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23 Nov 2005 : Column 2059W—continued

Music Television Channels (Premium Rate Calls)

Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what representations she has received about music television channels which invite viewers to make a premium rate telephone call to choose a music video. [30772]

James Purnell: None.

Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport under what regulations music television channels in the United Kingdom operate, with particular reference to music television channels that use a premium rate telephone number displayed on screen. [30774]

James Purnell: The Communications Act 2003 has put in place a framework for the regulation of independent television broadcasting by the communications regulator, Ofcom. Ofcom regulates broadcasters' output through its broadcasting code, which sets out the rules and guidance with which broadcasters must comply. Section 10 of the code deals with commercial references within programmes, including the use of premium rate numbers in programmes. Under the code, any use of premium rate numbers must comply with the code of practice issued by the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS).

Special Advisers

John Hemming: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if she will list the special advisers in post in her Department, broken down by pay band; and what the total budgeted cost to her Department of special advisers is for 2005–06. [29414]

Mr. Lammy: Since 2003, the Government have published on an annual basis the names and overall cost of special advisers and the number in each payband. For the most recent information I refer the hon. Member to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 21 July 2005, Official Report, columns 158–62WS.
 
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Information on the numbers of special advisers prior to 2003 was provided at regular intervals and this information will be available in the Library of the House. Information relating to costs for 2005–06 will be published after the end of the current financial year.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER

Age Discrimination (Housing)

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to prevent minimum age restriction covenants in relation to housing. [28618]

Yvette Cooper: Some local authorities set minimum age restrictions, for example on sheltered accommodation. We have no plans to prohibit such restrictions. However, local authorities do need to ensure that any restrictions do not restrict:

Business Growth Incentives Scheme

Sarah Teather: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister which London boroughs benefited from the Local Authorities Business Growth Incentives scheme in 2004–05; what steps he will take to ensure that all London boroughs have the opportunity to take part in the scheme in future years; and if he will make a statement. [30143]

Mr. Woolas: All London boroughs have the potential to gain from the Local Authority Business Growth Incentives scheme which is due to make its first payments to eligible authorities in February 2006. The data needed to calculate which authorities will receive a payment under this scheme will not be available until January 2006.
 
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Every local authority in England and Wales is included in the scheme, which is initially scheduled to run for three years. As announced to the House in July, there will be a review of the scheme in England following its first year of operation. This review will allow us to assess the scheme's appropriateness and success for all authorities, including for the London boroughs.

Consultants

Martin Horwood: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will list projects conducted for his Office by consultants in each year since 2000; what the cost was in each case; and what the total cost of employing consultants was in each year. [29088]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister was formed in May 2002. This information is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Martin Horwood: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what steps the Department takes to ensure that consultancies do not claim excessive expenses while working for his Department and its agencies. [29089]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The level of expenses paid to Consultants carrying out work on behalf of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) and its Agencies is tied to the level of the Office's subsistence rates paid to civil servants of equivalent grade.

The ODPM's contracting process ensures that usage of the Office's subsistence rates is adhered to, by seeking all inclusive priced proposals from Suppliers. Contractor invoices are also subject to scrutiny by ODPM Officials.

Council Tax

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether the Government plan to introduce primary legislation to amend the council tax system in Wales after the Lyons inquiry has reported. [26916]

Mr. Woolas: The Government have no plans to introduce primary legislation to amend the council tax system in Wales.

Mark Hunter: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister at what level he expects to cap local authorities' council tax rises in the 2006–07 financial year. [30178]

Mr. Woolas: No decisions have been taken about capping in 2006–07 and beyond, but the Government will not hesitate to use its capping powers to protect council taxpayers from excessive council tax increases in future years.

There is no excuse for excessive council tax or spending increases.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what advice and guidance the Department has given to local authority IT (a) Departments and (b) suppliers in relation to the council tax revaluation in (i) England and (ii) Wales. [29708]

Mr. Woolas: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has provided no advice and guidance to local authority IT departments and suppliers in the relation to the council tax revaluation in England and Wales.
 
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Guidance on recommended IT measures relating to council tax revaluation and reform in England could not usefully have been provided until the shape of any reform was clear following ministerial decisions in the light of the recommendations of the Lyons Inquiry and responses to a public consultation following from that.

Council tax revaluation in Wales is a matter for the Welsh Assembly Government.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister for how many residential properties in England the Valuation Office Agency has (a) dwelling house codes and (b) value significance codes data. [29716]

Mr. Woolas: As at 3 November 2005 the Valuation Office Agency had dwelling house code data on 21,265,910 out of 22,006,884 dwellings in England. On this date there were 1,794,709 dwellings with value significant codes.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether (a) the Government and (b) the Valuation Office Agency conducted analysis of the likely effects of council tax revaluation in England prior to the announcement of its postponement. [29725]

Mr. Woolas: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 14 November 2005, Official Report, column 1030W.

Empty Properties

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate he has made of the likely number of empty dwelling management orders to be levied per year once the system is in operation. [26922]

Yvette Cooper: We do not know how far the possible use of an empty dwelling management order (EDMO) will give property owners an incentive to resolve the situation in advance. Therefore we do not know how many EDMOs will be used in practice. However, the regulatory impact assessment on empty dwelling management orders published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in September 2004 estimates that local housing authorities would make approximately 1,000 EDMOs annually.


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