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A number of measures have been taken to reduce the time taken to close cases. These include the recruitment of a Deputy Pensions Ombudsman, a fundamental revision of business processes, modernisation of the offices accommodation and IT infrastructure, and recruitment of additional investigative staff.
Price Waterhouse Coopers
Boston Consultancy Group
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how much from public funds has been allocated to the v charity, broken down by (a) management and administration costs, (b) funding for volunteering grants and (c) other costs. 
Edward Miliband: The Government announced in Budget 2005 that up to £100 million of public funds would be available for funding the Russell Commission framework over the period of 2006 to 2009. The Cabinet Office has budgeted £50 million to implement the 16 Russell Commission recommendations, the majority of which of which will go to v. A small amount is being retained by the Cabinet Office to support the implementation of recommendations which the Government are responsible for. The Treasury will match-fund money v raises from the private sector on a pound-for-pound basis up to a maximum of £50 million.
(a) a strategic grant of £1.4 million for management and admin costs;
(b) a volunteering grant of £5.2 million, which makes up part of the volunteering opportunities grant; and
(c) a project grant of £2.8 million for other (sector infrastructure and awareness) to promote volunteering opportunities.
Mr. Salmond: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the most recent timescale since the changes announced by her Department is for inquests of members of the armed forces who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. 
Ms Harman: The timing of individual inquests is a matter for the coroner. I issued a written ministerial statement on 18 December with details of progress with the inquests and I intend to issue a further written ministerial statement in March which will provide more information.
John Hemming: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs pursuant to the answer of 13 December 2006, Official Report, column 1074W, on litigants in person, if she will assess the merits of increasing the rate at which litigants in person can claim costs. 
Vera Baird: The award of costs is a matter for the judge in the light of the circumstances of a particular case. Under the current rules of court, litigants in person can be awarded costs for the work done in connection with the case of £9.25 per hour. If, however he can prove a higher financial loss for that work he can claim that higher figure subject to an absolute cap on the amount recoverable of two thirds of the amount that would have been allowed if the litigant were legally represented. He can also claim his disbursements. The flexibility of the current system ensures that litigants are fairly compensated for the work carried out. The Government have no plans to review the current rates.
Derek Wyatt: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what steps she plans to take to ensure that the aims of the Public Sector Information Regulations relating to maximising the reuse of public sector information and stimulation of the economy are achieved. 
In recent years the Government, through the Office of Public Sector Information, has introduced a number of initiatives to encourage the re-use of public sector information. This includes the development of the on-line PSI Click-Use licence. Currently, there are over 11,000 Click-Use licence
holders worldwide using a range of Government and other public sector information. The plan is to extend the scope of Click-Use licensing to a wider range of public sector information.
The Office of Public Sector Information also introduced the Information Fair Trader Scheme (IFTS). This is a process that monitors standards of information re-use and trading. IFTS was originally developed to monitor the activities of Government trading funds but IFTS has now been extended to other public sector bodies. This includes an on-line self assessment version of IFTS. This will help improve standards across the public sector in the field of re-use.
Derek Wyatt: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what action is taken against public sector information holders who breach the Information Fair Trader Scheme guidelines. 
Ms Harman: If a public sector information holder (PSIH) that is accredited under the Information Fair Trader Scheme (IFTS) does not comply with IFTS guidelines, the Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI) will notify the public sector information holder and identify those areas which need to be remedied. In doing so, OPSI will provide support and guidance to assist the PSIH to comply. This would involve regular meetings and reviews. A key aspect of the process is the development of an action plan which sets out the areas of non-compliance and target dates for meeting the necessary standards. If the PSIH does not resolve the problem, OPSI may consider the withdrawal of the PSIHs delegation of authority, in full or in part, until the issues are resolved. Potential withdrawal of a delegation of authority would only apply in those cases where the PSIH is a Crown body that operates under a delegation of authority from the controller of HMSO.
Derek Wyatt: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will take steps to ensure public sector information holders offer the same terms and conditions to external licensees as those applied to their own products and services. 
Ms Harman: The Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations (S.I. 2005 No. 1515) specifically state that any public sector information holder wishing to re-use information that it produces outside its public task should be subject to the same conditions as any other re-user. The Office of Public Sector Information monitors this aspect under the Information Fair Trader Scheme and also if any formal complaints are made under the regulations.
Derek Wyatt: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what steps have been taken in response to the Office of Public Sector Informations proposal that public sector information holders should be set timetables and goal times within which to respond to requests. 
