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Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when her Departments webpage relating to Judith Armitt, Chief Executive of the Thames Gateway was last updated; and what alterations have been made to this web page since March. 
Yvette Cooper [holding answer 20 November 2007]: When the new Communities and Local Government website was re-launched on 28 August 2007, this web page was redesigned along with the rest of the site. However, the information remained the same. Pages relating to the Chief Executive were updated every few months.
Alistair Burt: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when she expects to submit the invitation to Bedfordshire County Council, Mid-Bedfordshire District Council and South Bedfordshire District Council to submit proposals for unitary government in the Mid-Bedfordshire and South Bedfordshire districts. 
John Healey: On 19 November 2007, we issued a further invitation to three Bedfordshire councils to submit proposals for the area covered by Mid-Bedfordshire and South Bedfordshire district councils. In response, we received a joint proposal from Mid-Bedfordshire and South Bedfordshire district councils on 14 December.
Angela Browning: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) when she will publish (a) the assessment of the financial viability on the unitary council proposal submitted by Exeter City Council and (b) the results of the further examination she ordered regarding the Exeter City Council bid; 
(2) what advice she has received from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and the Investment Property Forum regarding the financial viability of the proposal for unitary status submitted by Exeter City Council. 
John Healey: We received advice on the financial aspects of the unitary proposals submitted by Exeter city council from independent financial advisers we engaged through the Institute of Public Finance. We received no advice from the Investors Property Forum.
This advice contributed to the decision that I announced on 5 December that we would not be proceeding with Exeter citys proposals for unitary status because, having made a reasonable estimate of the costs and savings that would be likely to occur as a result of restructuring, we believe that the pay back period would be more that the five years specified by the established affordability criterion.
Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what plans she has for special planning procedures to be used in determining planning applications for eco-town developments; 
(2) whether the eco-town schemes will be determined by (a) new towns legislation and (b) mini reviews of regional spatial strategies; and what mechanisms will be used to judge the relative merits of competing proposals. 
Yvette Cooper: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him on 16 January 2008, Official Report, column 1262W, and the answer given to the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Peter Luff) on 14 January 2008, Official Report, column 918W.
Mr. Arbuthnot: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether it is Government policy that any proposed eco-towns should be treated as counting towards Government house building targets. 
Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) when she will reply to Question 165128, on her Departments website tabled by the hon. Member for Thurrock on 13 November 2007; 
Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development pursuant to the Statement by the Prime Minister of 12 December 2007, Official Report, column 304, on Afghanistan, what plans his Department has to recruit and deploy specialists who speak Afghan languages and understand tribal dynamics. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's statement referred to plans made specifically by the FCO to recruit more specialists who speak Afghan languages and understand tribal dynamics. The FCO is currently looking at various options for recruiting and deploying such specialists. It is also training its political officers in local languages and is looking at how the UK-based Afghan diaspora might help contribute to reconstruction in Afghanistan.
DFID Afghanistan does, however, recognise the importance of these skills for work in the south of Afghanistan and is talking to the FCO, MOD and Stabilisation Unit about the future staffing of Helmand, which will include provision of such specialists.
DFID is also already working with organisations which have expertise in both areas. These include the Tribal Liaison Office (an Afghan NGO) which deploys a network of Afghan tribal experts across the southern provinces and a number of long-standing Afghanistan academic experts. These experts help inform the design and implementation of elements of DFID conflict prevention and governance programmes using both their knowledge of tribal dynamics and their Dari or Pashto language skills with the local population. DFID is also funding the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies (an Afghan NGO) to conduct tribal analysis and mapping to inform their work within each province.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what plans he has for his Department to participate in the Carbon Trusts Carbon Management programme over the next 12 months. 
Mr. Malik: The Department for International Development has already signed up to the Carbon Trust (CT) Energy Efficiency Programme. The CT advised DFID that this programme was more appropriate for the size of our estate. We have also achieved accreditation under the Energy Efficiency Accreditation Scheme (EEAS).
