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To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will estimate (a) the number of properties in local council or housing association ownership covered by district heating schemes and (b) the energy use per inhabitant
in such schemes; whether it is her intention (i) to make proposals and (ii) to provide incentives to improve the energy efficiency of housing not covered by such schemes; and if she will make a statement. 
Yvette Cooper: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 19 February 2007, Official Report, column: 300W, which provide information about the number of homes covered by district heating systems and the energy use of inhabitants.
To make their homes decent social landlords have to ensure homes have both efficient heating and effective insulation, and this is regardless of the type of heating system currently in the home. The Department's guidance A Decent Home: Definition and guidance for implementation encourages landlords to increase the energy efficiency of dwellings.
Research conducted by the Building Research Establishment indicated that almost all landlords engaged in energy efficiency works are taking the opportunity to work to much higher standards than the minimum required by Decent Homes.
Under the Energy Efficiency Commitment (EEC), electricity and gas suppliers are required to achieve targets for the promotion of improvements in domestic energy efficiency which includes social sector homes.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will consider reducing the council tax payable for people who live in boats on marinas where the owner of the marina pays business rates; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Woolas [holding answer 23 March 2007]: No. A mooring occupied by a boat which is somebody's sole or main residence is deemed to be a dwelling for council tax purposes and will therefore attract a council tax liability in the same way as other domestic property, along with any discounts or exemptions that may apply.
Mr. Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the timescale is for the implementation of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007; and if she will make a statement. 
Meg Munn: The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 will come into force on 30 April, at the same time as parallel protections on grounds of religion or belief. From this date on, individuals will have a legal remedy to discrimination on these grounds through the county courts in England and Wales or the Sheriff courts in Scotland.
The new regulations provide for a transition period for faith based adoption and fostering agencies until the end of 2008. Any agency wishing to take advantage of the transitional arrangements will have to refer prospective parents they are not prepared to assess on grounds of their sexual orientation to other agencies that will be able to assist. The Prime Minister will be commissioning this May an independent assessment process of the issues agencies will need to address during the transition period, if vital services for children are to be retained and developed. The assessment team will give their first report to the PM before the summer, followed by regular six monthly reports.
Detailed guidance on the implementation of both new sets of protections will also be published in May, after the forthcoming elections. When the Commission for Equality and Human Rights opens its doors this October, it will offer further information, advice and support.
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps her Department is taking to improve the protection of firemen in Lancashire from (a) physical and (b) verbal attacks when at work. 
On 20 February 2007, the Emergency Workers (Obstruction) Act 2006 came into force. This Act, which specifically includes firefighters, makes it an offence to obstruct or hinder an emergency worker responding to emergency circumstances, punishable by fines of up to £5,000.
Angela E. Smith: Centrally held information, based on annual returns from Lancashire fire and rescue service, on the number of complaints of harassment, bullying or discrimination in Lancashire fire and rescue service is tabled as follows, from the earliest available year which is 1998.
Angela E. Smith: Responsibility for fire service inspection was transferred to the Audit Commission following the publication of the Government's White Paper Our Fire and Rescue Service in June 2003 and the subsequent Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004. Since that time, Her Majesty's Fire Service Inspectorate has not carried out any inspections of Fire and Rescue Authorities but has acted as an advisory body providing the Government, the Audit Commission and fire and rescue authorities with advice on professional fire service matters.
The Audit Commission conducted a Comprehensive Performance Assessment (CPA) of fire and rescue authorities and reported on their findings in July 2005. This assessment set a baseline for improvement in all fire and rescue authorities and the Audit Commission has subsequently developed a performance assessment framework for the service to measure improvement since CPA. This performance assessment framework consists of three elementsa direction of travel assessment, a use of resources assessment and a service assessment. The service assessment included an operational assessment, developed in conjunction with the Chief Fire Officers Association, and carried out by Fire and Rescue staff seconded into CLG for that purpose. Results of these assessments for 2006-07 are due to be published shortly.
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many duty firemen in Lancashire were subjected to (a) physical violence and (b) verbal abuse in each of the last 10 years; and how many convictions there were for (i) physical violence and (ii) verbal abuse towards firemen in Lancashire in each of the last 10 years. 
Angela E. Smith:
The Department has been maintaining records of attacks on firefighters since
April 2004, although it is not held specifically in the form requested. The total number of attacks on firefighters in Lancashire since 2004, based on returns from Lancashire fire and rescue service is as follows:
|Number of attacks|
Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what measures have been introduced to strengthen regulation concerned with (a) freeholds and leaseholds, (b) the relationship between landlords and tenants and (c) ground rents since 1997; and what plans she has to introduce further measures affecting these matters. 
Yvette Cooper: The Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 introduced a number of measures that made changes to leasehold legislation. These have helped redress the balance between leaseholders and landlords by strengthening and improving the law, and creating a fairer and more comprehensive system of rights for leaseholders. These measures include the requirement for landlords to serve a particular form of notice on leaseholders before ground rent becomes payable.
Mr. Slaughter: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what reports she has received of the effects of changes in (a) revenue funding and (b) numbers of bed spaces on the submission of bids by charities and registered social landlords for funding under the hostels capital improvement programme. 
Yvette Cooper: Since the launch of the hostels capital improvement programme in December 2004 I have received update reports from my officials regarding the programme on a regular basis. We are not aware of any particular problems with revenue funding or bedspaces and my officials continue to closely monitor progress.
One of the criteria for funding under the hostels capital improvement programme (HCIP) is that there is agreed supporting people or other revenue funding to ensure that high quality support services are continued as capital works are completed. As regards bedspaces, hostel residents are housed elsewhere during building work and there has been no identified impact on the numbers of people sleeping rough.
Mr. Slaughter: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether she plans to extend the Hostels Capital Improvement Programme beyond 2008; and if she will make a statement. 
Yvette Cooper: The current £90 million Hostels Capital Improvement Programme runs through until March 2008. Future investment under the programme will be dependent on the comprehensive spending review which is under way.
Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many long-term empty private sector properties there were in (a) rural and (b) non-rural areas in each year since 1980; what each figure represents (i) per 1,000 of the population and (ii) per 1,000 households; and if she will make a statement. 
|Long term private vacancies (over six months) by urban and rural local authorities( 1)|
|(1) Based on the DEFRA rural definition (2004). (2) 2003 household/population projections and estimates. Source: Housing Strategy Statistical Appendix|
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