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21 Jan 2009 : Column 1506W—continued

Community Relations: Islam

Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which Muslims participate in the initiative that brings together UK and US Muslims referred to in her press release of 10 December 2008 entitled Government steps up the fight against extremism; how they were selected; how often they meet; what they discuss; and if she will make a statement. [249591]

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Mr. Khan: The Government, working with the US, supported an initiative which aims to create a network among British and American Pakistani community figures to share experience and information about integration, and to explore ways in which such communities can promote integration and in doing so, increase their resilience to violent extremism.

A group of US Muslims from a range of vocational backgrounds visited the UK in October 2008. They met with counterparts in the UK. The UK participants were volunteers from a range of backgrounds, but with an interest in community integration issues. During the visit the participants also met with young people to discuss these issues. We envisage there being future engagement between the members of the Pakistani communities from the two countries.

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Departmental Public Relations

Mr. Hurd: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government with reference to the answer to the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East, (James Duddridge) of 6 October 2008, Official Report, columns 304-05W, on departmental public relations, which companies were employed during the period; how much her Department spent on each such contract; and on what project each company worked. [249379]

Mr. Khan: Central Office of Information billings (which may include COI admin fees) to this Department and its predecessor in relation to public relations agencies on the COI Framework for the period specified is as follows:

Department Activity Company Total (£)


Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

HMO Licensing

Amazon PR


Local e-gov take-up campaign

Blue Rubicon





Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

HMO Licensing

Amazon PR


Local e-gov take-up campaign

Blue Rubicon


Department for Communities and Local Government

Local e-gov take-up campaign

Blue Rubicon


Tenancy Deposit Protection

Blue Rubicon





Department for Communities and Local Government

Energy Performance in Buildings Directive

COI admin fee


Tenancy Deposit Protection

Blue Rubicon




Grand total


Fire Services: Finance

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much funding from her Department has been allocated to (a) the Fireguard project and (b) regional fire control rooms. [248879]

Mr. Khan: Fireguard is a collaborative project between 33 fire and rescue authorities. The procurement was undertaken at their request, and on a self-financing basis, by Firebuy Ltd., the national procurement body for the fire and rescue service, which is sponsored by my Department. The Department itself has not allocated any funds to this project.

The total cost of the FiReControl project is £380 million. To fund local and regional costs of implementing FiReControl, a total of £42 million has been paid to fire and rescue authorities to date and an additional £66 million has been indicated over the remaining two years of the CSR07 period (2009-10 and 2010-11).

Fire Services: Working Hours

Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent assessment she has made of the effectiveness of fire and rescue services' retained duty system; and if she will make a statement. [248671]

Mr. Khan: The retained duty system, which covers 30 per cent. of all firefighters, enables Fire and Rescue Authorities to provide a community based service including fire prevention, protection and emergency response in areas away from main urban centres. I welcome the progress which fire and rescue authorities have made in addressing issues of recruitment and retention, with vacancies falling from over 20 per cent. in 2003-04 to 13 per cent. in 2007-08. The Department will continue to support the Fire and Rescue Service to strengthen the retained duty system.

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what implications for retained firefighters she has identified consequent upon implementation of the working time directive. [249898]

Mr. Khan: Implementation of the working time directive, by setting a 48-hour maximum to the working week, would greatly reduce the hours which firefighters working the retained duty system could be available for duty, especially the substantial numbers who work full-time for their primary employer. The UK Government therefore place great importance on retaining its opt-out from the
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directive, a position that was acknowledged by the European Union Council of Ministers in June when it agreed in the Common Position that it should be retained, and will continue to defend it.

The amendments to the Common Position voted by the European Parliament on 17 December are the latest step in a complex negotiation, the next phase being for the Council of Ministers to consider the amendments, followed by a process of conciliation between both parties, the presidency and the Commission. Officials from my Department will be consulting a range of fire and rescue service stakeholders to ensure that the potential impact is assessed fully; and working with the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, which has the UK lead on the working time directive, to inform the ongoing debate and ensure MEPs and EU member states are briefed appropriately.

Housing: Inspections

Dr. Stoate: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many people were training to become a registered home inspector at the latest date for which figures are available. [244747]

Mr. Iain Wright: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) on 6 June 2008, Official Report, column 1177W. This is the latest date for which figures are available and represents the total number of people registered for home inspector training since its inception in 2004.

Local Government: Disclosure of Information

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what monitoring her Department carries out of the implementation and practice of whistleblowing policies by local authorities; and if she will make a statement. [247816]

John Healey: The Department does not monitor councils’ policies on whistle blowing, which are matters for individual councils.

