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Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister, pursuant to the answer of 25 June 2002, Official Report, column 820W, on the Millennium Dome, if he will (a) commission from Jones Lange Lasalle and (b) publish estimates of the value of the Millennium Dome site to Meridian Delta Ltd. (i) with and (ii) without the Dome. 
Mr. McNulty: English Partnerships, with professional advice from Jones Lang Lasalle, undertook full assessments of the value of the deal with Meridian Delta Ltd. and Anschutz Entertainment Group, and of alternative development scenarios with and without the Dome.
The net present value of the deal, assuming the full scheme is developed, is around £240 million. This is higher than both the estimated value of the site developed under alternative development scenarios with the Dome, and the estimated value of the site developed without the Dome. Our professional advice was that the establishment of a successful and iconic venue enhances the value of the rest of the development.
Precise valuations are commercially confidential, in order not to compromise the joint venture arrangements, negotiations between the joint venture and third parties, and the ability of English Partnerships to secure value for money through their commercial negotiations.
The National Audit Office is examining the sale process, including valuations and value for money assessments, and will report to Parliament in due course.
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Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what progress has been made towards the goal in section 4.10 of the DETR document, "Our Towns and Cities: The Future", on 100 per cent. capital allowances for creating flats over shops for letting. 
Mr. McNulty: We have introduced 100 per cent. capital allowances for owners and occupiers to cover the costs of creating flats over shops and similar commercial premises for letting. This measure was introduced in the 2001 Budget and has been available since May 2001. The Government are committed to undertaking a comprehensive evaluation of all the fiscal measures in the urban White Paper.
Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what progress has been made towards the goal in section 4.10 of the DETR document, "Our Towns and Cities: The Future", to bring about VAT reforms to encourage conversion of properties for residential use. 
Mr. McNulty: We have reduced VAT to 5 per cent. on the cost of conversions of residential property into residential communal homes, such as care homes and homes with multiple occupation, and on the cost of renovating residential properties that have been empty for three years or longer. A similar VAT reduction on the cost of converting residential properties, which have been empty for three years of more, into a different number of dwellings has been introduced. An adjustment has also been made to the zero rate of VAT to provide relief for the sale of renovated houses that have been empty for 10 years or more.
The measures above were introduced in the 2001 Budget. The reduction in VAT on residential conversions has been available since May 2001 and the relief from VAT on the sale of renovated homes has been available since August 2001. The Government are committed to undertaking a comprehensive evaluation of all the fiscal measures included in the urban White Paper.
Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what progress has been made towards the goal in section 4.10 of the DETR document, "Our Towns and Cities: The Future", on accelerated payable tax credits for cleaning contaminated land. 
Mr. McNulty: We have introduced an accelerated payable 150 per cent. tax credit on qualifying expenditure incurred on or after 11 May 2001 on cleaning-up contaminated land ('land remediation expenditure') for companies that acquire contaminated land for the purposes of a trade or schedule A letting business. The tax credit is intended to make the development of contaminated sites more viable, helping to tackle the legacy of previous industrial usage and reducing pressure to develop greenfield sites. This measure was introduced in the 2001 Budget and has been available since May 2001.
The Government are committed to undertaking a comprehensive evaluation of all the fiscal measures in the urban White Paper.
Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what progress has been made towards the introduction of
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the Green Flag Award scheme for recognising excellence in local parks, play areas and open spaces; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. McNulty: Work to further develop the Green Flag Award scheme began on 1 April 2001. This has already led to an increase in the number of awards from 50 in 2000 to 81 this year. A new award categorythe Green Pennantwas introduced in May 2002 to recognise the achievements of community managed and maintained spaces, and a further award category is being developed to recognise excellence in play space provision.
Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how much money has been provided for the New Opportunities Fund Green Spaces and Sustainable Communities Programme since its establishment. 
Dr. Howells: I have been asked to reply.
The New Opportunities Fund was directed by the Government to distribute £125 million to green spaces and sustainable communities by 2002. So far more than £30 million has been awarded to over 900 projects.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many people were sleeping rough in each year from 1998. 
Mr. McNulty: On 3 December 2001, the Prime Minister announced that the Rough Sleepers Unit had met its target to reduce rough sleeping by at least two thirds by 2002. The latest figures on the number of people sleeping rough since June 1998 are as follows:
|England||Reduction (per cent.)|
The new Homelessness Directorate within my Department brings together the Rough Sleepers Unit, the Bed and Breakfast Unit and a new team to advise local authorities on the development of strategies to tackle homelessness. The Directorate will continue to work on sustaining the two-thirds reduction in rough sleeping.
Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what guidance his Department issues to the Planning Inspectorate in respect of the (a) starting dates for major public inquiries and (b) avoidance of overlapping dates for separate major public inquiries affecting the same objectors. 
Mr. McNulty: There is no specific guidance issued by the Department to the Planning Inspectorate for:
(a) the start date for inquiries. The Inspectorate is in general expected to handle cases as quickly as possible and statutory rules require most inquiries to start within 22 weeks of the announcement of the intention to hold them;
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(b) the avoidance of overlapping dates for separate major public inquiries affecting the same objectors. The Inspectorate takes account of potential overlaps: where they occur, programmes for the inquiries concerned can usually be arranged to avoid problems for objectors.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister which Government Minister is responsible for the administration of local elections. 
Mr. Raynsford: As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told the House in his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden) on 2 July 2002, Official Report, column 197W, ministerial responsibility for policy, including for reform and modernisation, on elections to English, and to the extent issues are not devolved Welsh, councils, the Greater London Authority, and any future English regional assembly is for my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister.
Brian White: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what his policy is towards using open source software; and what percentage is used in his Department. 
Mr. Leslie: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister sets out the specific business requirements that software is required to meet. Suppliers are free to propose open source software to meet these requirements.
The Department's use of open source software will follow the Government's policy when published, currently planned for summer 2002. The draft policy may be viewed at http://www.govtalk.gov.uk/rfc/rfcdocument.asp?docnum=429.
At present, less than 1 per cent. of the Office's software is open source.
Mr. Coleman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many and what percentage of properties are in council tax Band F and above, broken down by (a) RSLs and (b) local authority properties in (i) London and (ii) England. 
Mr. Leslie: Information on the number of properties in each council tax band is shown on the valuation list compiled by the Valuation Office Agency. The number and percentage of properties in council tax Band F and above, as at 26 March 2002, for London and England is shown in the table. A breakdown by RSLs or local authority properties is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
|Number of properties in Band F and above||486,089||1,932,365|
|Total number of properties||3,125,684||21,436,841|
|Number of properties in Band F and above as a percentage of the total number of properties||15.6||9.0|
Mr. Coleman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many and what percentage of properties are in each council tax band in (a) England and (b) each Government office region. 
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Mr. Leslie: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. Whitehead) on 25 April 2002, Official Report, column 397W.
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