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13 Mar 2007 : Column 238W—continued

Fire Services: Costs

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate she has made of the rental cost of each regional fire control centre, over the full period of its lease, inclusive of VAT and increases produced by the mechanism for future regular rental upratings. [126285]

Angela E. Smith: The rental costs of each Regional Control Centre (RCC) are shown in the following table. The costs given are over the full period of the lease, inclusive of VAT and uplifted in line with the terms of the lease. The costs, other than for London, are based on rents agreed with the developer of each RCC. Procurement of the London RCC is in progress. RCCs should be able to recover the VAT.

RCC Estimated cost (£ million) Lease term (years)

East Midlands

45

25

East of England

50

25

North East

31

20

North West

45

25

South East

54

25

South West

34

20

West Midlands

50

25

Yorkshire and Humberside

33

20


Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which public
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body will pay the rental cost of each regional fire control centre from the date at which rent is payable until each emergency fire control in each region has migrated to the relevant regional control centre. [126286]

Angela E. Smith: In the period between the practical completion of a Regional Control Centre (RCC) building and the migration of the Fire Control system to that centre, the accommodation costs (including rent and facilities management) will be met by the Department for Communities and Local Government. During that period the building will be fitted out, the IT installed and tested and staff trained.

Home Information Packs

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much her Department has spent on (a) administration, (b) legal fees, (c) special advisers, (d) the website and (e) other costs for the home information packs programme; and what funding was originally allocated to the programme. [103847]

Yvette Cooper: The following table indicates how much the Department of Communities and Local Government has spent on administration, legal fees, external advisers, the website and other costs associated with the Home Information Pack Programme from April 2004 up to the end of January 2007. Consumers spend billions of pounds each year on the transaction costs they incur when buying and selling homes. HIPs are designed to cut waste from home buying and selling as well as providing important energy information to help cut carbon emissions. The money has been spent on: developing and testing the home condition report and other components of the pack; putting in place a quality assurance framework to protect consumers and guarantee standards; developing the necessary systems; and explaining the changes to the public and industry stakeholders.

Total (£)

Admin spend—including salaries of those working on HIPs policy and implementation

1,529,450

Legal fees

153,903

External advisers

5,52,629

Website

103,588

Other costs—including research and area trials

2,645,151

Communications

1,800,004

Total programme spend

10,155,275

Grand total (1)

11,684,725

(1 )Expenditure as recorded in the Department’s accounting system from April 2004 to January 2007 inclusive.
The budget for the programme for the period 2004-05 to 2006-07 is £16 million.

Home Inspectors

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will make a statement on the suspension of the two consultants employed by her Department in relation to the regulation of home inspectors; and what communications her
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Department has had with the (a) Office of Government Commerce and (b) National Audit Office on the matter. [114491]

Yvette Cooper: The Department looked into this matter and concluded that it would not be using these consultants’ services any further. The NAO are now conducting an inquiry into the role played by the consultants in question.

All three certification schemes approved have been assessed by a panel with the independent chair nominated by OGC, without the involvement of the consultants referred to.

Lighting: Pollution

Robert Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when she will consult on draft guidance on light pollution; and if she will make a statement. [126892]

Angela E. Smith: Policy responsibility for statutory nuisance from artificial light rests with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Planning controls which provide an important mechanism for limiting the effects of light pollution are the responsibility of Communities and Local Government. This means that the two Departments work closely together on this subject and are currently collaborating on the preparation of planning guidance for local planning authorities on light pollution covering both planning and pollution aspects. We will consult on this draft as soon as possible.

Local Authority Business Growth Incentive Scheme

Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much was spent on introducing the Local Authority Business Growth Incentive Scheme; and what the cost of administering the scheme was in 2005-06. [126855]

Mr. Woolas: The Department cannot provide a breakdown of the costs involved in setting up and administering the Local Authority Business Growth Incentive Scheme. The Department does not monitor resource at this level of detail.

Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the average time taken to process a Local Authority Business Growth Incentive Scheme award has been since the Scheme’s inception; and what proportion of awards have been paid on time. [126878]

Mr. Woolas: Valuation Office Agency source data are provided to this Department in January of each year for the purpose of calculating Local Authority Business Growth Incentive (LABGI) Scheme awards. Announcements of LABGI grant determinations are then made in February of each year. In the first two years of the scheme, this commitment to provide these determinations in February has been met. In both cases, payments followed in March.


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Local Government Finance: Population Mobility

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what research her Department (a) has carried out and (b) intends to carry out on the implications of population mobility on public service costs to local authorities. [122084]

Mr. Woolas: Communities and Local Government have neither carried out or currently intend to carry out research on population mobility.

