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6 Mar 2007 : Column 1868W—continued


I dealt with departmental business in the House of Commons on 2, 6, 15, 20, 21, 22 and 30 November 2007 and elsewhere on 1, 2, 8 and 9 November 2006.

I undertook other engagements in an official capacity on 2, 7, 13 and 14 November in both Belfast and London.

In addition I receive official papers on a daily basis and am always available to conduct business over the telephone.


6 Mar 2007 : Column 1869W

Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland

Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what discussions he has had with the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland on her definition of collusion. [125475]

Mr. Hain: I have not met the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland to discuss her definition of collusion but rather to explore the findings of a recent report into the murder of Raymond McCourt Jnr.

Primary Education

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many students attended a maintained primary school in Northern Ireland in (a) 1995-96 and (b) 2005-06. [121607]

Maria Eagle: In 1995-96, 91,246 children attended Catholic maintained, and 1,083 children attended other maintained, primary schools. In 2005-06, 77,678 children attended Catholic maintained, and 2,181 attended other maintained, primary schools.

These figures include children in nursery, reception and year one to seven classes.

Rivers Agency: Manpower

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many people were (a) employed and (b) recruited by the Rivers Agency in Northern Ireland in each of the last three years. [125800]

David Cairns: According to the Rivers Agency’s Corporate Business Plan, 446 people were employed in 2005-06 and 458 in 2006-07. These figures reflect the staff in post position in July 2005 and 2006 respectively.

The Agency currently employs 429 people.

The number of people recruited by Rivers Agency in each of the last three years is as follows:

March to February each year Number

2004-05

53

2005-06

24

2006-07

18


The figures include industrial, non-industrial and casual staff.

Schools

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the impact of the Bain report on future school building projects in Northern Ireland. [120438]

Maria Eagle: The Bain report recommended the establishment of a coherent area-based approach to the planning of the schools estate. Future school building projects will need to be compatible with well-developed area plans. Previously announced capital projects which are currently under way are being reviewed for their consistency with an area-based approach.


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Duchy of Lancaster

10 Downing Street

Mr. Heald: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster pursuant to the answer of 7 February 2007, Official Report, column 1009W, on 10 Downing street: repairs and maintenance, what the schedule is for refurbishment and maintenance in 2007. [124368]

Hilary Armstrong: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him 5 March 2007, Official Report, column 1667W, by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Accident and Emergency Departments

Bill Wiggin: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many of the primary care trusts visited by the Prime Minister’s delivery unit have accident and emergency departments earmarked for closure. [124330]

Hilary Armstrong: Reconfiguration of NHS services, including (accident and emergency) A and E units, is a local decision to be made by Chief Executives of local NHS organisations, as they are best placed to consider the needs of their local NHS patients. PMDU has not discussed possible A and E closure decisions on its visits to PCTs and is not part of this decision-making process.

Departments: Databases

Mr. Clegg: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what databases are controlled by her Department and its agencies; and what percentage of the data in each database she estimates is inaccurate or out of date. [124037]

Mr. McFadden: The following lists the databases controlled by the Department. This has been compiled from existing records of significant departmental databases. It does not include all locally-based data collections that sit across departmental networks, the collection of which would incur disproportionate costs.

Database title

The Information on these databases which would be required to estimate the percentages of data
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inaccuracies is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

My Department takes all appropriate measures to ensure the quality of data under its control.

Communities and Local Government

Aerials: Planning Permission

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will amend planning regulations to require Network Rail telecommunications masts to receive planning permission. [124416]

Ruth Kelly: There are no current plans to review the permitted development rights of railway undertakers.

Audit Commission: Accessible Housing

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what discussions she has had with the Audit Commission on how it evaluates the provision of accessible housing in inspections. [112618]

Angela E. Smith: The Audit Commission has agreed that as part of the Supporting People inspections it will look at the delivery mechanism of providing support for accessible housing.

Bath Spa Project

Dan Norris: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the (a) original budget was and (b) current expected outturn is for the Bath Spa project; what proportion of the budget has been provided from Millennium Commission funding; what assessment she has made of the cost-effectiveness of the use of public funds on the project; who will be responsible for meeting any budget overspend; and if she will make a statement. [124116]

Mr. Caborn: I have been asked to reply.

The Millennium Commission (now succeeded by the Big Lottery Fund) awarded a grant of £6,778, 884 in November 1997 for the Bath Spa project, which had an original budget of £13,557,768. In April 1999, budgeted costs rose to £18, 250,000, and the Millennium Commission grant was increased by £1 million to £7,778,884. The final grant payment was released at the end of 2006, with the cost of the main project (as at August 2006) rising to £33,339,955.

The Big Lottery Fund is very pleased with the completed Revitalising Bath Spa project which is as a wonderful addition to Bath's architecture and one which provides an excellent new facility.

