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Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what criteria his Department has for identifying whistleblowing inside the health service; and what mechanisms are in place for a whistleblower, whose case has been dismissed by a trust, to have his case examined by the Department. 
Mr. Hutton: The Government expect a climate of openness and dialogue in the national health service that encourages staff to feel able to raise concerns about health care matters sensibly and responsibly without fear of victimisation.
On 27 August 1999, the Department of Health issued new guidance in Health Service Circular 1999/198, "The Public Interest Disclosure Act: Whistleblowing in the NHS", to all NHS trusts and health authorities. The HSC advises that all NHS trusts and health authorities are expected to issue guidance to staff so that they know how to raise concerns in a reasonable and responsible way. The Department's policy is that, wherever possible, concerns raised by staff should be dealt with locally in accordance with local policies and procedures on whistleblowing, so that problems can be addressed quickly. However, there have been cases where whistleblowers have considered the local response inadequate, and, as a consequence, have sought to raise their concerns with the Department. At present, these cases would be examined by the relevant Directorate of Health and Social Care, on behalf of the Department.
Joyce Quin: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what recent assessment his Department has made of the effects on the regeneration of North Greenwich of the Millennium Dome; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. McNulty: One of the stated objectives of the Millennium Experience was to support the regeneration efforts on the Greenwich Peninsula. English Partnerships' acquisition of land on the Greenwich Peninsula for the Millennium celebrations has so far resulted in: reclamation of 289 acres of despoiled land; installation of servicing and public access across the land; private investment of over £400 million in the Millennium Village, a new cinema, retail and hotel developments on the Peninsula; the provision of a new school and health centre; 50 acres of new parkland, a new ecology park and yacht club, and over 12,000 trees planted. The Village will ultimately have some 1,400 homes, 300 of which have been completed so far: 20 per cent. will be affordable.
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A study commissioned by the New Millennium Experience Company, English Partnerships and the London borough of Greenwich in 1999 found that the preparation for and running of the Millennium celebrations at the Dome led to the creation of 7,700 jobs in construction, 5,300 jobs in management and operation of the Dome. In addition, of the £500 million worth of contracts let for the Dome, companies in Greenwich won £44.7 million.
The regeneration momentum is being maintained, and will be boosted further on the Peninsula by the deal signed by English Partnerships on 29 May 2002, under which Meridian Delta Ltd and Anschutz Entertainment Group are committed to investing £200 million in the Dome. MDL expects the total investment in the development on the Greenwich Peninsula to be up to £4 billion. The development is expected to deliver around 20,000 full-time equivalent jobs.
The deal is subject primarily to planning permission. An application for planning permission was submitted to Greenwich Council on 23 December 2002, for a new 26,000 capacity arena inside the Dome, with associated leisure, entertainment, retail, exhibition and community uses in and around the Dome; over 10,000 homes on the Peninsula of which a substantial number will be affordable; 3.5 million sq. ft. of commercial development; and associated infrastructure and public open space. An interim base-line study and evaluation published by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions in 2000 confirmed that the Peninsula developments were acting as a catalyst for regeneration in Greenwich and the Thames Gateway, and that the developments demonstrated best practice in terms of sustainable development. It is intended to follow up that research with a further evaluation and long-term monitoring of the Peninsula regeneration.
The report of the Independent Review of the Fire Service stressed the importance of a diverse workforce and the need to improve the representation of minority groups within the fire service. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will continue to work with the fire service to achieve a work force that better reflects the communities it serves; to help the service remove barriers to creating a more diverse workforce and to assist in raising the profile of the service as a career choice within currently under-represented groups. The Fire White Paper due to be published later this year will address equality and diversity issues.
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Mr. Raynsford: An amendment to the Local Government Bill will be put down to repeal section 19 (subsections 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8) of the Fire Services Act 1947 so that Parliament can consider the issue. This repeal would remove the requirement for fire authorities to seek approval of my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister before making any reduction, no matter how minor, in the number of firefighting posts or appliances, or before closing a fire station. We do not believe that in a modern fire service my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister should take these decisions. They should be taken by democratically accountable fire authorities, acting on the professional advice of chief fire officers and after consulting locally as at present.
Mr. John Taylor : To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make it his policy to yield to the benefit of local fire authorities any net savings in firefighters' salaries arising from strike action over and above the contingency costs of covering that strike action. 
Mr. Raynsford: There will be no net savings to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. The costs to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister of providing emergency fire cover will exceed the amount deducted by fire authorities from striking fire fighters' pay.
Ms Oona King : To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what legislative changes would be necessary to enable local authorities to discharge their duties under Part VI of the Homelessness Act 2002 by offering homeless households in priority need a choice of accommodation both within and outside that local authority area. 
Mr. McNulty: No legislative change is necessary. The Homelessness Act 2002 amends Part 6 of the Housing Act 1996 which governs the allocation of social housing by local authorities. The amendments to the 1996 Act which came into force on 31 January 2003, include a provision to make it easier for housing authorities to offer housing applicants a choice of accommodation, whether they live within or outside that local authority area. This includes people who are unintentionally homeless and in priority need who must be given reasonable preference under a housing authority's allocation scheme.
Mr. Edward Davey: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on the number of persons needed in the house building profession. 
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Mr. McNulty: My right hon. Friend Lord Rooker and my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, West and Hessle (Alan Johnson) met in November to discuss sustainable communities. Construction issues were discussed as part of the meeting. Officials in the Department of Trade and Industry and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister are in frequent contact on construction issues.
Mr. McNulty: Additional funding for the Housing Market Renewal pathfinder projects will be announced as part of the Communities Plan to be launched very shortly. My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister intends to make a statement at the time of the launch.
Mr. McNulty: The final report for the Milton Keynes and South Midlands Study was published in September 2002. The Regional Planning Bodies for the East Midlands, South East and East of England are now considering the study recommendations and will publish alterations to regional planning guidance in due course, in the light of my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister's forthcoming statement Sustainable Communities; Building for the Future.
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