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16 Dec 2003 : Column 850W—continued

Road Haulage Industry

Mr. Beggs: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many (a) nationally and (b) internationally licensed freight operators were based in Northern Ireland in each of the last five years. [144222]

Angela Smith: The number of nationally and internationally licensed freight operators based in Northern Ireland in each of the last five years was:



Ministerial Cars

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office (1) what the total running cost of vehicles used by Ministers in his Department was in 2002–03; and what the cost of (a) servicing vehicles and (b) employing chauffeurs was; [143960]

Mr. Alexander: The responsibility for the provision of ministerial cars and drivers has been delegated under the terms of the Framework Document to the Government Car Despatch Agency. I have asked its Chief Executive Mr. Nick Matheson to write to the hon. Member. Copies of his letter will be placed in the Libraries of the House.


Fire Services

Mr. Caton: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the consultation process required by the Government when a fire service is drawing up a new integrated management document. [144587]

Mr. Raynsford: Guidance was published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister on 28 July 2003 that requires fire and rescue authorities to consult a wide range of stakeholders on their draft Integrated Risk Management Plans (IRMPs), This should take place over a period of not less than 12 weeks to meet Cabinet

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Office guidelines for written consultations. Copies of the final guidance and a paper setting out the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's response to the main comments received are available in the Libraries of both Houses.

Barker Report

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how the Government will increase the supply of affordable houses as recommended in the Barker Report. [144196]

Keith Hill: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister welcomes the interim report by the Barker Review and look forward to seeing what policy recommendations emerge in the Kate Barker's final report.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has already taken significant steps to tackle the shortage of affordable housing. In all around £5 billion is being allocated over the next two years—2004–05 and 2005–06 to support housing investment in the English regions.

In addition we have consulted on a proposed update to Planning Policy Guidance note 3: Housing. The aim of the update is to provide a framework that will secure more affordable housing without affecting the overall supply of housing, deliver a better mix of housing in new developments in terms of size, type and affordability, and ensure that the needs of the whole community are addressed, including for particular groups such as key workers. Affordable housing can be secured through planning obligations and we consulted on 6 November on our proposed new policy to improve negotiated planning obligations and legislation for an optional planning charge.

Building Inspectorate

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what evaluation he has made of the adequacy of the resourcing levels of the Building Inspectorate to allow it to carry out all its statutory monitoring functions in respect of the current building regulations. [142451]

Phil Hope: District and unitary local authorities in England and Wales are responsible for administering and enforcing the Building Regulations. Persons carrying out building projects subject to control by these regulations must use one of two Building Control Services—that provided by the local authority in whose area the work is taking place or by an approved inspector, a private sector alternative. It is the responsibility of local authorities to resource their building control departments, as appropriate, in order to be in a position to carry out their duties under the Building Regulations when they are called upon to provide the Building Control Service.

The Building (Local Authority Charges) Regulations 1998 make local authorities responsible for fixing their own charges for those functions carried out under the Building Control Service, and require them to ensure that the revenue from charges fully recovers the costs of carrying out the functions. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in conjunction with the Welsh Assembly Government conducts an annual monitoring exercise

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with all local authorities in England and Wales to ascertain the degree to which revenue from their building control functions is fully recovering their costs.

Council Housing

Mr. Hepburn: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how much the Government has invested in council housing in (a) South Tyneside and (b) England in each year since 1996. [142990]

Keith Hill: Work undertaken by local authorities to renovate and improve council housing is funded partly from their own resources and partly from resources provided by central government. Part of the central Government funding is provided as general support for housing investment and it is up to individual authorities to decide how much to spend on council housing. The following tables set out the total amounts (£ million) of capital investment in council housing and housing capital allocations made by central Government in the years since 1996–97.

South Tyneside

Housing capital allocations
Capital investment in council housingHIP allocation(19)CRI (20)MRA (21)Total


Housing capital allocations
Capital investment in council housingHIP/CRI allocation(19),(20)MRA/ ALMO (21)Total (20)

(19) Housing Investment Programme (HIP) allocations cover mainstream support for housing capital expenditure by local authorities (housing annual capital guidelines(ACGs)) and the ring-fenced support for private sector renewal (which was combined with the mainstream funding from 1997–98) and for disabled facilities grants. The figures also include the funding made available through the Capital Receipts Initiative (1997–98 to 1999–2000), the Housing Partnership Fund (1996–97) and to support Cash Incentive Scheme (CIS) grants (1996–97 to 1999–2000)

(20) The housing ACGs up to and including 2002–03 include an element that is assumed to be funded from local authorities capital receipts—this amounts to around £200 million for England as a whole.

(21) Funding for investment in council housing to meet the on-going capital costs of maintaining the stock (Major Repairs Allowance) or to help bring authorities' housing stock up to a decent standard (Arms Length Management Organisation initiative).

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Council Tenants

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) what arrangements he has put in place to ensure that local authorities identify tenants who lack basic budgeting skills; [144090]

Mr. Raynsford: While the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has no specific arrangements in place, guidance was issued in 1999, in the National Framework for Tenant Participation Compacts which advises local authorities on how to identify tenant training needs and provision. This is aimed primarily at helping tenants to develop their skills and capacity in relation to participating in and influencing decisions affecting them and their homes.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's main interest here is to ensure that social landlords adopt good practice in their approach to tackling housing rent arrears to avoid unnecessary evictions for tenants. Glasgow university is currently carrying out a research project into policy and practice in relation to use of possession orders and eviction by social landlords and to identify good practice in this area: they are expected to complete the research by summer 2004.

The wider issue of over-indebtedness is being taken forward by a new cross- Government Group announced in the Consumer Credit White paper published on 8 December by the Department for Trade and Industry. As part of its work, the Group may look at financial literacy. It expects to publish a strategy by spring 2004.

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what funds the Government has made available to organisations providing core literacy and numeracy skills schemes for social housing tenants in each of the last five years; and what funds will be made available in 2004–05. [144092]

Keith Hill: There are a number of organisations funded by central Government to provide core literacy and numeracy skills training for those in need. This client group may include social housing tenants but not exclusively.

Over the past two years the Adult Basic Skills Strategy Unit has provided in excess of £1.5 million to fund a financial literacy programme. Embedded into Government's "Skills for Life" programme, a national strategy for improving adult literacy and numeracy, the financial literacy programme is run on behalf of Government by the Basic Skills Agency (BSA). The aim of the programme is to help adults with poor literacy, language and numeracy to develop the skills they need to make effective decisions about the use and management of money.

In developing the programme the BSA have resources and pilots in several areas including Community Development Projects. These projects are testing effective ways of engaging people and delivering financial literacy in community settings.

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