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Prince of Wales (United States Visit)

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proportion of the estimated costs of the Prince of Wales's next visit to the United States is expected to be met from public funds, other than those provided for in the civil list; and if he will make a statement. [22779]

Mr. Straw [holding answer 28 October 2005]: Travel costs, including reconnaissance costs, are expected to amount to around £330,000 and will be met from the Royal Households Official Travel Grant-in-Aid. Approximately 40 per cent. of the other costs are expected to be met by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office from public funds, with the balance of 60 per cent. being met by charitable organisations related to The Prince of Wales, or by The Prince of Wales personally.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Sir Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which Minister plans to attend the launch of the Pilot Project Study on Weapons of Mass Destruction produced by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute to be held in the European Parliament on 8 December. [21231]

Mr. Straw: We are considering who should attend for the Government.


Residential Housing

Kate Hoey: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners how many residential housing units, excluding those used by the clergy for homes, the Commissioners own, broken down by (a) area and (b) estate; how many were owned in 2002; and how many are not let on fair rent tenancies. [22213]

Sir Stuart Bell: At the end of 2004 the Commissioners owned 4,244 residential units comprising 1,809 units on the Hyde Park Estate, 845 residential units within the rural portfolio, 1,590 units in the Octavia Hill Estates, and other residential holdings.

The rural properties are spread throughout England and the Commissioners' 46 estates. The Hyde Park Estate units are all in central London. The current number of units on the Octavia Hill Estates, all located in London is: Vauxhall (230), Walworth (618),
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Waterloo (159), Winchester Park (93), Pimlico (32). The other residential holdings, located predominantly in London and the South East, account for a further 130 units. The Commissioners also own a small number of residential units in their Bishoprics portfolio, which are ancillary to the See Houses and are directly let.

In 2002 the Commissioners owned 4,551 residential units.

At the end of 2004, 82.4 per cent. of the Commissioners' residential units were not fair-rented tenancies.

Kate Hoey: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners how many residential housing units the Commissioners have sold in the last five years; and how many units are being offered for sale, broken down by location. [22214]

Sir Stuart Bell: The Commissioners completed the sale of 460 units on the Octavia Hill estates earlier this year: 135 in Waterloo (north of The Cut), 236 in Maida Vale and 89 in Stoke Newington. 238 units have been sold on the Hyde Park estate over the last five years.

A further 72 residential properties have been sold from the rural portfolio since the beginning of 2001, and 16 are currently either being marketed or are under-offer.


Automated Signing Machines

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether (a) he or (b) any other Minister in his Department uses (i) an automated signing machine and (ii) a stamp for ministerial correspondence purposes. [19860]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Guidance on handling ministerial correspondence is set out in 'Handling Correspondence from Members of Parliament, Members of the House of Lords, MEPs and Members of Devolved Assemblies: Guidance for Departments' copies of which are available in the Libraries of the House.

British Standard 6399/2

Mr. Chope: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will place in the Library the regulatory impact assessment of the proposed British Standard 6399/2 about wind loads. [22876]

Yvette Cooper [holding answer 28 October 2005]: British standards are published by the British Standards Institute which is independent of Government and, therefore, no regulatory impact assessment has been carried out.


Grant Shapps: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister on what census data calculation of the 2006–07 local government formula spending shares will be based. [23512]

Mr. Woolas: Options to use 2001 census data were part of the wider formula grant distribution consultation that concluded on the 10 October 2005.
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Ministers are now considering the options to change the method of formula grant distribution for 2006–07 taking into account representations received.

Decisions will be announced when the provisional settlement is laid in Parliament later this year.

Community Land Trusts

Mr. Drew: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the role of community land trusts and their relationship to rural settlements. [22028]

Yvette Cooper: The Government are always interested in new initiatives, if they can help meet our objectives of delivering affordable housing and engaging communities. This applies equally in urban and rural areas. English Partnerships is assessing the case for a pilot community land trust on public sector land at Cashes Green in his constituency.

Rural settlements face a range of complex issues, including the provision of sufficient affordable housing. The Affordable Rural Housing Commission is currently gathering evidence on many of the housing issues affecting rural settlements. It aims to take a broad look at the issues with an open mind and provide practical solutions, taking account of existing good practice.

Council Tax

Mike Penning: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what representations from pensioner groups he has received in the last 12 months on council tax; and if he will make a statement. [21492]

Mr. Woolas: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has identified eight written representations from groups exclusively representing pensioners on council tax in the last 12 months. Issues raised include the effect of council tax bills on pensioners on low and fixed incomes; council tax benefit; and reform of the local government finance system.

We recognise the concerns expressed in these representations and many other letters from individual pensioners. Sir Michael Lyons is considering such issues in his inquiry into the funding of local government within the context of its wider functions and future role. We look forward to receiving Sir Michael Lyons' recommendations at the end of 2006.

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether the single person's reduction in council tax will apply to the Olympics precept. [22338]

Mr. Woolas: Where a taxpayer qualifies for a single person's discount this is applied to the whole council tax bill.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) whether a Class G exemption applies when a planning restriction prevents occupancy; and if he will make a statement; [22402]

(2) what the current eligibility criteria are for a Class G council tax exemption. [22403]

Mr. Woolas: The Council Tax (Exempt Dwellings) Order 1992 (SI 1992/558) provides, under Class G, that an unoccupied dwelling the occupation of which is prohibited by law, or which is kept unoccupied by
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reason of action taken under powers conferred by or under any Act of Parliament, with a view to prohibiting its occupation or to acquiring it, is an exempt dwelling for the purposes of section 4 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 on a particular day if on that day it falls within that class.

Whether a Class G exemption applies where a planning restriction prevents occupancy has been open to different interpretations. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will therefore consult shortly on a proposed amendment to the Council Tax (Exempt Dwellings) Order which would clarify that dwellings are exempt in these circumstances.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether personal representatives of deceased council tax payers can be penalised for (a) non-completion and (b) non-payment of council tax returns by the deceased in the financial year before the death. [22438]

Mr. Woolas: Regulation 58 of the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations (SI 1992/613) provides that in respect of any outstanding balances of council tax or relevant costs due at the date of death, or of any sum which would, but for the person's death, become payable after the date of death, the executor or administrator of the deceased person's estate will be liable to pay the sum in question to the billing authority, and may deduct out of the assets and effects of the deceased's estate any payments made or to be made.

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