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30 Oct 2006 : Column 75W—continued


Mr. Evennett: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what her estimate is of the percentage of households that will qualify for assistance in switching over to digital television in the London borough of Bexley. [96598]

Mr. Woodward: The information is not available in the format requested. We estimate that around 28,000 households in the London borough of Bexley will be eligible for the Digital Switchover Help Scheme. The details are in the following table.

Category Number

Households where the eligible person is 75 or over

17,000

Households where the qualifying person qualifies because of eligibility to disability living allowance or attendance allowance

11,000

Total

28,000

Notes:
1. Eligibility for help from the Digital Switchover Help Scheme will be by benefit unit rather than the whole household definition used by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the Scottish Executive, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Northern Ireland Office to forecast future household growth. The scheme definition of eligible households mirrors Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) definition of a benefit unit: a couple (which from December 2005 includes gay couples) and any dependent children. It excludes adults deemed to be non-dependents who, if eligible, will be able to claim assistance from the help scheme in their own right.
2. The estimates use data from the Department for Work and Pensions Client Group Analysis for November 2005 adjusted by changes in future household and benefits growth for the period from 2005 until the date switchover takes place in the relevant area.
3. The figures do not include households where the person qualifying for help under the scheme is registered blind or registered partially sighted who qualify on grounds of registration rather than on grounds of age or entitlement to disability benefits.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what her estimate is of the percentage of households that will qualify for assistance in switching to digital television in the Lancashire region. [96874]


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Mr. Woodward: The information is not available in the format requested. We estimate that around 191,000 households in Lancashire will be eligible for the Digital Switchover Help Scheme. The details are in the following table.

Category Number

Households where the eligible person is 75 or over

104,000

Households where the qualifying person qualifies because of eligibility to disability living allowance or attendance allowance

87,000

Total

191,000

Notes:
1. Eligibility for help from the Digital Switchover Help Scheme will be by benefit unit rather than the whole household definition used by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the Scottish Executive, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Northern Ireland Office to forecast future household growth. The scheme definition of eligible households mirrors Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) definition of a benefit unit: a couple (which from December 2005 includes gay couples) and any dependent children. It excludes adults deemed to be non-dependents who, if eligible, will be able to claim assistance from the help scheme in their own right.
2. The estimates use data from the Department for Work and Pensions Client Group Analysis for November 2005 adjusted by changes in future household and benefits growth for the period from 2005 until the date switchover takes place in the relevant area.
3. The figures do not include households where the person qualifying for help under the scheme is registered blind or registered partially sighted who qualify on grounds of registration rather than on grounds of age or entitlement to disability benefits.

Islam and Muslim Affairs

Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what arrangements her Department has for offering her advice on Islam and matters relating to Muslims; and who her advisers are on Islam and Muslim affairs. [94336]

Mr. Lammy: Where appropriate, officials in the relevant policy area provide advice on matters relating to Muslim communities.

The Department for Communities and Local Government is the lead Department on domestic matters relating to Muslim communities and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is the lead Department on international matters. Where appropriate officials seek advice from these Departments.

The Department has used networks of faith groups in the past to help plan major policies and events, and intends to investigate establishing more permanent networks in various communities in future.

Licence Fee

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what account she takes of (a) the financial position of and (b) borrowing by the BBC when considering changes to the licence fee. [96247]

Mr. Woodward: The Government are conducting a funding review to determine the level of the licence fee to apply from April 2007. All relevant factors are being considered as part of the review.


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Muslim Council of Britain

Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how much (a) financial support and (b) support in kind her Department and its agencies have given to the Muslim Council of Britain in each year since 1997. [96286]

Mr. Lammy: My Department provides no financial support or support in kind to the Muslim Council of Britain.

Olympic Games

Hugh Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what discussions she has had with the Chancellor on his pledge to recruit 1 million Olympic volunteers; what additional resource will be provided to meet this target; and when she expects to achieve it. [98114]

Tessa Jowell: In his speech at the HMRC Corporate and Social Responsibility Conference on 24 October, the Chancellor referred to a separate announcement of 1 million new young volunteers to be recruited by an independent charity, v, which has already created over 55,000 new volunteering opportunities in just over six months of operation.

My Department is separately working with the Office for the Third Sector in Cabinet Office on a cross- government action plan to ensure that volunteering is embedded in the Olympics as well as its legacy, including support for the London Organising Committee of the Games strategy to recruit 70,000 volunteers needed at the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. Some 100,000 people have already registered their interest in volunteering at the Games.

Places of Worship (VAT)

Julia Goldsworthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what discussions her Department has had with HM Treasury on extending the VAT refund arrangements available to listed places of worship to unlisted church buildings within conservation areas; and if she will make a statement. [98319]

Mr. Lammy: No discussions have taken place on extending the Listed Places of Worship Grant scheme to unlisted churches. The scheme is focused on those places of worship that are formally recognised as having special architectural or historic interest, and recognises that their repair and maintenance generally requires specialist craftsmen and costly materials, the cost of which often falls on small congregations.

Radio Spectrum

Mr. Gerrard: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what assistance her Department is giving to the programme making and special events industry in its negotiations to harmonise the use of the radio spectrum throughout Europe; and if she will make a statement. [94766]

Margaret Hodge: I have been asked to reply.


