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Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on the circumstances in which local authorities are not obliged to sell assets at best value. 
Ms Keeble: The Government's general policy on local authority land disposals is that authorities should seek to obtain the open market value when making disposals. However, local authorities' land disposal powers under the Local Government Act 1972 are discretionary and they may exercise them in any manner they wish.
The consent of the Secretary of State is required before an authority may dispose of land for less than the best consideration that can reasonably be obtained. Consent is not required to any disposal for a lease of seven years or less.
For certain classes of disposal any necessary disposal consent has been given by the Local Government Act 1972 General Disposal Consents 1998 and in these circumstances it is not necessary for a local authority to apply for a specific disposal consent. For example, the General Consents include the disposal in certain circumstances of the freehold or leasehold interests in property to be used for charitable, recreational and certain retail and commercial uses.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what strategy exists to help collaboration between fire brigades related to their role in civil contingencies and dealing with terrorist attacks. 
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Dr. Whitehead: Arrangements exist for mutual assistance between fire authorities under the provisions of sections 2 and 12 of the Fire Services Act 1947 which enable brigades to collaborate in carrying out their statutory duties.
In the light of the events of 11 September, we have established with the fire service stakeholders a group, chaired by HM Chief Inspector of Fire Services, which is evaluating, among other matters, existing response capabilities, including the need for regional collaboration.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many children are involved in the Young Firefighters Association in the west midlands; and what funding he has given to this organisation to assist it in expanding. 
The DTLR provides an annual grant of £54,000 to the Young Firefighters Association: this funds the association's national and training officer posts. In addition, brigades are encouraged to explore funding opportunities for the Young Firefighters Associations (or similar schemes) with the regional Youth Inclusion Programmes, established by the Youth Justice Board.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what recent discussions he has had with (a) the Health and Safety Executive and Rail Inspectorate and (b) the Train Operating Companies on driver safety. 
Mr. Jamieson: Ministers have regular meetings and contact with the Health and Safety Commission and Executive, the Association of Train Operating Companies and individual train operators during which a range of railway safety issues are discussed.
Mr. Jamieson: The Railways (Safety Critical Work) Regulations 1994 require employers to ensure that employees do not undertake any safety critical work, including driving a train, for a length of time that would be liable to cause them fatigue which could endanger safety.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what assessment he has made of the cost of restoring the policy of giving a share of the uniform business rate to (a) parish and (b) town councils. 
Dr. Whitehead: I have made no assessment. Parish and town councils have never had a share of the revenue from the national non-domestic rateor uniform business ratesince its introduction in 1990. Their main source of funding isand will remainthe council tax.
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Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what percentage of parliamentary questions replied to by his Department were the subject of a holding answer in the last three sessions of Parliament. 
Dr. Whitehead: The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions was formed on 8 June 2001. In the period 8 June to 6 December, my Department answered 894 named day parliamentary questions, of which 223 (25 per cent.) received holding answers.
Mr. Levitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what assessment he has made of Britain's national annual need for fluorspar; what proportion he expects to come from the British fluorspar industry; and what assessment he has made of future fluorspar need. 
Ms Keeble: My Department has made no assessment of Britain's national need for fluorspar. Statistics published in the UK Minerals Yearbook indicate that, in 1999, some 40,000 tonnes were produced in the UK and estimated that about 43,000 tonnes were imported. It also indicated that about 5,000 tonnes were exported. This suggests that some 78,000 tonnes were used nationally in that year.
Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what assessments he has made concerning the use of local public service agreements; and if he will make a statement. 
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Mr. Byers: Local public service agreements help our drive to improve services in partnership with local authorities. Twenty local authorities negotiated agreements with the Government earlier this year, in the pilot stage of this scheme. Each authority proposes demanding targets for key local services over the next three years, covering a mix of central government priorities and priorities of the authority's area. The Government offer possible relaxations in statutory and administrative requirements, some initial financial help, and the prospect of a reward grant for achieving the demanding targets agreed. The scheme is on offer to a further 130 authorities, 119 of which have already sought an opportunity to participate. The first of these further agreements are now being concluded.
Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will publish his department's definition of (a) affordable housing, (b) social housing, (c) key worker, (d) low income earner and (e) intermediate income earner. 
There is no national definition of (c), (d) and (e). However, local authorities may use some of these terms in assessing local housing needs and defining what they regard as affordable housing within their area. Such definitions are usually based on the level of local incomes and their relationship to house prices or rents. In defining key workers authorities will need to decide upon those groups in need of affordable housing who contribute to essential service provision.
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