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8 Oct 2008 : Column 641W—continued

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Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will place in the Library a copy of the full background dataset of the YouGov survey of attitudes to eco-towns as referred to in her Department’s press release of 30 June 2008. [222620]

Mr. Iain Wright: With regard to the recent YouGov survey on eco-towns, I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 7 July 2008, Official Report, column 1355W, to the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier). A copy of the background dataset will be placed in the Library.

Fire Services

Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many firefighters there were per 100,000 residents in (a) England, (b) Derbyshire and (c) Chesterfield in each year since 1997. [225329]

Mr. Khan: Information on the number of firefighters per 100,000 population in Derbyshire and England is set out in the following table. Information for Chesterfield is not centrally held and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Firefighters per 100,000 population

Derbyshire England































Annual returns to Communities and Local Government

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many retained firefighters entered full-time service in each of the last three years, broken down by brigade. [225440]

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

Floods: Compensation

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much has been paid from receipts from the EU Solidarity Fund in respect of flood damage in Nottinghamshire in 2007, broken down by category of expenditure. [224921]

John Healey: Because of the UK’s success in bidding for the European Union Solidarity Fund the Government were able to set up a Restoration Fund of almost £31 million for English local authorities affected by last summer’s flood to support their continued efforts to rebuild their communities. Nottinghamshire has in total
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received £786,621 from the Restoration Fund. Bassetlaw district council received £40,438, Newark and Sherwood district council received £20,659 and Nottingham county council received £725,524.

Restoration Fund allocations were unringfenced; this allowed local authorities the discretion to make spending decisions based on their own local knowledge and priorities. Due to the unringfenced nature of the allocations local authorities are not required to inform Government as to how this money was spent.

Housing: Insulation

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate she has made of the number of homes which have solid walls in (a) Castle Point, (b) Essex and (c) England. [224893]

Mr. Iain Wright: The Department’s English House Condition Survey collects information on the number of homes which have solid walls. This is a sample survey designed to provide national and regional level estimates only. The most recent available results from the survey are for 2005 and this estimated that there were 6.7 million homes with solid walls in England, of which 764,000 were in the South East region.

These figures for ‘solid walls’ include all homes without cavity walls. In the main these are solid masonry walls but will also include some homes (totalling less than 4 per cent. of the whole housing stock) of prefabricated concrete or steel/timber frame construction. The numbers of homes in these latter categories are too small to estimate reliably through the sample survey.

The Department does not collect this information at a local level and is therefore not able to provide the number of homes which have solid walls in Castle Point or for Essex.

Housing: Solar Energy

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many new houses built or to be built in (a) 2007, (b) 2008 and (c) 2009 have solar panels. [224922]

Mr. Iain Wright: Information on the number of new build dwellings with solar panels is not held centrally.

Local Authorities: Public Participation

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent steps the Government has taken to give the general public greater access to information on how their local authority is being run. [225156]

John Healey: Information about the national indicators and other local area data are currently publicly available on the Floor Targets Interactive website

This enables citizens to compare performance between local authority areas and measure progress over time.

We are also working with local government to develop more effective provision by councils of timely performance and service information to their citizens. As part of this
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work we will be supporting, from late 2008, a range of pilot projects in local authorities to evaluate innovative techniques to empower citizens through information provision.

In addition to this, the Audit Commission and public service inspectorates are currently consulting and trialling their proposed methodology for the new comprehensive area assessment (CAA), which will replace the current comprehensive performance assessment from April 2009.

The CAA will assess and publicly report performance against all local area agreement targets, other local priorities and all 196 indicators in the national indicator set, taking into account the experiences of local people and their satisfaction with local services. The reports, which are being designed to give the public access to information on the effectiveness of local delivery, are due to be published for the first time in November 2009.

Lastly, we are reviewing actions to give local people clearer information on councils' performance on efficiency. Under proposals out to consultation, we would require councils to include standard, simple measures of efficiency performance alongside council tax demand notices.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent steps the Government has taken to encourage local authorities to be more open to public scrutiny. [225157]

John Healey: The recent Local Government White Paper—‘Communities in Control’—sets out the Governments plans to enable greater public scrutiny of local authorities. We are currently consulting on improving local accountability arrangements including strengthened powers for overview and scrutiny committees, regular public meetings for key local decision makers and petitioning schemes. This consultation closes on 30 October and we will carefully consider all the responses we receive before deciding how to implement our plans for greater scrutiny of councils.

Local Government: Surveillance

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what guidance has been issued to local authorities by (a) her Department and its predecessors and (b) the Audit Commission on the use of surveillance powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 since the Act came into force. [222655]

Mr. Coaker: I have been asked to reply.

No guidance has been issued specifically to local authorities by either Home Office or Audit Commission. The statutory codes of practice and regulations made under the Act provide guidance for public authorities.

Innovation, Universities and Skills

Students: Finance

Rosie Cooper: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what recent steps his Department has taken to improve access to bursaries and other assistance for students from low income backgrounds to enable them to complete undergraduate degree studies. [221886]

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Mr. Lammy: Universities are required to pay a minimum bursary to all students receiving the maximum maintenance grant. Most institutions are offering more than the minimum. The typical bursary in 2008-09 is around £1,000 per year.

The great majority of those entitled to bursaries are either applying to their university for funding, or are the subject of an automatic notification of eligibility from the Student Loans Company to their university because they had given consent to the sharing of financial data.

