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London Weighting

Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will estimate the total value of London Weightings and London living allowances for his Department; and if he will make a statement. [6800]

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Dr. Whitehead: The Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions consists of a Central Department and 10 Executive Agencies. The Central Department and seven of the Agencies do not pay a London Weighting Allowance. Where this had been paid previously it has been consolidated into basic salaries. Three of the Agencies continue to pay a London Weighting allowance:

Housing Debt

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) if he will list those local authorities which have applied to HM Treasury for moneys to pay off overhanging housing debt; and if he will list those local authorities which (a) have received such moneys since May 1997 and (b) will receive such moneys pending residents' voting in favour of housing stock transfers; [7739]

Ms Keeble: A stock transfer proposal from a local authority with overhanging housing debt is required to meet the same criteria as other applicant authorities in order to obtain a place on the Large Scale Voluntary Transfer (LSVT) Programme and, if tenants support the proposal, the Secretary of State's consent to transfer. The receipt from the transfer must be sufficient to meet the premium payable to the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) for early repayment of the authority's PWLB debt.

To date, four one-off payments have been made by the Exchequer to meet overhanging housing debt. In 1999–2000 a payment was made to Burnley borough council. In 2000–01 payments were made to Coventry city council, Calderdale borough council and Blackburn with Darwen borough council.

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Six local authorities on the 2001–02 transfer programme (Bradford city council, Carlisle city council, Dudley metropolitan borough council, Knowsley metropolitan borough council, St. Helens metropolitan borough council and Walsall metropolitan borough council) will potentially require a one-off payment to meet their overhanging housing debt. I have held open a place on the 2001–02 Programme for Birmingham city council, subject to agreeing its stock valuation. If Birmingham is accepted onto the programme, it too will require a one-off payment from the Department.

To date, all proposals meeting the Secretary of State's criteria and gaining the support of a majority of tenants have been granted consent to transfer. It has not been necessary to prioritise transfer applications.

Second Home Owners

Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will estimate the total revenue which would be raised by local authorities as a result of a change in law requiring second home owners to pay the full council tax at current levels, broken down by local authority area. [6362]

Dr. Whitehead: Second home owners are presently entitled to a 50 per cent. council tax discount. If all had been required to pay the full council tax in 2001–02, we estimate that an additional amount of approximately £80 million would have been raised. Accurate figures for individual local authority areas are not available.

In the Rural White Paper, we said that we would consult on giving local authorities discretion to remove or reduce the 50 per cent. council tax discount for second home owners. We will also consult on giving local authorities discretion to remove or reduce the 50 per cent. discount for long-term empty properties.


Prisoner Deaths

Mr. Stinchcombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prisoners (a) committed suicide, and (b) died in custody in 2000–01. [4843]

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Beverley Hughes: The figures requested are given in the table:

Table showing the number of deaths that occurred in prison establishments in England and Wales for the financial year 2000–01

Financial YearSelf inflicted deaths(21)Natural causes deathsHomicides
2000–01 76602

(21) The term "self-inflicted deaths" includes not only those deaths which resulted in a verdict of "suicide" at the Coroner's Inquest, but also those deaths where it appears that the person's own actions caused his/her death. Such deaths might result in a verdict of "open" or "misadventure" at the Inquest if, for example, there was doubt about the person's intent to take his/her life.

Comparable figures for 1999–2000 were 91 self- inflicted deaths, 54 natural causes and one homicide.

The Prison Service undertook a review of suicide prevention procedures last year and subsequently announced a new proactive strategy to reduce suicides in Prison. The strategy is overseen by a Working Group which I chair.


Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the total expenditure was on education in prisons in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available; what was the real terms change in each year; what was the total amount per prisoner based on average prison population figures in each year; and if he will make a statement. [5117]

Beverley Hughes [holding answer 19 July 2001]: The information in the table is available for certain identifiable areas of education expenditure, covering payments to education and library service providers and purchase of education materials. It does not include the private sector managed prisons. The cost per prisoner calculation excludes the average population figures for those prisons.

It should be noted that due to changes in the way expenditure has been recorded the figures for 1999–2000 and 2000–01 include VAT payments, where applicable, but do not include refunds to prisons of any recoverable VAT, details of which are not readily available, whereas the figures for the preceding three years do include such refunds.

Expenditure on education 1991–92 to 2000–01

YearActual spend (£)At 2000–01 prices (£)Percentage change(22)Average population(22)Average cost per head at 2000–01 prices (£)

(22) Excluding privately operated prisons

(23) Due to changes in the recording of expenditure the figures are not all on a like for like basis. Those for 1996–97, 1997–98 and 1998–99 are net of recoverable VAT, where applicable. Whereas those for previous years and those for 1999–2000 and 2000–01 are gross expenditure with no reduction for VAT refunds.

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Prisoners' Conditions

Mr. Stinchcombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the average time out of cell was for prisoners in 2000–01. [4846]

Beverley Hughes: The average weekday time out of cell for prisoners during the year 2000–01 was 10 hours.

Mrs. Brinton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of (a) the adequacy and (b) the equal availability of education and training facilities for inmates in Her Majesty's prisons. [6204]

Beverley Hughes: The Government have put additional resources into education and training in prisons. Direct expenditure on education and library provision alone currently stands at over £55 million for all prisoners including juveniles, and is set to increase to around £70 million by 2003–04. The Prisoners' Learning and Skills Unit, based at the Department for Education and Skills, has been established to advise on how to fulfil the Government's policy to bring about dramatic improvements in the quality and quantity of prison education and training. It will be looking, among other things, at how to ensure equality of access to high-quality provision across the prison estate.

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