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18 Nov 2008 : Column 290W—continued

Government Departments: Property

Grant Shapps: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) of 3 March 2008, Official Report, column 2184W, on Government Departments: property, what area of actual vacant space is recorded on the e-PIMS database, aggregated to include sensitive and non-sensitive records in a non-identifiable manner. [235856]

Angela Eagle: The current total area of actual vacant space recorded on e-PIMS as at the end of October 2008 is 274,357 sq m. Of this, the area of vacant space marked as sensitive totals 644 sq m.

Grant Shapps: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) of 3 March 2008, Official Report, column 2184W, on Government Departments: property, if he will place in the Library a list of the names and addresses of the current non-sensitive vacant space recorded on the e-PIMS database and the area vacant for each address. [235857]

Angela Eagle: The list has been placed in the Libraries.

Housing: Valuation

Grant Shapps: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) of 18 June 2008, Official Report, column 988W, on housing: valuation, when the boundaries of the localities were last amended or updated. [235867]

Mr. Timms: Update and amendment of individual locality boundaries occurs frequently on a care and maintenance basis. The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. Amendments to localities do not affect current council tax bands.


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Grant Shapps: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) of 22 July 2008, Official Report, column 1393W, on housing: valuation, when the numerical co-efficient values were last amended or updated. [235876]

Mr. Timms: Update and amendment of individual locality coefficients occur frequently on a care and maintenance basis and do not affect current council tax bands. The information could therefore be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Grant Shapps: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many domestic dwellings in England are marked with a property details activity code of (a) 30, (b) 60 and (c) 70 according to the Valuation Office Agency's records. [236184]

Mr. Timms: These activity codes have been applied to dwellings in England between April 2003 and October 2008:

Code Number

30

1,205,756

60

1,225,299

70

259,193


Lloyds TSB

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what elements of Government support for Lloyds TSB are conditional on that company completing its proposed merger with HBOS; and if he will make a statement. [229247]

Ian Pearson: The boards of both HBOS and Lloyds TSB decided it was in their interests to merge, and it was in the expectation of the merger going ahead that the terms of the package were agreed with both firms. If for any reason the merger did not go ahead, it would be a matter for both firms to agree with the FSA their capital needs.

National Association of Estate Agents

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what meetings (a) Ministers and (b) civil servants in his Department have had with the National Association of Estate Agents in the last 12 months; and on what dates. [235079]

Angela Eagle: Treasury 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. As was the case with previous administrations, it is not the Government's practice to provide details of all such meetings.

Non-domestic Rates: Empty Property

Grant Shapps: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment has been made of the effect of the introduction of empty property business rates on the attractiveness to overseas investors of real estate investment trusts. [236145]


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Angela Eagle: The Department of Communities and Local Government published an impact assessment of the empty property rate relief reforms in May 2007 alongside the primary legislation.

On 26 February this year, the Minister for Local Government laid a further assessment before the House, alongside the regulations.

Plain English

Mr. Scott: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much has been spent by his Department on Plain English Campaign training courses for its staff in each year since 2005. [230613]

Angela Eagle: The Treasury does not hold a central record of Plain English Campaign training courses attended by staff and the information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Private Finance Initiative: Local Government

Grant Shapps: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment has been made of the effect of the current financial situation on the viability of local authority private finance initiative projects. [236094]

Angela Eagle: Local authority private finance initiative transactions have continued to close this year but conditions in the banking market are putting some current projects under pressure. This is the result of limited liquidity in the banking market rather than the structure of the projects themselves. The Treasury is working with procuring authorities and departments to ensure that projects in the late stages of procurement are able to achieve contract close.

Regional Economic Council

Grant Shapps: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what consideration has been given to including local authority representatives on the Regional Economic Council. [236104]

Yvette Cooper: Local authorities are represented at the Regional Economic Council through representatives nominated by the Local Government Association.

Local government representatives were invited from all nine regions for the first meeting as well as the leader of the Local Government Association, Margaret Eaton.

Regional Government: Finance

Grant Shapps: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the budget for the (a) Council of Regional Ministers and (b) Regional Economic Council is in the first year of operation. [236081]

Yvette Cooper: The REC and CRM do not have discrete allocated budgets. BERR, CLG and HMT provide the secretariat resource for these committees from within existing resources.


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Taxation: Inspections

Jim Cousins: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many new tax inspectors his Department appointed in each of the last five years; how many it plans to appoint in 2008-09; how many tax inspectors appointed in the last five years have been seconded for training purposes; to which businesses they were seconded; and how many tax inspectors appointed in the last five years were recruited from (a) accounting firms and (b) law firms. [233624]

Mr. Timms: There are currently over 10,000 tax professional staff within HMRC across a number of disciplines. Staff are recruited into these roles both internally from non-tax professional staff within the Department and externally.

HMRC does not second tax professionals specifically for training purposes, however tax professional staff do spend varying periods with organisations to widen their understanding.

The number of new tax professional staff recruited in each of the last five years and a breakdown of whether tax professionals were recruited from law firms, accountancy firms, or other organisations could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Jim Cousins: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many fully qualified tax inspectors worked in his Department's (a) large business service, (b) teams dealing with tax avoidance schemes and (c) teams dealing with offshore tax havens in each of the last five years; and how many were so deployed on the latest date for which figures are available. [233668]

Mr. Timms: The term ‘tax inspector’ is a former Inland Revenue term which is no longer used in HMRC. Staff work flexibly to meet business needs, holding a range of qualifications across a number of disciplines.

