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18 Dec 2007 : Column 1295Wcontinued
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether the equivalent cash funding paid by the UK Government to Scotland for council tax benefit will continue to be paid to the Scottish Executive in the event of a local income tax replacing council tax in Scotland. 
David Cairns: Council tax benefit is a reserved matter for the UK Government. The Scottish Executive has yet to be set out any plans for any local income tax in Scotland, and as such, we cannot comment on any hypothetical situation.
Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) how many air miles were travelled by Ministers in his office in each year since 2000; and what estimate he has made of the total amount of carbon dioxide emissions produced as a result; 
(2) how many miles he and other Ministers in his Office travelled on short haul flights in the last 12 months; and what estimate he has made of the total amount of carbon emissions produced as a result of these flights. 
David Cairns: Since 1999 the Government have published a list of all overseas travel by Cabinet Ministers costing over £500. Information for the last financial year was published on 25 July 2007. Details for the current financial year will be published as soon as possible after the end of the financial year. From next year, the list will include details of overseas visits undertaken by all Ministers. All ministerial travel is undertaken in accordance with the Ministerial Code.
All central Government ministerial and official air travel has been offset from 1 April 2006. Departmental aviation emissions are calculated on an annual basis and subsequently offset through payments to a central fund. The fund purchases certified emissions reductions credits from energy efficiency and renewable energy projects with sustainable development benefits, located in developing countries.
In addition, offsetting the flights of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development, and the Prime Minister has been backdated to 1 April 2005.
A list of Government carbon offsetting fund members, their emission figures and what activities they have offset through the fund is available online at:
Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what percentage of inquiries received by his Office from the public were responded to within (a) one week, (b) 14 days, (c) 28 days, (d) two months and (e) three months in the last period for which figures are available; and in what percentage of cases it took (i) over three months and (ii) over one year to respond. 
David Cairns: I refer the hon. Member to the annual report on Departments and agencies handling of correspondence from MPs and Peers which was published by written ministerial statement on 28 March 2007, Official Report, column 101WS.
Information for 2007 will be published as soon as it is ready after the end of the calendar year.
Information on performance on handling correspondence from the public is not held in the format requested.
Philip Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland 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. 
David Cairns: The Scotland Office, with a complement of 55, is part of the Ministry of Justice for these purposes. The Office has no staff dedicated to these functions.
Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many staff work in his Departments parliamentary branch; and what proportion of their time is spent on dealing with (a) Parliamentary Questions and (b) correspondence from hon. Members and Peers. 
David Cairns: One member of staff in the parliamentary branch covers all aspects of Scotland Office parliamentary activity, as well as assisting with private office duties, but does not, in the main, deal with correspondence.
Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether the standard terms and conditions of purchase used by his Department in the procurement of goods and services from the private sector prohibit the assignment of debt. 
David Cairns: The Scotland Office endeavours to purchase goods and services under contracts held by larger Departments, such as the Scottish Executive and the Ministry of Justice. Where this is not possible, the office seeks to follow the model terms provided by the Office of Government Commerce which says that the contractor shall not assign, sub-contract or in any other way dispose of the contract or any part of it without the contracting authority's prior approval.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will place a copy of the job descriptions of his special advisers in the Library. 
David Cairns: I refer the hon. Member to the written statement given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 22 November, Official Report, column 147WS.
Ms Katy Clark:
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether his Department is working towards
an accredited certified environmental management system for (a) its whole estate or (b) some of its buildings. 
David Cairns: The Scotland Office is included in the Ministry of Justice's environmental management programme which includes implementing the Government's UK Sustainable Action Plan, published on 5 March 2007.
Ms Katy Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) whether his Department met the Sustainable Operations on the Government Estate target to reverse the then upward trend in carbon emissions by April 2007; 
(2) whether his Department is on course to meet the commitment in the Sustainable Operations on the Government Estate targets (a) to source at least 10 per cent. of its electricity from renewables by 31 March 2008 and (b) to increase recycling figures to 40 per cent. of waste by 2010. 
David Cairns: The Scotland Office is included in the Ministry of Justices environmental management programme.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans the Audit Commission has to change audit fees charged to local authorities. 
John Healey: This is an operational matter for the Audit Commission. I will ask the Chief Executive of the Audit Commission to write to the hon. Member and arrange for the letter to be published in the Official Report.
Letter from Steve Bundred , dated 18 December 2007:
Your parliamentary question on what plans the Audit Commission has to change audit fees charged to local authorities has been passed to me for reply.
