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To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many staff have been employed in his private office in each year since he became Deputy Prime Minister. 
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minster was formed on 29 May 2002.
The number of full-time equivalent staff employed in my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister's private office were as follows:
|On 1 April 2003||6
|On 1 April 2004||8
|On l April 2005||8
Development (Castle Point)
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether his Department has held meetings on development in Castle Point with Hickfort Ltd of Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex. 
Neither the Thames Gateway Delivery Unit nor the Government Office for the East of England (GO-East), as the appropriate divisions within the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, have held a formal meeting with Hickfort Ltd. Representatives from Hickfort Ltd visited the Government stand at the Thames Gateway Forum on 23 November 2005. They had an informal discussion with a representative from GO-East about a proposed development in Castle Point, but no follow-up actions were agreed.
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To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the cost was of the referendum for a directly elected mayor in each area where such a process has been conducted. 
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister does not hold information on the costs of referendums for directly-elected mayors.
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many councils have conducted a referendum in which the local electorate (a) accepted and (b) rejected directly elected mayors. 
33 local authorities have conducted referendums on whether to have a directly elected mayor. Of these 12 voted for, and 21 against a directly elected mayor.
David T.C. Davies:
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many departmental employees have taken early retirement due to ill-health in each of the past five years for which figures are available. 
During the last five years there have been less than five ill-health retirements in any one year.
Following guidance on data protection, we cannot provide further detailed analysis on these figures.
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what measures he has in place to prevent fraud and financial irregularity in his Department. 
A number of measures are in place to manage the risk of fraud and financial irregularity including:
reviewing the system of internal controls to ensure they are effective in detecting and deterring fraud;
providing appropriate avenues to enable staff and other stakeholders to report suspicions of fraud or irregularities.
These measures are set out in a fraud policy statement which is made available to all staff.
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will make a statement on future funding for the Rochdale and Oldham housing market renewal area. 
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has received the scheme update from the Oldham Rochdale pathfinder and are currently considering their proposals. Funding for 200607 and 200708 will be announced in due course.
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Local Exchange Trading Systems
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what support his Department provides for local exchange trading systems. 
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister does not provide support for local exchange trading systems.
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what estimate he has made of the likely total cost of the Lyons inquiry. 
The Lyons inquiry spent £239,565 in 200405. Following the extension to its remit announced on 20 September 2005, it has an estimated spend of £850,000 for 200506 and £950,000 for 200607.
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) if he will place in the Library copies of the written submissions made by his Department to the Lyons inquiry into local government; 
(2) whether (a) a Minister and (b) a civil servant from his Department has submitted a formal submission to the Lyons inquiry. 
The Lyons inquiry is independent of the Government. Sir Michael Lyons will decide what to publish when he makes available his final report.
Post Office/Shop Closures
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what information his Department collects on the closure of (a) post offices, (b) bank branches and (c) independent retail shops. 
I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Michael Jabez Foster) on 14 December 2005, Official Report, column 1963W.
Mr. Gordon Prentice:
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister on how many occasions since 1 April 2003 he has complained to the Press Complaints Commission about the coverage in the press of (a) Ministers or officials and (b) his Office; and how many of these complaints were upheld. 
Two. One was resolved.
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the average (a) council tax and (b) business rates bill, paid by a composite hereditament, was in England in the latest year for which figures are available. 
Details of the average (a) council tax and (b) business rates bill, paid by composite hereditaments, in England are not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
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Regional Spatial Strategy
Mr. Stewart Jackson:
To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will review the Regional Spatial Strategy for the East of England with reference to the merits of establishing a Stansted-Cambridge-Peterborough growth corridor. 
The growth potential of the London-Stansted-Cambridge area was identified as part of the previous Regional Planning Guidance for the wider South East in 2001. The Sustainable Communities Plan, Sustainable Communities: Building for the Future", published February 2003, established the London-Stansted-Cambridge growth area, and it was extended to cover Peterborough in January 2004.
The draft East of England Regional Spatial Strategy was published by the East of England Regional Assembly in December 2004. Following public consultation, the draft Plan is currently subject to Examination in Public by an independent panel. Once Government receives the panel's report it will consider the recommendations, including any relating to the London-Stansted-Cambridge-Peterborough growth area.
Mr. Austin Mitchell:
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will commission research into the impact of the Caparo judgment on audit quality. 
I have been asked to reply.
The Government have no plans to commission such research.