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13 Jan 2003 : Column 389W—continued

Private-Public Partnerships

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many departmental minutes issued by his Department were outstanding on 30 November that referred to

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public private partnerships as included in Table B14 of the Consolidated Fund and National Loans Fund Accounts; and what their value was. [89424]

Mr. Leslie: The office of the Deputy Prime Minister had no departmental minutes referring to public private partnerships in Table B14 of the Consolidated Fund and National Loans Fund Accounts.

Room Areas

Ms Oona King: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when the regulations prescribing the manner in which the floor area of a room is to be ascertained under section 326 (4) of the Housing Act 1985 were laid before Parliament; and if he will make a statement. [89526]

Mr. McNulty: Regulations governing the measurement of rooms were made in 1937 under that provision of the Housing Act 1935 which preceded section 326(4) of the Housing Act 1985. These regulations were revoked in 1990, and no alternative methods of measurement were specified.

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Room Definitions

Ms Oona King: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what definition of the terms (a) living room, (b) sitting room and (c) lounge exists in legislation. [89549]

Mr. McNulty: As regards Part X of the Housing Act 1985, which specifies the overcrowding standards, the term Xliving room" is used without definition to describe a room, other than a bedroom, that may be regarded as sleeping accommodation, subject to normal practice in the locality, for the purposes of determining whether a dwelling is overcrowded. The other terms mentioned by my hon. Friend are not used in Part X.

Room Spaces

Ms Oona King: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if kitchens and bathrooms with a floor space greater than 50 square feet are counted as rooms available to sleep in. [89525]

Mr. McNulty: Under Part X of the Housing Act 1985, a room with a floor space of 50 square feet or more is considered to be available as sleeping accommodation if it is of a type normally used in the locality as a bedroom or as a living room.

Smoke Alarms

Dr. Cable: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment the Government has made of the costs and benefits of making the fitting of smoke alarms a statutory requirement for (a) domestic and (b) other property owners. [89132]

Mr. Leslie: The possibility of introducing a mandatory requirement on all households to install smoke alarms was considered by the Community Fire Safety Task Force whose 1997 report, XSafe as Houses", outlined a strategy on reducing fire deaths. The Government accepted their finding that, although such a proposal does have attractions, the enforcement difficulties were likely to be excessive. Instead, it advocated a far greater level of publicity and education to build upon the significant improvement on ownership levels which have already been achieved.

The fire safety aspects of the Building Regulations in Approved Document B were amended in 1992, to include provision for mains wired, interconnected smoke alarms to be provided in all new dwellings, resulting in new homes being provided with smoke alarms since 1992. This provision was extended in 2000 when, following a regulatory impact assessment, it was considered to be good regulation for smoke alarms to also be provided where a loft conversion is undertaken in an existing dwelling. This move, together with our wider publicity and educational efforts, has helped to raise smoke alarm ownership levels in all households to 82 per cent.

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Premises that require a fire certificate under the Fire Precautions Act 1971 and premises that are subject to the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997 can be required to have fire detection equipment where this is reasonable and necessary in relation to the risks to persons who use the premises. This was reflected when the Building Regulations and Approved Document B were further amended in 2000 to require new and materially altered premises to be fitted with appropriate provisions for the early warning of fire.

The Government have also recently consulted on proposals to reform general fire safety law by means of a Regulatory Reform Order. These proposals would extend the risk based requirements of the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations to most places, other than private dwellings, and would include provision of fire detection equipment where this is reasonable and necessary. The proposals will be subject to a full Regulatory Impact Assessment and this is currently being prepared.

Dr. Cable: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate the Government made of the number of homes (a) equipped and (b) not equipped with a working smoke alarm. [89135]

Mr. Raynsford: Findings from the X2000 British Crime Survey" suggest that 77 per cent. of households in England and Wales were equipped with at least one smoke alarm. 23 per cent. of households were not equipped with a smoke alarm.

Due to the nature of the question asked in the British Crime Survey, it is not possible to ascertain what proportion of households were equipped with a working alarm. However, evidence from the National Community Fire Safety Centre's annual Fire Safety Attitude and Behaviour Monitor suggests that in approximately 9 per cent. of households containing fitted smoke alarms at least one alarm has either been disconnected or has had the battery removed.

Social Services Expenditure

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether the formula for funding social services expenditure of local authorities reflects a 20 per cent. higher cost of elderly residential provision in those areas to be subject to the higher differential rate of payments under the Delayed Discharge (Compensation) Bill. [89607]

Mr. Raynsford: The grant distribution formulae for social services have to be generally applicable across England. As such they are based primarily on broad indicators of population, deprivation and the area cost adjustment. Possible payments under the Delayed Discharge Bill would be calculated on a different basis. My right hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Mr. Milburn) has announced that there will be an additional #100 million provided to local government for each full year of the reimbursement scheme.

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Bilingual Service

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what his estimate is of the annual cost of his Department's bilingual service; and how many people used this service in the latest year for which information is available. [89953]

Peter Hain: My Department is committed to treating the Welsh and English languages on a basis of equality. It is not possible separately to identify the day-to-day running costs which arise from this.

Most of our translation needs are met by the National Assembly's Translation Unit under the terms of a service level agreement. However, in 2001–02, #4,400 was spent on translation by outside contractors.

No records are kept of the number of people who use Welsh in their dealings with us.


Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what his latest estimates are of (a) the population and (b) the electorate in Wales. [90007]

Peter Hain: The figures requested are contained in the Digest of Welsh Statistics 2002, which is available on the National Assembly for Wales website (


Airport Capacity (South-East)

John McDonnell : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) if he will list the community organisations, residents' associations and environmental groups which he, members of his ministerial team and officials have met with regard to the consultation on airport capacity in the South East up to 30 November; [88492]

Mr. Jamieson: Since the launch of The Future Development of Air Transport in the United Kingdom (South East) consultation, Ministers and officials have held a large number of meetings with a wide range of individuals and organisations. This has included representatives of environmental organisations, local authorities, business groups and the aviation industry.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport announced to Parliament on 28 November that the consultation on airports capacity will be extended until we have consulted on proposals in respect

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of Gatwick. We will set out our plans for the remaining stage of the consultation process when we publish the further consultation paper early in 2003.

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