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10 Nov 2008 : Column 865W—continued

Neither this Department nor the Housing Corporation purchase properties and therefore do not pay stamp duty on the purchases of these homes. Registered social landlords who purchase these properties with grant via the Housing Corporation are not liable to pay stamp duty.

Non-domestic Rates: Ports

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what powers she has to prescribe the rateable values of premises in docks and harbours; under what legislation these powers are exercised; and how she has used her powers in this regard in the last 12 months. [233593]

John Healey: The power to prescribe the rateable value of premises in docks and harbours is in paragraph 3 of schedule 6 to the Local Government Finance Act 1988. Currently, no such rules are prescribed and all properties are subject to assessment on the same basis as all other non-domestic properties; that is, on the basis of their market rent, in accordance with paragraph 2 of schedule 6.

Planning: Enforcement

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will make it her policy to collect information on the number of planning enforcement officers employed by each local authority. [232506]

Mr. Iain Wright [holding answer 3 November 2008]: The Department has no plans to do so, as this goes against our policy of reducing the burdens on local authorities through the collection of data. The number of staff employed by local authorities on any function is a matter for them, taking account of local priorities.

Planning: Standards

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which councils are trialling planning performance agreements; and what funding has been provided by her Department to such trials. [230709]

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Mr. Iain Wright: Planning Performance Agreements are no longer being trialled. Following a pilot programme guidance on PPAs was published on 6 April 2008 which advocated their use by all local authorities where appropriate. The funding of PPAs is down to local authorities who can either charge a fee to developers or fund them from their own resources. The Advisory Team for Large Applications, a CLG-funded body hosted within English Partnerships offer a free inception day for PPAs.

The pilot programme of PPAs was run by the Planning Advisory Service and involved 22 local authorities at a total cost of £60,000 over the years 2006-07 and 2007-08.

Regional Ministers: Official Visits

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what official visits each Regional Minister has made since appointment; and what estimate she has made of the cost of each such visit. [233947]

Hazel Blears: A table providing the information requested has been deposited in the Library.

The table refers to visits undertaken by Regional Ministers currently in post and does not include details of visits made by predecessors.

Regional Planning and Development

Julia Goldsworthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what projects her Department is delivering through the regional development agencies; and what budgets have been set for these projects in (a) 2009-10, (b) 2010-11, (c) 2011-12 and (d) 2012-13. [234309]

Mr. Khan: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave her on 4 November 2008, Official Report, columns 345-46W.

Total single programme allocations for the current spending review period are set out in the following table:

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Total single programme allocation
Regional Development Agency 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11

Advantage West Midlands




East of England Development Agency




East Midlands Development Agency




London Development Agency




North West Development Agency




One North East




South East England Development Agency




South West Development Agency




Yorkshire Forward








Allocations for 2011-12 and 2012-13 are yet to be made.

Social Rented Housing

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what steps she has taken to ensure funding to successor registered social landlords when large scale voluntary transfers have been proposed; what rate of interest is payable in respect of each of the current proposals for such transfers; and for what period funding has been made available in each case; [234283]

(2) if she will review all business plans for large-scale voluntary housing transfers prepared by councils before they are put to tenants to ensure that they are achievable with current (a) economic conditions and (b) interest rate levels. [234332]

Mr. Iain Wright: The Department reviews and agrees housing stock valuations prepared by local authorities before tenants are balloted on a housing transfer proposal. These valuations include assumptions about the cost of borrowing in the light of economic conditions. RSL business plans are reviewed by the Department when there is a gap funding requirement to supplement privately raised finance to deliver a Decent Homes investment programme after transfer.

Interest rates payable and terms applied on loan facilities are negotiated by RSLs as part of a competitive and confidential process in the period between tenant consultation (after a positive ballot) and transfer completion. It is only then that the interest rates and funding terms are finalised between an RSL and its chosen funder.

There are currently no large scale voluntary transfer proposals that have agreed funding terms and have yet to complete a transfer transaction.


Constituencies: Statistics

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what groupings of parliamentary constituencies are permitted for statistical purposes in (a) England, (b) Northern Ireland, (c) Scotland and (d) Wales. [227826]

Mr. Wills: The Parliamentary Boundary Commissions do not group constituencies, but they may group local authority areas to help them construct constituencies according to the rules for the redistribution of seats contained in the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986. These rules require, in England and Wales, that parliamentary constituency boundaries do not cross county or London borough boundaries; in Scotland that regard must be had to local authority area boundaries; and in Northern Ireland that ward boundaries are not
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crossed. The rules also allow the Commissions in each country to depart from a strict application of this rule if they consider it appropriate to avoid excessive electoral disparity between constituencies and enable them to observe a further rule requiring constituencies to be about the same size. The decision whether to group areas and what particular groupings to apply, however, rests entirely with the relevant Commission.


John Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what plans he has to review the eligibility criteria by which indebted individuals can apply for a debt enforcement restriction order; and if he will make a statement. [233107]

Bridget Prentice: The enforcement restriction order (ERO) is set out in Chapter 2 of Part 5 of the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. It is currently expected that it will be introduced in 2010. It was developed following extensive consultation with the advice and credit sectors. It is intended specifically to support only those debtors who encounter unforeseen short-term difficulties from which they are likely to recover in a relatively short period. Other options, such as the reformed Administration Order (AO), which is contained in Chapter 1 of Part 5 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 exist for those with more long-term problems. There are no plans to review the underpinning eligibility criteria at this time.

