Previous Section Index Home Page

7 Sept 2004 : Column 1165W—continued

Fire and Rescue Service

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the operational efficiency of regional boundaries in relation to the re-organisation of local fire and rescue services. [186613]

Mr. Raynsford: The policy statement accompanying the draft Regional Assemblies Bill published in July 2004 confirmed that where voters choose to have an Elected Regional Assembly there will be a Regional Fire and Rescue Service. A referendum will take place in the North East on 4 November. Other than in regions where referendums are held, the Government have no plans to re-organise local fire and rescue services, which continue to be the responsibility of local Fire and Rescue Authorities.

All local Fire and Rescue Authorities are, however, expected to work together through Regional Management Boards to deliver the functions which are most efficiently and effectively performed at a regional level. These range from secure Regional Control Centres responding to the new dimension of environmental disaster and terrorist threat to purchasing consortia to secure better value for money for the taxpayer.

No new assessment has been conducted of the Government Office regional boundaries, but they are the basis on which a wide range of government activities are organised, including contingency planning to deal with civil emergencies.

Mr. Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the basis was for the decision that a single regional fire control room should be created to cover the South West region; what assessment he has made of the operational advantages of such a reorganisation; and what assessment he has made of the impact on the number of deaths as a result of fire. [186698]

Mr. Raynsford: The Government accept the conclusions of the Mott MacDonald report on the "Future of Fire and Rescue Service Control Rooms in England and Wales", published in December 2003. The report concluded that the optimum solution to secure efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of fire and rescue service control rooms would be nine control rooms in England, matched to the areas of the Government Offices for the Regions. Copies of the report are in the Library of the House.

The Government's conclusions about the benefits of a regional approach are set out in the White Paper "Our Fire and Rescue Service" (Cm 5808), and are informed by on a number of reviews of the service, culminating in
7 Sept 2004 : Column 1166W
the report of the Independent Review of the Fire Service published in December 2002. These reports are listed in the White Paper.

Mr. Clapham: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what advice he has sought from (a) the Practitioners Forum and (b) the Business and Community Safety Forum on plans for a national procurement strategy for the Fire and Rescue Service; what details of his reform proposals each forum has seen; and what recommendations they have made to him. [186967]

Mr. Raynsford: The Practitioners Forum has had a presentation on the National Procurement Strategy. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister expects to make copies of the strategy available to the Business Community Safety Forum shortly. The Strategy will be launched at the Fire Conference in September; formal consultation will take place shortly after its publication. Both groups will be consulted at that stage as part of the wider consultation. We will consider all comments before the publication of the final draft.

Mr. Clapham: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he plans to remove the constraints imposed on major procurement to the Fire and Rescue Service in November 2003. [186968]

Mr. Raynsford: Fire Service Circular (11/2004) gave advice to Fire and Rescue Authorities on the arrangements that fire and rescue authorities should adopt before entering into new contracts for major operational equipment. However, the period initially specified may have had the effect of making it impractical to run a tender exercise. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will therefore shortly be issuing guidance setting out revised milestones which will enable authorities to enter into more viable arrangements and create a natural progression to the proposed national arrangements. Where an Authority requires further clarification of whether a proposed contract will conflict with the National Procurement Strategy, they should not hesitate to contact the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, as two authorities have already done.

Mr. Clapham: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) what conclusions he has drawn on the effect that a national procurement plan for the Fire and Rescue Service will have on competition in the industries concerned; [186970]

(2) what assessment he has made of the impact that plans to reform guidelines for procurement to the Fire and Rescue Service will have on the supply sector's (a) small and medium-sized enterprises, (b) levels of employment, (c) research and development capability and (d) exports. [186969]

7 Sept 2004 : Column 1167W

Mr. Raynsford: Officials in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister are preparing a Regulatory Impact Assessment on the draft National Procurement Strategy. This Assessment, which will be issued shortly as part of the consultation document on the draft National Procurement Strategy, will include a competition assessment which will look at the impact for UK customers. It will analyse the impact of the proposed regulation in the relevant markets and on importers into the UK. We will carefully consider any comments arising from this consultation exercise. Officials have recently held very constructive meetings with representatives of the Federation of British Fire Organisations (FOBFO) and the Fire Fighting Vehicles Manufacturers Association (FFVMA). Lead officials will also be participating in the procurement workshop lead by FOBFO at the Fire Conference in September.

Home Buyers

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what proportion of home buyers were first-time buyers in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. [187326]

Keith Hill: The percentage of house purchases made by first time buyers in the United Kingdomin each year since 1997 is estimated to have been as follows:
Percentage of house purchases made by first time buyers

1. The CML figures are based on mortgage completions supplied through the Survey of Mortgage Lenders.
2. The figures exclude cash purchases and also exclude mortgage purchases where the type of buyer was not stated.
3. In the context of the Survey of Mortgage Lenders, the term "first-time buyer" refers to those buyers who were not homeowners immediately prior to this purchase. But they might have been homeowners at an earlier stage in their lives. For example someone who, after a period of home ownership, sold up, moved into rented accommodation and is now returning to home ownership—as a "first-time buyer".
Council of Mortgage Lenders


Ms Keeble: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what research his Department is conducting into homeless families. [186310]

Phil Hope: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister currently has four externally commissioned research projects on different aspects of homelessness, which include consideration of homeless families.

1. A nationally representative survey of homeless families will collect data on the characteristics of homeless families and on the reasons for their homelessness. It will also assess the impact of homelessness and living in different types of temporary accommodation on the health and education of children, and collect
7 Sept 2004 : Column 1168W
information on the additional costs faced by families as a result of their homelessness. Findings from the survey will help to inform future policy on homelessness and the use of temporary accommodation. Planning for this major survey has been informed by a successful feasibility study, which reported this summer. This study will complement quarterly statistical data collected on households accepted as statutory homeless by local authorities.

2. Research about the causes of homelessness among black and minority ethnic communities. People from BME groups are disproportionately represented in statutory homelessness statistics. A development guide to assist local authorities and other agencies to address the needs of homeless black and minority ethnic households is expected to be published by the end of this year.

3. A study to evaluate the effectiveness of a range of homelessness prevention initiatives, including family mediation services, help for victims of domestic violence to remain safely in their own homes, and homelessness advice services. This research has recently been commissioned, and will produce good practice guidance for local authorities and service providers, to be published early in 2005.

4. A survey of households receiving Supporting People legacy funded services. This survey was commissioned to measure satisfaction with housing related support services provided by the Supporting People programme. The survey included interviews with 351 families receiving Supporting People funded services for homeless families. The survey reported on their support needs, the help and services that they receive, and on the problems they had experienced. It is due to be published in the autumn of 2004.

Next Section Index Home Page