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26 Jan 2004 : Column 166W—continued

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Andrew Mitchell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he will reply to the Questions tabled by the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield for Named Day Answer on 19 January, reference (a) 148012, (b) 148011 and (c) 148014. [150230]

Yvette Cooper: The Parliamentary Questions tabled by the hon. Member for Named Day answer on 19 January were all duly answered on the day requested.

PPG25

Norman Baker: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many and what percentage of planning applications rejected by planning authorities pursuant to revised PPG25 have been subsequently allowed on appeal. [150873]

Keith Hill: The Environment Agency's report on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) high-level target 12—Development and flood risk—contains details of 50 appeals in 2002–03, which had involved a sustained objection by the agency on flooding grounds. Of these, two were withdrawn by the appellant and in five cases the flooding objection was resolved before the appeal decision.

In four cases (8 per cent.), appeals for minor development were allowed contrary to advice from the Environment Agency. Six appeals (12 per cent.) were allowed with the agency's objections fully mitigated through planning conditions and 33 appeals (66 per cent.) were dismissed, 30 of which were for minor developments. 28 cases are reported as dismissed using agency advice and five as dismissed not using Agency advice. Further details are in the report, which is available on the Internet at www.environment-agency.gov.uk

Prison Leavers

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what strategy the Government have for the reintegration of prison-leavers into social housing and their surrounding community. [144094]

Paul Goggins: I have been asked to reply.

The Social Exclusion Unit report on reducing re-offending by released prisoners, published in July 2002, recommended that the Government develop and implement a National Rehabilitation Strategy involving all relevant departments and agencies. In response, the Home Office has set up two inter-departmental groups of Ministers and officials to develop an action plan planned for publication in early 2004. Its work strands include finance and benefits; drugs; health; employment, training and education; children and families; and accommodation.

Within the accommodation strand, the Home Office, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM), and the Department for Work and Pensions are working together to devise an accommodation strategy for offenders. This will aim initially to increase the number of people leaving prison with some form of accommodation arranged. Its longer terms aims will be: to assess and identify the particular accommodation needs of each offender; to enable offenders to maintain or, where appropriate/to close down their accommodation while in

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custody; and to develop systems that enable offenders to access appropriate and sustainable housing options on release. The strategy will encompass the roles and responsibilities of the correctional services, local authorities and other housing providers, the voluntary sector and Jobcentre Plus. Pilots are currently being developed to test how best to join up these services, working initially with street crime offenders.

The strategy will build on some important provisions already in place in the community and custody: the Homelessness Act 2002; the Homelessness (Priority Need for Accommodation) (England) Order 2002; the Supporting People programme; and the Prison Service's Custody to Work Initiative.

Regional Assemblies

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether elected regional assemblies will have power to determine transport-related priorities within their regions. [150077]

Mr. Raynsford: The transport powers of elected regional assemblies were set out in the White Paper "Your Region, Your Choice: Revitalising the English Regions" (Cm 5511).

Elected regional assemblies will be responsible for identifying transport priorities and producing a regional transport strategy, advising the Government on funding allocations for local transport schemes and for allocating Rail Passenger Partnership grants. They will also have powers to make proposals to the Highways Agency and the Strategic Rail Authority for schemes of regional importance.

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether he expects elected regional assemblies to have the power to determine how public spending within the region is allocated. [150079]

Mr. Raynsford: The finance powers of elected regional assemblies were set out in Chapter 5 of the White Paper "Your Region, Your Choice: Revitalising the English Regions" (Cm 5511).

Assemblies will be funded primarily by central Government grant and will have freedom to spend their funding as they judge best.

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister which powers elected regional assemblies will take from existing local authorities. [150080]

Mr. Raynsford: The powers and responsibilities of elected regional assemblies were set out in the White Paper "Your Region, Your Choice: Revitalising the English Regions" (Cm 5511). The Fire White Paper, "Our Fire and Rescue Service" (Cm 5808), published in June 2003, subsequently announced that responsibility for the fire and rescue service will transfer to a regional level in regions which choose to have an elected assembly. Other than this element, the powers of elected regional assemblies will not be drawn from local authorities.

Regional Economic Disparities

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what steps he has taken since 1997 to close economic disparities between the English regions. [149692]

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Mr. Raynsford: The Government have pursued an active regional policy since 1997 by:







Regional Government

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the total number of staff working in the Government Office for the Regions in each region is; what change in staff numbers there would be in regions where an elected regional assembly is established; and what the total savings would be consequent on these reductions. [149648]

Yvette Cooper: The total number of staff currently working in the Government Office by region is:

Government OfficeNumber of staff
London296
East266
West Midlands320
East Midlands283
North West351
North East256
Yorkshire and Humber306
South West344
South East320

The number of people that may transfer from each Government Office when an elected assembly is created will vary between regions. But it will probably be between 60 to 100, based on existing staffing levels for the activities that would be expected to transfer to an elected regional assembly, including responsibility for administering EU structural funds.

It is estimated that about £5 million per year of the running costs of regional assemblies will be directly off-set because staff will be transferring from existing bodies, including the region's Government Office.

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what additional scrutiny the regional chambers in each of the English regions have undertaken since 2001. [149702]

Mr. Raynsford: Since 2001, the regional chambers have undertaken a variety of scrutiny activities in respect of the work of the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), funded by Government grant. Chambers report to the region on the work of the RDAs and provide recommendations that seek to improve their effectiveness.

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The reports and recommendations arising from these activities are published and widely disseminated to regional partners. Chambers usually issue between two and four reports every year.

Rehousing (Brent)

Sarah Teather: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the average waiting time for a person to be rehoused in Brent was in each year since 1997. [149883]

Keith Hill: The information on the average waiting time for a person to be rehoused in Brent is not held centrally, and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Sarah Teather: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many people are on the housing list waiting to be rehoused in Brent. [149884]

Keith Hill: Local authorities in England report the numbers of households on their housing waiting list (excluding tenants awaiting a transfer) as at 1 April in their annual Housing Investment programme return. As at 1 April 2003 the latest reported figures are 13,425.


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