However, earlier this year Her Majesty's Court Service consulted on certain aspects of the administration and enforcement restriction order schemes, including the types of debts that should be able to be protected. The response to the consultation paper, ‘Administration and Enforcement Restriction Orders: Setting the Parameters’, will be issued shortly.

Departmental Trade Unions

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many civil servants in his Department were seconded to work for (a) trades unions and (b) the Trades Union Congress in each year since its inception. [229106]

Mr. Wills: Since the creation of the Ministry of Justice on 9 May 2007, three civil servants have been seconded to one of our recognised trade unions (Public Commercial Services union, commonly known as PCS). No civil servants have been seconded to the Trades Union Congress.

Driving Offences: Mobile Phones

Sir Peter Soulsby: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many motorists in (a) Leicester and (b) Leicestershire have been prosecuted in each of the last three years for using mobile telephones whilst driving. [233740]

Maria Eagle: Available information on prosecutions in 2004 to 2006 (latest available) taken from the court proceedings database held by my Department, is provided
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in the following table. 2007 data should be available at the end of November this year. Data are available at police force area level only.

The majority of “use of handheld mobile phone while driving” offences are dealt with by the offer of a fixed penalty. The table does not include fixed penalty notices but does include cases where fixed penalty notices were issued but not paid and subsequently referred to court.

Proceedings at magistrates courts for the offence of use of hand held mobile phone while driving( 1,2) , within the Leicestershire police force area, 2004-06

Number of offences







(1) Offences under the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, Regulations 110 (1), 110 (2) and 110 (3).
(2) Includes cases where a fixed penalty notice was issued but not paid and subsequently referred to court.
(3) It is known that for some police force areas, the reporting of court proceedings in particular those relating to summary motoring offences, may be less than complete.
(4) Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from large administrative data systems generated by the courts. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when those data are used.

Electoral Register

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) what plans his Department has to issue guidance on adding new electors to electoral registers under rolling registration rather than re-publishing registers in full; [232919]

(2) pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst of 21 July 2008, Official Report, columns 711-12W, on elections: fraud, what consideration he has given to introducing individual voter registration in Great Britain; and if he will make a statement. [232921]

Mr. Wills: Under existing legislation, rolling registration exists alongside the household registration system in Great Britain as a means of allowing individuals to register to vote. The current law requires Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) to conduct an annual canvass and publish a revised register by 1 December each year. The Government have no plans to issue guidance on the use of rolling registration to update registers. Responsibility for issuing guidance to EROs on electoral registration matters lies with the Electoral Commission.

The Government have been clear that they are committed to the principle of individual registration. However, this would be a far-reaching reform, and it would need to be undertaken with great care—both to ensure that a new system is robust, and to ensure that it properly tackles the problem of under-registration. The Government's approach to electoral registration is clear: we want to protect the rights of every eligible person to participate in the United Kingdom's democratic process by ensuring complete, accurate and secure electoral registration.

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Fireworks: Injuries

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) how many people were (a) charged and (b) convicted of the offence of grievous bodily harm where an injury was caused by a firework in each of the last 10 years; [234271]

(2) how many retailers have been convicted for offences of selling fireworks to minors in each of the last 10 years. [234274]

Maria Eagle: It is not possible to distinguish offences of grievous bodily harm where an injury was caused by a firework from other offences of grievous bodily harm. Details surrounding a case are not held by the Office for Criminal Justice Reform.

The offence supplying a firework, fireworks, a firework assembly or firework assemblies to a person under 18 years under section 6(1) of the Fireworks Safety (Regulations) 1997 Act, cannot be separately identified by the Office for Criminal Justice Reform, as the offence forms part of a miscellaneous group which cannot be analysed.

Insolvency: Property

John Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if he will assess the effectiveness of legislation allowing unsecured creditors to obtain a legal charge over a property; and if he will make a statement. [233106]

Bridget Prentice: A charging order, under the Charging Orders Act 1979, is a means of securing a judgment debt by placing a charge onto the debtor's immovable property, particularly a house or land, although it can also be used against shares. A charging order also allows a judgment creditor to apply subsequently to the court for an order for sale. Charging orders therefore provide a means by which a judgment creditor can gain access to any equity a debtor holds in property.

Charging orders are one of a number of enforcement methods available and the securing of a charging order does not prevent the creditor from exercising other methods of enforcement.

The Second Phase of the Civil Enforcement Review identified no significant means by which the charging order procedure should be changed, as published in the White Paper "Effective Enforcement".

Research indicates that charging orders are used most often as a form of long-term security for a judgment debt. In the overwhelming majority of instances, once the security of a charging order has been obtained, creditors are more likely to accept long-term "time to pay" agreements to clear the judgment debt, knowing that their position is secure.

The Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 (TCE Act) made a number of changes to the charging order regime. These changes will allow a judgment creditor to apply for a charging order even where a debtor is up to date with an instalment arrangement. The Act will also introduce new minimum thresholds below which it will not be possible to apply for a charging order or an order for sale.

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