We issued consultation documents setting out the Commission's proposed scales of audit and inspection fees for 2008-09 and the indicative fee proposals for 2009-10 and 2010-11 to all audited bodies and other stakeholders on 30 November 2007. A copy of the consultation document for local authorities is attached. The consultation will close on 11 January 2008, and the Audit Commission Board will be asked to approve the 2008-09 work programme and fee scales at its meeting in March 2008.
In summary, audit fees will increase from 2008-09 onwards, reflecting a number of changes that will directly increase the amount of work that auditors will need to do, and therefore the costs of the audit. Some of these are externally driven, such as the Government's requirement that the public sector adopts International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), and the international accountancy profession's tightening of audit standards.
However, we have also expanded the scope of auditors' use of resources assessments, which will form a key part of the new Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) framework, to include commissioning and sustainable procurement, and strengthened the focus on efficiency, in line with the Government's expectations. The extra work is likely to increase audit fees. But auditors will look to substitute this additional work for existing audit work wherever possible. Any increases in audit fees will be more than offset by an overall reduction in the total costs of regulation over the next three years, as CAA replaces the current Comprehensive Performance Assessment
We are also able to reduce the impact by a rigorous programme of efficiency savings, which will release 3 per cent. savings annually over the next three years. The Commission will continue to look for other opportunities to reduce the cost of our work to local authorities.
I trust that this information is helpful.
A copy of this letter will be placed in the House of Commons Library.
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what information local authorities are required to submit to her Department to claim compensation for flooding under the Bellwin
scheme; and if she will place in the Library copies of (a) the application form for and (b) guidance on such claims. 
John Healey: As with the established arrangements for the Bellwin scheme, authorities must submit a list of the items on which they have incurred expenditure eligible for grant. When submitting their final claim, they must also provide evidence of spending on those items.
I have placed copies of the application forms and guidance notes in the Library of the House.
John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when the UK will meet the requirements of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive in full. 
Mr. Iain Wright: The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive requires member states to bring into force national laws, regulations and administrative provisions to comply with the directive by 4 January 2006.
There is a three-year derogation period within the directive to apply fully the provisions for energy certificates and plant inspections commensurate with the availability of accredited and suitably qualified assessors.
In England and Wales, changes made to the building regulations in April 2006 implemented the technical parts of the directive.
Energy performance certificates (EPCs) on the marketed sales of dwellings have already been introduced as part of home information packs.
We want to ensure a smooth implementation of EPCs for other types of buildings. Lessons learnt from the introduction of EPCs already show that a phased approach has worked well for industry and consumers. That is why we think it is right that the same approach should be adopted for the roll-out to other sectors, starting from April.
EPCs on construction of new dwellings will start on 6 April 2008
EPCs on construction, sale or rent of buildings other than dwellings over 10,000m(2) from 6 April 2008
EPCs on construction, sale or rent of buildings other than dwellings over 2,500m(2) from 1 July 2008
EPCs on construction, sale or rent of all other non-dwellings from 1 October 2008
EPCs on all other sales and new rentals of dwellings from 1 October 2008
Display energy certificates on larger public buildings will be required by 1 October 2008.
Ministers in Scotland and Northern Ireland are responsible for implementation of the directive in their regions.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether the Valuation Office Agency plans to use an automated valuation model for the 2010 business rates revaluation. 
John Healey: The VOA is investigating the use of outputs from the use of multiple regression analysis techniques as a tool to assist the Agencys professional valuers when making judgments about appropriate value levels for the next revaluation of non-domestic property in 2010.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will place in the Library a copy of the joint Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors/Valuation Office Agency guidance note on contractors basis valuations. 
John Healey: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave him on 17 December 2007 (question 173317).
Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many and what proportion of mosques and madrassahs are registered as charities; what work the Charity Commission's Social Cohesion Unit has undertaken in promoting good governance at mosques; how many people the unit employs; and on what the £1.2 million allocated by her Department on this matter has been spent. 
Mr. Dhanda: I have asked the chief executive of the Charity Commission to write to the hon. Member and I will arrange for the letter to be published in the Official Report.
Mr. Jeremy Browne: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans she has to consult communities on the effects of the Governments (a) community and (b) counter-terrorism policies on community cohesion; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Dhanda: My Department plans to consult shortly on two community-related policies laid out in the Action Plan for Community Empowerment. Firstly whether there should be a statutory duty on local authorities to respond to petitions which pass some threshold of support and secondly the way in which the Secretary of States powers in the Local Government Public Involvement in Health Act to exclude matters from the scope of Councillors Calls for Action (CCfA) should be applied.
My Department also plan to consult on a consultation document on inter faith dialogue and social action on 17 December. This follows the Commission on Integration and Cohesions report, in which we envisage the final strategy being published in late spring.
My Department intend to make a written statement to Parliament on all of the consultations.
Counter-terrorism policy is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.
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