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4 Jun 2007 : Column 20W—continued


Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much was received by the Department from the letting of its properties in each of the last five years. [139330]

Mr. Hain: The Northern Ireland Office does not let any of its properties.

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what properties the Department has (a) owned and (b) rented in each of the last five years. [139350]

Mr. Hain: The following figures provide information on properties owned and rented by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) over the last five years.


4 Jun 2007 : Column 21W
(a) Properties owned by the NIO
Number

2002-03

5

2003-04

72

2004-05

71

2005-06

57

2006-07

34


(b) Properties rented by the NIO
Number

2002-03

62

2003-04

70

2004-05

68

2005-06

76

2006-07

93


Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent estimate has been made of the value of the Department’s property portfolio. [139372]

Mr. Hain: Northern Ireland Office (NIO) property, excluding its Agencies and NDPBs, is valued at 1 April 2007 as per Valuation and Land Agency valuations. The following table lists the buildings and their net book values.

Building Value as at 1 April 2007 (£)

NIO Residential Property

112,413

NIO Residential Property

185,150

NIO Residential Property

244,663

NIO Residential Property

185,150

NIO Residential Property

198,375

NIO Residential Property

198,375

NIO Residential Property

211,600

NIO Residential Property

257,888

NIO Residential Property

231,438

NIO Residential Property

218,213

NIO Residential Property

92,575

NIO Residential Property

99,188

NIO Residential Property

112,413

NIO Residential Property

119,025

NIO Residential Property

132,250

NIO Residential Property

85,963

NIO Residential Property

99,121

NIO Residential Property

85,896

NIO Residential Property

244,663

NIO Residential Property

119,025

NIO Residential Property

191,762

NIO Residential Property

211,600

NIO Residential Property

198,375

NIO Residential Property

165,313

Mounteden Storage Facility

156,060

Maryfield Offices

3,264,509

Hillsborough Castle

81,767,925

Total net book value

89,188,928.00


Departments: Visits Abroad

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much was spent by his Department on overseas travel in each year since 1997. [135021]


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Mr. Hain: My Department spent the following amounts on foreign air travel in the years detailed.

£

2002-03

131,677.28

2003-04

137,261.12

2004-05

229,339.64

2005-06

158,454.14

2006-07

179,313.94


Overseas accommodation and transportation is arranged through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Details of the associated costs are not held centrally within the NIO and could therefore be provided only at disproportionate cost. Information prior to 2002-03 is not available.

Motoring Offences

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what procedures are in place for recovering penalties imposed for road traffic offences committed in Northern Ireland by drivers whose vehicles are registered (a) in other parts of the United Kingdom and (b) in other European countries; and how much in penalty fines was recovered from drivers whose vehicles are registered (i) in other parts of the United Kingdom and (ii) in other European countries in each of the last six years. [129648]

Paul Goggins: Drivers from other parts of the UK are pursued in the same manner as drivers from Northern Ireland. Fixed penalty staff are tasked to make proactive inquiries to locate offenders and facilitate payment of the fines. Since 11 October 2004 there has been mutual recognition of GB and NI driving licences, thereby allowing penalty points to be attached to the respective licences through the fixed penalty process. Motorists who fail to pay the applicable fine are either ‘Fine registered' and liable to arrest (in the case of 30 tickets) or summoned to appear at court (in the case of 60 tickets).

Since the introduction of mutual recognition of GB and NI driving licences on 11 October 2004, the following sums have been recovered from fixed penalty notices issued to GB drivers:

£

2004

4,200

2005

34,860

2006

33,240

Note: Figures prior to this date are not available

Fixed penalty notices are not issued to drivers from other EU countries, rather they are likely to be arrested and charged to the next available court, subject to the seriousness of the offence committed.

Nuclear Power Stations

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland pursuant to the White Paper, Meeting the Energy Challenge, what consideration is being given by the Government to siting a new nuclear power station in Northern Ireland. [140112]


4 Jun 2007 : Column 23W

Mr. Hain: Although responsibility for nuclear energy remains an excepted matter under the terms of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, any proposal to build a new nuclear power station in Northern Ireland would require planning permission under Northern Ireland legislation and this would therefore be a matter for the Northern Ireland Administration.

I have previously made it clear that I would not favour a nuclear power station.

Remedial Education

Mark Durkan: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many children in Northern Ireland have been referred to the reading centre for remedial education from each parliamentary constituency. [115270]

Mr. Hain: This matter is now the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Administration.

Sexual Offences

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the timescale for the introduction of legislation on the reform of sexual offences in Northern Ireland. [139698]

Maria Eagle: We hope to bring forward draft proposals for legislation on the reform of sexual offences law in Northern Ireland later this year.

House of Commons Commission

Freedom of Information

20. Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission, what the evidential basis was for the statement in the guidance issued by the House authorities on freedom of information that a “public authority may be required to release a copy of Members' correspondence if it receives a relevant request”. [140283]

Nick Harvey: Following requests for advice from Members about their constituency correspondence held by public authorities including health trusts, House officials issued guidance in December 2005. The guidance was based on the requirements placed on public authorities by the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Unless an exemption applies the public authority must respond to requests for information by confirming or denying it holds relevant material and, where held, providing a copy.

In practice an exemption (e.g. for personal or confidential information) may apply to the whole or part of such correspondence. The public authority is required to take a view on each case.

Departments: Legal Costs

Grant Shapps: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons
4 Jun 2007 : Column 24W
Commission, how much was spent by the Commission on legal fees in each of the last five years. [139399]

Nick Harvey: Details of legal fees are readily available for the last four years only following a change in the accounting system in 2003. The amounts spent on external legal advice were:

£

2003-04

108,158

2004-05

108,921

2005-06

293,025

2006-07

134,515


Work and Pensions

Incomes: Pensioners

12. Kelvin Hopkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will undertake comparisons of minimum pensioner incomes across the European Union; and if he will make a statement. [140301]

James Purnell: It is difficult to make meaningful comparisons between minimum pensioner incomes in different countries. But for people on low incomes the UK provides one of the best systems of support in Europe replacing 78 per cent. of previous income. In 2005 the OECD concluded that “including benefits from private voluntary schemes, replacement rates in the United Kingdom are a little higher than the OECD average across the earnings range”.

Carer's Allowance

13. Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has for the future provision of the carer’s allowance. [140302]

Mrs. McGuire: The Government recognise the extremely valuable contribution made by carers.

We have made substantial improvements to the benefits available to carers including abolition of the age limit which precluded carers aged 65 and over from claiming carer’s allowance, and we will continue to look at ways in which carers can be supported.

Occupational Pensions: Compensation

17. Willie Rennie: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if his Department will consider uprating the level of compensation payable to those who suffered financial losses when their occupational pension schemes were wound-up. [140308]

James Purnell: The Government have reviewed the money available for the FAS, and in March my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced a substantial package of additional public funding so that members of pension schemes that were wound up underfunded due to employer insolvency will receive significant assistance of up to 80 per cent.


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