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Fire Services: Radio

Kerry McCarthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent representations she has received on the business case for the Fire Control Project; if she will place copies of such representations in the Library; and if she will make a statement. [122294]

Angela E. Smith: Two versions of the FiReControl business case have been published since January 2005, the most recent in October 2006. Both versions of the business case have been presented to stakeholder groups at numerous seminars, workshops and meetings. Following the publication of the business case in October 2006, one letter was received from the project board in the South West region. This has been placed in the Libraries of the House.

A further updated version of the business case will be published following the award of the infrastructure services contract.

Gaming Clubs

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate her Department has made of the likely income to local authorities from Section 106 agreements as a result of obtaining an (a) small, (b) large and (c) regional casino licence and subsequently allowing a casino development to go ahead. [124474]

Ruth Kelly: Communities and Local Government has made no estimate of the likely income to local authorities from section 106 agreements as a result of obtaining an (a) small, (b) large and (c) regional casino licence and subsequently allowing a casino development, and has no plans to do so in the future. Section 106 agreements are negotiated between local
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authorities and developers to make acceptable development which would otherwise be unacceptable in planning terms.

Gender: Equal Opportunities

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether her Department has a gender (a) strategy and (b) equality action plan in place. [125106]

Meg Munn [holding answer 5 March 2007]: The Department is leading the development of a more integrated approach across Government on equality to increase opportunities for men and women. It also leads on gender-related legislation and sponsors the Equal Opportunities Commission and Women's National Commission. It is measuring improvements in gender equality across Government against public service agreement targets, and is taking forward the Discrimination Law Review, looking at the whole of discrimination law, leading to a Single Equality Act.

The Department is preparing and publishing a Gender Equality Scheme which will include an action plan setting out how Communities and Local Government will fulfil the general and specific duties set out in the Equality Act 2006 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (Public Authorities) (Statutory Duties) Order 2006 (No. 2930). The scheme will set out the Department's gender equality objectives, and the actions it intends to take in the next three years to reduce gender inequality. The scheme will be published by 30 April 2007.

In preparing the scheme, the Department has consulted employees, stakeholders and trade unions, and has taken into account the views expressed by consultees.

In order to ensure that the actions set out in the scheme are put into practice, the Department has put in place measures to ensure regular review of the scheme and to drive progress in implementing the actions.

Havering Borough Council: Standards

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether the London Borough of Havering Council met the 2.5 per cent. efficiency target for 2006. [124843]

Mr. Woolas: The London borough of Havering did meet their efficiency target for 2005-06. The council had a target to achieve £4.6 million by the end of the Financial Year, and in their 2005-06 Backward Look efficiency statement, they reported that £10.2 million had actually been achieved. Their efficiency statement can be found on the Department's website at:

Home Information Packs

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the timetable is for the laying and ratification of revised secondary legislation on Home Information Packs. [124413]


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Ruth Kelly: We intend to lay the amended Home Information Pack Regulations on 29 March in time for the introduction of the compulsory scheme on 1 June 2007.

Housing: Design for Manufacture Competition

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what she expects the purchase price to be of the homes built under the Design for Manufacture competition at the Renny Lodge site in Newport Pagnell referred to in her predecessor's Department's news release of 3 November 2005. [112258]

Yvette Cooper: The 10 sites in the Design for Manufacture competition have been brought forward with the aim of producing mixed communities with homes occupied under a variety of tenures. Some of the homes built through the competition will be for social rent, some will be for sale on a shared equity or shared ownership basis, including Homebuy and the First Time Buyers Initiative (FTBI), and some will be available for outright sale on the open market.

The competition challenged the homebuilding industry to build high quality, well-designed two bedroom homes, with an internal floor area of 76.5m(2), for a construction cost of £60,000. All sites will include homes built within these parameters, with the remainder made up of larger and smaller units built at an equivalent cost-efficiency.

All sites will include a proportion of affordable housing. This includes social rent and different kinds of shared ownership. The price of the units for sale reflects the land value, the local market and the equity share as well as the construction cost.

A Renny Lodge, in Newport Pagnell, a total of 68 homes will be built, 54 of which will be affordable. Of these, 33 will be available under the FTBI. The remaining 21 will be made available to the RSL, 14 of which will be available through the Homebuy scheme, three at a reduced market sale and four for social rent.

For those homes available under the Homebuy shared ownership arrangements a 30 per cent. equity stake in a two bedroom home will be made available for an expected price of between £42,000 and £46,000.

The FTBI homes will typically be available at equity stakes from 50 per cent. starting at around £71,500 for a one bedroom flat.

Two bedroom homes available for sale on the open market have been reserved from £140,000.

Housing: West Midlands

Peter Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what (a) demographic data and (b) assumptions were used to inform her Department’s estimate of the number of houses needed in the revision to the West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy; and if she will make a statement. [123696]

Yvette Cooper: The West Midlands Regional Assembly has drawn up the consultation options for housing numbers for the revision to the Regional Spatial Strategy. In line with the requirements of PPS3:
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Housing, the Assembly has to take into account the Government’s latest published household projections in determining the level of housing provision. The Assembly has also made assumptions relating to the demolition and replacement of obsolete housing stock across the region, and made an allowance for vacancy rates in new build properties. These will be tested by independent inspectors during the Examination in Public of the Regional Spatial Strategy later next year.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government why she was not able to answer question 112258, on the Design for Manufacture competition, substantively on the day named for answer. [118755]

Yvette Cooper: I have now provided a substantive answer to question 112258.

