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27 Feb 2006 : Column 191W—continued

Lyons Inquiry

Mr. Burrowes: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what assessment he made of the merits of appointing a Royal Commission to examine the issues considered by the Lyons Inquiry. [50133]

Mr. Woolas: Following the report of the Balance of Funding Review in July 2004, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Chancellor agreed that Sir Michael Lyons should carry out an independent inquiry into local government funding to make the council tax system fairer and more sustainable. In setting up the inquiry, the Government recognised that Sir Michael was very widely respected and brought a wealth of local government and other experience to the task. In September 2005, it was agreed that his remit should be extended to consider issues of role and function before the finalisation of conclusions on funding. The Government will decide the way forward in the light of Sir Michael's final report, which he will produce at the end of 2006.

Major Hazard Sites

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether he plans to change planning (a) guidelines and (b) regulations in relation to major hazard sites following the Hemel Hempstead fuel depot incident. [46980]

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Yvette Cooper: The Health and Safety Commission has formally asked the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Environment Agency to investigate the incident at the Buncefield oil depot. The investigation is being overseen by an independent board, chaired by the right hon. Lord Newton of Braintree, which will report to the Health and Safety Commission.

The terms of reference for the investigation are wide-ranging. The report on the investigation will make recommendations for future action to ensure the effective management and regulation of major accident risks at sites such as Buncefield. This should include consideration of offsite as well as onsite risks and consider prevention of incidents, preparations for response to incidents and mitigation of their effects.

Investigation work has begun and its initial findings on the causes of the incident will be made public as soon as possible. Once this information is available the Government will examine it very thoroughly to see what lessons are to be drawn from this incident. Until the causes of the incident are established it would be premature to comment.

Milton Keynes Bowl

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether the stadium facility to be built at Elfield Park is expected to be used in conjunction with the Milton Keynes Bowl facility. [53273]

Yvette Cooper: The stadium facility at Elfield Park is subject to separate consideration to any proposals for the Milton Keynes Bowl facility. The eventual use of the two facilities will be a matter for Milton Keynes Partnership, the local planning authority, if required, and their eventual operators.

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how long a lease has been awarded to Gaming International Ltd. by English Partnerships for the use of the Milton Keynes Bowl; and what conditions have been attached to the development agreement for the development of the Milton Keynes Bowl. [53274]

Yvette Cooper: This is currently a commercially confidential matter between the preferred bidder for the site and English Partnerships. However, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's approval is required, if Milton Keynes Partnership wishes to bring its interest in the site to an end, to date no application has been made for such an approval.

Mobile Telephone Masts

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what power his Department has granted since 1997 to local authorities to refuse applications by mobile telephone companies to erect telephone masts; and if he will make a statement. [53431]

Yvette Cooper: All ground based masts are subject to planning control so that if the local authority considers that the development will pose a serious threat to amenity, it is able to refuse approval. For masts over 15 metres in height a full planning application is required. For masts under 15 metres in height a prior approval application is required.
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Since 1997, the Government have strengthened the prior approval arrangements twice. Local planning authorities can decline a mast on planning grounds in prior approval applications in the same way as a normal planning application so long as they act within eight weeks. Eight weeks is also the performance target for dealing with most planning applications for telecommunications developments.

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) how many applications there have been to construct mobile telephone masts in (a) Staffordshire and (b) Tamworth constituency in each year since 2000; how many of these applications have been (i) granted and (ii) refused; and what the reason for refusal was in each case; [53432]

(2) how many new mobile telephone masts have been erected under permitted development rights in (a) Staffordshire and (b) Tamworth constituency in each of the last 48 months for which figures are available. [53435]

Yvette Cooper: The information requested is not held centrally, and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

However, during September and October every year the mobile network operators write to every local authority with details of their network rollout for the year ahead. When they write to the local authority they also provide details of their existing sites within the local authority area. You may want to contact the network operators for copies of their plans.

Neighbourhood Call to Action

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how the Minister for Communities and Local Government's proposal for a neighbourhood call to action will operate; and what the timetable is for its introduction. [51081]

Mr. Woolas: The Government's community call for action has recently been set out in the Police and Justice Reform Bill.

The discussion document Citizen Engagement and Public Services: Why Neighbourhoods Matter which was jointly published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Home Office on 31 January 2005, set out ideas about mechanisms through which neighbourhoods might act. These ideas will form part of a White Paper later this year.

Park-and-Ride Schemes

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) how many park-and-ride schemes have been built on green belt sites since the revision of Planning Policy Guidance 3 in 2000; [51077]

(2) what estimate his Department has made of the number of park-and-ride sites built on green belt locations since the revision of Policy Planning Guidance 3 in 2000. [50957]

Yvette Cooper: The Government do not collect information on the location of park-and-ride schemes.
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Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what changes the Government has made to guidance to local planning authorities on (a) parking spaces, (b) parking charges and (c) parking fines since May 1997. [51100]

Yvette Cooper: PPG 13 Transport" (2001) advises local planning authorities on maximum parking standards for new development for certain non residential land uses, and PPG3 Housing" (2000) gives similar advice in respect of residential parking. Parking charges and parking penalty charges are a matter for local traffic authorities rather than local planning authorities. Parking fines are a matter for the police.

Pension Liabilities

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will estimate the net present value of accrued pension liabilities in respect of (a) present and (b) former employees of his Office and its predecessors. [52115]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme is an unfunded multi-employer defined benefit scheme and individual Departments' pension liabilities are not available. The Cabinet Office: Civil Superannuation Resource Accounts for 2004–05 showed that the total pension liability at 31 March 2005 was £84.1 billion. The value of pension liabilities was assessed as follows:

As a result of a change in the discount rate used for calculating pension liabilities with effect from 1 April 2005, the total pension liability at 1 April 2005 increased by £10.6 billion to £94.7 billion.

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