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Ms Oona King: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what targets the Government are introducing, and over what time, to reduce the quantity of brown field land in the UK; and what steps the Government are taking to relax regulatory and fiscal barriers that prevent property developers from acquiring and redeveloping brown field land. 
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Mr. McNulty: The best way to reduce the quantity of brown field land is to build on it. The Government have met their target of 60 per cent. of new dwellings on brown field land and intend to maintain at least this level.
(3) what the average number of hours was for which individual retained firefighters were paid the hourly rate during 200102. 
Mr. Raynsford: To receive the full annual retaining fee a retained firefighter must be on call at all times. Where the retained member has enrolled on conditions requiring attendance only during limited periods, the retaining fee may be reduced proportionately. Payment is not directly related to hours worked.
Information on the average income received by retained firefighters and the average number of hours for which individuals were paid the hourly rate is not held centrally, and could provided only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate he has made of the impact on the annual income of (a) a retained leading firefighter with 10 years' service and (b) a retained firefighter with 2 years' service, of the arrangements for the retained service pay, as set out in the fire employers statement of 13 November. 
Mr. Raynsford: As a result of the offer set out in the Fire Brigades Employer Circular of the 12 November the local government employers estimate that all firefighters, wholetime and retained, would have received an increase of 4 per cent. in November 2002. This would have been followed by an increase in the pay bill of 7 per cent. in November 2003, although the amount firefighters actually received would have depended on how much of the pay bill increase was used to reward some staff, for example, with special allowances. Due to changes in their allowances retained firefighters would have typically received 6.4 per cent. more than wholetime firefighters under the arrangements proposed.
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designers are employed in (a) each of the Government Offices for the Regions and (b) his Department. 
Mr. McNulty: 58 staff currently in post with Government offices have satisfied the requirements of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) for membership, and include one dual qualified architect/planner. (East of England and West Midlands each have three, East Midlands five, North West six, Yorkshire and the Humber seven, South West and London each have eight, North East and South East each have nine.)
Information on staff with other professional qualifications is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. There are also 93 active inward secondments to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, many of whom have professional backgrounds.
Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to improve the large scale voluntary transfers process; and how many council properties will have their transfer finalised under the LSVT programme during 200203. 
Mr. McNulty: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is reviewing the various methods available to authorities for meeting the decent home target, including large scale voluntary transfer of their housing. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister expects that up to 175,000 dwellings in England will transfer during the current financial year.
Mr. John Taylor: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if the increase in the council tax at standard spending in the local government finance settlement will be limited to the change in retail price index. 
Mr. Leslie: The level of the assumed national council tax is determined by the national total for formula spending, the total of revenue support grant, the distributable amount of business rates and the council tax base.
The increases from year to year in these figures, rather than any inflation assumption, are therefore what determine the increase in the assumed national council tax. Assumed national council tax is simply an assumption used in the distribution of grant; it is not a prediction of actual council tax.
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informal consultation with a number of interested parties. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister intends to issue the draft guidance in the new year for full public consultation. Until that time, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will not be detailing potential changes to the original.
Mr. Leslie: Elected regional assemblies will be responsible for strategic priorities rather than for direct service delivery. But they will add value to service delivery by bringing coherence to, and improving the delivery of, the large number of strategies and partnerships that have developed at the regional level. Assemblies will set the framework for their region and co-ordinate activity on issues such as economic development, planning, housing and transport. An assembly's block grant will allow it to allocate spending according to what it considers as priorities for that region.
Chapter 2 of the White Paper XYour Region, Your Choice" sets out the Government's proposals for strengthening all regions; these arrangements will therefore continue to apply in those regions which do not choose to establish elected assemblies.
Mr. Leslie: Chapter 4 of the White Paper, XYour Region, Your Choice" makes clear that improving the economic performance of its region will be at the heart of an elected regional assembly's objectives. This is reflected in the range of powers and functions for which elected assemblies will be responsible. In particular, they will be responsible for the Regional Development Agency in their region. They will also have a range of other responsibilities for regional economic development relating to business support, training and skills, and European programmes.
Assemblies will be able to spend their block grant as they judge best, subject to agreeing a small number of targets covering their key responsibilities. Some additional funds will be available if an assembly meets or exceeds these targets. Elected assemblies will also be able to raise additional funds from a precept on the council tax and will have powers to borrow money, subject to certain limits.
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Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has for (a) a question in the referendum on regional assemblies and (b) further referendums, on the constitution of regional assemblies. 
Mr. Leslie: Clause 2 of the Regional Assemblies (Preparations) Bill sets out the question to be asked in a referendum on regional assemblies. The Electoral Commission has a statutory duty to comment on the intelligibility of any referendum question, and on 25 November the commission announced that the question set out in the Bill meets its guidelines. The commission made some small but constructive suggestions for the wording of the preamble, which the Government will consider carefully and respond to in due course.
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister intends that regions that do not have a referendum on establishing an elected assembly in the first instance should have another opportunity at a later date. In regions where a referendum results in a Xno" vote, the Regional Assemblies (Preparations) Bill provides that a further referendum can be held after a period of at least five years has passed starting from the day on which the referendum was held.
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