Race Relations Act 1976

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether (a) Welsh and (b) Irish people meet the definition of racial groups under the Race Relations Act 1976; and what definition her Department uses of the term (i) racial and (ii) ethnic. [123465]

Mr. Woolas: Section 3(1) of the Race Relations Act 1976 states that “racial group” means

The determination of whether a particular group meets this definition is ultimately a matter for the courts, rather than the Government. However, our understanding is that the Welsh and Irish do meet the definition of racial group under the Race Relations Act. Outside the context of the Race Relations Act this Department is not prescriptive in its everyday use of the terms “racial” and “ethnic”.

Constitutional Affairs

Electoral Registration

24. Jo Swinson: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what measures her Department is taking to encourage the registration of electors. [125136]

Bridget Prentice: The Electoral Administration Act 2006 introduced a range of provisions to help increase registration rates. These included:

I am pleased to say that figures recently released by the Office for National Statistics show that the number of registered electors in the UK has increased by just over 370,000.


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26. Dr. Iddon: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many eligible voters are estimated to be missing from the electoral register in Bolton, South-East constituency. [125138]

Bridget Prentice: We are not able to collect reliable statistics on under-registration. However, it is possible to estimate the number of people not registered in Bolton local authority at 8,000. However, this statistic is misleading, as it does not discount residents who are not eligible to vote.

Recent ONS statistics indicate that the number of registered people in Bolton local authority has risen by 2 per cent. between December 2005 and December 2006. This equates to an additional 4,354 people on the register this year.

The Electoral Commission estimates that 3.5 million people who are eligible to vote were missing from the register across England and Wales in 2000.

Magistrates Courts

25. Ann Winterton: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will make a statement on the funding of magistrates courts. [125137]

Ms Harman: The Department has received its settlement from the Treasury in December for comprehensive spending review period (CSR07) covering financial years 2008-09 to 2010-11. The funding for financial tear 2007-08 for the magistrates courts will be in context of the Department's commitment to ensuring an efficient modern service and protecting front line operations. The same principle should apply to the CSR07 period.

Duchy of Cornwall

27. Andrew George: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what assessment she has made of the constitutional status of (a) the Duchy of Cornwall, (b) Cornwall and (c) the Isles of Scilly. [125139]

Ms Harman: The Duchy of Cornwall is a private estate that funds the public, charitable and private activities of the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William and Prince Harry.

Cornwall is as an administrative county of England, which is subject to UK legislation. The county elects MPs to the UK Parliament and has always been an integral part of the Union.

Similarly, the Isles of Scilly are represented in Parliament as part of the St. Ives constituency. The Government do not intend to change the legal position of the Duchy nor the constitutional position of Cornwall.

Rape Victims

28. Dr. Blackman-Woods: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what progress has been made in her policy of providing legal
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advice to rape victims; and if she will make a statement. [125140]

Ms Harman: The Victims' Advocate Scheme which applies to relatives of homicide victims is currently being piloted in five Crown courts. The scheme is being independently evaluated and no decisions will be taken about its future until it has been assessed. Over the past three years we have invested around £7 million in services for victims of sexual violence, including piloting independent sexual violence advisers to provide non-legal advocacy and support to victims.

Coroners Service

29. Ms Keeble: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what proposals she has to modernise the Coroners Service. [125141]

Ms Harman: We published a draft Bill on reform of the coroner system in June 2006. The Bill will improve the way that the system serves public interest and meets bereaved families’ concerns. The Bill will also introduce national standards and leadership and strengthen coroners work by the introduction of improved powers of investigation and a transparent appointments system.

Electoral Fraud

30. Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what further mechanisms she plans to put in place to prevent fraud in the electoral process. [125142]

Bridget Prentice: The Government have taken significant steps in recent years to tighten up the security of the electoral process, and assist the police and prosecutors in tackling electoral fraud. These measures are primarily established by the Electoral Administration Act 2006 and associated secondary legislation.

We will wish to consider the effectiveness of these new measures in light of the experience of them at the May 2007 elections, and whether further measures are necessary.

Postal Votes

31. Mr. Vara: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what mechanisms are in place to verify the legitimacy of postal votes. [125143]

Bridget Prentice: We are introducing a range of new measures at the May 2007 local elections that are designed to strengthen the security of postal voting. These build on the measures successfully introduced in May 2006.

Of key importance, is the introduction of personal identifiers for postal voters which will help to ensure that postal voting is safe and secure.

Abu Qatada

Mr. Cash: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs if she will place in the
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Library a copy of the (a) full and (b) summary judgment of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission in the case of Abu Qatada; what precedents there are for different versions of such judgments to be produced; what the (i) security classification and (ii) status of each version is; and if she will make a statement. [124748]

Bridget Prentice: A copy of the open decision made publicly available by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) in the appeal of Omar Othman (aka Abu Qatada) will be placed, as with all SIAC open decisions, in the House Library. All SIAC decisions are publicly available on the SIAC outcomes database which makes copies of all of SIAC's open decisions and is hosted on Her Majesty's Court Service (HMCS) website.

Rule 4 of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Procedure) Rules 2003 (the 2003 Rules) provides that SIAC has a general duty when exercising any of its functions to secure that information is not disclosed contrary to the interests of national security, the international relations of the United Kingdom, the detection and prevention of crime, or in any other circumstances where disclosure is likely to harm the public interest.

Rule 47 of the 2003 Rules provides that the Commission must produce a written decision to the parties giving reasons for its decision to the extent that it is possible to do so without disclosing information contrary to the public interest. Where the determination does not contain the full reasons for the decision the Commission must serve on the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and the Special Advocate appointed to represent the appellant, a separate determination including the full reasons.


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