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27 Oct 2005 : Column 486W—continued


Mr. Laws: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the effective rate of employer contributions is to final salary pension schemes in the public sector for firefighters. [21587]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Firefighters' Pension Scheme is an unfunded scheme; accordingly there is no employers' contribution and pensions are paid from revenue. The current estimated cost of the scheme is 37.5 per cent. of pensionable pay and members pay a contribution of 11 per cent.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister pursuant to the answer of 10 October 2005, Official Report, column 396W, on local government pensions, if he will publish the figures available for each of the separate pension fund authorities in England. [19707]

Mr. Woolas: Local government pension funds in England and Wales have advised that the total cost to all scheme employers of reinstating the rule of 85 in the scheme, with effect from 1 April 2005, is £435 million for 2005–06. Details of individual pension fund costs are available on the LGPS website at:

Regional Spatial Strategy

Mr. Bone: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will take steps to ensure that the necessary infrastructure is in place to support the Milton Keynes and South Midlands regional spatial strategy. [19638]

Yvette Cooper: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has already taken significant steps to ensure that appropriate infrastructure is being put in place to develop sustainable communities outlined in the Milton Keynes and South Midlands sub regional strategy March 2005 (MKSM SRS). The MKSM SRS provides strategic guidance on the scale, location and timing of
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development and associated employment, transport and other key infrastructure over the next twenty years ensuring that growth is undertaken in a planned and sustainable manner.

The MKSM Inter-regional Board established in February 2004 , which I chaired on the 4 October ensures that all agencies deliver investment and policy commitment to meet the objectives in the strategy. The board is made up of some 30 organisations, including key strategic public and private sector partners.

Through the growth areas fund, in the period 2003–08 we are making up to £364 million available for the newer growth areas, including up to £230 million for the MKSM area. This funding will support a range of projects which will unlock development sites and ensure that new and expanding communities have the facilities that they need.

All four growth areas will benefit from the creation of a new community infrastructure fund (CIF), which will be held within the Department for Transport's budget. This Fund will provide an extra £200 million for transport infrastructure in the growth areas over the SR04 period. The MKSM area will receive around £111 million from the fund.

Mainstream funding from other departments has also been increased to reflect growth within the sub region.

Finally local delivery vehicles have been established in the region to drive and coordinate the growth of the area using land assembly, investment and planning roles to create confidence and stimulate private investment.


Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how much funding he plans to provide to the Home Office's unit dealing with respect issues; and if he will make a statement. [20458]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is making a substantial contribution to the respect agenda. A number of our programmes are supporting the work of the respect unit, notably the examples as follows.



Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much was made available by his Department for research into effective treatment of lupus in each of the past five years; and if he will increase future funding levels. [22344]

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Mr. Woodward: The HPSS research and development office has not funded research into the treatment of Lupus in the last five years.

The HPSS research and development office will make decisions on future funding for research into this condition on receipt of applications made by research departments in universities and hospitals in line with priorities set within the HPSS research and development strategy and available resources. In common with other NHS R&D strategies, the HPSS R&D strategy is neither disease specific nor disease driven.

Tax Credits (Helpline)

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps have been taken to improve the public telephone helpline of the regional Inland Revenue office for tax credit inquiries from Northern Ireland. [17126]

Dawn Primarolo: I have been asked to reply.

We are currently planning to link the Northern Ireland tax credits helpline to the main HMRC contact centre network. This will increase the pool of people available to deal with calls, hence improving the service of the Northern Ireland tax credits helpline.


Prosecutor's Pledge

22. Mr. Khabra: To ask the Solicitor-General what steps the Crown Prosecution Service plans to take to help victims as part of the prosecutor's pledge. [22034]

The Solicitor-General: Under the prosecutors pledge, the CPS will protect the interests of victims from charging to any possible appeal in a number of ways. An assessment will be made of the needs of a victim, for example, perhaps to be a witness in a trial they might need transport, child care or an interpreter. This may be provided. Victims can be protected from unwarranted character attacks during a trial or plea in litigation. This is the first time the level of service to victims by the CPS has been set out in one document and published.

Non-stranger Rape

26. Judy Mallaber: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will investigate what further steps can be taken to improve the conviction rate in prosecutions for non-stranger rape. [22039]

The Solicitor-General: It is difficult to secure convictions in non-stranger rape cases. Very often there are no independent witnesses and frequently no forensic evidence.

I am working closely with the CPS to look at a variety of ways in which more can be done to build stronger cases and assist victims to give better evidence. This will improve conviction rates.

In particular, I am interested in seeing experts give evidence concerning the psychological impact of rape on victims. This would better inform juries by addressing some of the myths that persist around rape.
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Crown Prosecution Service

Ms Keeble: To ask the Solicitor-General what steps he is taking to speed up decision-making in the Crown Prosecution Service. [22038]

The Solicitor-General: The decision to prosecute is made on a case by case basis and is only taken following a thorough review of the available evidence by a Crown prosecutor, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.

Every effort is made to make these decisions within a reasonable time period. However, due to the complexity of some cases, some decisions may take longer.

European Convention on Human Rights

Simon Hughes: To ask the Solicitor-General what advice the Department has provided on the compatibility of extended detention without charge with the European Convention on Human Rights. [22040]

The Solicitor-General: We do not disclose outside Government the content of law officer advice nor whether or not such advice exists. This is in line with the practice of successive Governments.

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