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12 Jun 2007 : Column 982W—continued

Iraq: Politics and Government

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment she has made of the security threat facing Iraqis who have worked in a civilian capacity for UK and multi-national forces in Iraq; what measures the Government are taking to improve the safety of such individuals; and if she will make a statement. [140496]

Margaret Beckett [holding answer 7 June 2007]: Violence in Iraq continues at appallingly high levels, affecting all Iraqis. We continue to do what we can to try to help those Iraqis who face a particular threat as a result of having worked for us. Any applications for assistance we receive from current or former staff are considered on a case-by-case basis, taking account of the particular circumstances of the individuals concerned.

Ultimately, only a reduction in the overall level of violence in Iraq will address this problem at source. This is what we are working hard with the Government of Iraq, our coalition allies and others to try to bring about.

Lancaster House: Official Hospitality

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the projected cost is of the valedictory function at Lancaster House honouring the Prime Minister's Special Envoy to the Middle East; and from which budget the cost will be met. [142116]

Mr. Hoon: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, is hosting a farewell reception for my noble Friend Lord Levy, in recognition of his nine years of service as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's Special Envoy to the Middle East, at Lancaster House on 19 June. The estimated cost of this event is £6,000, which will be met by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary's entertainment budget.

Russia: Diplomatic Service

Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many Russian diplomats have been asked to leave London for activities incompatible with their diplomatic status in the last 12 months. [141244]

Mr. Hoon [holding answer 11 June 2007]: No Russian diplomat has been asked to leave London for activities incompatible with their diplomatic status in the past 12 months.


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Russia: Nuclear Weapons

Mr. MacShane: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make a statement on President Putin’s threat to acquire new targets in Europe for Russian nuclear missiles. [141417]

Mr. Hoon: The UK supports US plans to deploy missile defence assets in Europe. These limited deployments can not undermine a Russian deterrent with missiles still numbered in the hundreds and warheads in the thousands. President Putin since said, in the margins of the G8 Summit, that Russia is proposing co-operation with the US on Ballistic Missile Defence which

Sri Lanka: Peace Negotiations

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions have been held with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, other Tamil groups and the Government of Sri Lanka on a possible ceasefire agreement; and if she will make a statement. [141506]

Dr. Howells: I visited Sri Lanka on 11 June and held discussions with President Rajapakse, senior Government Ministers, the Leader of the Opposition, a senior Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian and representatives of non-governmental organisations. UK Government officials also have occasional contact with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in pursuit of the peace process. We urge all the parties to the conflict in Sri Lanka to stop using violence. There can be no military solution.

Turkey: Religious Freedom

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports she has received of the murders of Tilman Geske, Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel on 18 April 2007 in Malatya, Turkey; what representations she has made to the Government of Turkey on violence against Christian minorities; and if she will make a statement. [140923]

Mr. Hoon: The Government condemn the recent attack in Malatya and welcome the Turkish Government's determination to bring the perpetrators to justice. We note the detention of 10 suspects and continue to follow developments closely.

Our embassy in Ankara reports regularly on human rights issues in Turkey, including freedom of religion. We also receive reports from the European Commission and other international organisations.

Through regular bilateral discussions, we continue to urge Turkey to keep up the momentum of its human rights reform and to ensure that implementation of EU standards is full and consistent.

USA: Ballistic Missile Defence

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions she has had with (a) the United States Administration
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and (b) her European Union counterparts on the effects on European security of the placing of anti-ballistic missile systems in eastern European Union countries; and what representations she has made to the Russian Government on President Putin’s criticisms of anti-ballistic missile systems deployment. [141622]

Mr. Hoon: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave to the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) on 4 June 2007, Official Report, column 237W, and the reply given by my hon. Friend the Minister for the Middle East to the hon. Member for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Simpson) on 28 February 2007, Official Report, column 1375W. I have had no additional discussions with the US Government or EU Foreign Ministers. The UK is engaged in discussion of this issue through NATO (including the NATO-Russia Council) and other forums.

Communities and Local Government

Extremism

21. Mr. Hendrick: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent meetings she has had on tackling extremism. [141608]

Ruth Kelly: As part of my Department’s work to tackle all forms of extremism, I have undertaken a range of meetings with stakeholders both inside Government and in local communities and from overseas.

Faith Schools: Admission Policies

22. Dr. Evan Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the effect on community cohesion and the integration of young people from different religious and racial backgrounds of the practice of discrimination on religious grounds in the admission policies of faith schools. [141609]

Mr. Woolas: All school governing bodies now have a duty to promote community cohesion and this element of what they do will be inspected by Ofsted from September this year.

