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Written Answers to Questions

Friday 1 February 2008

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

Banks: Accountancy

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (1) if he will appoint an independent inquiry into the way banks have accounted for subprime loans; [178525]

(2) if he will investigate the extent of off balance sheet accounting by banks; [178526]

(3) what discussions he has held with the auditors of Northern Rock in connection with the company's accounting practices. [178527]

Angela Eagle: I have been asked to reply.

The supervision of banks in the UK is a matter for the Financial Services Authority (FSA), acting on an independent basis. The Treasury has not held discussions with the auditors of Northern Rock on its accounting practices. The accounting treatment of assets and liabilities in banks is governed by standards proposed by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and adopted by the EU. The IASB is re-examining through its consultative process the accounting standards for consolidation of exposures on a bank's balance sheet, with a paper planned for the second half of 2008. The Government, with the FSA and the Financial Reporting Council, will be involved in the development and adoption of any new or amended EU standard.

Business: Government Assistance

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform which UK enterprises that have received state aid are registered on the European Commission's state aid scoreboard. [181762]

Mr. Thomas: The scoreboard is the Commission's benchmarking instrument for state aid, providing a transparent and publicly accessible source of information on the overall state aid situation in each of the EU member states and on the Commission's current state aid control activities. Thus all the state aid received by enterprises across the EU is reflected in the scoreboard, but it does not provide details of state aid received by individual enterprises.

Carbon Monoxide: Safety

Tom Levitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will take steps to (a) reduce the cost and (b) improve the availability of domestic carbon monoxide detectors with audible alarms and combined smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. [182674]


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Mr. Thomas: The Government acknowledge the safety benefits of these items but do not consider that there is a need to intervene on pricing or availability.

Certification Officer

Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what role is performed by each of the Certification Officer’s employees. [183604]

Mr. McFadden [holding answer 31 January 2008]: The roles of the Certification Officer’s nine employees are as follows:

Exports

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what estimate he has made of the proportion of UK businesses which did not export to other European Union member states in the latest period for which figures are available. [181720]

Mr. Thomas: Figures for the proportion of UK businesses which do not export to the European Union are not collected.

HM Revenue and Customs publish some data on the number of companies exporting goods to the European Union as part of their quarterly regional trade statistics. The Single Market removal of customs declarations in 1993 and the subsequent successful reduction of administrative and statistical burdens on businesses mean that those numbers exclude the vast majority of exporters to the EU as they do not have to complete the Intrastat survey form. Nor do the numbers include companies who export services.

News Corporation

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform pursuant to the answer of 21 January 2008, Official Report, column 1631W, what plans he or his officials have to meet representatives of (a) Virgin Media, (b) ITV plc, (c) Rapture Television and (d) other interested parties in relation to the Competition Commission's report on BSkyB's acquisition of ITV plc shares. [182426]


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Mr. Thomas: None. We were content that, prior to taking the decisions announced on 29 January, we had no need to receive oral representations from those parties additional to the written representations we had received from them.

Overseas Trade: China

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many representations his Department has received from British businesses and service providers on non-payment for goods and services provided to Chinese companies. [179391]

Mr. Thomas: This information is not readily available as the Department does not maintain a central record of the representations it has received on this issue. Furthermore, the Department considers that the cost of retrieving and collating this information, for an unspecified number of years, would incur disproportionate cost.

Communities and Local Government

Communities and Homes Agency: Finance

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the proposed budgets are for the (a) Communities and Homes Agency and (b) Office for Tenants and Social Landlords in the first full year of operation. [171636]

Caroline Flint: The Homes and Communities Agency will have a proposed programme budget of at least £4 billion in its first year of operation (2009-10). We will outline the exact budget once it is decided which delivery programmes will transfer from the Department.

For 2009-10 we estimate that the budget for the Office for Tenants and Social Landlords will be £25 million.

Council Tax: Appeals

Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what adjustments in cash terms have been made to the collection funds of each billing authority in England as a result of successful council tax appeals by the householder in (a) 2006-07 and (b) so far in 2007-08. [183212]

John Healey: The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many council tax appeals relating to England have been considered in (a) 2005-06, (b) 2006-07 and (c) 2007-08 to date by the Valuation Tribunal Service; and what proportion and how many resulted in a lower council tax banding for the householder. [183222]


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John Healey: The Valuation Tribunal Service (VTS) has held information centrally on the number of successful appeals since the beginning of 2006-07.

