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Regional Chambers

Mr. Berry: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what the outcome was of the Government's consultation on the proposed fund for regional chambers. [4971]

Mr. Raynsford: We have had a very positive response to the consultation on strengthening the regions which my right hon. Friends the Deputy Prime Minister and the Chancellor launched earlier this year.

I am therefore announcing today the go-ahead for the new £15 million fund for regional chambers—£5 million this year, and in each of the next two years. This will help them to enhance their role in providing regional input to, and scrutinising, the plans and work of the Regional Development Agencies, and to develop their position as the strategic focal point for the regions. The aim is to provide a stronger framework for representing the regions' views, not to impose burdensome new procedures on the RDAs or others.

In 2001–02, £500,000 is available for each chamber to develop its scrutiny role, with a further £1 million set aside for initiatives, supported by the chambers collectively, on setting up the new regime. While we envisage that bids would normally be for the first year only, we have not ruled out the possibility of bids for two, or even three, years' worth of funding where that is what the chambers want. The deadline for receiving bids has been extended to 29 July.

Detailed arrangements for allocating the funding in the following two years will be settled in the light of further discussions with the chambers. The future of the funding beyond the current three-year period will be a matter for the next spending review.

Local Government Commission for England

Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what progress has been made on the transfer of the Local Government Commission for England to the Electoral Commission; and if he will make a statement. [4972]

Mr. Raynsford: We have now consulted the Electoral Commission, the Local Government Commission for England and other interested parties, on a draft of an order to be made under section 18 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, which would provide for the transfer of functions with effect from 1 April 2002. In the light of comments received, our firm intention is now, subject to parliamentary approval of a draft, to make this order as soon as practicable.

Flooding (Kimpton)

Mr. Lilley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will provide financial assistance to North Hertfordshire district council

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under the Bellwin Scheme in respect of costs incurred following the severe flooding in the village of Kimpton on 24 and 25 February. [4973]

Mr. Raynsford: I am satisfied that financial assistance under the Bellwin scheme is justified in the case of North Hertfordshire district council, given the exceptional nature of flooding. A scheme will, therefore be established under section 155 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989. Grant will be paid to cover 100 per cent. of the eligible costs above a threshold, which the authority has incurred in dealing with the flooding.


IT Contracts

Mr. Dobson: To ask the Solicitor-General if she will list the information technology contracts in excess of £500,000 let by her Department or its predecessor since April 1991, giving in each case the original estimated cost and original estimated completion date, the actual cost and actual completion date and the names of the contractors involved and consultants retained by her Department. [3502]

The Solicitor-General: The information is as follows:

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Crown Prosecution Service

A list of contracts awarded by the Crown Prosecution Service since 1993 is shown in the table. Records are not available for the period before April 1993.

Serious Fraud Office

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) signed a PFI contract with IBM in January 1998 to develop an integrated document management system for the SFO. As an additional service, IBM took on the management of the internal IT services. This latter contract was to run for seven years, with the option to extend for a further three years. The estimated value of the contract over its life was £15 million. Since 1998 £4.8 million has been paid to IBM. In September 2000 a variation to the contract was agreed under which IBM continued to provide internal IT systems for a further three years.

In 2000 it was recognised by SFO and IBM that it was no longer appropriate to continue with the development of the document management system due to changes in the SFO's business environment and in technology. No payments have been made to IBM in respect of their work on the integrated document management system.

Treasury Solicitor's Department

The Treasury Solicitor's Department has not entered into any information technology contracts in excess of £500,000 since April 1991.

ProjectEstimated and actual cost (£ million) Estimated and actual completion date Major contractor Other contractors and consultants
SCOPE Case Tracking SystemEst. 8.0Est. March 1994Unisys
Act. 10.6Act. April 1997
SPIRE Payroll SystemEst. 3.0August 1996ADP Chessington(5)
Act. 3.0August 1996
Finance SystemEst. 2.1Est. April 1997HBOC
Act. 2.3Act. April 1997
Connect 42 Office Automation(6)Est. 18.0 Act. 23.5Est. July 2001 Planned November 2001Integris(7)MG Admiral(8); DSCe Integration Ltd.; Donaldson Ericsson Ltd.; Farebrother Engineering Services Ltd.; GCat Computacentre (UK) Ltd.; Harold Palfreyman Ltd.; Hays Accountancy Personnel; Xansa UK Ltd.(9); Parity Resources Ltd.; SQA-Herman Miller Ltd.; Workplace by Design Ltd.; Yale Data Management Consultants Ltd.

(5) Formerly Chessington Computer Services

(6) Plus £5.5 million expenditure on ergonomic furniture, building and electrical works

(7) Formerly Bull Information Systems

(8) Formerly Admiral Management Service

(9) Formerly Kermon Management Consultants

Homosexual Convictions (Appeal to ECHR)

Dr. Iddon: To ask the Solicitor-General if the appeal made by five of the men convicted at Bolton Crown court of homosexual activity in private has been listed for a hearing at the European Court of Human Rights; and if it is the British Government's intention to defend the appeal. [3460]

Mr. Keith Bradley: I have been asked to respond on behalf of the Solicitor-General. The case of Connell and others v. UK has not been listed for hearing by the European Court of Human Rights. The court has extended the period in which the Government can submit written observations on the case to allow it to negotiate a friendly settlement with the applicants. We are actively pursuing such a settlement with the applicants' representatives.


Ministerial Travel

Bob Russell: To ask the Prime Minister when he last travelled on the London underground in the course of his official duties. [3671]

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The Prime Minister: I travel making the most efficient and cost-effective arrangements, and use the underground as and when appropriate.

Energy Policy Review

Llew Smith: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the expertise available to the energy policy review. [3963]

The Prime Minister: The PIU energy policy review will draw on expertise from:

Details of the energy review team, including short biographical notes, and the full membership of the advisory group will be published on the PIU website next week. The membership of the experts group will also be posted on the website.

As the project proceeds, the review team will commission discrete research projects as required, receive submissions from key organisations and meet with stakeholders.

Sustainable Development

Llew Smith: To ask the Prime Minister which is the lead Department for delivering the Government's sustainable development policy following the reorganisation of Government Departments; and how his office deals with sustainability issues. [3949]

The Prime Minister: The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has the lead in driving forward UK sustainable development policy. However, delivery of sustainable development remains, as in the last Parliament, a cross-Government responsibility. That is why we have established a committee of Green Ministers from every Department, ENV(G), to consider the impact on sustainable development of Government policies and improve the performance of Departments in contributing to sustainable development. In that way we can ensure that sustainable development is integrated into decision making across Government, including in my office.

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