However, officials will discuss research relating to the implications of population mobility on funding that has been undertaken by Local Government representatives in the Settlement Working Group meetings. These will be held between February and mid-June.

Local Government: Vacancies

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what guidance her Department issues to local authorities on the advertising of job vacancies. [125969]

Mr. Woolas: The Department does not issue guidance to local authorities on the advertising of job vacancies. Local government is responsible for its own recruitment practices, and is subject to the same employment laws as other sectors.

Social Rented Housing: Standards

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 5 March 2007, Official Report, column 1800W, which planning authorities in Hampshire are not applying the percentages for social housing set out in Planning Policy Guidance Note 3. [126411]

Yvette Cooper: PPG3 has been superseded by PPS3, however there were no percentages for affordable housing set out in PPG3.

PPS3 asks local authorities to set a target for the amount of affordable housing to be provided in their local development documents, based on an understanding of the needs of the area. PPS3 gives a national indicative site size threshold of 15 dwellings to which the policy should apply, although local planning authorities can set lower minimum thresholds where viable and practicable.

Thames Gateway: Bridges

Mr. Evennett: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when she expects to make a decision on the Thames Gateway Bridge. [126515]

Meg Munn: We are currently reviewing the inspector’s report, inquiry evidence and post-inquiry representations. A decision regarding the Thames Gateway bridge proposal will be issued as soon as possible.


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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Afghanistan: Peace Keeping Operations

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps she is taking to encourage NATO countries to send additional forces to Afghanistan. [126977]

Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friends the Defence Secretary, the Foreign Secretary and other Ministers are in regular contact with our NATO counterparts to ensure that commanders on the ground have access to the resources they need to carry out the International Security Assistance Force’s (ISAF) mission and to ensure NATO Allies regularly review their contributions to Afghanistan. At the recent NATO Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Brussels, 26 January, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary reaffirmed the need for all NATO Allies to play their part in ensuring ISAF’s success. Military advice on force and capability requirements is provided by the Supreme Allied Commander Europe using the force generation process.

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 23 February 2007, Official Report, column 992W, on Afghanistan: peace keeping operations, what she expects the UK contribution to the European Security and Defence Policy mission to Afghanistan to be. [127069]

Dr. Howells: On 12 February, the General Affairs and External Relations Council of the European Union approved the concept of a European security and defence policy mission to Afghanistan in the field of policing with linkages to the wider rule of law. Discussions are under way in Brussels on the development of a Concept of Operations (CONOPS), which will detail the composition, objectives and cost of the mission. We plan to contribute to the mission but are awaiting the issuance of the CONOPS to determine the exact form and extent of our participation.

I also refer the hon. Member to the replies I gave him on 23 February 2007, Official Report, column 992W.

Africa: Illegal Immigrants

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with the (a) Mauritanian and (b) Libyan Governments on port security and illegal immigration from Africa. [126976]

Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not discussed the issue of port security or illegal migration from Africa with either the Government of Mauritania or the Government of Libya. We continue to discuss these important issues with both Governments at a working level.

Albania: EC Enlargement

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether she has received requests from Albania for UK assistance in
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that country's efforts to meet the criteria for EU membership. [126986]

Mr. Hoon: The UK has been working for some time to assist the Government of Albania in their efforts to meet the criteria for EU membership. The UK contributes politically through the EU's Stabilisation and Association process and practically through Government-funded projects in the country which focus on developing administrative and technical capacity.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Children

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when she expects the United Nations Envoy on Children and Armed Conflict to report following her mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo. [126697]

Mr. McCartney: The United Nations Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, Ms Radhika Coomaraswamy, visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) between 4-9 March. She will brief the diplomatic community on return to New York after 14 March.

The Special Representative's visit aims to ensure greater protection for children as the DRC emerges from years of civil war. She will discuss with the Congolese Government the issues of children associated with armed groups, sexual violence and impunity.

Progress on disarmament and demobilisation of child soldiers in the DRC has been relatively successful. But their reintegration back into society has been slow. The UK has given £15 million to the World Bank-led regional multi-country demobilisation and reintegration programme and £3 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross for programmes including child reintegration. We will continue to press the new DRC Government to take responsibility for reintegration and make it a priority.

European Union: Constitution

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will provide for a referendum on any proposed EU constitution. [126993]

Mr. Hoon: The Government have confirmed repeatedly that the treaty establishing a constitution for Europe would be ratified by the UK only after a positive vote in a referendum. However, there is no consensus at present among EU member states on the future of the constitutional treaty. The way forward will be discussed at the European Council in June. The Government make no presumption regarding the outcome of these discussions and will not speculate about their outcome.


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