Mr. Malik: The Department for International Development is strongly committed to reversing the upward trend in carbon emissions. As a Department, we have undergone significant growth in recent years, and this has resulted in increases in our carbon emissions from DFID operations. We did, however, achieve a small overall reduction in kWh usage for 2006-07, relative to 2005-06 before weather correction. Allowing for weather correction, the increase was 1 per cent. over the previous year, the smallest increase since the baseline year of 1999-2000. We are investigating further investment to reduce our carbon emissions further.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development whether his Department will meet its commitment to (a) source at least 10 per cent. of its electricity from renewables by 31 March 2008 and (b) recycle figures to 40 per cent. of its waste by 2010. 
Mr. Malik: The Department for International Development has already met the targets for renewable electricity and for recycling waste. From 2004-06, over 90 per cent. of DFID electricity was derived from renewable sources and this figure increased in January 2007 to 100 per cent. renewable for our UK offices. During 2005, DFID changed waste contractors at both UK offices. The new waste contractors guarantee they recycle over 75 per cent. of all waste and produce monthly reports with breakdowns of the various waste streams.
Mr. Douglas Alexander: Special advisers are appointed under terms and conditions set out in the Model Contract and Code of Conduct for Special Advisers, copies of which are in the Library of the House.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development whether his Department is working towards accreditation of its environmental management systems under (a) ISO 14001, (b) the EU eco management and audit scheme and (c) other certified schemes in respect of (i) the Department's whole estate and (ii) individual buildings within its estate. 
Mr. Malik: The Department for International Development has already established Environment Management Systems (EMS) in both UK offices, based on the principles of the ISO 14001 standard. We are currently working towards formal accreditation at both offices.
Ann McKechin: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent discussions his Department has had with other governments about placing the issues of water and sanitation on the agenda of the forthcoming G8 meeting. 
Mr. Thomas: The G8 summit in Japan is an important opportunity to galvanise greater action on water and sanitation, particularly since 2008 is the UNs International Year of Sanitation. As the largest bilateral donor in the sector, Japan has already identified water and sanitation as one of the key issues under its presidency. We welcome this. The UK worked hard throughout 2007 with Japan to raise the profile of water and sanitation, and will continue to do so during 2008. In particular we are pressing for a G8 commitment to a revised and strengthened Evian Water Action Plan (agreed at the 2003 summit).
The first preparatory meeting of representatives of the Heads of State was held in Tokyo on 10 and 11 January. They discussed water and sanitation in the context of climate change and the environment, and through its links to health. The next meeting will be in March. In the interim we will continue to work closely with our Japanese colleagues to ensure water and sanitation remain high on the summit agenda.
Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what changes the Government plans to make to the DfID-Pakistan Country Programme following recent events in that country; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Douglas Alexander: While work for some months has been under way to develop a new Country Assistance Plan, DFID is now considering the implications of recent events for its development assistance in Pakistan.
Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development in what languages the International Donors Conference for the Palestinian State held in Paris on 17 December 2007 has published its (a) working papers, (b) final statement and (c) pledges. 
Mr. Malik: The International Donors Conference was hosted and organised by the French Government in Paris. The speeches and declarations that were made on the day, the final statement and the pledges are available on the website of the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The final statement and pledges are available in French and English, and the final statement is additionally available in Dutch. There were no working papers for this conference.
Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development which multinational organisation has responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the pledges of the donor groups according to their nature as specified in the final statement of the International Donors Conference for the Palestinian State held in Paris on 17 December 2007. 
Mr. Malik: A donor co-ordination mechanism, with a secretariat in Ramallah, was set-up following the London Ad Hoc Liaison Committee conference in 2005. This continues to provide practical coordination on the ground.
At the Paris donor conference the UK supported the establishment of a more effective monitoring mechanism. We believe this should not only cover pledges by donors, but also progress by Israelis and Palestinians in creating the conditions necessary for aid to be effective. Unfortunately, no such mechanism was agreed at the Paris conference. We continue to call on international partners to agree a monitoring mechanism.
Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of changes made over the last 12 months to the operation of the back-to-back system introduced by Israel for transporting goods within the West Bank and between the West Bank and Israel; what assessment he has made of the impact of the system on (a) speed with which Palestinian goods can be transported and (b) costs of transportation; and what representations he is making on the subject. 
Transportation times have increased as goods must be unloaded and loaded at each crossing, and in some cases, goods must take a longer route to use a specified crossing. Restrictions are in place on the opening hours and capacity of the crossings. These factors have contributed to an increase in transportation costs.
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