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9 Oct 2006 : Column 350W—continued

Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will place in the Library a copy of the presentation by Brian McClure of the Northern Ireland Office on rating reform in Northern Ireland given to the Scottish Local Government Finance Review Committee on 3 March 2006. [89791]

Mr. Hanson: A copy of the paper has been placed in the Library.

Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what multiple regression formula was used as part of the Valuation and Land Agency’s Automated Valuation Model for the rates revaluation; and if he will name each variable in the model. [89796]

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Mr. Hanson: The multiplicative regression formulae used are an established technique in automated valuation modelling that capture non-linear and interactive relationships present in real estate markets.

25 separate regional models were constructed encompassing all of Northern Ireland and are of the example form:

Variables included:

It should be noted that only variables that significantly contributed to value in each region were included in the respective models.

Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he expects local authorities to publish figures for the average effective tax rate for the new domestic rates system of discrete capital values. [89797]

David Cairns: District councils are required by statute to fix their rates no later than 15 February each year. The actual domestic and non-domestic rates for each of the 26 councils are then published by the Department of the Environment. Domestic rates struck in February 2007 will be based on the capital value of properties and will be published locally in the normal way.

The average domestic rate for Northern Ireland is determined by using the same formula applied by councils for fixing their individual rate but is calculated on the basis of their accumulative figures. This will be circulated to councils and other interested bodies and will be contained in the District Councils (Northern Ireland) Rate Statistics booklet, which will be published later in the year.

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Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland pursuant to the Northern Ireland Department of Finance and Personnel Press Release of 3 July 2006, on domestic rates revaluation, what proportion of the 55 per cent. of homeowners who will see no change or a decrease in their rates burden will experience (a) no change and (b) a decrease. [90493]

Mr. Hanson: For those households facing either no change or a decrease in their share of the rates burden, the proportion which will experience no change is estimated at 3 per cent. (where ‘no change’ is defined as a decrease of less than 1 per cent.). Thus, approximately 97 per cent. of these households will see a decrease in their share of the rates burden (i.e. of greater than 1 per cent.).

These figures have been arrived at through comparing actual rate bills under the current NAV system in 2006-07 with estimates of what rate bills would have been in 2006-07, had the new capital value based system been in place this year.

Renewable Energy Household Programme

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on what criteria applications for grant assistance for installation of solar hot water systems as part of the Renewable Energy Household programme will be judged. [89751]

Maria Eagle: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland launched the Household programme on Monday 24 July as the first initiative to provide funding for homes under the £59 million Environment and Renewable Energy Fund (EREF). Householders are eligible to apply for assistance under this programme, which will provide up to 50 per cent. of the cost of installation of renewable energy systems, including solar hot water systems provided they own the property and it is used primarily for domestic purposes. The grant will be offered on the applicant's choice of technology on a first-come first-served basis. Applicants will need to satisfy themselves in advance that their property is suitable for their chosen technology and obtain two quotations from an approved installer. Advice is available for the schemes managing agent on both these aspects.

Some funding from the Household programme has been set aside to install 500 solar hot water systems in private households that are deemed to be in fuel poverty. Assistance at 100 per cent. of the cost of installation is available for these cases through the Department for Social Development. The criteria used to select homes for this assistance will be based on the eligibility criteria for the existing warm homes scheme as well as conditions relating to the suitability of the property including suitable orientation needed to benefit from the solar energy. Selection will initially be carried out by the warm homes managing agent from the database of homes that have previously received other energy-related assistance under the Warm Homes programme.

In addition to the Household programme, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive will receive funding of £1.8 million over two years under the EREF to install 600 solar hot water panels in their stock. Installation will be applied to dwellings that are in
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heating conversion schemes and, again, suitability of the property, including suitable orientation, will be the key selection criteria.

Royal Victoria Hospital

Dr. Alasdair McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether his Department plans to increase (a) funding and (b) other resources for the specialist burns unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast; and what assessment he has made of the (i) preparedness and (ii) capacity of the unit to cope with a major incident. [89226]

Paul Goggins: The Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety is working with the Health and Personal Social Services to develop a framework for the future provision of the plastics service in Northern Ireland. This is expected to include a managed clinical network for plastics and burns services.

