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Mr. Bill O'Brien: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment has been made of the financial effects of changes to the retirement ages of members of the Local Government Pension Scheme; and if he will make a statement. 
Phil Hope: Amendments to the Local Government Pension Scheme Regulations 1997, designed to mitigate employers' future costs by approximately £200 million per year from 200506, are programmed to come into force on 1 April 2005.
Mr. Damian Green: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to provide protectors under planning procedures for (a) special landscape areas and (b) areas of outstanding natural beauty with regard to the erectors of new mobile phone masts; and if he will make a statement. 
Keith Hill: Current planning guidance on electronic communications is set out in Planning Policy Guidance Note 8 (revised) (PPG8). The general policy is to facilitate the growth of electronic communications systems while protecting the environment. This includes national policies for the protection of the countryside and residential areas, in particular our National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, conservation areas and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. The installation of any communications mast in such areas, is subject to a full planning application. Any such application will be decided by the local planning authority (or the Secretary of State, my right. hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister on appeal) in the light of development plan policies and any other material considerations, including any relevant representations either for or against the proposal.
Mr. Chope: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the current average waiting time is between the making of a planning appeal and the announcement of the outcome; what action is being taken to reduce waiting times; and what sanction is being applied to the Planning Inspectorate for failure to meet its targets. 
The current average waiting time, for planning appeals determined in October, was 30 weeks; for appeals submitted in October the appellants can expect to receive a decision in about 52 weeks.
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To help reduce waiting times the government has allocated additional resources to the Planning Inspectorate. The Inspectorate's Chief Executive has set up a task force to tackle the backlog of appeals, to help improve productivity and to find ways of reducing the demands that are made for the Inspectorate's services.
Rather than sanctions for failing to meet targets, the Inspectorate, and its Chief Executive, are to be congratulated on the way they have managed to deal with the recent growth in the number of appeals. In the period to 31 October 2004 receipts were 21 per cent. more than in the same period last year (i.e. to 31 October 2003). Receipts in the period to 31 October 2003 were themselves 10 per cent. more than in the period to 31 October 2002.
Mr. Chope: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate he has made of the financial effects on (a) business and (b) UK competitiveness of delays in processing planning appeals and planning inquiries. 
Keith Hill: The Government recognise that delays in planning decisions add to costs for all parties. It is committed to addressing the delays in processing planning appeals which have resulted from the sharp rise in the numbers of appeals received over the last two years. There has been no detailed estimate made of the economic cost caused by such delays.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will include the decibel level of amplified calls to prayer as a criterion under planning regulations; and if he will make a statement. 
Keith Hill: Planning Policy Guidance Note 24 on Planning and Noise outlines the considerations to be taken into account in determining planning applications for development which will either generate or be exposed to existing noise sources. The guidance states that noise impacts can be a material consideration in the determination of planning applications.
A local planning authority may impose planning conditions which could specify a limit of new noise sources. The guidance does not set noise limits for any particular type of development and there are no plans to specify the decibel level of amplified calls to prayer in planning guidance.
Of course, such conditions can only be imposed on new developments. Complaints about noise from pre-existing sources would have to be dealt with by a local authority under the regulations for statutory noise nuisance. These regulations are the responsibility of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will list the research projects commissioned by his Department since June 2001; who was commissioned to undertake each project; and what the total cost of each project was. 
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister was created in May 2002. Since then, the majority of the information requested is available on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's Research Management
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Database. This can be accessed via the public interface on the internet at: www.rmd.odpm.gov.uk/programmes.asp
Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) if he will list the attributable interviews that his Department's special advisers gave to (a) newspapers, (b) journals, (c) books and (d) other media in their official capacity between 31 March 2003 and 31 March 2004; 
(2) if he will list the attributable (a) articles and (b) contributions that his Office's special advisers made to (i) newspapers, (ii) journals, (iii) books and (iv) other media in their official capacity between 31 March 2003 and 31 March 2004. 
Charles Hendry: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the (a) cost to the Department, (b) title and (c) location was of each training course organised by his Department for its staff in each financial year since 199798. 
Charles Hendry: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what financial penalties were paid in each financial year since 199798 to training providers by the Department for training courses prepared for its staff but which were subsequently cancelled at the Department's request. 
Phil Hope: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister was established on 29 May 2002. To date no project commissioned by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister via the training framework has been withdrawn and no penalty has been incurred.
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