18 Dec 2007 : Column 1225W

Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 18 December 2007

Leader of the House

Business Questions

Mr. Baron: To ask the Leader of the House what subjects for topical debates have been proposed to her in each week of the current session; how many proposals she received for each subject; and what criteria she used to choose the subjects upon which topical debates have been held. [175275]

Ms Harman: I do not intend to publicise the proposed subjects or the number of requests for topical debates.

On 25 October 2007 the House agreed with the recommendations in the Government Response to the First Report of the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons on Revitalising the Chamber: the role of the back bench Member (CM7231). The recommendation set out stated:

The criteria I have used have been announced to the House on several occasions including at business questions on 6 December 2007, Official Report, column 974:

Communications Allowance

Mr. Maude: To ask the Leader of the House what plans she has to bring forward proposals to increase the Communications Allowance; and what increase she intends to propose. [175173]

Helen Goodman: In accordance with the resolution of the House of 28 March, the Communications Allowance is increased on 1 April each year by the percentage increase in the retail price index as at 31 December the preceding year.

Departmental Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Harper: To ask the Leader of the House how many staff work in her Office’s parliamentary branch; and what proportion of their time is spent on dealing with (a) Parliamentary Questions and (b) correspondence from hon. Members and Peers. [174949]


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Ms Harman: My private office effectively manages both parliamentary questions and correspondence from hon. Members and Peers.

Last session my office answered 100 per cent. of named day questions on the specified day and 99 per cent. of ordinary written questions within five working days.

To date, 94 per cent. of correspondence from MPs and Peers has been responded to within 15 working days.

No analysis has been undertaken on the amount of time spent dealing with both these issues. There are no plans to do so.

Development of Policy

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Leader of the House what steps the Government has (a) taken and (b) facilitated to improve the means available to (i) hon. Members and (ii) this House to hold the Government to account and influence the development of policy. [174633]

Ms Harman: The Government have taken a number of steps to promote the ability of Members and of the House to hold the Government to account and to influence the development of policy, though these are not all recorded centrally (some for example will have been the responsibility of individual departments) and it is not possible to break them down in the way proposed.

Major reforms promoted or facilitated by the Government since 1997 have included:

I refer the hon. Member also to the statement by the Prime Minister of 3 July and the “Governance of Britain Green Paper (Cm 7170) published that day, which contains a range of further measures and proposals designed to promote the role and powers of the House.


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Inquiries: Ministerial Statements

Justine Greening: To ask the Leader of the House what departmental (a) reviews and (b) inquiries have been announced in Ministerial oral statements since 27 June; and if she will make a statement. [173575]

Ms Harman: Between 27 June and 13 December 2007 there were 48 oral statements made to the House. The content of these statements is available as a matter of public record.

Members' Correspondence

Mr. Harper: To ask the Leader of the House how many letters her office received from hon. Members and Peers in each session of Parliament since 1997. [174928]

Helen Goodman: The information requested is not available in the form requested. Information is available for the calendar years 2005-07 as follows:

Number of MPs’ and Peers’ letters received Percentage of MPs’ and Peers’ correspondence answered within target Percentage of Peers’ correspondence answered within target

2004

493

95

100

2005

302

97

100

2006

371

95

97

2007(1)

426

97

100

(1) Up to 1 November

Office Facilities

John Mann: To ask the Leader of the House how many hon. Members own the property in which the office facilities for which they claim office accommodation costs are situated; and how many hon. Members have such office facilities situated in property owned by the political party of which they are a member. [175214]

Helen Goodman: The Green Book (Parliamentary Salaries, Allowances and Pensions) does not allow Members to lease office accommodation from themselves. However, Members may use part of their home as an office for their Parliamentary duties, or any other building which they lease or own. They may claim for any additional costs incurred, but not leasing or mortgage costs. Figures are not readily available for the number of Members who do so.

Approximately 180 Members currently have office facilities situated in property owned by a political party.

Parliamentary Scrutiny: EC Action

Mrs. May: To ask the Leader of the House what the terms of reference are for the Deputy Leader of the House's review of the system of scrutiny for European matters; when she expects recommendations arising from that review to be made; and what the timetable is for publication of those recommendations. [174513]


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Helen Goodman: On behalf of the Leader of the House, I am considering issues relating to the operation and reform of the system for scrutiny of European Union documents in this House. This follows from the recommendations made in the report from the Modernisation Select Committee in its Second Report of Session 2004-05 (HC 465) and from the debate on 25 October relating to the composition of European Standing Committees. I hope to bring forward proposals before the current temporary resolution governing the composition of European Standing Committees, agreed following that debate, expires in February 2008.

Parliamentary Scrutiny: Legislation

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Leader of the House in respect of what legislation she plans to provide for post-legislative scrutiny. [174634]

Helen Goodman: Departmental and other select committees in the Commons may already conduct post-legislative scrutiny exercises on any Acts falling within their area of activity, either as a separate inquiry or as part of other inquiries. Many committee inquiries contain elements of post-legislative scrutiny. In respect of certain Acts, specific provision for post-legislative scrutiny is included within the terms of the Act (for example the Pensions Act 2007). The Government expects to be responding shortly to the recommendations of the Law Commission, in its 2006 Report on “Post-Legislative Scrutiny” (Cm 6945), relating to a more systematic approach to post-legislative scrutiny.

Street Trading: Regulation

Dr. Iddon: To ask the Leader of the House which local authorities have promoted private Bills to regulate the street trading activities of pedlars in each year since 1997; and what private bills including such regulation have been enacted since 1997. [174141]

Helen Goodman: The following is a list of private Acts which have been considered by Parliament since 1997. This includes two local authority Bills currently before Parliament and a further four new private Bills which have been deposited.

Private Acts

New Bills deposited on 27 November 2007

Bills currently before Parliament


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Wales

Departmental Equality

Philip Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how much has been spent by his Department (a) in total and (b) on staff costs on promoting equality and diversity in each of the last three years for which figures are available; and how many people are employed by his Department for this purpose. [173818]

Mr. Hain: Nil.

The Wales Office has one diversity and equality co-ordinator and a diversity and equality champion on our management board. Being a small office this role is covered on a voluntary basis in addition to a full-time Wales Office post. Wales Office staff and managers are also able to access help and support on diversity matters from the Ministry of Justice.

Prime Minister

Combat Stress

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Prime Minister whether he has visited the Combat Stress centres at (a) Tyrwhitt House, (b) Hollybush House and (c) Audley Court in the last six months. [173189]

The Prime Minister: A list of my public visits made within the UK will be published in the usual way after the end of the financial year.

Departmental Correspondence

Mr. Harper: To ask the Prime Minister how many letters his Office received from hon. Members and Peers in each session of Parliament since 1997. [174941]

The Prime Minister: My Office received approximately 500,000 items of post during the 2006-07 parliamentary session, including a number of campaign cards and letters, and over 3,100 items of correspondence from MPs and peers.

For information for the parliamentary sessions 2004-05 and 2005-06 I refer the hon. Member to the answers given by my predecessor (right hon. Tony Blair) on 21 July 2005, Official Report, columns 1935-36W and 15 January 2007, Official Report, columns 785-86W. Information for previous sessions is not available in the format requested.

Departmental Email

Mr. Maude: To ask the Prime Minister whether he personally uses an email account in the course of his duties. [174824]

The Prime Minister: Members of the public can email me via the No. 10 website:

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


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