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21 Oct 2005 : Column 1237W—continued

Beacon Council Status

Mr. Hands: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister under what circumstances beacon council status for improving urban spaces would be revoked. [18616]

Mr. Woolas: Beacon status for improving urban green spaces was awarded to seven councils in 2002. Those councils have completed their period of beacon dissemination and many others have learned from their good practice. I am aware of no circumstances under which their 2002–03 beacon status should now be reconsidered.

Council Housing

Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the progress of his plans to give local authorities the ability to resume building homes. [19841]

Yvette Cooper: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) on 13 June 2005, Official Report, column 118W.

Council Tax

Mr. Byers: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will extend the disabled persons council tax reduction to those who suffer from profound deafness. [20375]

Mr. Woolas: The Disabled Band Reduction (DBR) scheme is specifically designed to ensure that people with disabilities do not pay more council tax because they live in a bigger property than they would otherwise need if it were not for their disability. The scheme does not aim to provide a general discount for those with disabilities irrespective of their accommodation need and we do not have plans to extend it.

Departmental Underspending

Helen Goodman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what his Department's underspend was in 2004–05 (a) in cash terms and (b) as a percentage of departmental budget. [19247]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The requested budget and expenditure information for both the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's (ODPM) main programmes Departmental Expenditure Limit (DEL) and local government programmes DEL is set out in the table.
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Main programmes DELLocal government DEL
Final DEL (£000)9,478,28443,788,635
Final Outturn (£000)8,984,83743,573,309
(a) underspend (£000)-493,447-215,326
(b) underspend as a percentage of budget-5.21-0.5

Underspends are denoted by a minus figure.

Figures for (a) and (b) are final outturn figures as reconciled with the published ODPM Resource Accounts for 2004–05.

Emergency Vehicles (Response Times)

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment his Department has made of the impact of the WarnTone system on response times for emergency vehicles. [16854]

Jim Fitzpatrick: No impact assessment has been made.

Fire Control Centres

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether functions carried out by local fire control centres will not be carried out by the South East Regional Fire Control Centre; and if he will make a statement. [18573]

Jim Fitzpatrick: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 14 October 2005, Official Report, column 609W.

FRS National Framework

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister for what reasons the Government's response to consultation on draft FRS National Framework 2004–05 ruled out extending insurance cover for firefighters. [17397]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Government do not provide insurance cover for firefighters. Any personal insurance is a matter of personal choice and should be seen in the context of the compensation scheme for firefighters. Firefighter pay, pension and injury arrangements reflect the nature of the job and the risks that may be incurred. The death in service benefits for firefighters are more generous than those available to any other public sector service worker.

Local Policies

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what steps he is taking to promote (a) local sustainability, (b) the protection of local environments, (c) local services and facilities, (d) local economies and (e) the local democratic process; and if he will make a statement. [20292]

Mr. Woolas: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's aim is to build sustainable communities. As such, promoting local sustainability, the protection of local environments, local services and facilities, local economies and the local democratic process is at the heart of our agenda. All our departmental PSAs contribute in some way to these outcomes.
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I would draw the hon. Member's attention to the Department's two five year plans, "Sustainable Communities: Homes for All" (Cm 6424) and "Sustainable Communities: People, Places and Prosperity" (Cm 6425). Both are available on the Department's website and in the Library of the House. Together these documents set out the Department's approach to creating sustainable communities, and describe some of the steps already taken to build them.

M42 Service Area

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the material changes were which led to the decision to re-open the public inquiry into a motorway service area between junction 3a and junction 6 of the M42, Solihull, West Midlands. [18781]

Yvette Cooper: A letter informing the relevant parties of my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister, the First Secretary of State's decision to re-open the public inquiry into the proposed motorway service area (MSA) was issued on 6 September. That letter, together with an earlier letter of 21 October 2004, sets out those matters which my right hon. Friend particularly wishes to be informed of in the light of material changes in circumstances since the original public inquiry.

Since my right hon. Friend's interim decision letter of 6 March 2001, the White Paper "The Future of Air Transport" was published on 16 December 2003; Regional Planning Guidance (now the Regional Spatial Strategy) for the West Midlands was published on 15 June 2004; the Review of the Solihull Unitary Development Plan has continued to progress; Planning Policy Statement 6: Planning for Town Centres was published on 21 March 2005; and revised proposals for the re-use of Walford Hall Farmhouse have been put forward.

In view of the significant amount of time which has elapsed since the original inquiry closed in June 2000, my right hon. Friend took the view that it would not be safe to proceed to decision on the appeal without a new inquiry being asked to consider these and any other material changes in circumstances since 2000.

Media Relations

Mr. Salmond: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how much the Department has spent on external media relations in each month of the last year. [14674]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Over the financial year 2004–05 the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has spent £160,320 (£13,360 per month) on external media relations (defined as the employment of external agencies to carry out media relations for or on behalf of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister). All this spend has been through the Central Office of Information (COI) to help promote fire safety in the home.

Ministerial Travel

Norman Baker: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many air miles were accrued through departmental ministerial travel in his Department in 2004–05, broken down by Minister; how many were (a) foregone and
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(b) donated to charity, broken down by charity; and whether air miles accrued by officials were required to be (i) foregone and (ii) given to charity. [17321]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The information requested is not readily available and could not be provided without incurring disproportionate cost.

Ministerial travel is conducted in accordance with the Ministerial Code and Travel by Ministers. Guidance for Ministers on the use of Air Miles is set out in the Ministerial Code. The guidance makes clear that Air Miles should be used only for official purposes or else foregone. However, if it is impracticable to use the benefits for Government travel, there is no objection to Ministers donating them to charity if this is permissible under the terms of the airline's scheme and the charity is one chosen by the airline.

Similar rules are in place for officials.

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