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16 Jan 2007 : Column 1101Wcontinued
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the evidence given before the Communities and Local Government Committee (HC 106-ii) on 4 December 2006, if she will place in the Library a copy of the new guidance she has issued to senior civil servants on answering parliamentary questions. 
Angela E. Smith: I have deposited in the Library of the House a copy of the guidance issued on parliamentary questions.
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many parliamentary questions were tabled to her Department in 2006, broken down by (a) ordinary written and (b) named day; what percentage of ordinary written questions were answered within 10 working days; and what percentage of named day questions were answered by the specified date. 
Angela E. Smith: In 2006, 3,665 ordinary written questions and 543 named day questions were tabled to the Department for Communities and Local Government and its predecessor Department the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Of the questions that have been answered, 89 per cent. of ordinary written questions were answered within 10 working days and 58 per cent. of named day questions were answered on the specified date.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether local authorities may opt out of the proposed national minimum density target of 30 dwellings per hectare outlined in the new version of PPS3. 
Yvette Cooper: Planning Policy Statement 3 makes clear that local authorities should set their own density targets. Local authorities may decide, based on the particular circumstances of their area, or a part or parts of it, to plan for, or agree to, densities different from the national indicative minimum 30 dwellings per hectare in Planning Policy Statement 3 (PPS3). For example, higher densities may be more appropriate in town centres, and lower densities in rural villages or areas of historical importance.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether she has plans to issue revised planning guidance or a planning circular in respect of the public smoking ban. 
Yvette Cooper: The Department has no plans to issue planning guidance or a planning circular in respect of the smoking ban in public places.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what gifts have been declared as received by her Department's special advisers in the 2005-06 financial year; when each was given and to whom; what the reason for the gift was; and what the name of the recipient was. 
Angela E. Smith: All gifts received by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government's special advisers are registered and retained by the Department, in accordance with the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers. No gifts have been received in the last financial year.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what changes to the number of new homes to be constructed in the Thames Gateway area (a) the Government, (b) its agencies and (c) the Government Offices for the Regions have (i) suggested and (ii) approved. 
Yvette Cooper: To support the Government's agenda for growth in the Gateway, ODPM (now Communities and Local Government), originally proposed in the 2003 sustainable communities plan to commit support that would enable the development of 120,000 new dwellings up to 2016, subject to the review of the relevant regional plans (also known as regional spatial strategies).
As part of the ongoing regional spatial strategy process, it has been calculated that the Thames Gateway has the capacity to accommodate 160,000 new homes by 2016 rather than 120,000 as thought possible in 2003. In publishing the Thames Gateway Interim Plan on 22 November 2006 the Department included the housing numbers as published in the three draft regional plans, that is the East of England Plan (to be finalised and published in summer 2007), the further alterations to the London Plan (currently undergoing formal public consultation to be concluded in December 2006), and the draft south east plan (currently undergoing an examination in public). However, the housing numbers may still be subject to alteration due to the Examination in Public process or any further consultations that are carried out.
While Government have included the new housing figures as put forward by the three regional plans, the housing numbers contained within them have been calculated by the two Regional Assemblies (South East and East of England) and the Greater London Authority. Government, its agencies and the Government Offices therefore have not suggested or approved the number of new homes to be constructed within the Thames Gateway but rather included the housing numbers contained within the three regional plans subject to the Examination in Public process or any further consultations that are carried out.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many of the (a) recommendations and (b) targets in the 2000 Urban White Paper have (i) yet to be met and (ii) are no longer being pursued. 
Yvette Cooper: The Urban White Paper Implementation Plan on the Department for Communities and Local Governments website charts the significant progress made to 2003 in implementing all of the 198 recommendations and targets in the White Paper. http://www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1127195 a copy of which has been placed in the Library of the House.
The Sustainable Communities Plan, launched in February 2003, takes forward ideas and actions from the Urban White Paper. It set out a clear long term action plan and framework for delivery, and a renewed vision to tackle new challenges such as the growth in
housing demand, particularly in South East England, and reviving the housing market in areas of lower demand. In the recent Local Government White Paper, Strong and Prosperous Communities published in October 2006, we set out that we will publish shortly an urban policy position paper setting out what has been done regarding the measures in the Urban White Paper that foster and support urban renaissance.
Mr. Fraser: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the change in the cost of child care proceedings has been in each of the last 10 years. 
