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26 Mar 2007 : Column 1315W—continued

Malcolm Wicks: Negotiations on a Community patent have been ongoing for a number of decades, and have been complicated by questions around language and jurisdiction. As the European Commission Consultation in 2006 noted, there appears no imminent
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prospect of achieving the unanimity required in order to establish a community patent.

The consultation aimed to find near term steps to improve the patent system in Europe that would help us to make progress towards the long term goal of a community patent. We anticipate that the Commission will publish its communication on those next steps over the coming few months.

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the status is of the 2000 London Agreement on European patent translation costs. [129546]

Malcolm Wicks: UK has ratified the London Agreement along with eight other states including Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands; Sweden and Denmark have made parliamentary commitments to ratify in due course. The agreement will enter into force three months after ratification by the French Government. When the London Agreement enters into force it is estimated to almost halve the translation costs that must currently be paid to patent in Europe. A French parliament report in 2006 recommended ratification, and the agreement has been ruled compatible with the French constitution, but the French Government have not yet indicated their intention to ratify.

Post Office: Contracts

Kate Hoey: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether any Post Office Limited services (a) are and (b) are planned to go out to tender. [129530]

Jim Fitzpatrick: This is an operational matter for Post Office Ltd. Alan Cook, the managing director, has been asked to reply direct to the hon. Member.

Post Offices: Consultation Papers

Kate Hoey: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many staff have been deployed (a) to record and (b) to analyse the responses to the Post Office Network consultation. [129529]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Some 50 members of staff have been available to deal with the handling of responses to the consultation document.

A team of eight officials are involved in reviewing the consultation responses.

Post Offices: Northern Ireland

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many post offices closed in each parliamentary constituency in Northern Ireland in each year since 1997; and how many of these were (a) urban and (b) rural post offices. [129517]

Jim Fitzpatrick: This is an operational matter for Post Office Ltd. Alan Cook, the managing director, has been asked to reply direct to the hon. Member.

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Pregnant Women: Discrimination

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what research has been (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated by his Department on discrimination against pregnant women since June 2005; and if he will make a statement. [129527]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The DTI commissioned the Maternity and Paternity Rights and Benefits In Britain Survey 2005, published in March 2006, which asked women about the treatment they received during their pregnancy.

Government keeps abreast of other research on pregnancy discrimination.

Renewable Energy

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the merits of replacing a system of grants to encourage people to take on renewable energy and energy efficiency with one of targeted loans connected to council tax discounts for homeowners who have taken energy efficiency measures. [128073]

Malcolm Wicks: The Chancellor keeps national tax matters under review through the Budget and pre-Budget report processes. However, some local authorities have implemented council tax discount schemes for local residents who invest in energy-saving installations. The Government's current assessment is that the Energy Efficiency Commitment, under which major energy suppliers have to reach targets for installing energy efficiency measures in their customers' homes, offers a flexible and cost-effective means of encouraging take-up of insulation and other improvements that reduce both energy bills and UK carbon emissions over time. It also allows targeting of vulnerable groups. The Government are committed to continuing an energy supplier obligation until at least 2020. As announced at the 2006 pre-Budget report, the Government are examining finance models that best support the Energy Efficiency Commitment and encourage take-up of energy efficiency measures and energy audits.

In relation to the stimulation of renewable energy use by householders, the Microgeneration Strategy

sets out a series of measures aimed at boosting demand to help achieve the economies of scale that will lead to costs falling and negate the need for capital grants.

Key measures that will help to achieve this include:

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Research: Finance

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many research projects have had their funding ended due to the changes of criteria announced by Research Councils UK in October 2006. [128774]

Malcolm Wicks: None. Research projects under way when Research Councils made their announcement on the criteria for eligibility for funding on October 2006 have proceeded unaffected.

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment his Department has made of the likely impact on scientific research projects of the recent changes of criteria for research funding. [128775]

Malcolm Wicks: Last October the Research Councils clarified their arrangements for eligibility to apply for Research Council funding. Those eligible include UK higher education institutions, Research Council institutes and independent research organisations. Further information is available from the Research Councils UK website.

These arrangements introduce helpful coherence and should strengthen the value obtained overall from this funding.


Digital Broadcasting

Peter Luff: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 8 March 2007, Official Report, column 2225W, on digital broadcasting, on what basis he was able to announce in his financial statement a figure for the income from the sale of assets including the auction of spectrum; how much of this figure he announced derives from this auction; and if he will make a statement. [129849]

John Healey: The Budget speech announced expected asset sales of £36 billion between 2006-07 and 2010-11. This £36 billion comprises fixed and financial asset sales, including student loan and public corporation sales. No assumption has been made for proceeds deriving from the sale of the spectrum in this estimate.

Mortgages: Advisory Services

Mr. Clegg: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many mortgage advisers are regulated by the Financial Services Authority. [129181]

Ed Balls: Statistics published by the Financial Services Authority show that there were 6,846 regulated mortgage intermediary firms at the end of December 2006.

These data are available at:

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Olympic Games: Greater London

Mr. Evans: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the estimated cost is of the VAT on the consultation on facilities for the Olympics; and what percentage of this revenue will be passed to the EU. [128937]

John Healey: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the statement made to the House by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on 15 March 2007, Official Report, columns 450-66. Details of how the UK's contribution to the EC budget is determined are included in the 2006 European Community Finances White Paper (Cm 6770).

