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13 Jul 2004 : Column 1085W—continued

Housing Stocks

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many local authorities in England have an incidence of more than 5 per cent. of their dwelling stock empty; and what steps his Department is taking to reduce this incidence. [183534]

Keith Hill: The information requested is tabled as follows:
Local authorityPercentage of stock vacant
South Hams13
Kensington and Chelsea7
Kingston upon Hull7
Blackburn with Darwen6
Newcastle upon Tyne6
Tower Hamlets5
Redcar and Cleveland5
Great Yarmouth5
Wear Valley5

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The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is taking action to reduce the incidence of empty homes. We have established a £500 million Market Renewal Fund for investment in nine pathfinder areas to tackle low demand and abandonment across the North and Midlands. Local authorities have been given the discretion to reduce, or remove completely, council tax discounts on long-term empty homes. We are proposing to introduce new powers in the Housing Bill for local authorities to manage privately owned empty homes where the vacancy cannot be justified. We are consulting on a proposal to re-introduce a Best Value Performance Indicator to measure local authority performance in re-letting their empty council dwellings. This is in addition to an existing performance indicator that measures the performance of local authorities at returning private sector vacant dwellings to use.

Land Use

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what arrangements are in place for the monitoring of land use. [183539]

Keith Hill: The main source of information is Land Use Change Statistics (LUCS), based on information from Ordnance Survey on the change of use of individual land parcels. The most recent information was published in May as "Land Use Change in England: Residential Development to 2003".

There is also the National Land Use Database of Previously-Developed Land, which is now updated annually and shows the stock of brownfield land, both vacant and derelict land and land currently in use with potential for development. Results for 2002 were published in September 2003 as "Previously-Developed Land that May be Available for Development (Brownfield Sites) in 2002".

A further source which has been produced on an experimental basis covering the London and South East Government Office Regions and five local authorities in Essex is the Generalised Land Use Database. This shows the distribution of all land across nine categories as at the end of 2001. It is planned to extend coverage to the whole of England by the end of
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the year. Further information is on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's website as "Generalised Land Use Classification Statistics".

Means-tested Benefits

Mr. Viggers: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will list the means-tested benefits available through his Department and the agencies for which it is responsible (a) in May 1997 and (b) now. [182570]

Phil Hope: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister was created in May 2002. No means tested benefits are, or have been, payable through the Office or its agencies.

Ministerial Air Travel

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will list for each year since 1997 the number of miles flown by each Minister on official departmental business. [181862]

Phil Hope: The information requested could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

However, since 1999 the Government have published an annual list of all visits overseas undertaken by Cabinet Ministers costing £500 or more during each financial year. The Government has also published on an annual basis the cost of all Ministers' visits overseas. Copies of the lists are available in the Libraries of the House. These report information reaching back to 1995–96. Information for 2003–04 is currently being assembled and will be published shortly. All ministerial travel is undertaken in accordance with the rules set out in the Ministerial Code and Travel by Ministers, copies of which are available in the Libraries of the House

Pay Systems

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will place in the Library the most recent review of (a) his Department's pay systems, (b) the pay systems of the non-departmental public bodies for which he is responsible and (c) the departmental equal pay action plan. [181352]

Phil Hope: The information is as follows.

Postal Voting

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the total change in costs will be of conducting all-postal pilots at the elections in June, broken down by main budget heading. [176248]

Mr. Raynsford: Firm data about these costs, including a breakdown by main heading, is not available. One of the aims of this year's pilot elections is to understand in greater depth the precise costs of running all-postal elections. The claims submitted to the
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Elections Claims Unit by returning officers will be invaluable in providing this data. Our provisional estimate of the additional cost of conducting the all postal pilots is of the order of £10 million.

Regional Affairs

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to allow the people of Herefordshire to decide the region that they wish to belong to. [183020]

Mr. Raynsford: There are no plans to review regional boundaries.

Speculative Land Plots

Charles Hendry: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many cases involving speculative land plots have been disposed of by courts in the last 12 months for which figures are available. [183947]

Keith Hill: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has no information on this.

Urban Sprawl

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Green Belt in preventing urban sprawl since 1997. [183462]

Keith Hill: No formal assessment has been made, but the latest published figures from Land Use Change Statistics show that between 1997 and 2000 an average of only 0.06 per cent. of the total Green Belt area changed from undeveloped to developed use each year. This suggests that the application of Green Belt policy continues to be effective in preventing urban sprawl.


Community Legal Services Partnership (Newcastle)

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs what debt, money and welfare benefits advice is provided by the Community Legal Services Partnership in the City of Newcastle; and what change there has been in these resources in the last three years. [183653]

Mr. Lammy: Individual providers within each Community Legal Service Partnership (CLSP) are responsible for delivering local advice services. In the area covered by the Newcastle CLSP, the Legal Services Commission has contracted with four solicitor firms and three Not for Profit organisations to provide legal and advice services in debt and welfare benefits.

The four solicitor firms have authority to start 40 debt and 386 welfare benefit cases. The three Not for Profit organisations are authorised to undertake 1,100 casework hours in respect of debt, and 2,200 hours in respect of welfare benefits.

While the number of matter starts and casework hours have not changed from 2003–04, this follows on from a substantial increase from 2002–03, when
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solicitors in Newcastle were only allocated 232 case starts in welfare benefits and debt, and when there was no contracted provision through any Not for Profit organisation in either of these two categories.

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