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22 Feb 2005 : Column 577W—continued

Fire Service

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what his Department's estimate is of the total procurement cost for the proposed eight new English regional fire control rooms. [216615]

Mr. Raynsford: The current estimate of the procurement cost for the proposed eight new regional control centres for fire and rescue services in England is £5.8 million, up to the time of award of contracts for control centre accommodation and infrastructure services. This includes the involvement of civil servants, secondees from the fire and rescue service, consultants and advisers such as lawyers and property experts in procurement activities, including the development of specifications and tenders. The chosen developers will make a contribution towards the design and other work carried out on their behalf by the project team.

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what his Department's budget is for each of the next three financial years for providing financial assistance to fire and rescue authorities to enable them to maintain in operation communications and other mobilisation equipment that would otherwise be regarded as obsolete pending the introduction of the new Fire Control and FireLink systems in 2007–08. [216617]

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Mr. Raynsford: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has already undertaken a programme of work to replace higher risk items of the brigades' existing wide area radio systems, thereby ensuring that they continue to be operationally effective until they can be replaced by the national wide area radio system, Firelink. This will amount to up to £9 million by the end of financial year 2004–05. Funding for the next three financial years will be finalised following further risk assessments and dialogue with fire and rescue authorities about priorities.

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make an estimate of the expected net changes in costs to fire authorities in England and Wales as a resultof the implementation of the integrated risk management plans (a) approved by him last year and (b) submitted to him for approval this year. [216619]

Mr. Raynsford: Under Integrated Risk Management Planning (IRMP) it is for each Fire and Rescue Authority to carry out a full risk assessment of its area and decide on the appropriate levels of provision and response times. Any cost savings will reflect those decisions. I am, however, satisfied that Fire and Rescue Authorities are making good progress in realising savings through IRMP. I have been assured by the Local Government Association and the Fire and Rescue Authorities that sufficient efficiencies will be delivered for 2006–07 to repay the £30 million transitional funding. For that reason the Government have agreed to defer recouping the £30 million until 2006–07.

Parliamentary Boundaries

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister pursuant to the answer of 7 February 2005, Official Report, column 1294W, on parliamentary boundaries, on what date he intends to lay the Order implementing the changes. [216653]

Mr. Raynsford: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is currently arranging the printing of the report together with a draft Order and will lay them before Parliament as soon as may be.


Mr. Laws: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the total expenditure by his Department on (a) advertising and (b) advertising and publicity was in (i) 1996–97, (ii) 1997–98 and (iii) 2003–04; and what the estimated cost of each will be in (A) 2004–05, (B)2005–06, (C) 2006–07 and (D) 2007–08. [211559]

Yvette Cooper: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister was created on 29 May 2002. In the financial year 2003–04 the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister spent £3.4 million on centrally procured advertising and £10.7 million on advertising and publicity. The estimated cost for 2004–05 for advertising is £4.9 million and £12.6 million for advertising and publicity. The largest part of this has been for fire safety advertising campaigns.

Budgets for 2005–06 and beyond have yet to be estimated.
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Renewable Energy (Business Rates)

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what representations he has received, and when, regarding the impact of changes to the calculation of business rates on the renewable energy sector; and if he will make a statement. [216668]

Mr. Raynsford: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister received representations on this issue from the Friends of the Earth and the World Wildlife Fund in December 2004 and from the Renewable Power Association in February 2005.

Rent Harmonisation

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will estimate the additional rent revenue forgone as a result of the decision to postpone rent harmonisation measures between council and housing association tenants until the end of 2005. [216610]

Keith Hill: No decisions have yet been made on the implementation of the proposals arising from the three-year review of rent restructuring. However, had we implemented the measures as consulted upon, the additional rent raised by councils in England during 2005–06 would have been approximately £70 million.

Telecommunications Masts

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1)what the grounds are on which a planning inspector may refuse permission for a telephone mast; [216556]

(2) under what criteria a planning application for a telephone mast can be refused. [216885]

Yvette Cooper: Planning applications 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.

Material considerations in planning decisions must be genuine planning considerations, i.e. they must be related to the purpose of planning legislation, which is to regulate the development and use of land in the public interest. The considerations must also fairly and reasonably relate to the application concerned. Whether a particular consideration is material in any given case will depend on the circumstances. The courts are the arbiters of what constitutes a material consideration.

The courts have also held that the Government's statements of planning policy are material considerations which must be taken into account, where relevant, in decisions on planning applications.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether he is able to call in a planning consent where the reasons for refusal of a planning application for a telephone mast have been contravened. [216886]

Yvette Cooper: The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 contains powers to enable a local planning authority to refuse to accept a repeat application where it has refused a substantially similar application and there has been no appeal against refusal
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to the Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister. These will be brought into effect by a Commencement Order within the next few months.

These provisions are designed to give local authorities discretionary powers to prevent developers submitting repetitive applications for undesirable projects in an attempt to wear down resistance. Local planning authorities should consider repeat planning applications where they are satisfied that a genuine attempt has been made to overcome the planning objections which led to rejection of the proposal on appeal.



Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the (a) projects and (b) measures in progress (i) to end the production of opium and (ii) to substitute the production of opium with a sustainable agricultural sector in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. [216707]

Mr. Rammell: The UK, as lead nation, is committed to supporting the Afghan Government in the implementation of their comprehensive National Drug Control Strategy and, in particular, the 1384 (2005) Counter Narcotics Implementation Plan. President Karzai launched the plan during the visit of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to Kabul on 16 February. The eight pillars of the plan include the development of the criminal justice system, the creation of alternative livelihoods for farmers and strengthening interdiction and law enforcement measures. The UK and its international partners are supporting many projects across all of these strands. It is too early to make an assessment of cultivation in 2005 but due to a number of factors there may be reduced planting this year.

I also refer the hon. Member to the written statement I made on Afghanistan: Counter Narcotics on 29 November 2004, Official Report, columns 17–18WS; I hope to make a further statement shortly.

Since then, we have increased our efforts on alternative livelihoods for poppy growers to $50 million this year, bringing to $100 million the amount the UK is spending this year on counter narcotics activity in Afghanistan.

The creation of alternative livelihood opportunities and an effective agricultural sector is crucial both forcounter narcotics efforts and for Afghanistan's longer-term development. An estimated 80 per cent. of the country's labour force are employed in the agricultural sector, though individuals' livelihoods strategies are often complex and may involve a number of different types of income generating activity. Action to develop licit alternative rural livelihoods must take place on many levels and include both long-term development and short-term measures.
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However, rural development assistance is provided to all provinces across Afghanistan through national programmes managed by the Ministry for Reconstruction and Rural Development (MRRD), funded from the national development budget (and, soon, the new Counter Narcotics Trust Fund) and supported by the international community. Each programme focuses on redeveloping the infrastructure and underlying conditions necessary for growth, the development of an effective agricultural sector and viable licit alternatives to poppy cultivation.

Short-term seed delivery programmes are being implemented by donors, such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation. The World Bank recently committed US$75 million for quick disbursing activities on alternative livelihoods and is currently developing an accelerated integrated rural development programme.

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