Written Answers to Questions

Monday 16 April 2007

Leader of the House

Orders and Regulations

Mr. McGovern: To ask the Leader of the House what process is used to decide which statutory instruments are to be debated on the Floor of the House. [131300]

Mr. Straw: Under Standing Order No. 118, all affirmative statutory instruments (other than those referred to the Scottish or Northern Ireland Grand Committees) automatically stand referred to a delegated legislation Committee. However, notice may be given of a motion in the name of a Minister of the Crown under sub-paragraph (3)(a) that an instrument shall not stand so referred, in which case it is taken on the Floor of the House. Negative instruments may be taken in a delegated legislation Committee under paragraph (4).

Requests from Ministers or from elsewhere in the House for instruments to be taken on the Floor of the House are considered by business managers, including through discussions in the usual channels.

Church Commissioners

Clergy Working Group

21. Ben Chapman: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners what recent discussions the Church Commissioners have held with the Department of Trade and Industry on the work of the Clergy Working Group. [131442]

Sir Stuart Bell: The Clergy Working Group (on which the Church of England was represented) produced a statement of good practice setting out minimum standards for the terms and conditions of service of ministers of religion. The Church of England has committed itself to these principles and General Synod has drafted legislation which has been sent to DTI officials, with whom we regularly communicate.

Sex Discrimination

27. Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners what guidelines the Commissioners have issued on the question of discrimination against employees on the grounds of sexual orientation. [131448]


16 Apr 2007 : Column 2W

Sir Stuart Bell: In November 2003 the Archbishops’ Council issued general advice to dioceses and parishes on the effect of the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 and the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003.

Electoral Commission Committee

Electoral Commission

26. Mr. Hollobone: To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission what recent discussions the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission has had on the effectiveness of the Electoral Commission. [131447]

Peter Viggers: The Electoral Commission is an independent public body. The Speaker's Committee has a statutory obligation to ensure that any estimate of the income and expenditure of the Commission and accompanying five-year plan which it lays before the House is consistent with the economical, efficient and effective discharge by the Commission of its functions. The Committee discussed the Commission's Estimate for 2007-08 and its five-year plan for 2007-08 to 2011-12 on 21 March and these will be laid before the House shortly. Outside that framework, there is no specific requirement for the Speaker's Committee to discuss the effectiveness of the Commission.

Deputy Prime Minister

Departments: Postal Services

Mr. Fraser: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister which postal companies handle mail dispatched by his Department. [128254]

The Deputy Prime Minister: My Office is located in a Cabinet Office building and mail for my Office is handled in the same way as the rest of the building.

Departments: Redundancy

Justine Greening: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) how many people in his Department and its predecessor participated in (a) involuntary and (b) voluntary staff exit schemes in each year since 1997-98; and if he will make a statement; [131545]

(2) how many people in his Department and its predecessor who participated in (a) involuntary and (b) voluntary staff exit schemes in each year since 1997-98 were paid between (i) £0 to £25,000, (ii) £25,001 to £50,000, (iii) £50,001 to £75,000, (iv) £75,001 to £100,000 and (v) over £100,000; and if he will make a statement. [131557]

The Deputy Prime Minister: My Office was formed on 5 May 2006. I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave her on 15 March 2007, Official Report, column 253W.


16 Apr 2007 : Column 3W

Labour Party: Conferences

Mr. Heald: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether civil servants in his Office have been given permission to attend the Labour party conference to carry out official business. [119474]

The Deputy Prime Minister: Special advisers may attend conference as permitted in their terms of appointment. No permanent civil servants in my Office have attended conference in their official capacity or been given permission to do so in 2007.

Post Offices

Mr. Bone: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on the national access criteria for post offices. [131666]

The Deputy Prime Minister: I meet regularly with ministerial colleagues to discuss a range of issues. As the hon. Member will be aware, I also chair the Cabinet Committee on the Future of the Post Office Network.

Duchy of Lancaster

Civil Servants: Political Impartiality

Mr. Clegg: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether there are plans to review the present safeguards of civil servants' impartiality. [130833]

Hilary Armstrong: The requirement to maintain civil servants' impartiality is set out in the Civil Service Code, the Ministerial Code and the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers. Copies of these documents are available in the Library for the reference of Members.

Policy Review

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster pursuant to the answer of 20 March 2007, Official Report, column 823W, on the Policy Review, what the cost has been of the IPSOS-MORI contract. [130885]

Hilary Armstrong: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) on 26 January 2007, Official Report, column 2127W.


