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National Land Information Service

Dr. Stoate: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) what plans he has to make use of the provision for

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differential pricing contained in the Electronic Communications Act 2000 to support the work of the National Land Information Service; [88672]

Mr. McNulty: The Government supports the National Land Information Service (NLIS) initiative as a way of delivering property searches electronically within the context of the 2005 target for e-enabling public services and as a part of the seller's pack initiative. Over the last year the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has supported NLIS by contributing to a reception for exemplar authorities and co-ordinating the distribution of a letter to all authorities briefing them on the benefits of NLIS and the National Land and Property Gazetteer (NLPG). In particular, the briefing [paragraph 13] makes the case for lower fees as an incentive for electronic searches. Copies of the letter have been placed in the Library of the House. Officials in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and other government departments have formed a central government stakeholders group to co-ordinate work with NLIS across Government. NLIS is an integral part of our proposals to reform the home buying and selling process. It provides the information needed for conveyancing searches more quickly and with more certainty than paper-based systems. NLIS will help ensure that sellers' packs can be produced quickly and thus reduce the scope for gazumping and other problems to occur.

Fees for searches of the local land charges are prescribed by my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor. Fees for other land and property searches are set by individual local authorities. These powers are already wide enough to allow different fees to be set for electronic and manual searches, so the question of an order under the Electronic Communications Act does not arise. As with other services they provide, it is the responsibility of local authorities to set income targets and fees for dealing with conveyancers' enquiries, taking account of the cost of the service and the level of charges

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the market will bear. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister supports reasonable levels of differential pricing where local authorities consider this appropriate in light of these criteria. Completely electronic based services are likely to be cheaper and the briefing quotes the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA) and NLIS calculation that fees for searches received could be set at least 18 per cent. lower than for other searches (even without counting savings from electronic payment).

There has been no assessment of administrative and staffing costs of the search methods as it is for councils to set the level of charges. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is encouraging Information House's efforts to market NLIS and the cost savings from e-enabling is clearly an attractive part of the business case for adoption. NLIS reports that over 70 authorities have introduced differential pricing for land and property searches.

It is not the intention of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to offer financial support to either Information House or individual councils to accelerate take up of NLIS. It has always been framed as a self-funding proposition for both Information House and participation councils. However, councils may, if they wish, use part of the 200,000 capital grant made available by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Implementing Electronic Government monies) for e-Government to support local implementation of NLIS.

Over the next month and beyond, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will work with other government departments and NLIS in the context of the Central Government Stakeholders group to consider ways of encouraging the take up and success of NLIS. Officials are currently working with the IDeA and Information House to discuss the provision of funding to support the NLPG project and the development of Local Land and Property Gazetteers (LLPGs) in local authorities. The implementation of LLPGs in local authorities and NPLG will assist take up of NLIS. Officials in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Lord Chancellors Department are working together to examine a proposal from the Local Government Association for differential prescribed fees for searches of the local land charges register.

Refrigerators (Recycling)

Dr. Cable: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will list the local authorities who have made representations to his Department for additional resources to deal with the recycling of refrigerators; and if he will make a statement. [88820]

Mr. Leslie: The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is the Department with lead interest in this issue and they have received five representations since Special Grant Report No. 109 was approved by Parliament on 16 December 2002, from the following areas:

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Special Grant No. 109 provided #40 million to cover the extra costs to local authorities as a result of the Ozone Depleting Substances Regulations for the period 2002–03. Local authorities previously received an extra #6 million through Revenue Support Grant to cover the period from the introduction of the Regulations on 1 January 2002 through to 31 March 2002. Additional funding for 2003–04 onwards has been provided through Spending Review 2002 within Revenue Support Grant. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is currently consulting on its proposals for the funding of local authorities' revenue expenditure in 2003–04 and will consider carefully all representations received on these proposals.

Section 106

Mr. Love: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment has been undertaken of the operation by local authorities of section 106 planning obligations; and if he will make a statement. [89395]

Mr. McNulty: The consultation document XReforming Planning Obligations—delivering a fundamental change" issued in December 2001 received over 500 replies. Many of these were from local authorities that provided information on how they use planning obligations.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will publish a further consultation document on planning obligations in the near future.

Social Housing

Mrs. Calton: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to ensure that the increased funding announced in the Spending Review 2002 is used to provide good quality social housing for rent. [88543]

Mr. McNulty: The 2002 Spending Review settlement provided #1.4 billion extra for housing, taking the total housing spend to over #4.5 billion (rising to #5.9 billion when the Major Repair Allowance is taken into account) by 2005–06.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has channelled #365 million from the Spending Review to the Housing Corporation's approved development programme for 2003–04 to provide housing for rent and low cost home ownership. It must, as a minimum, comply with the corporation's scheme development standards.

The remainder of the funding from the Spending Review will be allocated when my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister reports to the House with a comprehensive long term programme of action to tackle a number of housing and planning issues in order to deliver a step change in the Government's policies for building successful, thriving and inclusive communities in all regions. The statement, which will be made shortly, will set out how the additional funding announced in the 2002 spending review will be used and what it will buy over the three years up to 2005–06.

Temporary Accommodation

Mrs. Calton: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues to ensure that information on the placement of families in

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temporary accommodation is shared among statutory agencies across local authority boundaries, with particular reference to (a) housing departments, (b) education authorities, (c) social services, (d) primary care trusts and (e) the National Asylum Support Service in order to ensure that such families can gain access to the services to which they are entitled. [88545]

Mrs. Roche: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is jointly funding the Association of Local Government and the Greater London Authority to develop a notification project which will improve systems for London boroughs to make notifications to housing, health, social services and education authorities of families with children placed into and leaving temporary accommodation.

The Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, issued in July 2002, was published jointly by my right hon. Friends the Deputy Prime Minister and the Member for Darlington (Mr. Milburn). The code includes general guidance about joint working between housing authorities, social services and health authorities, and specific guidance on the importance of local authorities ensuring that all babies and young children placed in temporary accommodation have the opportunity to receive health and environmental checks from health visitors and other primary health care professionals.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister also hosts an ad hoc Ministerial Committee on Homelessness, chaired by myself to ensure dialogue between departments, which includes Ministers with portfolios covering housing, education, social services, health and asylum issues.

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