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New Homes: Carbon Footprint

10. Gordon Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what discussions he has had with the First Minister on ensuring all new homes built in Scotland by 2017 have a zero carbon footprint. [116351]

David Cairns: My right hon. Friend has regular discussions with the First Minister on a range of issues. Since 1997, this Government have introduced a wide range of measures designed to encourage household energy efficiency, with the pre-Budget report announcing the ambition for all new homes to be zero carbon within a decade. Overall, the energy efficiency of housing in Scotland is a devolved matter.

Act of Union

11. Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how the 300(th) anniversary of the Act of Union will be marked in Scotland. [116352]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Scottish Executive is supporting a range of events to commemorate the anniversary of the Act of Union. They include book launches and debates by the National Library of Scotland, an exhibition in the Scottish Parliament, a display of portraits and new video work by the National Galleries of Scotland and a schools competition about the impact of the Union.


12. Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent meetings he has held with trade unions to discuss the Scottish shipbuilding industry. [116353]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: I meet the Scottish Trades Union Congress on a regular basis to discuss a range of issues.

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Economic Activity

Mark Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what his latest assessment is of levels of economic activity in Scotland. [116344]

David Cairns: Scotland continues to benefit from the macroeconomic stability delivered by the Government. Employment and economic activity in the Scottish labour market are at their highest position on record, and Scottish economic growth in 2006—at 2.2 per cent.—was above the long-term trend and equal to that of the UK.

Medical Research Council Centres

Ann McKechin: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the future of Medical Research Council centres in Scotland following the review by Sir David Cooksey. [116343]

David Cairns: The position on funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC) will remain the same. Centres in Scotland, as is the case for any part of the United Kingdom, which are currently eligible for funding from MRC will continue to be eligible.

Television Services

Mr. Alan Reid: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions he has held with ministerial colleagues on television services in Scotland. [116348]

David Cairns: My right hon. Friend has regular discussions with colleagues on a range of issues affecting Scotland.

International Development

Global Environmental Facility

Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what funding and assistance his Department has provided to the least developed countries for writing their National Adaptation Plans of Action for the Global Environmental Facility. [117022]

Mr. Thomas: The preparation of National Adaptation Plans of Action (NAPA) has been funded by the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) since 2002. DFID contributed £3.5 million in 2006-07 to the LDCF to help with the completion, modification and implementation of NAPAs. DFID will provide a further £6.5 million over the next two financial years. DFID is the largest contributor to the LDCF. In addition to financial support, the UK was a member of the Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG) between 2003 and 2005. The LEG provides advice to least developed countries on the development of NAPAs.

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Sri Lanka

Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assistance his Department is providing to civilians affected by the conflict in Sri Lanka. [117372]

Mr. Thomas: In September 2006 DFID donated US $1 million to assist those affected and displaced by the conflict in Sri Lanka, in response to appeals from the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The UN has now issued a Common Humanitarian Action Plan and requested a further $66 million from the donor community. DFID is considering how to respond to this latest appeal.

Constitutional Affairs

Freedom of Information

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the cost to the Government has been of defending refusals to provide information in response to Freedom of Information requests. [117099]

Vera Baird: The information requested is not held. However, my Department published the report of the Independent Review of the Impact of the Freedom of Information Act conducted by economic consultancy firm Frontier Economics. The report contains a comprehensive assessment of the component costs of the operation of the Freedom of Information Act. The report was published on 16 October 2006. It can be found on the DCA’s website and copies are available in the Libraries of the House.

Libra Project

Mr. Spellar: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs pursuant to her answer of 19 December 2006, Official Report, column 1769W, on the Libra project, how many magistrates courts remain to be equipped; and at what rate courts are being equipped. [116982]

Vera Baird: The Libra project has already delivered modern computers to all 369 magistrates courts, providing them with up-to-date tools, including e-mail. This was completed in 2003.

The current project is now focusing on delivery of a national case management system. This is now in place in 12 courts, and implementation is planned at a further 11 courts in January and February 2007. Decisions about roll out to the remaining courts will be taken in the light of the experience from these implementations.

Mental Health

Keith Vaz: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many legal aid practices specialising in mental health law there were in each year since 1997. [117056]

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Vera Baird: Figures are not available for 1997-2000. From 2000 the Legal Services Commission introduced contracting with quality-assured solicitors and not-for-profit organisations to provide advice and assistance to clients in certain categories of law, including mental health. The number of specialist contracts held by legal aid practices in the mental health category at 31 March each year is as follows:














While the number of contracts has fallen since 2001, the number of acts of assistance in this category have risen from 23,706 in 2000-01 to 34,292 in 2005-06.