Road Markings and Signs: Advertising

23. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 5 March 2007, Official Report, column 1813W, on road signs and markings: advertising, what further progress has been made on the removal of unauthorised roadside advertisements. [141610]

Angela E. Smith: The recent introduction of the unlawful advertisements and fly-posting database has given local planning authorities a better opportunity to work together to secure prosecution of persistent offenders. Local planning authorities have enthusiastically welcomed
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the database. There are 162 local planning authorities using the database and 185 records of successful prosecution cases on it.

Affordable Housing

24. John Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent assessment she has made of the contribution of the social rented sector in providing affordable homes; and if she will make a statement. [141611]

Yvette Cooper: We are on course to deliver 30,000 social rented homes by the end of 2007-08, and we expect 160,000 households to enter into home ownership through public and private shared equity schemes in the five years to 2010.

We are also supporting local authorities to take a lead role in developing more social housing, using surplus land.

Future delivery will be subject to the outcome of Comprehensive Spending Review 2007. The delivery of affordable housing will be a key priority for CSR07.

28. Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what discussions she has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on increasing spending on affordable housing via the next comprehensive spending review process. [141615]

Yvette Cooper: I have had wide-ranging and regular discussions with ministerial colleagues in Treasury about preparations for the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review, as a matter of key importance to the Department for Communities and Local Government’s medium and long term planning.

Home Information Packs

25. Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what compensation is available to (a) business and (b) individual providers who have undertaken preparation and training for the introduction of home information packs. [141612]

Yvette Cooper: The proposals we set out on 22 May will mean assessors will be able to begin work shortly. From 1 August, assessors will also start work with four-bedroom properties and larger. We are inviting councils and registered social landlords to work with us to pilot the introduction of Energy Performance Certificates on a voluntary basis in social housing.

Lyons Inquiry

26. Mr. Mackay: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the timetable is for implementing the recommendations of the Lyons inquiry. [141613]

Mr. Woolas: Sir Michael Lyons’ work played a major contribution in the development of the Local Government White Paper, which is being implemented through the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill. His report and recommendations will continue to inform the development of Government policy.


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Digital Challenge

27. Rosie Cooper: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will make a statement on the digital challenge. [141614]

Angela E. Smith: The digital challenge is a cross-Government initiative to address social exclusion and community deprivation through the use of digital technology. The winner Sunderland is hosting a major conference in July to showcase its progress, and all 10 regional finalists continue to work with my Department as regional champions. They are developing key projects including community support for digital inclusion, the ‘Homeshoring’ call centre model to create jobs in deprived areas and work to explore the environmental impact of technology.

Green Belt

Martin Horwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 8 May 2007, Official Report, column 119W, on green belt, what the net change in the area of designated green belt over the period 2003 to 2006 was, broken down by region of the UK. [136888]

Yvette Cooper: The net changes, by region, in the areas of designated green belt are set out in the following table. The 2003 figures for London and south-east include 47,300 hectares of green belt in New Forest district council and Test Valley borough council which were re-designated as New Forest National Park in 2005. Leaving aside the New Forest there was an overall national increase in green belt land of about 7,500 hectares between 2003 and 2006. It is the responsibility of planning authorities to establish or review green belt boundaries through the plan making process.

Areas of designated green belt land by region
Region 2003 area 2006 area Change Percentage c hange

North-east

66,300

71,910

5,580

8.41

North-west

260,610

260,310

-300

-0.12

Yorkshire and the Humber

262,640

264,930

2,290

0.87

East Midlands

79,520

78,900

-620

-0.78

West Midlands

269,140

269,256

116

0.04

East Anglia

26,690

26,302

-388

-1.45

London/wider south-east (excluding New Forest)

553,170

553,886

716

0.12

South-west

106,180

106,330

150

0.14

England(1) (excluding New Forest)

1,624,280

1,631,824

7,544

0.45

(1) In 2005, the green belt land in New Forest DC and Test Valley BC (47,300 hectares) was designated as part of New Forest National Park. The 2003 figure excludes this figure for true comparison.

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what changes have been made in the Government's policy on the protection of the greenbelt surrounding conurbations in the south-east of England over the last five years; and if she will make a statement. [132075]


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Yvette Cooper: National planning policies on green belts, as set out in Planning Policy Guidance note 2 (PPG2), are essentially unchanged from those published in 1995.

Green belt boundaries are determined in plans drawn up by local planning authorities. Government policy in PPG2 states that changes to boundaries should be made only in exceptional circumstances when those plans are being reviewed.

The Government are committed to the principles of the green belt and will make no fundamental change to planning policy as set out in Planning Policy Guidance note 2.


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