Vera Baird: Between 1999-2000 and 2005-2006, legal aid spend on Special Children Act cases rose from £94 million to £209 million. Information prior to 1999 is not readily available as costs were not recorded to show care proceedings separately.
The estimated net total court costs for child care proceedings in 2005-06, are £42.3 million. Financial data on court costs is not available from the former Court Service prior to this period and a more robust full costing model has since been created.
The total cost of care proceedings also includes expenditure by local authorities in England and Wales; and the Children and Family Courts Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS); and CAFCASS Cymru.
Mr. Hayes: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will make a statement on the changes being made to the Very High Cost Civil Cases budget; and how such cases are identified before litigation begins. 
Vera Baird: No changes are currently planned for the Very High Cost Civil Cases (VHCCC) budget for 2006-07. VHCCCs are case managed by the LSC's Special Cases Unit (SCU). They are identified when the LSC receives the solicitor's estimated costs to conclude the case. If the actual or likely costs exceed the sum of £25,000, the case is automatically referred to the SCU. There may be other requests such as authority to use a QC and this would trigger a referral to the SCU. In addition, all multi party actions are referred to the SCU as they would be likely to satisfy the criteria for SCU referral.
John Mann: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what complaints procedure is available in respect of the handling of coal health claims by claims handlers. 
Under Part 2 of the Compensation Act 2006, anyone providing a regulated service on a commercial basis in certain specified areas which
includes personal injury, will be required to obtain authorisation and comply with regulatory rules. The rules require claims management businesses to establish an internal complaints handling procedure. If a complaint cannot be resolved satisfactorily, the complainant will be able to refer their complaint to the regulator who can investigate the handling of the complaint or the complaint itself. The provisions are expected to be fully commenced on 6 April 2007.
John Mann: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what her Departments policy as the regulator of claims handlers is on the right of an individual to access to his client papers for industrial disease claims where a claims handler represents him and a Government Department is the defending party. 
Bridget Prentice: Businesses authorised under the Compensation Act 2006 by the Department for Constitutional Affairs to provide a regulated claims management service are required to provide to the regulator any information that he reasonably requests. If an individual represented by an authorised business makes a reasonable request for papers to that business we would expect the business to provide these. The regulator can direct an authorised person to provide information or documents in relation to a complaint or the conduct of the matter under which the complaint arose, and further direct that these are made available to the client.
Mr. Hayes: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs on how many occasions in 2005-06 the Government paid compensation for an infringement of human rights. 
Vera Baird: The information requested is not held centrally, and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. The Human Rights Act 1998 allows the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights to be argued in any case before any court or tribunal. However, a significant proportion of judicial reviews raising human rights issues seek a declaration or one of the discretionary remedies rather than monetary compensation.
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs which external consultants were used by (a) her Department and (b) each of its agencies in relation to private finance initiatives in 2005-06; and what the nature and cost of the work was in each case. 
Ms Harman: No external consultants were used by DCA in relation to private finance initiatives in 2005-06. Eight external consultants were used by its agency (HM Courts Service) across five PFI courthouse schemes with expenditure totalling £702,494.38 in 2005-06. Details of each are as follows:
Hereford, Kidderminster, Worcester and Redditch Magistrates Courts
Mr. Hayes: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs pursuant to paragraph 7.8 of her Departments annual report 2006, what measures her Department is taking to discourage and resist bad claims. 
Bridget Prentice: The Department is introducing the regulation of claims management services under the Compensation Act. This will tackle certain practices carried out by some previously unregulated claims farmers, such as encouraging and bringing bad claims. We are also working with stakeholders to encourage organisations to resist bad claims.
Richard Burden: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (1) when the Review of Electoral Systems will be referenced on the Departments website; 
(2) what form the published version of the Review of Electoral Systems will take; 
(3) when she expects the Departments Review of Electoral Systems to be published. 
Bridget Prentice: The Government review of the experiences of the new UK voting systems introduced for the devolved administrations, the European Parliament and London Assembly elections, is being conducted by officials within the DCA. Any decisions on next steps, if necessary, will be taken in due course. It remains the Governments intention to finalise the review within the lifetime of this Parliament.
Richard Burden: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what details of the work of the Review of Electoral Systems have been publicly released since it began in February 2005; on what dates such details have been published; what form they were published in; and what steps she has taken to secure an input to the review from outside the Department. 
The Governments review of electoral systems is currently under way. The review is a
desk-top study being carried out within my Department. We are seeking some input from outside the Department to ensure factual accuracy. No part of the review has yet been publicly released or published in any form.
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