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Meg Munn: The Government have not specifically commissioned projects to improve relations between black and Asian communities; however it has supported a range of initiatives which will improve community relations in general. For example, £18 million will be provided over three years by the Connecting Communities Plus grant programme, and £.5 million was provided in 2005-06 by the Faith Communities Capacity Building Fund, in support of the Governments race equality and community cohesion strategy Improving Opportunity Strengthening Society.
In addition public authorities have a statutory duty to promote good relations between persons of different racial groups. The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) oversees this duty and published Promoting good Race Relations: A Guide for Public Authorities in July 2005. The Equality Act 2006 prepares the ground for a new Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) which will absorb the activities of the CRE in 2009, and transfers this good relations duty onto the new body. To carry this out the CEHR will have new powers to monitor, as well as to make, co-operate with or assist in any arrangement s designed to reduce hate crimes. The CEHR will have particular regard to the importance of its work with different groups reflecting the historical origin of the duty.
The CRE also gives grants to organisations concerned with the promotion of race equality and good race relations through the Getting Results programme. The programme will distribute c£4.2 million in the current financial year. In particular, Race Equality Councils (RECs) aim to improve relations between all communities, and over £2.5 million of the CREs funding this year will go to RECs.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister which (a) Department and (b) agency will maintain the electronic register of Home Condition Reports; and whether the Government plan to use private contractors to develop the register. 
Each certification scheme approved by the Secretary of State will hold a register of Home Condition Reports completed by home inspectors accountable to them. A copy of each Home Condition Report will also be registered in a central register owned by DCLG. Potential suppliers were invited on 9 March 2006 to express and interest in providing the register. The technical requirements of the register have been developed in consultation with the industry.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what discretion local authorities have (a) to levy and (b) to set fees for search services; and whether such fees are capped; 
Yvette Cooper: The Local Authorities (Charges for Land Searches) Regulations 1994 (SI 1994 No. 1885) provides local authorities with a discretionary power to charge for answering inquiries about land and property made in connection with home sales and other transactions. In determining the amount of the charge, each authority has to have regard to its costs in dealing with such inquiries.
Charges for local land charges register enquiries are prescribed by the Lord Chancellor. The current fees are set out in the Local Land Charges (Amendment) Rules 2003. The fee for an official search of the register is £6 (£4 if undertaken electronically). The fee for a personal search of the local land charges register is £11. Fees are also set for office copies and certain other types of application.
Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many second homes for council tax purposes were recorded in England in (a) 1997-98, (b) 2005-06 and (c) the latest period for which figures are available. 
Mr. Woolas: The number of properties in England designated as second homes and eligible for a discount in council tax as at 19 September 2005, the latest year for which figures are available, was 236,000.
Full information on the total cost of staff away days and team building exercises organised by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister was not collated centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Anne Milton: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps the Government are taking to ensure equality of access to services for transsexuals; and if she will make a statement. 
Meg Munn: The Government made clear during recent parliamentary debates on the Equality Act that it will prohibit discrimination on grounds of gender reassignment in the provision of goods, facilities and services. The Government are taking forward the necessary work in the context of the Discrimination Law Review.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 23 January 2006, Official Report, column 1814W to the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman), on the Valuation Office Agency, what (a) statutory and (b) non-statutory obligations local planning authorities have to provide planning information to the Valuation Office Agency. 
Mr. Woolas: Section 27(1) of the Local Government Finance Act (LGFA) 1992 prescribes that where a notice is served by a listing officer on a billing authority, requesting information relating to a property that he reasonably believes will assist him in carrying out his functions, then the authority must supply the information requested.
Section 27(6) of LGFA 1992 prescribes that, where in the exercise of its functions any information comes to the notice of a billing authority which it considers would assist a listing officer in carrying out any of his functions, it shall be the authoritys duty to inform the listing officer.
Paragraph 6(1) of Schedule 9 of Local Government Finance Act 1988 prescribes that if in the course of the exercise of its functions any information comes to the notice of the billing authority which leads it to suppose that a list requires alteration it shall be the authoritys duty to inform the valuation officer who has the duty to maintain the list.
(a) the address of the property;
(b) the nature of the event by reason of which, in the opinion of the relevant authority, the local non-domestic rating list is required to be altered;
(c) the day from which, in the opinion of the relevant authority, such alteration should take effect; and
(d) if the property is shown in a local non-domestic rating list, any reference number ascribed to it in that list.
Paragraph 7 of Schedule 4A to the Local Government Finance Act 1988 prescribes that a billing authority shall supply to the valuation officer a copy of any completion notice served by it; notify the valuation officer if it withdraws a completion notice and supply
the valuation officer with details of any agreement to which it is party and by virtue of which a completion day is determined under Section 4A in relation to the building.