Ms Harman: The timescale for responding to requests to re-use public sector information is defined in the Regulations on the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005 (S. I. 2005 No 1515). The standard response time is 20 working days although there is provision for extending this in the case of requests that raise complex issues.
Ms Harman: The Office of Fair Trading published a market sector study on the commercial use of public sector report in December 2006. One of OFTs recommendations is to increase OPSIs regulatory powers and resources. The Government are due to submit their official response to the OFT report in March 2007.
Derek Wyatt: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will make more stringent the requirements on public sector information holders regarding the reasons which may be given for (a) refusing a licence and (b) changing licence terms. 
Ms Harman: The Regulations on the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations (S.I. 2005 No. 1515) allow public sector information holders to refuse a request for re-use. In doing so it is consistent with the European directive on the re-use of public sector information which the UK Regulations implement. The directive is consistent with the provisions of all international agreements on the protection of intellectual property rights and one of the effects of this is that public sector rights holders have the same right to refuse to allow the re-use of their copyright material as any other copyright holder. This is subject, however, to such decisions being made on a non-discriminatory basis.
Under the Information Fair Trader Scheme (IFTS) the Office of Public Sector Information reviews the reasons for refusing to allow re-use as part of the IFTS verification process to ensure consistency and fairness of application.
Mr. Walker: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment her Department has made of the impact of the Buncefield oil disaster on local property values; and if she will make a statement. 
Angela E. Smith: The effects of the Buncefield incident on house prices were reviewed by GO-East in July 2006. Local estate agents reported that there had been little or no decrease in house sales and value. Research carried out by Lambert Smith Hampton has found that there continues to be a strong demand for commercial properties in the area and does not expect the market to be affected in the future.
Mr. Walker: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what measures have been taken since the Buncefield disaster to ensure that local fire services are properly equipped to deal with the potential health and safety threats posed by the control of major accident hazard sites located within the area of their service coverage; and if she will make a statement. 
Angela E. Smith: Measures taken to deal with the potential threats posed by control of major accident hazard sites (COMAH) form part of the local authority emergency planning arrangements. The information requested is not collected centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Iain Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what action her Department (a) has undertaken and (b) is planning to undertake to improve the (i) economic competitiveness and (ii) quality of life for residents of coastal towns. 
Mr. Woolas: The Department recognises that coastal towns have a distinctive role to play in sub-regional and regional economies. It supports efforts by the regional development agencies to ensure that coastal areas in their regions are helped to achieve their full economic potential, as part of wider strategies to deliver sustainable growth.
The Department's memorandum to the Select Committee inquiry on coastal towns in March 2006 sets out the significant Government funding and support, much of it through Communities and Local Government programmes, which are focused on the areas of greatest need, including some coastal towns. They include the new deal for communities, neighbourhood renewal fund, and local enterprise growth initiative.
On 16 May 2006, the Department held a summit for coastal towns and cities to discuss their vision for the future and how central Government could help them deliver their priorities. Key issues to emerge focused on transport and connectivity, skills/employment and affordable housing.
This summit, along with other city summits held around the country have helped inform proposals in the Local Government White Paper Strong and Prosperous Communities, launched in November 2006. This offers a stronger role for local partnerships, giving local authorities more scope to lead their communities and to better address local needs and opportunities reflecting what is important locally which can vary significantly between places, including coastal towns.
Local authorities are already under a duty to prepare a Sustainable Community Strategy which sets the strategic vision for an area. We are building on the successful pilots of local area agreementsthe delivery plan for the strategywhich will now be available to all local authorities. We want to encourage multi-area agreementswhere there is interest locallywhich will extend this approach to those strategic issues which are best tackled
across local authority boundaries. We will continue to work closely with these local authoritieswhether in coastal towns or elsewhereto help promote their further economic and social development.
In the White Paper, we announced our intention to promote the concept of City Development Companies for English cities and city-regions, in particular their role in attracting private investment and driving economic development and regeneration. We are currently running a consultation on this, which should be of interest to all towns and cities.
Together with the DTI and Treasury we will be considering further through the Treasury review of sub-national economic development how Government can best devolve more powers and resources to regions, towns and cities, including those in coastal areas.
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 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. 
Angela E. Smith: Details of external consultants used by the Department for Communities and Local Government in relation to private finance initiatives in 2005-06 including the nature and cost of work is shown in the following table. With regard to the Departments agencies, there was no use of external consultants in connection with private finance initiatives in 2005-06.
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