16 Apr 2007 : Column 4W

Wales

Council Tax: Valuation

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what the administrative cost has been of (a) valuations, (b) appeals and (c) other costs of the council tax revaluation in Wales. [130573]

Mr. Hain: Revaluation was undertaken by the Valuation Office Agency and costs were met by the Agency out of the funding it receives from the Welsh Assembly Government. The total costs up to 31 March 2005 of delivering the revaluation were £5.198 million.

It is not possible separately to identify the cost of appeals from the Valuation Office Agency’s other local taxation work except at disproportionate cost.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales whether the 2005 council tax revaluation in Wales was revenue-neutral. [130574]

Mr. Hain: The key aim of council tax revaluation and re-banding was not to increase the yield but to redistribute the council tax more fairly across the population of Wales, on the basis of more up-to-date property values.

The increase in council tax levy at Band D in 2005-06 was 3.8 per cent. This was the lowest increase since the introduction of council tax.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many and what proportion of properties in Wales moved from bands (a) A, (b) B, (c) C, (d) D, (e) E, (f) F, (g) G and (h) H to each other band in the Welsh Council Tax revaluation. [130575]

Mr. Hain: The Valuation Office Agency holds the statistics of the properties in Wales that have moved bands following the council tax revaluation.

At a revaluation, bands are reviewed according to the physical characteristics of the dwelling when the list comes into effect (1 April 2005 in Wales). Therefore, some of the increases in banding will be as a result of physical changes that could not have been taken into account during the life of the 1993 lists because there had been no change of ownership since their completion.

The information requested is in the following table:

Revised A Bandings Revised B Bandings Revised C Bandings Revised D Bandings Revised E Bandings Revised F Bandings Revised G Bandings Revised H Bandings

A

172,006

26,765

673

27

5

1

0

0

B

72,088

188,485

23,211

671

32

1

3

2

C

9,523

97,768

155,687

25,300

736

8

3

0

D

1,549

11,056

69,882

106,606

16,713

301

17

0

E

414

1,398

13,532

56,818

88,919

7,060

115

2

F

183

290

1,661

9,689

49,495

38,314

3,646

6

G

59

110

317

1,303

7,668

17,163

22,482

85

H

10

18

28

85

470

1,377

9,258

806

I

3

5

8

18

79

227

2,721

2,487


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Constitutional Affairs

Bailiffs: Certification

Peter Bottomley: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what guidance the Department has issued to local authorities in relation to their certification of bailiffs on debt enforcement involving the disabled or vulnerable. [130854]

Ms Harman: My Department worked closely with creditors and the enforcement profession to produce and issue the national standards for enforcement agents, available from the DCA website. The standards are a best practice guide intended for use by all enforcement agents, public and private, the enforcement agencies that employ them and the major creditors who use them. The standards have been widely endorsed by the trade associations representing bailiffs and advise that discretion should be used when dealing with those who might be potentially vulnerable, including the elderly, people with a disability and single parent families.

Peter Bottomley: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what estimate she has made of the number of (a) certificated bailiffs, (b) uncertificated bailiffs and (c) bailiffs doing work requiring certification who do not hold current certification. [130855]

Ms Harman: The regulatory impact assessment for the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Bill published on 30 January 2007 estimates that there are 1,200 uncertificated bailiffs. As at 30 March 2007 the Register of Certificated Bailiffs maintained by HMCS currently lists 1,482 certificated bailiffs. There should be no bailiffs doing work requiring certification who do not hold a current certificate.

Peter Bottomley: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the procedure is for complaining about the activity of (a) an uncertificated and (b) a certificated bailiff. [130857]

Ms Harman: Complaints made against bailiffs, be they certificated or non-certificated, can be made by telephone or writing to the firm that the bailiff works for, the organisation who employed the bailiff to act on their behalf or the magistrates court that issued the enforcement order. Complaints against certificated bailiffs can also be made to the court that granted certification to the bailiff and to the Enforcement Officers Association, or the Association of Civil Enforcement Agencies, which are responsible for promoting higher standards within the profession. HMCS leaflet EX345 details the procedure for complaints about bailiffs and recommends seeking legal advice before starting this process.

Peter Bottomley: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what fees are charged by bailiffs for debt enforcement; and by whom they are payable. [130858]


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