The Deputy Prime Minister: I visited the site of the Beijing Olympics on my trip to China earlier this year and held discussions with the Mayor of Beijing. I have also discussed the Beijing and, more recently, the London Olympics as part of the annual visits I have made to China for the past eight years. UK Government representation at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games has not yet been finalised.
The Deputy Prime Minister: The China Task Force was established as a result of my right hon. Friend, the Prime Ministers visit to China in 2003, when he agreed with the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao that a group should be set up to consider issues of interest to our two countries bilateral relations. State Counsellor Tang Jiaxuan was nominated to be the chair for the Chinese side and the Prime Minister asked me to represent him.
The Task Forces remit covers trade and investment, education, science and technology, health, culture, environment and sustainable development, and development issues. These areas align closely with the areas identified for cross-departmental action being developed in response to the challenges of globalisation. The Task Force is recognised and valued by both the UK and Chinese Governments as a high-level contact mechanism for deepening relations in the areas under its remit.
The Deputy Prime Minister [holding answer 11 May 2006]: The criteria for the use of Dorneywood are set out in the terms of the charitable trust, established in 1942, which owns the property. The Prime Minister may nominate, at his discretion, a Minister of the Crown to become the resident. All residents have been required to abide by the terms of the trust, and I have fully done this. Since Dorneywood is a charitable trust, there is no cost to the public purse.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister on how many occasions he has offered hospitality at Dorneywood to members of (a) foreign and (b) Commonwealth Governments in each year since he took up residence. 
The Deputy Prime Minister [holding answer 11 May 2006]: The criteria for the use of Dorneywood are set out in the terms of the charitable trust, established in 1942, which owns the property. The Prime Minister may nominate, at his discretion, a Minister of the Crown to become the resident. Previous residents have included Chancellors, a Home Secretary and other Deputy Prime Ministers. All residents have been required to abide by the terms of the trust, and I have fully done this. Since Dorneywood is a charitable trust, there is no cost to the public purse.
The Deputy Prime Minister [holding answer 11 May 2006]: My right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister announced on 10 May 2006 that he has asked me to take on a new role overseeing and co-ordinating Government policy across the full range of domestic policy areas. He has also asked me to continue my international role, particularly with relation to China, and to work on delivering our post-Kyoto environmental objectives here in the UK. I shall, therefore, continue to play a full and active role, and will divide my time between these new responsibilities according to what is required.
Kerry McCarthy: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether the Advisory Group on celebrating the bicentenary of the abolition of slavery plans to discuss the issue of whether a formal apology for slavery should be made. 
The Deputy Prime Minister: The Advisory Group on the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade currently has no plans to discuss the question of whether a formal apology for the slave trade should be made. However, the Advisory Group is able to discuss all aspects of the slave trade, its abolition, and the celebrations connected to the bicentenary of its abolition.
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of recent reductions in the permitted individual amounts available under the adviser discretion fund; what steps he is taking to secure the maximum benefits from discretionary sums available to jobcentre plus advisers; and if he will make a statement. 
Mrs. McGuire: Jobcentre plus is responsible for the management of the adviser discretion fund (ADF) which enables the purchase of virtually anything that will help people obtain a job, or, if already offered a job, to enable them to accept that offer.
To maintain effective controls on expenditure, the level at which an adviser can authorise payment from the fund, without requiring a supporting business case, was reduced in May 2005 to £100 per customer within any 12 month period. Awards above that level are authorised at a higher management level to ensure efficient and effective use of public funds. There is no limit on the individual amounts that can be awarded as long as they are supported by a business case.
Improved financial control has been achieved by delegating budgetary accountability to local managers and further value for money has been achieved by the implementation of the retail trade framework (RTF). Advisers can refer recipients of the ADF to suppliers who are part of the RTF and this has enabled jobcentre plus to achieve savings of up to 40 per cent. on high street prices and obtain more for less.
James Purnell: The Departments Be Ready National Guidance campaign, developed in conjunction with leading business organisations, was launched in May 2005. Approximately 1.4 million employers were mailed information designed to raise awareness of age discrimination legislation, due to come into effect from 1 October 2006, and to provide practical guidance to help employers become more age diverse in their employment practices.
The next stage of the campaign will be launched in June with fully updated materials mailed to over 1.4 million employers. Materials will also be freely available from the website, www.agepositive.gov.uk/agepartnershipgroup.
An evaluation of 1,650 employers, who had ordered the products, has been carried out and the results are due to be published shortly. Preliminary results show that respondents overall were very happy with the materials they received and found the products clear, easy to use, well designed, helpful and useful. A further evaluation of the second phase of the campaign is planned for later in the year.
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