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Fire Services: Floods

Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent discussions she has had with (a) fire and rescue services and (b) fire authorities on section 9 of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004, in respect of a statutory duty to assist with flooding incidents; and if she will make a statement. [227844]

Mr. Khan: Government are considering the case for a statutory duty on the Fire and Rescue Service for flood rescue following the publication of Sir Michael Pitt’s overarching review of the lessons learned from the 2007 floods. We are currently consulting with the UK Search and Rescue Group on this matter, of which the Chief Fire Officers’ Association, and other local responders with flood rescue expertise, are members.


Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will make a statement on the take-up of FireBuy. [227610]

Mr. Khan: FireBuy was established as the national procurement body for the English Fire and Rescue Service in March 2006. A large number of fire and rescue authorities are now using the contracts and framework arrangements set up by FireBuy. These include smoke alarms, hand-held radios, and a range of specialist fire vehicles and appliances. Other national contract arrangements, for items such as clothing, personal protective equipment and breathing apparatus, are now becoming available and are also likely to be widely used by fire and rescue authorities, as well as a range of other public sector bodies.

Housing: Floods

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many households displaced by flooding in summer 2007 have not yet been able to return to their homes, broken down by (a) local authority area and (b) household size. [226465]

John Healey: As at 30 June, we estimate that approximately 3,400 households remained wholly or partially displaced from their homes following the floods of summer 2007. Around 28 per cent. of those not back in their homes at the end of May had returned by the end of June. A breakdown of the figures by local authority area is available at:

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More up-to-date estimates of households still displaced will be published shortly, once we have completed further work to assess their robustness.

The Department does not collect information on the size of households still wholly or partially displaced from their homes.

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the average cost was of insuring a home against (a) coastal and (b) inland flooding in each of the last five years. [226466]

John Healey: We do not hold this information. Flooding risk is usually included as part of general domestic insurance policies and the cost of such policies is affected by many factors.

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what proportion of homeowners at risk of flooding have flood insurance. [226467]

John Healey: We do not hold this information. However, the Association of British Insurers has estimated that 93 per cent. of all homeowners have home buildings insurance in place and that 75 per cent. of all households have home contents insurance in place.

Housing: Insulation

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assistance she plans to provide for people whose homes have solid walls to provide wall insulation; and if she will make a statement. [224894]

Joan Ruddock: I have been asked to reply.

Finding innovative, cost effective and attractive ways of insulating hard to treat homes will be core to both our carbon saving and fuel poverty alleviation ambitions. The Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT), although specifically designed to deliver carbon savings as cost effectively as possible, includes incentives to encourage suppliers to promote more costly measures appropriate for hard to treat homes, such as solid wall insulation. This has resulted in some 40,000 solid wall homes benefiting from insulation in the last three years, with a further 100,000 expected to be treated by 2011.

Equally, we continue to assess innovative solid wall products for inclusion within Warm Front, the Government’s flagship fuel poverty alleviation programme. There will also be a focus on improving the energy efficiency of hard to treat properties, including via solid wall insulation, through the forthcoming Green Neighbourhoods scheme, announced by Hilary Benn in April; and the new £350 million community energy saving obligation on energy suppliers and electricity generators announced by the Prime Minister on 11 September.

Local Government Finance

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans she has to meet local authority leaders to discuss action to protect local authorities from the effects of the insolvency of Icelandic banks; and if she will make a statement. [227209]

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John Healey: I refer the hon. Member to the written statement made by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on 14 October 2008, Official Report, column 34WS.

Local Government Finance: Students

Charles Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what additional support her Department makes available to local authorities with large student populations. [228021]

John Healey: The Department has recently published research entitled “Evidence Gathering: Housing in Multiple Occupation and possible planning responses—Final Report”. This independent research sets out a series of cross cutting measures that could tackle and stop the complex causes and negative symptoms of concentrations of houses in multiple occupation including those in student neighbourhoods. The measures include new planning mechanisms and the widespread adoption of a number of the best common sense local solutions. We are now considering the report’s conclusions and how best to take forward the recommendations.

In terms of local authority funding, formula grant is largely distributed using the socio-economic and demographic characteristics of the authority, together with the number of band-D equivalent properties (taxbase) within the authority’s area. In order to calculate the taxbase, we take into account factors such as the number of student exemptions in the authority. For the 2008-09 to 2010-11 settlement, we implemented changes to better reflect the likely number of student exemptions in an area in this calculation.

Local Government: Bank Services

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on what date (a) her Department and (b) the Audit Commission was first informed of the financial vulnerability of Icelandic banking institutions. [228198]

John Healey: Neither my Department nor the Audit Commission monitors the performance or creditworthiness of any investment institution on behalf of local government; that is a matter for the local authorities concerned, as the Department’s investment guidance, published in 2004, makes very clear.

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the financial exposure of each (a) local authorities and (b) fire authorities to the Icelandic banking crisis is, expressed in cash terms. [228227]

John Healey: We have been working closely with the Local Government Association (LGA) to assess the position of local authorities that have deposits in Icelandic banks, and to ensure that any authority facing serious short-term difficulty is offered support and expertise from experts drawn from local government itself.

The LGA has been compiling the information supplied by individual local authorities. It has published on its website a list of authorities that have assets in Icelandic Banks, together with the amount, at

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Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the financial exposure of (a) local authority private finance initiative schemes and (b) housing associations to the Icelandic banking crisis. [228229]

Mr. Khan: The positions of contractors and senior lenders under standardised PFI contracts are structured so that, if difficulties occur, changes can be made to the parties, within defined limits. No central assessment of particular funders has been carried out. However, if a local authority were to approach this Department with concerns about a project we sponsor, we would provide advice and support as appropriate.