Lynne Jones: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what measures she is taking to promote actively the employment within (a) her Department and (b) public sector bodies for whom she has responsibility of people with mental illnesses in line with the advice and codes of practice produced by the Disability Rights Commission. [117079]

Vera Baird: Under the Disability Equality Duty introduced by the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, my Department and the public sector bodies for which I am responsible are required to publish and implement Disability Equality Schemes. These are plans setting out how we will carry out the Disability Equality Duty, monitor, and report on progress. In particular this includes our arrangements for gathering information on the effect of our policies and practices on the recruitment, development and retention of our disabled employees, including those with mental health conditions, and making use of that information.

The following arrangements are set out in my Department’s disability equality scheme to support disabled employees including those with mental health conditions. As a member of the ‘Employers Forum on Disability’, we welcome applications from disabled job applicants, and we are an authorised user of the Job Centre Plus Disability Symbol. As part of our symbol commitments, we guarantee to interview all candidates with a disability who choose to apply under the scheme and satisfy the minimum criteria for both externally and internally advertised posts. Advertisements are placed as widely as possible, using diverse media to capture applicants from under-represented groups. In addition, my Department’s commitment to supporting the Workstep programme and the New Deal initiative (key elements of the Government’s strategy on welfare to work) encourages managers to take on disabled people, thus increasing their employability. My Department’s disability network provides a voice for disabled employees to the development of new employment policies and practices that promote equality of opportunity. We have in place local disability advisers who help and advise managers and disabled job applicants/employees in making
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reasonable adjustments under the employment provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

The public sector bodies sponsored by my Department that are subject to these requirements are responsible for publishing and implementing their own disability equality schemes.

Parliamentary Questions

Norman Baker: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs 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 specific date. [115329]

Vera Baird: In 2006, the Department for Constitutional Affairs answered (a) 1,539 ordinary written questions and (b) 314 named day questions. Approximately 83 per cent. of ordinary written questions were answered within 10 working days and 70 per cent. of named day questions were answered by the specific date.

Public Appointments

Mr. Pope: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what experience and qualifications are required for candidates for appointment as (a) parliamentary boundary commissioners for England and (b) local government boundary commissioners for England. [116034]

Bridget Prentice: In respect of Parliamentary Boundary Commissioners for England, statute requires only that the Chairman be the Speaker of the House of Commons and that the Deputy Chairman be a High Court judge. Other than this, there are no specific qualifications or experience required for appointment to the Boundary Commission for England. In practice, the nature of the role makes it highly desirable for applicants for appointment to provide evidence of an ability to: understand and apply legislation; give objective consideration to sometimes lengthy representations, many of which will express conflicting views; and deliver recommendations supported by sound reasoning. There are a range of experiences that might help individuals to develop such abilities. Appointment of local government boundary commissioners in England is a matter for the Electoral Commission.

Public Sector Pensions

Mr. Laws: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the cash equivalent transfer value is of the public sector pensions of the 10 highest paid members of staff in her Department and its executive agencies; and if she will make a statement. [113821]

Ms Harman: The current total cash equivalent transfer value for the 10 highest paid DCA staff (for whom current Civil Service pensions details are available to the Department) is £3,650,854. Six of these
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individuals are named in the annual report and resources accounts and cash equivalent transfer value of their public sector pensions is therefore reported annually. The information is already in the public domain.

Review of Electoral Systems

Richard Burden: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what input from outside her Department is being sought to ensure the factual accuracy of the Review of Electoral Systems; and which (a) organisations and (b) individuals (i) have been and (ii) will be approached to assist in this process. [110515]

Bridget Prentice: In order to ensure factual accuracy, officials in my Department have circulated draft sections of the Review of Voting Systems to officials at the:

A draft of the review was also shown to Professor Robert Hazell, an academic at the Constitution Unit of University College London. It is not envisaged that any further input will be sought.

Church Commissioners

Recruitment Agencies

Grant Shapps: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners how much the Commissioners paid to recruitment agencies for the hire of temporary staff in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. [117483]

Sir Stuart Bell: The Church Commissioners’ expenditure on temporary staff between 1997 and 2006 was as follows:






















By way of a statement, and to put these figures into context, I should tell the hon. Gentleman that, as a result of keeping working practices under review and investment in training and new technology, overall staff numbers have reduced from 257 at the end of 1997 to 84 at the end of 2006.

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