Number of council tax appeals received Number of council tax appeals considered by tribunals Percentage of considered appeals that were allowed or allowed in part

2005-06

21,805

n/a

n/a

2006-07

27,130

5,274

12.25

2007-08 (to 31 December 2007)

25,141

4,176

19.01

n/a = not available

It is wrong to assume that all banding appeals are about reducing a property’s banding. An appeal can be made on other grounds, such as how a previously single dwelling should be split up into a number of separate units (e.g. flats), and from what date the change should appear in the valuation list. The VTS does not currently keep information on whether allowing an appeal, in full or in part, results in a change of banding.

Floods: Gloucestershire

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what provision was made in the most recent local government grant settlement for local authorities in Gloucestershire to introduce flood resilience measures. [178797]

John Healey: Formula grant is an unhypothecated block grant i.e. authorities have the freedom to spend the grant on any service provided that they meet their statutory duties. For this reason, and due to the method of calculating formula grant, particularly floor damping, it is not possible to say how much grant has been provided for any particular service. It is for local authorities to set their budgets, taking into account the needs of their local community.

Home Information Packs

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) how many (a) home information packs and (b) home condition reports were commissioned in the six area trials in England and Wales prior to 1 August; [171581]

(2) how many (a) home information packs and (b) home condition reports were subsidised, in whole or in part, under the funding allocated to six area trials in England and Wales. [171585]

Caroline Flint: I refer the hon. Member to the home information packs update written ministerial statement made on 22 November 2007, Official Report, columns 140-42WS.

IPSOS-MORI is still in the process of finalising its conclusions and a copy of the research report will be placed in the Library of the House once the project has been finalised.

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether any assessment has been made of the level of compliance by (a) home owners and (b) estate agents with the requirement for a home information pack. [182602]


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Caroline Flint: Local authority weights and measures authorities and the Office of Fair Trading have been given the responsibility for enforcing the Home Information Pack duties through s.l66 and s.175 of the Housing Act 2004.

Housing

Alistair Burt: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what her Department’s estimate is of the additional cost to the housing market renewal programme caused by speculative buying; and if she will make a statement; [166229]

(2) what steps she is taking to prevent speculative buying in housing market renewal areas as referred to in the National Audit Office report on housing market renewal. [166230]

Caroline Flint: The Department does not make such estimates, chiefly because it is difficult to define exactly what is speculation.

Pathfinders work closely with local residents and, where acquisition of property is necessary, encourage them to sell directly to the pathfinder rather than to third parties. As with other compulsory purchases, compensation arrangements also differentiate between owner occupiers and others, with those who can demonstrate residence for at least a year receiving a 10 per cent. home loss payment on top of the market value for the property, and landlords or investors receiving a 7.5 per cent. basic loss payment on top of market value.

While it is difficult, therefore, to be precise about the extent of speculative activity, the Government and pathfinders will continue to keep this under review, although it would clearly be inappropriate to curtail residents’ legitimate rights to sell.

Housing: Expenditure

Mr. Meacher: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what information she holds on the percentage of gross national product spent on (a) housing and (b) affordable social housing in each OECD country (i) in the last year for which figures are available and (ii) in 1997. [165536]

Caroline Flint [holding answer 19 November 2007]: Communities and Local Government do not hold data on the percentage of gross national product spent on (a) housing and (b) affordable social housing in each of the OECD countries. There are data available on the percentage of gross domestic product spent on housing by OECD countries where data are available on the OECD website. Details can be found at:

There are a number of drop down menus on this page that allow you to select housing expenditure in both public or private sectors.

Housing: Floods

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many
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residential dwellings were built within flood risk areas in England in each year since 1997. [171566]

Caroline Flint: It is the responsibility of local authorities to plan properly for their housing provision, on the basis of specific sites that reflect clear and informed strategies for the location of housing development, and for the infrastructure needed to service it. Of course flood risk is a major factor in deciding the location of new development and the Government’s aim is to avoid inappropriate development in such areas. We have strengthened the system significantly—new planning rules introduced last year (PPS25) make clear that councils should not give the go ahead to new housing in areas where the Environment Agency advise against it. The new rules are already beginning to have an impact and it is vital that councils continue to work with the Environment Agency to ensure that new homes are safe from flooding and property sustainable for the future. Flood risk must be taken into account at all stages of the planning process. Development that would not be safe in the higher flood risk areas should be directed to areas of lower risk wherever this is practicable.

The following table gives the information requested and relates to the period before the planning system was strengthened:

New dwellings built in high flood risk areas

1997

13,400

1998

11,700

1999

12,400

2000

12,100

2001

11,300

2002

13,000

2003

14,900

2004

15,200

2005

13,700

Notes:
1. There is an inevitable time-lag between land use change occurring and it being recorded, therefore data are constantly being updated.
2. The data in the table are based on records received from Ordnance Survey up to June 2007.
Source:
Communities and Local Government completions data (2007),
Source data: Land Use Change Statistics data (LUCS 22A, October 2007)

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