There are around 2,000 housing associations in England—many of which are organisations of significant financial size who will, as a matter of course, keep monies on deposit. We are currently working to establish the extent to which associations are exposed and will continue to monitor the position closely. Housing Associations have a statutory duty to inform their regulator the Housing Corporation if they face any significant difficulties.

Energy and Climate Change

Air Pollution

Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what assessment he has made of air quality in the UK's most polluted areas in each of the last eight years. [227095]

Huw Irranca-Davies: I have been asked to reply.

Since 1997, local authorities have had a statutory duty to review current, and likely future, air quality within their area against national objectives for seven air pollutants. Where any pollutants are exceeding, or are likely to exceed, an air quality objective, the local authority must declare an air quality management area, and prepare and implement an action plan of measures to work towards meeting the relevant objectives. About 200 local authorities across the UK have declared air quality management areas, primarily for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM10).

DEFRA also undertakes its own air quality monitoring across a number of national networks. Information on these, as well as information on local authorities with air quality management areas and an annual report on DEFRA's air quality monitoring activities, is available in the Air Quality Archive at:

Carbon Emissions: Local Authorities

Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change on what basis the initial allocation to local authorities will be made under the carbon reduction commitment; and what mechanisms will be put in place to reward local authorities which had reduced their energy consumption prior to the introduction of the scheme. [225210]

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Joan Ruddock [holding answer 8 October 2008]: The Government will not set allocations for individual organisations participating in the carbon reduction commitment. Instead the Government will set a cap for the total number of allowances available for all participants. Organisations will be required to surrender sufficient allowances to cover their annual emissions and may purchase these through an annual sale or auction, or on the secondary market. Organisations will therefore decide on the basis of their emissions reduction strategy how many allowances they need to buy. There will be a three year introductory phase where participants will be able to purchase unrestricted quantities of allowances at a set price. After the introductory phase a cap will be set on the number of allowances available and the market will determine the price of allowances. The sale or auction revenues will be recycled to organisations according to their position in the carbon reduction commitment league table.

Early action to reduce their energy consumption will be recognised in determining an organisation's position in league table. The two actions that are recognised by the league table are the voluntary installation of automatic metering and accreditation with the Carbon Trust Standard.

Innovation, Universities and Skills

Higher Education: Admissions

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how many university (a) applicants and (b) successful applicants there were to study (i) medicine, (ii) engineering, (iii) physics, (iv) chemistry, (v) veterinary medicine, (vi) accountancy, (vii) law, (viii) dentistry and (ix) economics courses, broken down by (A) sex and (B) socio-economic class in each year since 1992. [226585]

Mr. Lammy: The available information covers the years between 2002 and 2007 and is contained in tables, copies of which have been placed in Libraries. The National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification (NS-SEC) was introduced in 2002 and replaced social class. The two classifications are not directly comparable, therefore figures for years earlier than 2002 have not been provided. Comparable data for 2008 will not be available until January 2009.

House of Commons Commission


Mr. Frank Field: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission pursuant to the Answer of 13 October 2008, Official Report, column 854W, on catering, how much (a) Brakes Vegetable Suet and (b) Trenwax is used by the catering service each week. [228192]

Nick Harvey: The House of Commons catering service does not record usage of foodstuffs or other commodities on a weekly basis. However, over the six months from April to September 2008, the Department purchased a total of (a) 252 kg of Brakes Vegetable Suet and (b) 50 lt of Trenwax.

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Children, Schools and Families

Adoption: China

Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what progress has been made in the last six months in reaching agreement with the Chinese authorities about a protocol to enable British citizens to adopt Chinese children. [227801]

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: The China Center of Adoption Affairs (CCAA) has taken the position that adoptions under Chinese domestic law by British citizens resident in China cannot proceed without a guarantee of automatic conferral of British citizenship on the child.

Although UK adoption law has provisions that recognise adoptions effected in China, British nationality legislation provides that a child will not be a British citizen if the adoption is not made under the 1993 “Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption”, or the adoptive parents were not habitually resident in-the United Kingdom at the time the adoption was certified under the convention. Children in such cases can apply for registration as a British citizen at the Home Secretary’s discretion under section 3(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981.

In light of the position taken by the CCAA, the Home Office has considered whether it would be possible to give an indication to the Chinese authorities of the likely outcome of an application for citizenship by child adopted in China. The Home Office concluded that this is not possible because the Home Secretary is unable to fetter her discretion by undertaking to grant citizenship in advance of receiving an application.

Citizenship is a matter for the Home Office. However, officials from the Department for Children, Schools and Families are working with Home Office colleagues and Foreign and Commonwealth Office representatives in Beijing, to try and establish with the CCAA a mutually acceptable way forward, through the provision of text for a certificate which may be used in such adoption applications.

Children: Internet

Mr. Hunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) when he expects the UK Council for Child Internet Safety to develop advice on child internet safety accessible to parents and children via the DirectGov information network, as recommended in the Byron Review; [227193]

(2) what plans he has to develop a public information and awareness campaign on child internet safety; [227194]

(3) by what date he expects the UK Council for Child Internet Safety to have agreed a kitemarking system for parental control computer software; [227196]

(4) what progress has been made in appointing an advisory group to the UK Council for Child Internet Safety; and if he will make a statement. [227197]

Jim Knight: The June 2008 Byron Review Action Plan commits the Government to working with Council partners to develop an authoritative ‘one stop shop’
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website on child internet safety by spring 2009. Initial development has already begun. The ‘one stop shop’ must be a trusted and central portal for high quality internet safety information, with signposts to the wide range of support and services provided by Council members. This will be developed in close consultation with the Council.

The June 2008 Byron Review Action Plan commits the Government to:

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