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14 Jan 2003 : Column 597W—continued



Mr. Cousins: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) how many firefighters have been trained in decontamination techniques to help the general public; how many protective suits are available in each fire authority area; and what expenditure has been incurred; [89904]

Mr. Raynsford: Individual records of fire fighter training are not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. In December 2001 the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister issued guidance on the provision of interim mass decontamination facilities using existing equipment. All fire authorities have trained their personnel who need to use this equipment and approximately 120 of the service's senior commanders have received multi agency training, which will continue. Currently the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister estimates that there are 3,900 protective suits available throughout the UK Fire Service.

Under the new dimension mass decontamination programme announced last year the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will, by the end of 2002–03, have spent over #8 million on new equipment as well as the costs of training and the regional implementation teams. A further #27.7 million expenditure on equipment costs is already committed in 2003–04. The full programme will provide an extra 4,000 protective suits.

Environmental Protective and Cultural Services

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister which local government services are funded via the environmental protective and cultural services standard spending assessment. [90658]

Mr. Raynsford: The environmental protective and cultural services covers corporate and democratic core costs and all local government services not included under the education, personal social services, police, fire, highways and capital financing blocks.

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Fire Safety Legislation

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister in relation to the Government's consultation, when consultation on changes to fire safety legislation through a regulatory reform order under the Regulatory Reform Act 2001 will be completed; when the final version of the regulatory reform order will be published; and how many responses to the consultation expressed concerns relating to fires in very large single storey buildings. [89759]

Mr. Raynsford: Consultation on the Government's proposals for reform of fire safety legislation closed on 22 November 2002. A number of responses were received after the closing date and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is considering the detail of all comments received. Of the consultation responses assessed so far, four have mentioned concerns about fire in large single storey buildings.

The order will be published, in accordance with normal practice for Statutory Instruments, when it is laid before the House. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister anticipates this being later this year.

Housing Standards

Mrs. Calton: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to develop a housing poverty indicator to enable the development of more accurate evidence-based policies. [88541]

Mrs. Roche: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Department is currently involved in a project to consider options for strengthening and updating the Indices of Deprivation 2000 (ID 2000), including the way housing deprivation is measured. Preliminary proposals for improving the housing domain were published in the Stage One Consultation report, which is out to consultation until 15 January 2003. These proposals include:

Once the consultation is over, the next step would be to draft a blue print setting out actual plans for updating the ID 2000, taking on board consultation responses. This blue print will then be subject to an independent peer review and a further period of consultation before the ID 2000 is updated.

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what his housing decency standard relating heat loss to energy input is; and what temperature that standard is designed to maintain. [89570]

Mr. McNulty: The decent home standard does not include a measure of energy efficiency. There are two measures in the standard that will impact on the energy efficiency of homes. The standard requires dwellings to achieve a reasonable degree of thermal comfort through provision of efficient heating and effective insulation.

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Guidance on implementing the standard encourages landlords to maximise energy efficiency where feasible when installing new heating systems.

Under the fitness standard, which is another component of the decent home standard, a property must have adequate provision for heating. This is defined as sufficient to achieve a temperature of 18oC in the main living room and 16oC in other habitable rooms when the outside temperature is minus 1oC.

Planning Law (Enforcement)

Mr. Wood: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what steps he intends to take to encourage planning authorities into the appropriate enforcement action when planning law is breached. [89556]

Mr. McNulty: Local planning authorities have a wide range of enforcement powers to enable them to deal with unauthorised development that is harming amenity in the neighbourhood. If they consider that unauthorised development is unacceptable on planning grounds, they have the power to take enforcement action. It is however a matter for the council to decide in each case whether to take enforcement action and, if so, the most appropriate course of action, taking account of local circumstances.

The Government have already set out policy and procedural good practice guidance for local authorities on enforcing planning control. A consultation paper on the effectiveness of planning enforcement was published last September. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is currently considering the responses to that exercise.

Public Conveniences

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make it his policy to require local authorities to respond annually to him on the number of public conveniences they operate and maintain; and if he will make a statement. [90700]

Mr. Leslie: Local authorities have a power, but are under no duty, to provide public conveniences under section 87 of the Public Health Act 1936. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has no plans to introduce additional reporting requirements in respect of provision of public conveniences.

Regional Assemblies

Mr. Viggers: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the cost is of the soundings exercise on the level of interest in holding a referendum about an elective assembly in each English region. [90345]

Mr. Raynsford: The soundings document has been produced in-house, from the design and printing to its dissemination through the Government's distribution centre at Wetherby. It is also available on-line and

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respondents have been able to e-mail their views if they so wish. Production and distribution (including postage) has cost less than #700 to date.

Additional costs may be incurred if it is necessary to print extra copies in the future. There will be some staff costs in recording and considering responses to the soundings exercise.

Statutory Instruments

Mrs. Calton: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many Statutory Instruments subject to negative procedure made by his Department (a) came into force and (b) were considered by a delegated legislation committee in each of the last three sessions. [88037]

Mr. Leslie: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister came into existence at the end of May 2002. Since then 22 statutory instruments subject to the negative resolution procedure for which the office is responsible have come into force. In the same period, four statutory instruments subject to that procedure for which the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is responsible have been the subject of a motion to revoke debated in standing committee.

Mobile Telecommunications Masts

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what progress has been made by his Department in implementing each of the recommendations of the Stewart report into mobile telecommunications masts. [89786]

Mr. McNulty: On 22 August 2001, following public consultation, and taking into account the recommendations in the Stewart report, published in May 2000, we introduced changes to the planning procedures and guidance (PPG8) for telecommunications mast development which significantly improved the planning procedures and guidance for telecommunications mast development. Our changes included:

In November 2000, we published a revised Code of Best Practice on Mobile Phone Network Development. This is a tripartite document between central and local Government and the telecommunications industry and builds on the advice in PPG8 XTelecommunications" and the operators' 10 commitments to improve consultation on mast proposals with local communities and local planning authorities.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has no plans to amend further the planning arrangements for telecommunications development.

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