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Mr. Iain Wright: All local planning authorities, including those in rural areas, have targets within which to determine planning applications (60 per cent. within 13 weeks for major applications, 65 per cent. and 80 per cent. within eight weeks for minors and others). Authorities have been steadily improving their performance to meet these targets; recent data show that 84 per cent. of authorities met all three key performance targets over the year April 2007 to March 2008.
Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what role the Secretary of State plays in considering planning applications from Crown development for Titan prisons; 
Mr. Iain Wright: Planning applications for Titan prisons would be considered under the Town and County Planning legislation and normally be determined by the local planning authority. It is possible that such an application could be called in by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government for her own decision, or, if refused by the local planning authority, any appeal could be recovered for determination by the Secretary of State.
If the Ministry of Justice concluded, on the basis of pre-application discussions, that the relevant local planning authority would be likely to refuse planning permission and provided that he can certify that the scheme is of national importance and required urgently, the Secretary of State for Justice could submit the application direct to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government under section 293 A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. This provides for the case to be determined by the Secretary of State under an expedited procedure.
David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent representations she has received on the merits of the proximity principle in planning and building new housing developments; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Iain Wright [holding answer 7 July 2008]: The Department for Communities and Local Government has received the Campaign to Protect Rural Englands report The Proximity Principle: why we are living too far apart published in May.
Many of the issues discussed in the report, such as prioritising the use of suitable brownfield land and making the most efficient and effective use of that land, are already set out in the Governments Housing Green Paper, Homes for the future:more affordable, more sustainable, and Planning Policy Statement 3 Housing (PPS3). PPS3 sets out that homes should be delivered to a high quality, in suitable locations, with good accessibility to jobs, key services and infrastructure, which will contribute to sustainable communities.
The report also comments on eco-towns. We are currently consulting on eco-towns and the first stage of the consultation, which closed on 30 June, looked at potential locations of eco-towns and how they might be delivered. In due course we will provide a statement on the responses received. We will also draw on these responses, and look at the findings in this report to inform the second stage of consultation on the draft Sustainability Appraisal and draft planning policy statement.
Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) how many staff were prosecuted for (a) attempting to defraud and (b) defrauding each regional development agency in each year since the agencies were established; and if she will make a statement; 
(3) how many staff employed in each regional development agency were responsible for each instance of fraud or attempted fraud in each year since the agencies were established; and if she will make a statement. 
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what criteria she uses to assess the (a) accessibility and (b) responsiveness of regional development agencies to the sectors they serve; and if she will make a statement. 
Each RDA, in consultation with stakeholders in its region, has drawn up a regional economic strategy identifying the key priorities and sectors for securing the region's economic growth. BERR and other Government Departments are also involved in developing the strategy, as are businesses in the region. BERR ministers review and approve RDA corporate plans to ensure that they deliver against the priorities identified in the strategy.
Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what definition her Department uses of a poor quality environment for the purposes of measuring progress against her Department's liveability performance indicator. 
Mr. Iain Wright: For the purposes of the Department's liveability performance indicator, a poor quality environment is defined as one assessed to have major or significant problems relating to any of 16 environmental problems. The assessments are carried out by professional surveyors as part of the English House Condition Survey and are based on observed problems in the immediate environment of households, in some cases verified by residents. Problems are assessed on a scale of 1 (no problems) to 5 (major problems), with scores of 4 and 5 corresponding with major or significant. The 16 specific environmental problems are:
ambient air quality;
condition of dwellings;
dog or other excrement;
intrusion from motorways/arterial roads;
litter and rubbish dumping;
nuisance from street parking;
vacant/boarded up buildings;
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many recommendations in the Commission for Rural Communities report, England's rural areas: steps to release their economic potential, are within his Department's areas of responsibility and Department intends to implement; and if he will provide a timetable for implementation. 
Mr. McFadden: The Rural Advocate's Report, commissioned by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, illustrates the contribution made by businesses in rural areas to the national economy. It highlights the relevance of activity across all levels of Government and by the private sector. The recommendations within the report are, therefore, very broadly targeted. The Department is working with other Government Departments and the RDAs in considering how best to respond to its recommendations.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform how many officials in his Department visited China on official business in 2007-08, broken down by grade; and what the equivalent figures for the Department of Trade and Industry were in (a) 1983, (b) 1987 and (c) each year between 1998 and 2006. 
Mr. Thomas: According to records held by Carlson Wagonlit, the Departments travel agent, the number of Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform/Department of Trade and Industry officials who travelled to China between April 2005 and March 2008 is as follows:
|April to March each year||Number|
These figures relate to number of trips booked with Carlson Wagonlit only, and additional trips may have been taken. We are not able to provide a breakdown by grade. Information for any period earlier than April 2005 is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Thomas: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Browne) on 5 March 2008, Official Report, columns 2653-54W. The contracts listed in this answer remain unchanged and were all let in the last two years.
The Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has asked me to reply to you directly on behalf of the Insolvency Service in respect of your question (2007/3220) asking what IT contracts his Department and its agencies have entered into the last two years.
The IT contracts have entered in the last two years is recorded under the table below:
|IT Contracts||Contractor||Year of contract||Expiry of contract|
I am responding on behalf of Companies House to your recently tabled Parliamentary Question to the Secretary of State for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.
Since April 2006 Companies House has entered into the following IT contracts:
Software Support Services for the Image Database
Finance Systems Managed Service
Mainframe Bureau Services and Print and Output Handling
Multi-vendor Hardware Maintenance Services
Network Support Services
WAN Replacement and Support Services
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