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Mr. Todd: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission what work his Department has undertaken in establishing possible suppliers of technologies to be used to implement the National Identity Register. 
The Identity Cards Programme is currently conducting pre-procurement market sounding in accordance with Office of Government Commerce (OGC) good practice guidance. This process involves assessing the reaction of the market to a proposed requirement and procurement approach. However, no formal procurement can commence until the Identity Cards Bill gains Royal Assent.
Market sounding focuses on suppliers as a whole, rather than the merits of individual suppliers. It includes no element of supplier selection or bid evaluation. There is no commitment of any kind involved on either side or any advantage to be gained by a supplier getting involved.
Should the Identity Cards Bill gain Royal Assent the procurement process, in compliance with EU and UK public procurement regulations, will encourage open competition and seek expressions of interest from the widest possible range of suppliers.
Mr. Todd: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission what criteria will govern the tendering process for suppliers of technology to be used to implement the National Identity Register; and what steps his Department will take to ensure value for money 
The criteria against which tenders will be evaluated can only be published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) notice that formally commences the procurement, in accordance with EU and UK regulations.
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The development of these criteria will be supported by best practice guidance provided by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), which are designed to ensure that the Government will obtain value for money by having the opportunity to examine, fully understand and improve through negotiation either the price or the quality of the proposals from the market for each element of the ID cards scheme.
Mr. Todd: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission what assessment his Department has made of the capacity of potential contractors to deliver the functionality required for the technologies to be used to implement the National Identity Register; and if he will make a statement. 
The Identity Cards Programme is currently in a pre-procurement market sounding phase, examining overall market capacity and capability in accordance with Office of Government Commerce good practice guidance.
This process has prioritised those areas where technology is developing quickly, standards are evolving and there is uncertainty about future trends. The information gathered from these soundings augments technical and commercial knowledge already held by the programme through its use of technology experts and sharing of information with other Government Departments and agencies. Initial assessments have given reassurance that generally there is likely to be sufficient capability and capacity in the market for the technologies required by the scheme.
Work to date has focused on suppliers as a whole, rather than the merits of individual suppliers. It includes no element of supplier selection or bid evaluation. There is no commitment of any kind involved on either side nor any advantage to be gained by a supplier by getting involved in the progress.
Mr. Todd: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission if he will make it his Department's policy to ensure that parliamentary approval is required before the contracts to deliver the technologies used to implement the National Identity Register are agreed. 
The procurement process for the National Identity Register cannot start until the Identity Cards Bill gains Royal Assent. The procurement process will comply with EU and UK public procurement regulations which will encourage open competition. Procurement will commence with the publication of a contract notice in the Official Journal of the EU (OJEU) alerting potential suppliers and asking them to express an interest. We will be assessing the capabilities of individual potential contractors in the initial qualification phase of the
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procurement process following Office of Government Commerce (OGC) good practice guidelines. There will be opportunities through the secondary legislation required to implement elements of the scheme for Parliament to exercise further scrutiny of the operation of the scheme.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many people employed in the civil service will have a compulsory retirement age of 65 under the Government's proposals; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Hutton: 80 per cent. of the civil service below the senior civil service now has the option to remain in work until age 65, while a further 11 per cent. has the option to remain in work on short service concessions. Departments and agencies which retain a retirement age of 60 are expected to continue to re-examine the issue.
Legislation which will come into force in October 2006 will provide for a national default age of 65 after which an employer will not have to justify retiring someone on grounds of age. This will be subject to review after five years. To ensure compliance, the civil service is currently quality proofing its terms and conditions in this area to raise the retirement age of its employees, including the senior civil service, to 65. Those areas of the civil service which consider that they need to maintain a retirement age below 65 will only be able to do so if they can objectively justify this by reference to particular circumstances. It is anticipated, however, that this will be a negligible figure against the total number of permanent civil servants which, at 1 April 2004, was 523,580 (full-time equivalents).
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many letters to his Department from hon. Members in session (a) 200405 and (b) 200506 remain unanswered, broken down by those which are (i) one month old, (ii) two months old, (iii) three months old, (iv) four months old and (v) over six months old. 
The performance of individual Departments on the handling of correspondence from hon. Members and Peers is published on an annual basis. For information relating to performance for 2004, I refer the hon. Member to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the then Minister for the Cabinet Office (Mr. Miliband) on 6 April 2005, Official Report, columns 13740WS.
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what estimate the Valuation Office Agency has made of the number of residential properties in each local authority billing area in Wales that have moved up
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(a) one band, (b) two bands, (c) three bands and (d) four or more bands as a consequence of council tax revaluation in Wales. 
|BandsDown by||Stayed the same||BandsUp by|
|Billing authority||4 or more||3||2||1||1||2||3||4 or more||Total|
|Isle of Anglesey||2||10||87||2,956||18,894||9,011||1,421||289||83||32,753|
|Rhondda Cynon Taff||||11||879||17,596||68,367||14,392||1,245||136||49||102,675|
|Vale of Glamorgan||||3||61||1,677||28,631||20,536||2,857||277||37||54,079|
|Neath Port Talbot||3||5||151||8,092||45,510||7,733||499||69||23||62,085|
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