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Mr. Woolas: During the consultation period on the local government finance settlement, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister received 336 written representations from local authorities, hon. Members and others. I and ministerial colleagues also met 60 delegations.
The Deputy Prime Minister: Following the incident at the Buncefield fuel depot the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency were asked to conduct an investigation into the causes of the explosion. This inquiry is being chaired by Lord Newton of Braintree. In addition, the Hertfordshire fire and rescue service are carrying out their own internal investigation. Central Government and the Government Office for the East of England are also reviewing the lessons to be learned. These reviews will help inform future planning and emergency preparation.
The response to the Buncefield fire was led by Hertfordshire fire and rescue service, with support from 16 other fire and rescue services from across the country together with the high volume pumping capability funded by the Government's new dimension programme. It will take some time to determine the full costs involved. This exercise is being led by Hertfordshire county council who are working closely with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister on the formulation of a claim for financial assistance under the Bell win scheme.
Yvette Cooper: The North East assembly has submitted to the Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister a draft revision of the North East regional spatial strategy. This includes work on the implications of future population growth and housing needs. It will be considered at an examination in public. The North East regional housing strategy also includes consideration of population changes.
Yvette Cooper: The East Midlands regional housing board is supporting a programme of sub-regional housing market assessments, which will help identify affordable housing needs and the supply required to meet them contributing to the review of the regional spatial strategy. The first of these reports will be concluded during the summer of 2006.
Based on the bedroom standard, the number of children living in overcrowded households over the three-year period 200203, 200304 and 200405 was (a) 275,000 in London and (b) 880,000 in England. The total number of overcrowded households in England on this basis is estimated to be around 500,000.
Information on compliance with the statutory standard is not collected centrally. Using data from the Survey of English Housing" for the period 199798 to 19992000 and from the 1996 English House Condition Survey" it was estimated that there were 25,000 households in England that were so overcrowded that the statutory standard was breached. However, reliable estimates for London on this basis are not availableneither are figures for the number of children that live in statutory overcrowded households.
Yvette Cooper: The East of England plan is currently under going its examination-in-public (EiP). The EiP is running to timetable and should be concluded at the beginning of March. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister expects to receive the panel's report during the summer and publish the final plan early in 2007.
14. Vera Baird: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the impact of ports development in the South East and East of England on the Northern Way development plan's objective for promoting port development in Tees Valley. 
Mr. Woolas: The Northern Way is developing an evidence base to promote economic growth in the North including the potential of its ports. It is for them to decide the specifics of their strategy. It is the Government's policy to promote improved economic performance in all our regions.
Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will issue planning guidance on applications for chicken farming establishments which takes account of avian influenza and the presence of the virus H5N1 in Europe. 
Yvette Cooper [holding answer 20 January 2006]: There are no plans to issue such planning guidance. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is putting contingency plans in place to reduce the risk of avian influenza to the UK. In consultation with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Defra has produced guidance for bird-keepers on the best way to do this. Further to this, the ODPM wrote to local planning authorities on 16 December 2005 drawing their attention to this guidance and reminding them of the need for reasonableness and proportionality should they need to consider planning applications for works required to isolate domestic poultry from wild birds.
Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what representations he has received about planning permission for large scale chicken farming establishments that are in proximity to (a) residential areas and (b) educational establishments. 
Yvette Cooper [holding answer 20 January 2006]: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is not aware of general representations on planning policy for chicken farming establishments. It would not be appropriate to comment on individual planning applications given they may come to the Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister for decision on appeal.
Jim Fitzpatrick: The cost of purchasing official Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Christmas cards in 2005 was £1,834.10 + VAT. It is policy to send mail by second class post wherever possible. All expenditure incurred in the purchase of official Christmas Cards is made in accordance with the departmental guidance on financial procedures and propriety, based on principles set out in Government Accounting.
The Government undertook a survey of a sample of local authorities covering the period 16 May to 12 August to obtain evidence on the impact on local government of the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) on 1 January 2005. This survey suggested that the cost of FoI to local government was
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approximately £4.9 million per year in the short-to medium term. The Local Government Finance Settlement 200607 and 200708 includes an additional £4.9 million in each year above existing spending plans to reimburse authorities for these costs under the New Burdens principle.
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