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Statutory Sick Pay

Mr. Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many people employed in his Department have claimed statutory sick pay for (a) less than one week, (b) one to three weeks, (c) four to six weeks, (d) seven to 12 weeks, (e) 13 to 20 weeks and (f) 21 to 28 weeks in each year since 1997. [148634]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: Details of staff who have received Statutory Sick Pay in the periods specified could only be obtained at disproportionate cost to the Department.

DFID is committed to managing sickness absence effectively, and we are making progress in reducing the levels of absence year on year.

Sudanese Refugees

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the humanitarian condition of Sudanese refugees from the Beja community who are living in Eritrea; and if he will make a statement. [151949]

Hilary Benn: We have not made any specific assessment of Sudanese Beja refugees in Eritrea. However, we keep closely in touch with Government of Eritrea, NGO and UN reports/assessments, and are therefore aware of the concern that has recently been raised about the humanitarian situation faced by the Beja refugees.

UK is willing to play its part in the provision of assistance to address humanitarian needs, in any part of Eritrea and with any community, where there are urgent, unmet humanitarian needs.

We have been supporting supplementary food distributions to the Beja in Eritrea through the NGO Dutch Interchurch Aid.

Voluntary Service Overseas

Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what his Department's

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grant to Voluntary Service Overseas (a) is this year and (b) will be next year; and how many Voluntary Service Overseas volunteers this money supports. [152088]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: Under the Partnership Programme Agreement with DFID, the VSO grant for 2004–05 will be £24,460,000. The grant for 2004–05 will be £24,860,000. In the past two years, the grant has made up approximately 75 per cent. of VSO's total income and we have no reason to believe that this will change during 2003–04 and 2005–06.

The total number of volunteers supported by the grant in 2003–04 will be 1505. In 2004–05, the number of volunteers supported is estimated to be 1540.



7. Chris Grayling: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on homelessness. [152486]

Yvette Cooper: Homelessness is a serious problem affecting families across the country, but particularly concentrated in London. The Government have increased funding to prevent and address homelessness, strengthened the safety net for vulnerable people, and reduced the level of rough sleeping by two thirds. Councils have also cut substantially the number of homeless families in Bed and Breakfast.

Registered Social Landlords

8. Mr. McWalter: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister, what plans he has to encourage councils to adopt registered social landlords as principal agents for development. [152487]

Keith Hill: Guidance to local authorities already stresses the need to consider using registered social landlords when funding provision of affordable housing. This will generally provide more dwellings for a given amount of public subsidy and increases choice and competition.


9. Dr. Whitehead : To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what measures he is taking to encourage greater energy efficiency in new house building. [152489]

Phil Hope: The Energy White Paper, published on 24 February, announced that the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister would start work immediately on the next major revision of the Building Regulations. This work has started and using the energy efficiency provisions of the Building Regulations we aim to bring new standards into effect in 2005.

Mr. Jack: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what steps he is taking to assess the impact on North West house builders of his current housing policy. [152481]

Keith Hill: The housing policies in Regional Planning Guidance are monitored by the North West Regional Assembly. A full review of the housing figures in Regional Planning Guidance (RPG) will take place in 2006.

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Ms Oona King: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate he has made of the number of (a) households, (b) people, (c) accommodation units and (d) dwellings that will fall within the scope of the mandatory houses in multiple occupation licensing scheme proposed in the Housing Bill. [152182]

Keith Hill: The Government estimate that about 120,000 houses in multiple occupation will be licensed under the mandatory licensing scheme proposed in the Housing Bill. It is estimated that 360,000 to 450,000 dwellings up to 720,000 households (including single person households) will be protected by the regime.

Local Government

10. Miss McIntosh: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the review of local government boundaries. [152490]

Mr. Raynsford: The Boundary Committee for England is currently undertaking reviews of the structure and boundaries of local government in the three northern regions prior to referendums on directly elected regional assemblies.There are currently no plans for further reviews of structures and boundaries.

Fire Service

11. Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what discussions he has had with Essex county council on his plans to regionalise the fire service. [152491]

Mr. Raynsford: The Government have no plan to regionalise the Fire and Rescue Service other than in regions which vote in a referendum for an elected regional assembly. No such referendum is proposed in the Eastern region.

Regional Government

12. Mr. George Osborne : To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he will set a date for the referendum on regional government in the north-west. [152492]

The Deputy Prime Minister: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister intends to hold the referendums in the three northern regions in autumn 2004.

But before a date can be set:

We expect to lay these in Summer.

13. Mr. Luff: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will meet a delegation from Worcestershire to discuss the report by Professor David Blanchflower and Professor Andrew Oswald on the calculation of an appropriate regional funding adjustment for the county. [152493]

Mr. Raynsford: No. During the formula review, which was completed in 2002 the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister looked in some detail at the different geographies, data and methods that could be used to calculate the ACA. Several of the options advocated by Professors Oswald and Blanchflower in their report were examined and rejected during the formula review

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The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister considered the Oswold and Blanchflower report as part of the written representations received on the local government settlement for 2004–05. However, as we made clear following the recent review it is our intention that the funding formulae will be frozen for at least 2004–05 and 2005–06. There would therefore be little purpose in the suggested meeting.


Mr. Brazier: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether beaches form part of functional flood plains for the purpose of planning policy guidance. [152715]

Keith Hill: Planning policy guidance note (PPG) 25 defines the functional flood plain as the unobstructed or active areas within the land at risk of river and coastal flooding shown on indicative flood plain maps prepared by the Environment Agency where water flows regularly in times of flood. Areas that are defended are passive until such time as the defences are overtopped or breached and are not regarded as part of the functional flood plain.

The term functional flood plain was primarily coined in connection with river flooding, where the proper functioning of a river flood plain serves to reduce the impact of flooding on other areas. However, since most beaches are flooded by tides twice a day, and are undefended they could logically be considered to be functional flood plains, as could undefended areas above mean high water that are flooded by the sea on a regular basis. There may be instances where a storm beach created by extreme high waters has its crest above the flood level with an annual probability of occurrence of 0.5 per cent. In such a case the storm beach itself might not be classified as functional flood plain because of the very long periods between potential flooding events.

Mr. Brazier: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister for what reasons beaches are not part of the definitions of land contained within planning policy guidance; and if he will take steps to ensure that they are. [152716]

Keith Hill: Beaches are part of the definition of land within planning policy guidance. Control under the planning system extends to the seaward boundary of local planning authorities, which is generally taken to be the mean low water mark unless statutory provisions state otherwise at a particular location. Any development on a beach above mean low water would thus be subject to planning control. Planning policies in national or regional guidance, where they are relevant, would be material planning considerations in the formulation of development plans and the determination of applications for planning permission.

Mr. Brazier: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister which planning policy guidance notes cover proposed development on beaches. [152717]

Keith Hill: Planning policy guidance notes (PPGs) cover all land that is subject to control under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, namely all land within local authority boundaries. In coastal areas, the seaward boundary of local authorities is generally taken to be mean low water. Thus the planning system and all the PPGs would cover relevant developments within a

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local authority, including that on the intertidal or supratidal areas of beaches above mean low water. Particular consideration is given to development in coastal areas, including that on beaches, in PPG 20 Coastal Planning and in PPG 25 Development and flood risk.

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