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19 Mar 2003 : Column 790W—continued

Post Office Card Account

Mr. Peter Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether the objective of Government policy in Scotland is to maximise take-up of post office card accounts; and if she will make a statement. [103177]

Mrs. McGuire: The Government's policy is to ensure that customers can choose the type of account that best suits their needs following the move to direct payment of state benefits. The Post Office card account is one of three options which benefit claimants are being presented with. Regardless whether claimants use the card account, an existing bank account or open a basic bank account, they will still be able to uplift benefits in cash at post offices.

Departmental Officer

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what her estimate is of the cost to the Scotland Office of the offices occupied by its staff in (a) Edinburgh, (b) Glasgow and (c) Leith in each of the last five years; and if she will make a statement. [90379]

Mrs. Liddell: The Scotland Office was established in its present form on 1 July 1999.

The Department rents offices in Edinburgh and it shares accommodation in Glasgow and Leith with the Scottish Executive. The annual cost of occupying the offices was as follows:


* From 1 July 1999


These costs include, where appropriate, rental, rates, heat and power, security, cleaning, repairs, maintenance and water.

Service Delivery Agreement

Tony Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when the Scotland Office's service delivery agreement for 2003 to 2006 will be published. [94108]

Mrs. Liddell: The Scotland Office departmental report for 2003 will report on progress in relation to the 2002–03 Service Delivery Agreement. It will also provide key performance targets for 2003–04 but, given that the department does not have significant executive responsibilities, these will not constitute a Service Delivery Agreement as such.


Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what policy her Department has adopted on smoking in the workplace. [100924]

Mrs. Liddell: My Department discourages smoking in the workplace, due to its effects on health. Smoking is not, therefore, permitted at any time in buildings

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occupied by the Department, except in designated smoking areas. Such areas are made available, as a concession, only where it is practicable to do so.

Work Placements

Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many university students her Department has supported or sponsored with a work placement in the last year; what her policy is on work placements; what plans she has to develop such schemes; and what her policy is on paying their university fees. [98539]

Mrs. Liddell: In the last year my Department has provided one university student work placement. We support the use of work placements and we shall look for opportunities to extend the scheme within the Department. My Department does not pay student university fees.


Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Bill

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Advocate-General pursuant to her oral answer of 11March, Official Report, column 151W on the time limit for considering bills passed by the Scottish Parliament, what plans she has to consider the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Bill by 28 March. [102916]

The Advocate-General for Scotland: Since my oral answer of 11 March Official Report, column 151, Stage 3 of the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Bill took place on 12 March, and on that date the Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament. The period of four weeks beginning with the passing of the Bill applies in terms of Section 33 of the Scotland Act 1998, and this is not affected by dissolution of the Scottish Parliament. As with all Bills, I will consider the provisions of the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Bill during that period.


Local Authority Housing

Mr. Coleman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many successful applications there have been in (a) London and (b) other metropolitan authorities to set up arms length management organisations in each of the past three years. [103032]

Mr. McNulty: The following authorities have so far been allocated places on the Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) programme for improving the quality and management of local authority housing:

Round 1

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Round 2

All ALMOs in Round 1 have qualified for additional funding from 2002–03. Those in Round 2 have been offered additional funding from 2003–04 if they achieve at least a "good" rating from the Housing Inspectorate.

Brownfield Sites

Norman Baker: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what mechanism exists to reclassify brown-field sites as green-field sites where the characteristics of a brown-field site are no longer present; and how much land has been thus reclassified since July 2001. [103828]

Mr. McNulty: There are various definitions of a brown-field site. The National Land Use Database (NLUD) uses the definition of 'previously-developed land' (PDL) provided by planning policy guidance for housing (PPG3). The definition excludes land that was

In updating NLUD-PDL records, local authorities should report changes to the status of a site (normally through redevelopment) but information of the type sought is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Fire Prevention

Mr. Hendry: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what Government funds have been allocated for fire prevention awareness in each of the past five years. [103671]

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Mr. Raynsford: Funds have been allocated to the office's expenditure on increasing public awareness of fire safety and measures to prevent fire as follows:

£ million

Fire Service

Vernon Coaker: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) what (a) appeal system and (b) independent body is available to local people in the event of a proposal to close a fire station following the repeal of section 19 of the Fire Services Act 1947; and if he will make a statement; [103391]

Mr. Raynsford: A fire authority is under a general duty under Best Value legislation to secure continuous improvement in the way in which its functions are exercised, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness. This includes a requirement to consult locally about how to fulfil this duty. HM Fire Service Inspectorate will continue to monitor the performance of fire authorities in providing effective fire cover arrangements.

Draft guidance to fire authorities on the need to consult local communities about significant changes in fire cover following the proposed repeal of part of section 19 was placed in the Libraries of both Houses on 5 March. This draft guidance is being circulated to a wide range of stakeholders for comments.

Key Workers

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister pursuant to his answer of 12 March, Official Report, column 330W, whether his Department considers a supermarket checkout operator to be a key worker. [103280]

Mr. McNulty: Support being provided by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for key worker housing will target key public sector workers, as set out in 'Sustainable Communities: building for the future'. This excludes supermarket checkout operators. Wider housing policies to increase the supply of affordable housing will benefit key workers outside the public sector.

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