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Jane Griffiths: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) what regulations are in place to ensure the safe (a) installation and (b) operation of domestic central heating systems, with particular reference to preventing pollution from oil leakages; 
(3) how many oil-fired domestic central heating installations there are in England. 
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Phil Hope: Evidence from the English House Condition Survey indicates that there are around 700,000 oil fired domestic heating installations in England.
Part J of the Building Regulations covers the pollution risks associated with the installation of domestic oil fired central heating. Ways of meeting the requirement are conveyed in Approved Document J (2002) and include compliance with BS 5410 (1997 amended 2001): Code of Practice for Oil FiringPart 1: installations up to 45 kW output capacity for space heating and hot water supply purposes, providing secondary containment where a risk assessment indicates this is necessary, and labelling storage systems with what to do if an oil spill occurs. BS 5410 refers to BS 799 Part 5 (1987) : Specification for oil tanks for steel tanks and to the industry (OFTEC) standard OFS T100 (1995) Polyethylene oil storage tanks and bunds for distillate fuels. OFTEC has since published OFS T200 as their specification for steel tanks.
The Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) (England) Regulations 2001, SI 2001:2954 provide minimum standards for domestic tanks where the storage capacity is in excess of 3,500 litres. There are no other regulations specifically covering the prevention of oil pollution from oil leakages arising from the operation of domestic oil fired central heating systems. However, it is a statutory offence to cause or knowingly permit the pollution of "controlled waters" (which includes ground and surface waters) under the Water Resources Act 1991.
Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what guidance he has issued to English Partnerships in respect of the criteria used in determining allocations to assist housing-led regeneration schemes outside housing market pathfinder renewal areas; and if he will make a statement. 
Keith Hill: English Partnerships' remit was set out in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's "Sustainable communities: building for the future" which was published earlier this year.
EP's priorities for expenditure include:
The Coalfields programme;
Urban Regeneration Company areas;
Housing Market Renewal Fund pathfinder areas;
Target areas for major housing growth in the South East of England;
Strategic brownfield sites in or close to any of the above priority areas or in areas of housing pressure or housing abandonment;
Other discretionary projects that promote wider regeneration benefits, particularly where EP can add significant value.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will amend the financial model used by the Boundary Committee in assessing the costs of
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reorganising local government in the three northern regions to include (a) transitional, (b) opportunity and (c) ongoing costs of change. 
Mr. Raynsford: No. The model used by the Boundary Committee looks at the "cost of being in business"that is, the recurring costs that an authority must incur regardless of the level of service that it provides. Other costs and savings that will result from re-organisation are heavily dependent on the policy decisions of the elected representatives of individual councils and cannot, therefore, be used for modelling purposes without making assumptions about the decisions that will be taken by authorities that have yet to be created. The cost of being in business, being less dependent on such assumptions, provides a sounder basis on which to make comparisons.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make it his policy to collect centrally the costs of any reorganisation of local government; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Raynsford: It is too early to say what the cost of and potential long-term savings from reorganisation might be. It will depend ultimately on the pattern of unitary authorities introduced following referendums and on decisions that the new unitary authorities take about their organisational structure. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will discuss how any costs will be funded with local authorities and the Local Government Association nearer the time.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he will respond to the bids for resources from the market renewal pathfinders; and if he will make a statement. 
Keith Hill: The nine market renewal pathfinders are each required to submit a strategic scheme to outline their proposals on how they plan to spend the Housing Market Renewal fund that they are bidding for and address the issues of low demand. These schemes are assessed by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in negotiation with the pathfinder and independently scrutinised by the Audit. Following successful negotiations and a satisfactory report from the Audit Commission the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will allocate a proportion of the Housing Market Renewal Fund to a scheme.
£125 million has already been allocated to the Manchester Salford pathfinder for implementation of its scheme over the next two and a half years. Strategic schemes from two other pathfinders, Newcastle Gateshead and Merseyside, have been received and are being assessed by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Audit Commission. Others are expected over the next few months.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to change the voting system in reorganised single tier authorities which may be established following the referendums on regional assemblies; and if he will make a statement. 
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Mr. Raynsford: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has no plans for reorganisation to affect the voting systems in English local government.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what recent representations he has received from organisations in the North West urging the Government to extend the powers and functions of the proposed regional assembly; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Raynsford: Since it was announced which regions would proceed first towards referendums on 16 June 2003 the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has received four representations from organisations in the North West region asking the Government to extend the powers of the proposed regional assembly. In addition three individuals urged greater powers.
Jon Trickett: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister in what circumstances the Government will overrule a local council's decision as to a property's exemption from the right to buy scheme. 
Keith Hill: My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister may overrule a Council's decision in relation to the Right to Buy in only one circumstance.
Under paragraph 11 of Schedule 5 of the Housing Act 1985, a landlord may deny a social tenant's application to buy his or her home on the grounds that the dwelling is particularly suitable for occupation by the elderly, having regard to its location, size, design, heating system and other features, and if it was let to the tenant or a predecessor in title of his for occupation by a person who was aged 60 or more (whether the tenant or a predecessor or another person). In determining whether the dwelling is particularly suitable, no regard shall be had to the presence of any feature provided by the tenant or a predecessor in title of his.
Paragraph 11(4) provides that the question shall be determined by the Secretary of State if the tenant applies to him within the period of 56 days from notification of the landlord's decision. If on receiving such an appeal, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister considers that the property does not meet the criteria set out in paragraph 11, he can determine that the Right to Buy application should proceed. The main points on which my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister will normally expect to be satisfied before determining that a property is in fact particularly suitable for occupation by the elderly are set out in Department of the Environment Circular 13/93. They are that:
the accommodation should be on one level
in the case of a flat above ground floor level there should be access by lift
there should be no more than two bedrooms
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there should be adequate arrangements for heating the living room and at least one bedroom
the dwelling should be located reasonably conveniently for shops and public transport, having regard to the nature of the area.
Jon Trickett: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many local council decisions on exemption from the right to buy scheme he has overruled since 1997; and if he will make a statement. 
Keith Hill: Secure tenants denied the Right to Buy by their landlords under paragraph 11 of Schedule 5 of the Housing Act 1985, on the grounds that their homes are particularly suitable for occupation by elderly persons, may appeal to my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister. The numbers of such appeals determined since 1997 are set out in the table (the figures do not include invalid or withdrawn appeals):
|Appeals accepted||Appeals refused||Totals|
|2003 (as at 4 December)||112||303||415|
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