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9 Nov 2005 : Column 494W—continued



Mr. Holloway: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate he has made of the likely cost of the infrastructure necessary to support the proposed house building programme in the parliamentary constituency of Gravesham; and what percentage of this cost will be met from central funding. [24175]

Yvette Cooper: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) is aware that for such an ambitious programme as the Thames Gateway, infrastructure is needed that will support the new homes and jobs envisaged for these areas.

ODPM is working closely with local partners in better defining and prioritising these costs. A proportion of these will be met by public sector as a means to enabling regeneration of the area, but it is also crucial that private sector contribute the necessary investment to make these areas sustainable.

There has been significant investment in Gravesham to date, some £40 million worth of projects in the area, as part of ODPM's Thames Gateway programme and some £210 million allocated to North Kent. These projects will help support new infrastructure and housing, for example through land remediation of brownfield sites, new greenspace and education provision.

Around £19 million are currently committed to Fastrack public transport system £4 million coming from ODPM and £15 million from DfT, which will run services connecting Gravesend, Dartford Bluewater and Ebbsfleet International Station.

In addition, significant investment has been made from across Government, and examples of this are the Gravesend and North Kent Hospital, and the road widening of the A2 between Bean and Cobham where the DfT has contributed with over £115 million.

Mike Penning: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the impact on (a) road and (b) rail infrastructure of the new housing proposed for the Eastern Region. [26342]

Ms Buck: I have been asked to reply.
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The draft Spatial Strategy for the East of England contains a regional transport strategy. This was developed by the region in consultation with its local authorities. The Examination in Public (EiP) for the draft strategy started on 1 November. It is the work of the EiP panel to hear the evidence and representations before it in order to make recommendations to the Government on the appropriate long-term strategy in the East of England. Once the scale and broad location of developments are known, transport requirements will be subject to refinement.

DfT Rail are finalising a Regional Planning Assessment for rail. This will help identify some of the medium to long-term requirements for the region. This work is in addition to the Route Utilisation Strategy for the region which will be implemented in December. This particular strategy seeks to maximise capacity on the rail network through measures linked with known and anticipated demand.

Local Authority Housing Stock

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether the system of writing off debt for local authorities which agree to large scale voluntary transfers of their housing stock has been approved by the European Union. [22256]

Yvette Cooper: It is the view of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister that the system of writing off debt for local authorities which agree to large scale voluntary transfers of their housing stock is not a notifiable aid under article 87(1) of the EC Treaty, as it does not distort or threaten to distort competition.

Local Government Elections

Mr. Kemp: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when the proposals to introduce whole council local elections every four years will be taken forward. [23208]

Mr. Woolas: As part of our ongoing local:vision debate on the future of local government we will, over the coming months, be seeking views of the Electoral Commission and other stakeholders on how best to implement the Electoral Commission's recommendations that all local authorities should hold whole council elections every four years.

Town Councils

Mr. Steen: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether there is a backlog of cases for proposed town councils for his consideration; what timescale he would expect for consideration of the establishment of a Brixham town council following a formal submission from the Torbay Unitary Authority; and if he will make a statement. [26265]

Mr. Woolas: Local authorities submit to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) cases for the establishment, alteration and abolition of parish and town councils in accordance with the Local Government and Rating Act 1997 following parish reviews they undertake to their own time scale. These authorities are also required to forward to ODPM within three months valid local petitions from electors calling for the creation of a new parish and parish council. ODPM deals with its programme of such cases
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as they are received. It presently takes between six and nine months between ODPM receiving proposals and our making Orders to implement them in time for the first elections of new parish councils. Any proposal to establish a town council for Brixham would need to be submitted by Torbay council in line with these arrangements.

West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy

Paul Farrelly: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister which organisations and individuals have been consulted during preparation of the Phase 2 Revision Draft of the West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy. [26077]

Yvette Cooper: The Phase 2 revision of the West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy was launched on Monday 7 November, when the West Midlands Regional Planning Body published a draft Project Plan for consultation. The Regional Planning Body has formally notified around 2,000 organisations and individuals of this consultation, which seeks views on the scope of the revision and the future participation arrangements. The full range of private and public bodies suggested in Annex D of PPS11 is being consulted and the consultation period ends on 31 December 2005. Further consultation is expected to take place on the options developed next summer, and on the preferred option in 2007.


Alcohol and Tobacco

Mr. Amess: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the limits on the importation of (a) alcohol and (b) tobacco products into Britain by individuals who have bought them within the European Union and have paid the duty levied in the country of purchase have been in each year since 1992. [26358]

John Healey: Since the introduction of the Single Market in 1993, travellers making journeys within the EU have been able to bring back as much duty and tax paid alcohol and tobacco products as they like, provided the products are for their own use and are transported by them.

EC law allows member states to set guidelines which, alongside a number of other factors, officials may take into account to determine whether goods are imported for own use or commercial purposes.

From 1 January 1993 the UK introduced the following guide levels-10 litres of spirits, 20 litres of fortified wine such as port or sherry, 90 litres of wine (of which not more than 60 litres of sparkling wine), 110 litres of beer, 800 cigarettes, 200 cigars, 400 cigarillos, and one kilogram of smoking tobacco.

With effect from 29 October 2002, the UK introduced increased guide levels for cigarettes and some other tobacco products, 3,200 cigarettes and three kilograms of hand-rolling tobacco.
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Biodiesel Duty

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what research he has commissioned on the effects on take-up of biodiesel of a reduction in duty; and if he will reduce the duty on biodiesel. [26146]

John Healey: We have monitored the take-up of biodiesel since the introduction of a duty incentive in July 2002. Over the last three years, the duty incentive has led to increased use of the fuel in the UK and biodiesel alone now accounts for more than 2.5 million litres of fuel released for consumption each month in the UK.

Duty rates for alternative fuels, including biodiesel, are set according to the principles of the Alternative Fuels Framework, published in the 2003 pre-Budget report. In line with the commitment to provide rolling three-year certainty set out in the framework, the current differential of 20 pence per litre is guaranteed until 2008.

Birth Rates

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many babies have been born in Tamworth constituency in each year since 1997. [26156]

John Healey: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the National Statistician, who has been asked to reply.

Letter from Karen Dunnell to Mr. Brian Jenkins, dated 9 November 2005:

Live births to residents of Tamworth constituency, 1997 to 2004


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