In this context, the need for additional consultants has been identified, including a burns specialist based at the Royal Group of Hospitals. Service improvements have been agreed, and include a commitment to increase the number of plastic surgeons from seven to 10. This additional investment will permit the burns service to appoint additional staff to enhance services.

Northern Ireland currently contributes to the National Burns Bed Bureau. The Bed Bureau was established two years ago and is hosted by West Midlands Ambulance Service. It contacts all of the burns services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland twice daily to obtain accurate information about bed availability so that if contacted by either an Accident and Emergency Department or a burns service needing extra beds it can respond immediately.

In addition, in the event of a major incident, the Trust's Major Incident plan would be activated. This would be supported by the National Burns Care Major Incident plan, which would make beds available in other units as required.

Rural Tourism

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he is taking to promote rural tourism in East Londonderry in 2006. [60073]

Maria Eagle: The Northern Ireland Tourist Board's (NITB) role is to promote and develop tourism in Northern Ireland and it is committed to working with strategic partners and providers to promote rural tourism. The development and promotion of the tourism potential of East Londonderry will take place in the context of the Tourism Strategic Framework for Action (SFA) and the Causeway Masterplan. Current activities include the signposting of the Causeway Coastal Route and funding support for a tourism development strategy for the Limavady Council area.

Two major programmes in the SFA are Signature Projects and Winning Themes. As well as potential spin-off benefits from its location between the Signature Projects of Giants Causeway and the Walled City of Derry the area can benefit from the planned
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promotion and marketing of the Short Break, Activity Tourism and Culture and Heritage Winning Themes in particular during 2006.

NITB is also actively encouraging the creation of a Regional Tourism Partnership to include East Londonderry which will address, amongst other things, destination management including product development, visitor servicing, marketing, training and local stakeholder buy-in.

Schooner Result

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the (a) current condition of and (b) maintenance programme and preservation work carried out on the schooner Result; and what progress has been made in completing a long-term plan for its exhibition. [89750]

Maria Eagle: A programme of conservation works has been carried out on the Result since her acquisition by the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in 1970. Much of this work has been directed towards the protection of the hull of the vessel which, according to a recent report by a leading maritime conservator, is in good condition. Other steps taken to preserve the vessel have included the fitting of an awning to protect it from the elements and the provision of a hatch to facilitate access and on-going maintenance work, both measures having been recommended by the specialist maritime conservator.

The museum has undertaken to explore options for the restoration and long-term exhibition of the vessel.

Security Force Informants

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the role played by security force informants in Northern Ireland during the troubles. [89239]

Paul Goggins: The hon. Gentleman will be aware that it is Government policy never to comment on specific national security and intelligence matters.

Sentencing System

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will take steps to bring the law in Northern Ireland into line with that in England and Wales following the decision by the Prime Minister to overhaul the sentencing system for convicted criminals; and if he will make a statement. [89229]

Mr. Hanson: Last year the Northern Ireland Office undertook a public consultation on the Review of the Sentencing Framework in Northern Ireland which covered many of the sentencing issues which will be the subject of further consultation in England and Wales. I will shortly be examining policy options considered in the review and the responses to the consultation. Protection of the public will be a central consideration.

Social Security Agency

Mark Durkan: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many benefit awards have been
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examined by the Social Security Agency's Active Case Management Unit since its inception; and how many of the awards examined were (a) increased and (b) decreased. [92214]

Mr. Hanson: From its inception in 1999, the Active Case Management Unit has examined 13,440 benefits awards.

Of these 2,889 awards have been increased and 2,852 awards have been decreased.

Special Needs Education

Mark Durkan: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much funding has been allocated to special needs education in Northern Ireland in each of the last five years, broken down by parliamentary constituency. [90791]

Maria Eagle: The following table shows how much funding has been reported by the Education and Library Boards (ELBs) in their accrued expenditure reports to the Department of Education as having been allocated to special needs education in Northern Ireland in each of the last five years. The information requested is not available by constituency in Northern Ireland. The response provided is therefore by Education and Library Board area and is rounded to the nearest million.





































Over the same five year period additional funding of approximately 14m has been allocated by the Department of Education to support statemented pupils in the voluntary grammar and grant-maintained integrated sectors.

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