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Departmental Energy

Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps her Department has taken to reduce its energy consumption in the last 12 months; and what her Department's expenditure on energy was in (a) the most recent 12 month period for which figures are available and (b) the immediately preceding 12 months. [201747]

Mr. Dhanda: Communities and Local Government have taken numerous steps to reduce its energy consumption over the last twelve months.

The Department has developed a detailed Energy Efficiency Action Plan which provides a structured, timetabled approach to reducing its carbon emissions. Efficiency controls have been fitted to fans and pumps, and plant operating hours have been reduced. The building energy management system in the Department's main headquarter building has also been upgraded to enable more effective control of heating and cooling. Air conditioning plant has remained off during the winter season, and external solar blinds have been permanently lowered during summer periods to reduce solar gain. An audit was also undertaken to ensure that sensors fitted to lights were operating as intended. (The Department's office floor lighting is fitted with daylight and movement sensors which automatically switch lights off after 2 1/2 minutes of inactivity.)

Ongoing staff awareness campaigns continue to help towards reducing the energy consumption of office equipment and the total number of computer printers has been reduced. The Department also participated in the Lights Out London energy efficiency awareness raising event.

As part of the Department's wider estate rationalisation strategy, the total number of buildings occupied has been reduced, thereby reducing total energy consumption across the estate.


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Actions taken to reduce energy consumption within the Department's executive agencies have included installation of more energy efficient lighting systems, reductions in heating plant operating hours, installation of timer devices on boilers and investigations into options for on-site renewable energy generation.

Energy expenditure in the last twelve months and the twelve months immediately preceding was as follows:

£
2006-07 2007-08

London headquarters

1,447,997

895,565

Executive Agencies

2,322,468

1,802,928


These figures do not include data from the regional Government Offices.

Departmental Legislation

Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what criminal offences have been created by primary legislation sponsored by her Department since July 2007. [198309]

Mr. Dhanda: The Department has sponsored five Acts that have received Royal Assent during or after July 2007. Four of these have not created any criminal offences:

Section 130 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health (LGPIH) Act 2007 creates an offence of failing to provide address details when required to do so, or providing a false address, as part of arrangements to allow for a fixed penalty to be paid in lieu of prosecution for byelaw offences.

The LGPIH Act also includes provision in section 194 which whilst not creating criminal offences per se, can be used in regulations to replicate existing offences contained in section 63 of the Local Government Act 2000 relating to improper disclosure of information.

Departmental Official Hospitality

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what budget each Minister in her Department has for entertainment in 2008-09. [202085]

Mr. Dhanda [holding answer 28 April 2008]: Ministers do not hold entertainment budgets. All hospitality is provided in accordance with the Ministerial Code.

Departmental Pensions

Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the effect on her Department's expenditure would be of increasing the employee contribution to each pension scheme for which her Department is responsible by one per cent.; and if she will make a statement. [200739]


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Mr. Dhanda: An increase in 2007-08 employee contributions for the firefighters' pension scheme 1992 and the new firefighters' pension scheme 2006 of 1 per cent. would amount to £10 million. An increase in employee contributions to the local government pension scheme would amount to some £300 million on the latest figures available.

The impact of these on the budgets of fire and rescue authorities and other local authorities would depend on other factors including any knock-on effect of the change on pay, recruitment or retention.

Domestic Wastes: Carbon Emissions

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 3 April 2008, Official Report, column 1248W, on carbon dioxide emissions, what role household waste plays in any definition of zero carbon. [202472]

Mr. Iain Wright: Household waste has no role to play specifically in the definition of zero carbon, which is focused on the energy performance of the home in relation to energy use from cooking, washing and electronic appliances as well as space heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting and hot water. However, the Code for Sustainable Homes contains a minimum entry requirement on household waste which must be met in order to gain a star rating against the code at any level. This ensures that when developers are building to higher environmental standards, and ultimately zero carbon standards at level 6 of the code, waste is taken into account in the design, construction and occupation of the house.

East of England Regional Assembly: Elections

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what representations she has received on direct elections to the East of England Regional Assembly; and if she will make a statement. [202091]

John Healey: I have received no such representations. I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Dhanda) on 21 April 2008, Official Report, column 1397W, which sets out the Government's policy on regional assemblies.

Farms: Planning Permission

Mrs. Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will bring forward proposals to amend planning legislation to enable farmers to build on-farm accommodation for their children more easily. [201222]

Mr. Iain Wright: The Government recognise that rural communities do face particular housing pressures. That is why the hon. Member for Truro and St. Austell has been asked to conduct an independent review to advise and assist Government on how land use and planning can better support rural business and deliver affordable housing, and which is due to report in July this year.


