Adjourned accordingly at thirteen minutes to Eleven o'clock.
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