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The Office of Communications (Ofcom), the independent regulator of communications, is responsible for managing civil radio spectrum in the UK including the allocation and licensing of frequency bands used by programme making and special events (PMSE). In accordance with general directions made under section 22 of the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom also represents the UK in relevant international meetings to discuss proposals for agreeing harmonised use of frequencies for particular applications.

The European Electronic Communications Committee (ECC) has previously considered the case for harmonisation of PMSE frequencies in Europe and the findings were published in an ECC report in 2002. The report made recommendations on preferred frequency sub bands for video links for Services Ancillary to Programme making (SAP) and Services Ancillary to Broadcasting (SAB). Ofcom is wherever possible assigning SAP and SAB services in the identified bands.

Ofcom is also working with other European regulators to determine the scope for global harmonisation of frequency bands for Electronic News Gathering (ENG) with a view to developing a common European position in response to a study being undertaken by the International Telecommunication Union.

Religious Organisations (Grants)

Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how much her Department has provided in (a) grant and (b) non-repayable grant to (i) the Church of England, (ii) Islamic organisations and (iii) other religions in the past five years; who the recipients were of each grant; and what the amount of the grant was in each case. [97384]

Mr. Lammy: The Department for Culture, Media and Sport makes grants to faith groups via the Listed Places of Worship Grant scheme. The scheme returns the equivalent of the VAT incurred in making repairs to listed buildings used primarily for worship. All grants are non-repayable. The amounts disbursed since the start of the scheme in 2001 to the faith groups listed are in the table. Grants to other Christian denominations are excluded from the table.

Faith group Amounts disbursed (£)

Church of England

35,067,908.75

Islamic Organisations

12,885.78

Jewish

253,344.92

Buddhist

149,734.86

Hindu

7,740.01

Sikh

21,537.70


English Heritage, sponsored by the Department, contributes to the Repair Grants for Places of Worship in England scheme, operated and funded jointly with the Heritage Lottery Fund. The scheme funds repairs to listed places of worship. All grants are non-repayable.

Since the launch of the scheme in April 2002, 1,035 offers have been made over four annual bidding rounds. These offers were made up as follows:


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In addition, English Heritage operates a grant scheme for cathedrals, under which around £7 million has been offered in the last five years.

Sarah Brown

Mr. Rob Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what meetings (a) her Department and (b) its related agencies have held with Sarah Brown since 1997. [97319]

Mr. Lammy: The information requested could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Seaside Piers

Mr. Caton: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what assessment her Department has made of the (a) condition, (b) viability and (c) cultural significance of British seaside piers. [97051]

Mr. Lammy: This Department has not carried out an assessment of the condition, viability or cultural significance of English seaside piers. However, English Heritage’s Seaside Research Project, to be published in autumn 2007, is assessing the broad historical contribution of the pier to the story of England’s seaside. Seventy-five English piers are listed as having special architectural or historic interest, of which two are included in the current English Heritage register of Buildings at Risk.

Responsibility for piers in Scotland and Wales lies with the relevant devolved Administrations.

Sport England

Hugh Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport pursuant to the answer of 20 October 2006, Official Report, column 1452W, on Sport England, whether she was aware that one of the candidates was personally known to the Minister for Sport when she consulted him on the two candidates recommended for appointment by the interview panel for the post of Chair of Sport England; and what safeguards were put in place to prevent a conflict of interests. [97796]

Tessa Jowell: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 20 October 2006, Official Report, column 1452W. In order to avoid any possible conflict of interests, the Minister for Sport was open with me and officials from the outset about the fact that one of the candidates was personally known to him.

Website Security

Mr. Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what assessment she has made of the standard of age verification procedures on websites selling (a) alcohol and (b) DVDs, videos and computer games. [97503]


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Mr. Woodward: The Department has made no assessment of verification procedures for age restricted sales over the internet.

However, the Government's reform of the licensing regime has brought internet sales of alcohol in line with those in shops and pubs so that anyone who sells alcohol to someone under 18 is committing an offence, as is anyone under 18 who attempts to buy alcohol over the internet.

Trading Standards Officers have enforcement powers for illegal sales of alcohol and videos and games, and they have not expressed any concerns. Internet sales have to be made with a credit or debit card and increasingly, to prevent fraud, can only be delivered to the address at which the card is registered. Only over-18s have credit cards. It is true that younger people may have debit cards, but goods delivered to a home address will be monitored by parents.

It is in retailers' interests to ensure that they put proper checks in place to ensure that they are not selling age restricted products illegally. I have every confidence that the police or trading standards will clamp down on individuals or companies that do not put in place sufficient safeguards to prevent such sales.

Prime Minister

Air Fuel Taxes

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Prime Minister what recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on the prospects for introduction of EU-wide taxes on kerosene air fuel. [97218]

The Prime Minister: I have had no recent discussions with EU counterparts on this issue. However, the Government recognise that the exemption of aviation from fuel tax is anomalous, and continue to argue for change on an international level.

Departmental Staff

Harry Cohen: To ask the Prime Minister if his Office will (a) carry out an age audit of its staff to establish an age profile of its workforce, (b) negotiate an age management policy with trade unions and employees to eliminate age discrimination and retain older workers, (c) identify and support training needs and offer older staff flexible working to downshift towards retirement and (d) extend to over-fifties the right to request to work flexibly and the right to training with paid time off; and if he will make a statement. [96500]

The Prime Minister: For these purposes my Office forms part of the Cabinet Office. I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to her by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. McFadden), the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office today.


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