There are currently over ten thousand staff in tax professional roles across the Department. Records of tax professional staff are not broken down by directorate and precise numbers could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Staff across many directorates deal with tax avoidance schemes in their work and similarly a number of areas of the Department's compliance activity involve inquiring into tax issues relating to offshore jurisdictions, but HMRC does not record the resources spent on this work separately.

Taxation: Prisoners

Mr. Garnier: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much tax and national insurance had been paid by prisoners employed in the Howard League for Penal Reform social enterprise in HMP Coldingley at the point of its closure; and how much has been refunded. [236802]

Mr. Timms: As for other individuals, the personal tax affairs of prisoners are covered by rules of confidentiality.


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Valuation Office: Contracts

Grant Shapps: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the Valuation Office Agency has access to an electronic tendering system. [236091]

Mr. Timms: The Valuation Office Agency does not have direct access to an electronic tendering system, but is able to commission the HMRC commercial Directorate to undertake work for VOA through their system.

Valuation Office: Geographical Information Systems

Grant Shapps: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) of 4 November 2008, Official Report, column 314W, on the Valuation Office, which four companies were invited to tender; and what criteria were used in the decision to invite those companies. [236031]

Mr. Timms: In accordance with the terms of HM Revenue and Customs' contract with Aspire, the tender process was handled by Aspire. The identify of the companies invited to tender is commercially confidential.

Written Questions: Government Responses

Mr. Bone: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he will make a substantive reply to Question (a) 229574 on preference shares, (b) 229573, on ordinary shares, (c) 229576, on subscription of the different share categories and (d) 229577, on the Lloyds TSB and HBOS merger, tabled on 20 October 2008 for named day answer on 23 October. [236985]

Ian Pearson: I answered (a), (b) and (c) on 18 November and (d) on 17 November.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Abandoned Vehicles

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department has taken to tackle the problems of abandoned cars since 2002. [234913]

Huw Irranca-Davies: The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 amended the Refuse Disposal Amenity Act 1978 and Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 in relation to the offence, removal and disposal of abandoned vehicles.

A local authority no longer has to affix a 24-hour notice of removal of an abandoned vehicle it considers is only fit for destruction. It is now possible to remove an abandoned vehicle immediately from any road, including roads on private housing estates. Abandoned vehicles that are only fit for destruction or do not display a licence or number plate can be destroyed immediately.

In all other cases, the local authority will try to find the owner; if they fail, or the owner does not collect the vehicle within seven days of being contacted, the vehicle can be disposed of without the need to wait for the license to expire. Local authorities can recoup the value
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of the license from the DVLA. Local authorities can also impose fixed penalties of £200, in lieu of prosecution, if the owner of an abandoned vehicle can be identified.

Agriculture: Research

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much funding from the public purse has been allocated for research into new farming systems in each of the last
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five years, broken down by main category of expenditure. [234154]

Jane Kennedy: DEFRA has invested in research activities in several programmes since 2003-04 that contribute to development of sustainable farming systems. Industry have joint funded some of the work within LINK programmes, a mechanism co-funding collaborative research between industry and the public sector.

Total spend in each programme for each of the last five years is shown in the following table:

£
Programme
Financial year Integrated farming systems( 1) Integrated systems( 2) LINK (including organic LINK)( 3) Organic farming( 4) Grand total

2003-04

941,848

1,374,876

1,890,119

4,206,843

2004-05

1,318,345

2,064,689

1,538,977

4,922,011

2005-06

930,055

2,176,249

1,422,150

4,528,454

2006-07

946,594

780,377

2,762,759

844,103

5,333,833

2007-08

2,476,806

467,014

2,749,883

878,875

6,572,578

2008-09

2,894,125

363,581

2,736,520

851,927

6,846,153

Grand total

6,317,525

4,801,220

13,864,976

7,426,151

32,409,872

(1 )Integrated Farming Systems
This programme was formed in 2006 to fund system-based approaches to farm production and land management; contribution of integrated farming techniques to policy outcomes or resource use efficiency; reduction of negative environmental footprint of agriculture; sustaining and enhancing environment, biodiversity and soils associated with farmland. It incorporates new work related to the former Integrated Systems programme.
(2 )Integrated Systems
This programme funded work that cut across the former commodity programmes (arable, livestock and horticulture) and the Agricultural Environmental Protection programme to cover joint interests. The programme was closed to new work in 2005-06 but projects commissioned before that time are ongoing.
(3 )LINK
LINK is a mechanism for co-funding collaborative research between industry and the public sector. The LINK programmes are: Food LINK, Horticulture LINK, Renewable Materials LINK, Sustainable Arable LINK, and Sustainable Livestock Production LINK. Much of the systems based research funded through LINK is in the Sustainable Arable LINK programme which is included in the table.
(4 )Organic Farming
This includes projects on organic systems in the Organic Farming Production and Economics programme which became a sub-programme of the new Sustainable Farming Systems programme in 2005-06.
Note:
These figures are taken from the DEFRA Science Information System database.

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