Convention for the Protection of National Minorities

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what consideration her Department gave to the application
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on behalf of the Cornish for inclusion in the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. [123757]

Meg Munn: The United Kingdom ratified the Framework Convention on the understanding that it would be applied with reference to “racial groups” within the meaning of Section 3(1) of the Race Relations Act 1976, which is to say any groups defined by “colour, race, nationality or national or ethnic origins”. For the purposes of the Framework Convention it would of course also be necessary for the group to be a minority in the UK.

Since the United Kingdom Government ratified the Framework Convention, a number of Cornish organisations and individuals have made representations to the Government arguing that the Cornish should be considered within the scope of the Framework Convention’s application in the United Kingdom. The Government therefore included Cornish organisations in its consultation prior to the preparation of this 2(nd) report under the Framework Convention. It also circulated the draft report to a number of Cornish organisations and individuals which had approached the Government on the issue since then. A number of these organisations and individuals submitted comments on the draft report. The Government have considered the arguments put forward for the inclusion, but has not been convinced that a move away from the definition of racial group in Section 3(1) of the Race Relations Act 1976 can be justified. The Government consider that the UK’s enormous diversity, embracing individuals of many different (and sometimes multiple) ethnic, national, cultural and faith identities is a matter for celebration and a source of national strength. The Government are very much aware of the strength of feeling about Cornwall’s separate identity and distinctiveness. The fact that some groups may not meet the definition of racial group from the Race Relations Act 1976 has not been a barrier to the UK’s many communities being able to maintain and celebrate their distinct identities.

Council Tax: Second Homes

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which local authorities in England impose council tax on second homes; at what rate each authority has set the council tax; and for what purposes they have used the additional revenue generated. [124336]

Mr. Woolas: All local authorities in England levy council tax on second homes, although many have used the discretionary powers contained in the Local Government Act 2003 to reduce the discount on second homes below 50 per cent.

A table listing authorities in England and the discount they grant second homes has been placed in the Library of the House. The data are as at 18 September 2006 and are reported by billing authorities to Communities and Local Government on CTB Supplementary forms.

It is for local authorities to determine how any additional revenue generated through a reduction in
6 Mar 2007 : Column 1873W
the second homes discount should be spent in the light of local priorities. The Department does not collect this information.

Council Tax: Valuation

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 28 November 2006, Official Report, column 529W, on council tax, what steps her Department and its agencies are taking to facilitate data-sharing between local authorities and the Valuation Office Agency. [120850]

Mr. Woolas: The chief executive of the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) wrote to his counterparts in each billing authority on 18 July 2006.

Councillors: Age

Jeff Ennis: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the average age of councillors was in England in (a) 1986, (b) 1996 and (c) 2006. [125010]

Mr. Woolas: The average age of councillors in England rose from 55.4 in 1997 to 58.3 in 2006 (see the following table). A figure for 1997 has been included in the absence of an estimate for 1996. No equivalent figure is available for 1986.

As an alternative, estimates of the percentage of councillors aged under 45 years are also provided. Here, a downward trend is evident, with 26 per cent. of councillors under 45 in 1985 (in England and Wales), 18.4 per cent. in 1997, and 13.5 per cent. in 2006.

1985 1997 2006

Average age of councillors in England (years)

55.4

58.3

Councillors under 45 years of age (percentage)

(1)26

18.4

13.5

(1) England and Wales. Sources: 1. Widdicombe Committee, 1986. 2. 1997 Census of Local Authority Councillors, IDeA. 3. 2006 Census of Local Authority Councillors, IDeA.

A new Councillors Commission, announced on 8 February 2007, will consider the average age of councillors as part of its wider remit to consider barriers and incentives to becoming a councillor.

Disadvantaged: Somerset

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 8 May 2006, Official Report, columns 93-6W, on deprivation (Somerset), what the population is of each of the lower layer super output areas listed in the table; what the 10 most deprived lower layer super output areas are in (a) England and (b) the UK; and if she will make a statement. [124229]

Mr. Woolas: I refer the hon. Member to the answers given on 30 January 2007, Official Report, columns 298-99W.


6 Mar 2007 : Column 1874W

European Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what plans she has (a) to complete and (b) to publish the second UK compliance report under the European Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities; [123432]

(2) what the (a) planned and (b) actual timetable was for the publication of the report on UK compliance with the European Framework Convention was for the Protection of National Minorities. [123436]

Meg Munn: The UK’s 2(nd) compliance report under the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities has been completed and was transmitted to the Council of Europe in February 2007. The report sets out the important progress the UK has made towards honouring this commitment. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament. The Council of Europe have also placed the report on their website (www.coe.int). The report was originally due for submission to the Council of Europe in May 2004.


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