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The policy approach in Planning Policy Statement 3 “Housing” (PPS3) and Planning Policy Statement 7: “Sustainable Development in Rural Areas” (PPS7) allows the development of new dwellings within existing farm holdings or, for example, the conversion of disused or underused farm buildings for housing, in certain, suitable locations. Annex A of PPS7 advises that one of the circumstances in which isolated residential development may be justified is when accommodation is required to enable agricultural, forestry and certain other full-time workers to live at, or in the immediate vicinity of, their place of work.

Local planning authorities should include appropriate policies in their local plans which will help deliver the amount of housing they need and decide where that housing should be located. It is for them to determine individual planning applications, such as those for the development of new dwellings within existing farm holdings, in accordance with their local plans, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

The policies in PPS3 and PPS7 apply to England only. Planning policy in Wales is a matter for the Welsh Assembly Government.

Fire Services: Manpower

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many (a) whole-time firefighters, (b) retained firefighters and (c) non-uniformed fire and rescue service staff were employed on 11th September (i) 2001 and (ii) in each subsequent year, broken down by fire authority area. [202135]

Mr. Dhanda: Available information, for the period 2001-02 to 2005-06 (at 31 March in each year), has been deposited in the Library of the House.

Flags

Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what role her Department plays in (a) the process by which counties may establish their own flags and (b) the planning permission rules relating to the flying of county flags; and how many counties have established such flags. [200925]

Mr. Iain Wright: Communities and Local Government plays no part in the process by which counties may establish their own flags. Similarly, we hold no records on how many counties have established such flags.

Under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 flags come within the definition of “advertisement”. The rules relating to the flying of county flags are to be found in the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007, which came into force on 6 April 2007. Under Class H Schedule 1 of these Regulations certain flags, including those of any English county, may be flown without requiring the express consent of the local authority in whose territory they are being flown, provided that neither the flag nor the flagstaff displays any advertisement or subject matter additional to the design of the flag.


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Floods: Local Government Finance

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what powers parish and town councils have to levy a precept in order to deal with flooding issues. [201800]

John Healey: Section 41 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 provides powers to parish and town councils to issue a precept to their local billing authority as their budget requirement for the year. A precept must be issued before 1 March in the financial year preceding that for which it is issued.

There is no requirement for the precept to be broken down against specific services provided.

Greenbelt: Planning Permission

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Peterborough of 3 April 2008, Official Report, column 1275W, on regional planning and development, in which local authorities has a planning inspector has (a) amended a proposed policy on the Green Belt and (b) rejected a development plan document as unsound due to the proposed policy on the Green Belt. [202480]

Mr. Iain Wright: The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Health Services

Mr. Stephen O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether her Department provides health or social care services out of public funds, with reference to the Statement by the Minister of State, Department of Health, in the Health and Social Care Bill Committee, of 17 January 2008, Official Report, column 327. [200217]

Mr. Dhanda: My Department does not provide health or social care services, but does provides grant funding for local authorities, through, for example, Formula Grant, which may be used to support local authority social care functions.

There are no plans at present to apply the proposed power in clause 69 of the Health and Social Care Bill, enabling the Care Quality Commission to perform any of its functions in relation to health or social care schemes, to any activities which are within the policy responsibility of my Department.

Housing: Carbon Emissions

Andrew Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what plans the Government have to establish a standard definition for zero-carbon with regards to housing; and if she will make a statement; [201803]

(2) what discussions her Department has had with HM Treasury on defining zero-carbon for the purposes of housing; and if she will make a statement. [201870]


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Mr. Iain Wright: In the Building a Greener Future policy statement, published on 23 July 2007, we committed to consulting on the definition of zero carbon homes from 2016. In the 2008 Budget the Government announced that the 2016 definition of a zero carbon home would be set by the end of 2008 following a consultation in the summer.

Ministers and officials have meetings with a wide variety of organisations in the public and private sectors as part of the process of policy development and delivery.

Andrew Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what representations her Department has received on the comparative carbon dioxide emission reductions potentially available from refurbishing existing housing to higher energy efficiency standards and building new zero carbon housing; and if she will make a statement; [201868]

(2) what research her Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the carbon dioxide emissions from refurbishing existing housing to higher energy efficiency standards; and if she will make a statement. [201869]

Mr. Iain Wright: The Government anticipate that, in order to meet the long-term carbon reduction target set out in the Climate Change Bill, substantial reductions will be required both from new and existing homes. A number of studies have been undertaken on the potential in each of these. In particular:

Housing: Insulation

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate she has made of the number of properties in England unsuitable for cavity wall insulation; what proportion of the total housing stock this represents; what reports she has received on the reasons why cavity wall insulation is inappropriate in some circumstances; and what effect such circumstances are likely to have on her Department's ability to meet its targets on improving the energy efficiency of existing housing stock. [201317]

Caroline Flint: The Explanatory Memorandum for the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target includes an estimate of the number of cavity walls in GB that can not be insulated for the following reasons:


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