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Mr. Letwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if it is the Government's policy to allow the re-use of green waste on farms without a requirement for planning permission. 
Ms Keeble: The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 requires a planning application to be submitted for the importation of waste materials on to farms unless the waste is for use in certain specified engineering or building works. It is for local authorities in the first instance to determine whether planning permission is required.
Phil Hope: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what representations he has received on the local government finance settlement for 200203; and what conclusions he has reached. 
Mr. Raynsford: I have today laid before the House the Local Government Finance Report (England) 200203. This report establishes the amounts of revenue support grant (RSG) and non-domestic rates (NDR) to be paid to local authorities in 200203, and the basis of their distribution. A draft of this report was issued for consultation on 4 December 2001, and updated information on grant allocations was published on 15 December and 28 December. The Department received a total of 386 written representations within the consultation deadlines from the Local Government Association and the Association of London Government, as well as from 334 local authorities, local authority groups and hon. Members.
Having considered the views of the local authority associations and others who have commented on my initial proposals, I have decided to make two main changes to my original proposals on grant distribution.
I have introduced an alternative baseline for 200102. This change, in effect, adjusts only for the transfers of service for which shire districts, police and fire authorities are responsible. In order to guarantee a minimum 2.3 per cent. increase, I have given these authorities whichever increase is greater2.3 per cent. on the original baseline, or 2.3 per cent. on the alternative.
I have also made a change on the basis of the adjustment for the National Care Standards Commission transfer. We have concluded that it is correct to adjust only for the existing cost of local authority activity in this area. Otherwise, this change would have had adverse
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impacts for a number of authorities. After careful consideration, I have added extra money to the settlement to ensure that these authorities are reimbursed for the cost of this change.
This year's settlement provides a good increase in money for local authorities. For the first time every local authority has been given a grant increase at least in line with inflation and in many cases much higher. This will allow councils to improve services while setting reasonable council tax increases. There should be no reason for big increases. The Government have increased money for local councils by 20 per cent. over the last four years.
This year, bills show clearly how much different tiers of authority are charging and by how much they have increased their part of the council tax. If any councils set substantial increases, their taxpayers and local electorate will have every reason to question their council's decision.
I shall be sending copies of this report and a guide to the settlement to all authorities, together with tables showing each authority's Standard Spending Assessment and its entitlement to RSG and NDR. Copies of the report, tables, and the guide are available in the Vote Office and the Libraries of the House.
Alan Johnson: The gap between male and female earnings in the north-east Government office region has narrowed in recent years. According to the New Earnings Survey, conducted by the Office for National Statistics, average hourly pay for full-time employees, excluding overtime, in the north-east, was £8.99 for men and £7.26 for women in 1998, equivalent to a female to male ratio of 80.7 per cent. By 2001, the gender pay gap in the region had narrowed to 84.1 per cent. (£10.08 for men and £8.48 for women), a reduction which can be attributed at least in part to the introduction of the national minimum wage. In Great Britain as a whole the gender pay gap has narrowed from 80.0 per cent. to 81.6 per cent. over the same period.
John Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when she expects to answer the letter of 28 December from the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead regarding tobacco smuggling and the Guildford Depository. 
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Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations she has received from the International Civil Aviation Organization on Tanzania's export control licences. 
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what percentage of (a) first and (b) second class mail was delivered within the target time in the (i) UK, (ii) HP postcode area and (iii) MK postcode area in the last 12 months for which figures are available. 
I am advised by Consignia that in the year 200001 the percentage of first class mail delivered the next working day in the UK was 89 per cent., in the MK postcode area was 85 per cent. and in the HP postcode area was 91 per cent. The percentage of second class mail delivered within three working days in the UK was 98 per cent., in the MK postcode area was 97 per cent. and in the HP post code area was 98 per cent.
Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, pursuant to her answer to the hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce) of 19 December 2001, Official Report, column 1034W, on sub-post offices, if she will list the funding allocated to each scheme. 
Ms Hewitt [holding answer 24 January 2002]: Further to the answer given to the hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce) on 19 December 2001, Official Report, column 1034W, the funding allocated to the five initiatives is:
£1,669 to Goadby Marwood, Leicestershire
£208 to Risby, Herefordshire
£10,200 to Kirk Ireton, Derbyshire
£3,862 to Coleby, Lincolnshire.
Ms Hewitt [holding answer 24 January 2002]: Consignia has submitted no such strategic plan. A formal requirement was placed on Consignia in November 2000 to maintain the rural network and to prevent avoidable closures and this remains in place and will apply in the first instance until 2006. Transitional financial assistance to the rural network is currently under consideration.
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Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many (a) post offices and (b) sub-post offices there are at present in Britain; how many post offices and sub-post offices have closed since (i) 1 January 1997 and (ii) May 1997; and if she will make a statement. 
Ms Hewitt: At the end of September 2001, the latest available figures indicated that the post office network comprised 17,687 outlets of which 17,092 were sub-post offices. As at the end of March 1997 there were 19,251 post offices of which 18,645 were sub-post offices. I understand from Post Office Ltd. that figures at 1 January 1997 and May 1997 are not available.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will publish the strategic plan for the future of the post office network recently submitted to her by Consignia; what proposals are made in this plan to change the size of the post office network; and if she will make a statement. 
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