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To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what financial assistance is available
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to assist the start up of new sub-post offices in rural areas in Northern Ireland; and to where applications for grant assistance can be submitted. 
Angela E. Smith: In accordance with its commitment to meet the Government requirement to prevent avoidable post office closures in rural areas, Post Office Ltd. administers a fund to assist with the re-introduction of a branch in a rural area where one has been forced to close within the past 18 months. Prospective applicants should contact the Post Office on 08457 223355. An adviser will then be allocated to help with the specific case.
Assistance is available to support the start up of small businesses in Northern Ireland under the Start A Business Programme (SABp). Provided certain criteria are met the establishment of a new sub-post office might be eligible. Details of the scheme can be obtained from InvestNI at Bedford square, Bedford street, Belfast BT2 7EH.
Mr. Woodward: The figures provided in the table show the percentage of inmates that are eligible to apply for home leave this Christmas. It is not possible at this stage to estimate the percentage of prisoners that will be granted leave for this purpose, as each application is subject to a satisfactory risk assessment which takes some time to complete. The decision to grant the Christmas leave rests with the Governor of each establishment. As HMP Magilligan holds prisoners with shorter sentences or those in the latter stages of their sentences, it has proportionately more prisoners eligible to apply for home leave at Christmas.
|Establishment||Number of prisoners eligible to apply for home leave at Christmas||Total number of prisoners at Establishment(17)||Percentage of prisoners eligible to apply for home leave at Christmas|
|Hydebank Wood (including females)||24||223||10.76|
Angela E. Smith: The six month consultation that closed on 30 September 2005 was the final opportunity to influence the outcome of the Review of Public Administration. Final decisions were announced on 22 November 2005 and we are now moving into the implementation phase.
Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessments are made of the political party memberships of individuals appointed to quangos and commissions in Northern Ireland. 
Angela E. Smith: Those appointed to public bodies in Northern Ireland are not required to declare their political background. However, they are asked to declare any significant political activity they may have undertaken in the five years prior to the date of their application.
Mr. McGrady: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the adequacy of funding allocated to (a) education, (b) roads maintenance and (c) health in Northern Ireland. 
Angela E. Smith: All proposed allocations in the recently announced Draft Priorities and Budget 200608 must be viewed in the context of the overall resources available for public services in Northern Ireland, and in particular the fact that there was no National Spending Review this year, and hence no material additional resources for Northern Ireland.
Proposed allocations for Education and Health continue to grow in real terms over the two years to 200708, and will be further supplemented by the three priority funding packages. While there has been some reduction in the amounts available for Roads Maintenance, the proposed amounts available should still enable Roads Service to respond to emergencies, treat surface defects and carry out the highest priority remedial works.
Mr. Hanson: The report of the Steering Group to the Local Museum and Heritage Review was issued on 26 March 2001. The joint response of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure and the Department of the Environment to the above report was issued in October 2003.
Angela E. Smith:
Regional Tourism Organisations are the predecessors of the proposed new Regional Tourism Partnerships, and are currently funded by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board under the European Union's Peace II Programme. As this funding will not be available after 1 April 2006, the future funding of the proposed Regional Tourism Partnerships will be considered in the context of the Government's draft Budget 2005, which is currently the subject of public consultation.
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Angela E. Smith: The target set is that by 2012 at least 12 per cent. of all electricity consumed in Northern Ireland is obtained from indigenous renewable energy sources with 15 per cent. of this being generated by non-wind technologies. Since April 2005 the supply of electricity from renewable sources has increased by 120 per cent. and at 30 September 2005 had reached 5.8 per cent. with 3.5 per cent. coming from indigenous sources.
Mr. McGrady: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what action he will take to revise and increase the financial allocation towards structural roads maintenance in the next three years following the recommendations of the regional transportation strategy; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Woodward: The Draft Budget provides that, by 2008, total Government spending in Northern Ireland will exceed £16 billion, a jump of more than 50 per cent. since 1997. Public expenditure in Northern Ireland is by far the highest figure for any region of the UK and is 29 per cent. higher than the UK average.
Notwithstanding this, there are many pressures on the Northern Ireland Budget and the roads' programme must compete for funding along with other spending programmes. The Draft Priorities and Budget 200608 is presently out for consultation. It allocated additional resources for health and for education and this inevitably had some implications for other programmes including roads maintenance. It is expected that the revised budget will be announced in December 2005 and allocations will be kept under review in the context of budgetary management processes.
The Regional Transportation Strategy (20022012) identified strategic transportation investment priorities and considered potential funding sources and affordability of planned initiatives over the 10-year period. It was explained in the RTS that the level of public expenditure funding for the Strategy would be determined through the normal budgetary process, which will take account of the needs of other departments and decisions on priorities.
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