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Francois: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on how many occasions he has circulated guidance to other Departments in the last 12 months following the tabling of round-robin written parliamentary questions. [110931]

John Healey: In its response to the Third Report of Session 2003-04 from the Public Administration Select Committee, the Government made clear that while individual Departments may liaise with each other when they receive the same question, this co-ordination

The Treasury has provided advice to other Government Departments on this basis.

Stamp Duties

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) whether stamp duty is charged on Social Homebuy purchases; [129196]

(2) whether stamp duty will be levied on tenants taking out a 10 per cent. equity share under the proposals for reform of the Social Homebuy scheme; [129197]

(3) whether (a) the social tenant and (b) the social landlord is liable to pay stamp duty under the Social Homebuy scheme. [129234]

Ed Balls: Stamp duty is paid by the purchaser of an interest in land. Purchasers of a share in a property under Social Homebuy are liable to pay stamp duty on the same basis as other shared ownership purchasers. This means that they can, if they wish, elect to pay stamp duty once and for all on the market value of the property, less Social Homebuy discount. Otherwise, they will pay stamp duty on the amount they pay for the initial share of the property. In this case, purchases of further shares up to 80 per cent. are exempt but they will have to pay stamp duty on the purchase of a final share, including the freehold reversion.

Outright purchases under Social Homebuy attract stamp duty on the same basis as a Right to Buy/Right to Acquire purchase: that is, on the price paid for the property, less Social Homebuy discount.

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Mr. Pickles: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the average stamp duty paid on a right to buy sale was in the most recent year for which figures are available. [129236]

Ed Balls: The average stamp duty land tax paid on right to buy transactions in 2005-06 was estimated at £200. The average includes transactions which paid no stamp duty land tax either because the price of the property was below the stamp duty land tax threshold, or because of disadvantaged area relief.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the projected annual cost of introducing zero stamp duty for zero carbon homes in each of the next 10 years. [129493]

Ed Balls: As reported in the Financial Statement and Budget report published on 21 March, the annual cost of the stamp duty exemption is projected to be negligible (defined as less than £3 million) in each year of the fiscal years 2007-08 to 2009-10 and to rise to £15 million in 2011-12.

Communities and Local Government

Building Regulations: Wales

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans she has to transfer responsibility for building regulations in Wales from her Department to the Welsh Assembly Government. [129359]

Angela E. Smith: The National Assembly for Wales has made an approach to this Department requesting that the ability to make building regulations for Wales be transferred to the Welsh Assembly Government. Officials from my Department and the Welsh Assembly Government will shortly be meeting to identify and discuss the issues that would arise from any such transfer.

Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment

Dr. Blackman-Woods: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether she has any plans to bring forward a statutory requirement for planning authorities to take account of the recommendations of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. [121551]

Yvette Cooper: We have no current plans to make the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) a statutory consultee in the planning process. However, my Department intends to consult on a review of statutory consultees later this year, and it will be open to respondents to make a case for change at that time. CABE does however already play an important role as a non-statutory consultee in the planning process.

The Department for Communities and Local Government actively encourages all local planning authorities to consult CABE about significant applications in their areas and our chief planner wrote
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to all chief planning officers in December 2006 reminding them of the circumstances under which they should seek CABE's advice.

A copy of this letter has been placed in the Library of the House.

Under the existing non-statutory consultation arrangements, we encourage and support CABE to work directly with architects, planners, designers, developers and clients to offer guidance on projects. CABE makes this guidance available in a number of ways, including the provision of a free expert design review service, which offers independent assessment of schemes. Design review considers 350 major development proposals each year, over 80 per cent. of which are altered in light of its comments.

The current arrangements seek to ensure that CABE's resource is directed at influencing the quality of the most significant schemes, which we consider the best use of its capacity and expertise.

Community Development: Expenditure

Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what public expenditure has been to date on the millennium communities scheme. [128533]

Yvette Cooper: There are seven millennium communities. Greenwich Millennium Village was the first to be announced in 1997. The others are at Allerton Bywater (near Leeds), New Islington (east Manchester), South Lynn (Kings Lynn), East Ketley (Telford), Oakgrove (Milton Keynes) and Hastings. In total the programme will bring forward over 9,000 eco-home ‘Excellent’ standard homes, plus other commercial and community facilities, providing inspiration to both the development industry and the general house-buying public and demonstrating how difficult sites can be brought back into use.

It is not possible to identify the costs linked only to the millennium communities themselves. To date, public expenditure related to the programme amounts to a total of £131,565,732. This figure covers costs outside those that relate specifically to the seven millennium communities, because it is not possible to disaggregate costs retrospectively. It therefore includes elements of the remediation cost of the wider English Partnerships' 121 ha (300 acre) Greenwich peninsula site and not just the costs for the 13 ha (32 acre) section that is the Greenwich Millennium Village itself. The Greenwich Peninsula was previously the site of the largest gas works in Europe, and is one of the largest development sites in London and one of Europe's biggest regeneration projects.

This expenditure by English Partnerships on the millennium communities will be offset by receipts as the land is sold through the usual competitive arrangements to the preferred developer on each site.

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