To further improve take-up, Department officials have worked closely with the Student Loans Company and other stakeholders to improve the bursary consent arrangements on the 2008-09 student finance application form.

The introduction of an ‘opt out’ clause, giving both the student and their sponsor an opportunity to opt out of consenting to their personal information being shared with universities for bursary purposes, is expected to increase the numbers of students assessed for and receiving bursaries. Clear guidance states that a decision to opt out of sharing data with universities does not affect entitlement to other forms of support.

Promotional materials have been issued to raise awareness of the availability of bursaries and encourage students to seek further information from institutions. The Government-sponsored directgov website also provides students with a bursary map, permitting them to carry out an online search of institutional bursaries.

In addition, students in financial difficulty during their course can apply for additional help through the Government-funded Access to Learning Fund (ALF). ALF is a discretionary fund administered directly by individual higher education institutions which are best placed to assess their students' circumstances.

The latest figures show that acceptances to universities for England are at an all-time high, with the proportion of applicants from lower socio-economic groups also up. The current package of student support means that anyone who can benefit from higher education has the opportunity to do so. This Government have brought back non-repayable grants and greatly expanded the numbers who get them. This autumn, around two-thirds of full-time eligible students will qualify for non-repayable grants of up to £2,835 a year. Full-time students can also apply for loans to meet their tuition fees and to help with living costs.


Aviation: Safety

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what steps she is taking to ensure that (a) very light jets and (b) private helicopters do not present a danger to civil aviation; [222978]

(2) what measures are in place to (a) regulate and (b) identify the operators of (i) very light jets and (ii) privately-owned operated helicopters. [222979]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Appropriate measures exist to ensure the safety of very light jets (VLJs) and private helicopters.

Since 28 September 2003, the regulation and airworthiness approval of the type design of the majority
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of aircraft on the UK register has been the responsibility of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). This includes the approval of both VLJs and helicopters.

The specific airworthiness requirements regulating the structure, engines, systems and equipment, and performance for very light jet aeroplanes are being drawn from a combination of the EASA airworthiness certification specification codes CS-23 (“Normal, utility, aerobatic and commuter category aeroplanes”) and CS-25 (“Large aeroplanes”), as appropriate to the design under consideration. The regulatory and industrial processes of taking design concepts through to final production is well established and it is not envisaged that there will be any difference on how VLJs would be expected to comply with the appropriate requirements. Where the use of new technologies is involved, the existing requirements are supplemented by additional conditions to define the regulatory basis for their acceptance.

Helicopter design and airworthiness requirements are contained in the EASA certification specifications codes CS-27 (“Small rotorcraft”) and CS-29 (“Large rotorcraft”). In recent years, there have been a considerable number of new helicopter designs introduced to the market place, many employing of new technologies and product improvements over their predecessors.

The operational requirements in place to regulate privately owned and operated helicopters and VLJs being flown for purposes other than commercial air transport are those of the United Kingdom Air Navigation Order 2005 and its regulations. The operational requirements for VLJ being flown for commercial air transport are those of Annex III to Regulation (EEC) No. 3922/9, commonly known as EU-OPS.

Regulation (EC) No. 216/2008 requires the European Aviation Safety Agency to develop implementing rules, which will, by not later than 8 April 2012, apply to all aircraft whether operated commercially or non-commercially. These implementing rules will replace existing operational requirements. In addition, operators engaged in the non-commercial operation of VLJs and helicopters with a maximum take-off mass exceeding 3,175 kg or with a maximum seating configuration of more than nine, will have to declare to the Civil Aviation Authority their capability and means of discharging the responsibilities associated with the operation of their aircraft. The detailed draft implementing rules have not yet been published for consultation but it can be expected that they will enable member states to clearly identify the operators of such aircraft.

The Air Navigation Order 2005 requires that the name and address of the registered owner or charterer by demise of any aircraft, including VLJs and privately owned helicopters, shall be included on the details held in the UK Register of Civil Aircraft. The CAA Regulations stipulate that the UK Register of Civil Aircraft is available for inspection by any person and the CAA makes the register available via the CAA website at

If a VLJ is to be operated commercially it will be identifiable from the Air Operator’s Certificate, otherwise there are no specific operational measures in place to identify the operators of VLJs or privately owned helicopters.

8 Oct 2008 : Column 647W

Departmental Public Relations

James Duddridge: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much (a) her Department and (b) its agencies spent on each of the external public relations and marketing companies included in the Central Office of Information's Public Relations Framework in each of the last 36 months. [222116]

Mr. Hoon: The total expenditure figures for external public relations support for the Department for Transport and Executive Agencies, not all of which is commissioned through COI's PR framework, are set out in the following table. The figures, which are rounded, cover the last three fiscal years and include the cost of public relations agency fees and the cost of public relations promotions in various media. Monthly expenditure figures could be supplied only at disproportionate cost.

The prime use of external public relations is in support of our marketing activities on the THINK! road safety, Act on C02, European Whole Vehicle Type Approval, and Concessionary Bus Fares campaigns, and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency's continuous registration campaign.

Department for Transport 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08

DfT Central




Driving Standards Agency




Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency




Highways Agency




Vehicle and Operator Services Agency




Maritime and Coastguard Agency




Vehicle Certification Agency




Government Car and Despatch Agency




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