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Sarah Teather: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether any (a) vacant and (b) surplus public sector-owned site being reviewed by English Partnerships is (i)in and (ii) in close proximity to a (A) conservation area and (B) site of special scientific interest. 
Yvette Cooper: English Partnerships' review of the sites on the register of surplus public sector land will help to confirm whether any are in or close to conservation areas and sites of special scientific interest. The principle source of information for English Partnerships' review will be the local plans covering the areas in which the sites are located.
Yvette Cooper: English Partnerships is undertaking a review of sites on the register of surplus public sector land they maintain on behalf of Government. As at March 2005 there were 713 sites on the register. Sites are continually being added to the Register as they are identified as surplus by landowners in central government and removed once they receive expressions of interests after a site has been marketed. A list of the sites, as at March 2005, can be found on the English Partnerships website at: http://www.englishpartnerships.co.uk/images/16EE954C904340DDAB44702EF5D2ADE6.pdf English Partnerships will publish a quarterly update of sites on the Register.
Keith Vaz: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what arrangements are in place to ensure that bodies within the responsibility of his Office comply with the requirements of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. 
Jim Fitzpatrick: It is the responsibility of each public authority (which include Government Departments, local authorities, executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies) to ensure that it is acting in compliance with its duties on race relations.
We published the draft 200508 race equality scheme for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) on 31 May 2005 for consultation. The draft scheme covers all policies and functions across the ODPM and its three executive agencies, as well as the employment practices of the nine regional Government offices and their delivery of ODPM's policies. The draft scheme identifies clear aims and outcomes for each work area, which will
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be reviewed and updated every twelve months. The actions set out are vital in assisting us to develop and deliver policies and operations effective in a multi-ethnic society.
Jim Fitzpatrick: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister was formed in May 2002. The Office holds no information prior to 2002. Departmental records taken from the SAP reporting system show expenditure attributed to consultancy and its percentage of the total spend on regeneration. There is no recorded expenditure for legal fees. Details of available spend information are as follows:
|Total expenditure (£)||3,188,140,060||4,016,727,454||3,852,655,244|
Yvette Cooper: In English local authorities, current tenants' cumulative arrears of rent at the end of 200304, excluding arrears of council tax, water rates and heating and service charges, was £277 million. The corresponding amount for former tenants was £205 million, giving a total of £482 million.
Tim Farron: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether his Department plans to amend the cap on the discounts tenants in council housing wanting to purchase their own property are eligible to receive. 
Yvette Cooper: There are no current plans to amend the cap on discounts for tenants in council housing wanting to purchase 100 per cent. of the home they live in. However, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is consulting on a series of options for tenants wishing to purchase a share of their home under Social Homebuy.
Tim Farron: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make it his policy to make changes to planning law to ensure that an application for change of category of use of a residential dwelling must be made before a property can be purchased for the purpose of using it as a second home. 
Yvette Cooper: In its manifesto, the Government made a commitment to set up a housing commission to explore mechanisms that would increase access to affordable housing for people who live and work in rural areas. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are currently scoping the terms of reference for the commission and an announcement will be made shortly. It is anticipated that the commission will consider whether there is any case for government intervention, through planning control or otherwise, on second homes.
Tim Farron: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment his Department has made of the impact on (a) affordability and (b) availability of homes for local people of high levels of second home ownership. 
Yvette Cooper: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister recognises the concerns that are felt, particularly in rural communities, about the impact of second home ownership on the affordability and availability of homes for local people. We have accordingly taken a number of steps to alleviate housing pressures in areas with high levels of second home ownership. In particular, we have reduced the council tax discount for second homes, and have made changes to planning policy to enable local authorities to allocate sites solely for affordable housing for local people in perpetuity, alongside a continuing rural exception approach.
Sarah Teather: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the average number of days' sickness absence taken by staff in (a) all local authorities and (b) each local authority was in each year since 1997. 
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister does not hold information on local authority sickness absence prior to the introduction of Best Value Performance Indicators (BVPIs) from April 2000. Since then, local authorities have reported their performance against BV12 Working days lost due to sickness absence". The average number of days' sickness absence
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as reported against BV12 in all authorities and each county and district authority each year since 200001 has been made available in the Library of the House.
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