Previous Section Index Home Page

28 Nov 2005 : Column 201W—continued


David T.C. Davies: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what measures his Department took to celebrate and promote the events of (a) Ramadan, (b) Diwali and (c) Chinese New Year in 2005. [31162]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister values the diversity of its staff and promotes awareness of religious festivals and events. The Equality and Diversity Unit provide information on the ODPM intranet about six major faiths: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism. This includes information about the major festivals which is regularly reviewed and updated. The Intranet also provides information about prayer rooms in ODPM. The Equality and Diversity Unit make available to staff a number of SHAP calendars of religious festivals every year. The most recent issue of the in-house Office magazine included a 'lifestyle' article on Diwali.

For the past two years, ODPM has organised a programme of seminars which have included seminars on faith communities. These were well attended and raised awareness of the positive contribution faith groups make to building sustainable communities. The
28 Nov 2005 : Column 202W
seminars were accompanied by an exhibition which included stands and information on the major faith groups.

Furthermore, the ODPM coordinated a fire safety campaign to raise awareness of key fire safety issues with the celebrating communities during the 2005 religious festivals of Diwali and Eid Ul Fitr. Similar activity is also planned for the forthcoming 2006 Chinese new year.

Fire Services

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the cost of maintaining existing radio systems used by the fire and rescue authorities was in each of the last five years. [30632]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The fire and rescue services (FRS) are responsible for normal maintenance to existing radio systems carried out either by FRS staff or contractors. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister does not retain this cost information centrally. In addition, in England and Wales there is a programme of work to replace higher risk items of FRS existing wide area radio systems, thereby ensuring that they continue to be operationally effective until they can be replaced by the national wide area radio system, Firelink. Expenditure on operational continuity by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister amounts to £54,000 in 2002–03, £652,000 in 2003–04 and £5,220,000 in 2004–05.

Mike Penning: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the recent firemen's strike in the East Midlands area. [29901]

Jim Fitzpatrick: There has been no recent strike in East Midlands. The hon. Member probably intends to refer to the current strike in West Midlands.

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate he has made of the cost to each local authority of regional fire control rooms over the first three years of operation; and how these costs will be met. [31710]

Jim Fitzpatrick: No estimates of these costs are available at the present time. This is because some elements of overall project costs are not yet confirmed—such as those relating to the technology/infrastructure services—and because the way in which costs will be apportioned to Fire and Rescue Authorities has not yet been agreed. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's financial models show that when established the new system will cost substantially less than the current arrangements. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will fund any net increased costs during the transition period in line with the New Burdens principle.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how much the Government have spent in the last five years on the fire control centre for London. [31788]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Nothing. The fire control centre for London is paid for by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority.
28 Nov 2005 : Column 203W

Firelink Project

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the total cost to his Department of consultants used for the Firelink Project was; and how many consultants have been employed to date. [30630]

Jim Fitzpatrick: For the period August 2002 to October 2005, the total costs of consultants employed on the Firelink project is just under £11 million. As of 19 November 2005 there were 30 consultants employed on the Firelink project. The number of consultants varies dependent on which stage the project is at.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will list those areas of England and Wales that will not be covered by the Firelink project. [31102]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Firelink will provide coverage where it has been agreed with the fire and rescue services as being essential for operational purposes. The Firelink contractor has a responsibility to meet these agreed coverage levels.

Greenbelt (Bournemouth)

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the future of Bournemouth's greenbelt. [30353]

Yvette Cooper: The South West regional assembly—as the regional planning body—are working to prepare the new regional spatial strategy for the south west which will look at housing need in the period to 2026. However, no proposed planned housing figures or locations for development have been made by either the regional assembly, the strategic planning authorities or the Government.

Home Information Packs

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate he has made of the likely mean cost of producing a home information pack, including taxation. [24675]

Yvette Cooper: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister estimate that the average cost of producing a home information pack for a 1930s semi-detached house in average condition located in a provincial town will be just under £700 including VAT (£653 excluding VAT). This amount, however, is not all an additional cost for consumers as the only new document to be required under the home information pack proposals is the home condition report. Most of the information is currently paid for by the buyer. In addition we estimate there will be considerable savings on failed transactions which currently cost consumers £1 million a day in total.

Sarah Teather: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what information will be included in home information packs to protect home-buyers from purchasing property on contaminated land. [30153]

Yvette Cooper: The draft home information pack regulations provide that the pack must include a search report that records the result of an inspection of the register of contaminated land that local authorities are required to maintain under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The draft regulations also provide that the pack may include additional search reports
28 Nov 2005 : Column 204W
relating to actual or potential environmental hazards, including contaminated land. The draft regulations are currently out to consultation until 30 December 2005.

Sarah Teather: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister in what percentage of house transactions (a) flood reports and (b) contaminated land reports were used in the latest year for which figures are available. [30154]

Yvette Cooper: The Government do not collect these figures.

Sarah Teather: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what discussions he has had with mortgage providers on the proposed home information packs; and whether mortgage providers have indicated to him that they will be willing to lend on the basis of a home condition report. [31557]

Yvette Cooper: The Government have been working closely with the Council of Mortgage Lenders and their members in the development of the Home Condition Report and the associated certification arrangements for Home Inspectors, to ensure that lenders can have confidence in the report and that it contains the information they need to generate valuations for mortgage purposes. Lenders will have a legal right to rely on the Home Condition Report. The Council of Mortgage Lenders has indicated that lenders are likely to use the report in the majority of cases. This will reduce significantly the number of cases where lenders require a separate inspection of the property and will mean reduced costs for home buyers.

Sarah Teather: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate he has made of the likely number of homebuyers who will commission more detailed surveys than the Home Condition Report after the introduction of home information packs. [31560]

Yvette Cooper: Only a very small proportion of home buyers (our research suggests less than three per cent.) obtain a detailed building survey. Indications from the industry suggest this is not likely to change significantly when home information packs are introduced from June 2007. The Home Condition report in the pack will provide for prospective buyers a mid-range survey report on the condition of the property. This will involve a level of inspection similar to that for the current Homebuyer Survey and Valuation Report provided by Chartered Surveyors. Home buyers and their lenders will have a right to rely on the Home Condition Report, which will provide substantially more information about the property than a lender's valuation inspection report upon which most home buyers currently rely.

Next Section Index Home Page