However, on 24 December 2008, we concluded a consultation on introducing a model code of conduct for local authority employees which included a proposed provision that where an employee becomes aware of activities that the employee considers to be illegal, improper or unethical, the employee should report the matter in accordance with the employees rights under the Public Disclosure Act 1998.

We are now considering the responses we have received to the consultation.

Owner Occupation

Michael Jabez Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what her latest estimate is of (a) the number of (i) homeowners, (ii) homeowners with mortgages and (iii) repossessions that have taken place in the last 12 months and (b) the number of repossessions which will take place in the next 12 months (A) in total and (B) as a percentage of the number of mortgaged properties. [249650]

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Mr. Iain Wright: In 2007, based on estimates from the Labour Force Survey there were 14,733,000 owner-occupiers in England of whom 8,228,000 had a mortgage.

According to data from the Council of Mortgage Lenders, at the end of 2007 there were 11,822,000 homeowners with mortgages in the UK. During that year 26,200 repossessions had taken place(1).

The Council of Mortgage Lenders have forecast that there will be around 45,000 (0.38 per cent. of all mortgages) repossessions occurring during 2008 and 75,000 (0.66 per cent. of all mortgages) during 2009(1).

Social Rented Housing

Dr. Kumar: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps the Government are taking to provide more social housing in (a) England, (b) the North East, (c) the Tees Valley and (d) Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland. [249822]

Mr. Iain Wright: In England, over the three years 2008-11, we are investing over £8 billion in affordable housing through the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). Around £6.5 billion of this will be directed towards social rented homes.

Of the £8 billion around £170 million is to be used for affordable housing in the North East region. We have not set out funding below regional level. Bids for HCA funds are made on a competitive basis. The HCA will publish quarterly the allocations made as a result of approvals of bids on their website:

On 2 September we announced a £1 billion market rescue package to increase confidence, stability and fairness in the housing market, building on the previous announcements in May and July. As part of this package, and the pre-Budget report we are bringing forward £550 million in order to deliver up to 7,500 new social homes over the next eighteen months on top of current assumptions.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Nature Conservation: British Antarctic Territory

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department is taking to protect marine wildlife and promote biodiversity in the British Antarctic Territory. [247700]

Gillian Merron: I have been asked to reply.

The UK is committed to ensuring the highest possible standards of environmental protection in Antarctica. The UK Antarctic Act 1994 fully implements the 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty which sets out a framework for the comprehensive protection of the Antarctic environment. The UK is also fully committed to the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, the key objective
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of which is the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources. In addition to the science and environmental monitoring activities carried out by the British Antarctic survey, the UK also supports a range of specific environmental projects in the British Antarctic Territory to enhance conservation and raise awareness of the Antarctic environment.

International Development

Africa: Overseas Aid

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what support he has made available to those Saharans currently residing in camps (a) in Algeria and (b) displaced elsewhere in Africa. [248172]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Department for International Development (DFID) supports Western Saharan refugees through its share of the European Community Humanitarian Aid Office's (ECHO) budget, and contributions to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). ECHO provided €10 million in 2008 to support Western Saharan refugees of which the UK share was approximately €140,000. UNHCR continue to provide assistance to Western Saharan refugees with US$7.8 million provided in 2008. DFID does not contribute directly to the UNHCR appeal for Western Saharan refugees, but is the sixth largest donor to UNHCR, providing US$56 million in non-earmarked flexible funding to its annual budget in 2007 and a similar amount in 2008.

Around 90,000 Western Saharan refugees are reported to be living in Algeria; none are reported to be living elsewhere in Africa. Around 600 more are dispersed across other parts of the globe.


Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development to which (a) charities and (b) voluntary organisations his Department has provided funding in the last five years; and how much funding was provided to each. [247375]

Mr. Michael Foster: I have placed a table in the Library providing details of the Department for International Development's (DFID) aid delivered through UK Civil Society Organisations over the last five years.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Viral Haemorrhagic Disease

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department is taking to help alleviate the effects of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo. [247219]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The Department for International Development (DFID) is funding Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) Belgium's emergency epidemiological survey and response health project that has responded to the current outbreak with the provision of adapted isolation units and specialist staff. With funds from the humanitarian pooled fund (to which DFID provides 50 per cent. of funding), the World Health Organisation (WHO) is
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providing additional specialised health input. WHO received $6.3 million from the humanitarian pooled fund in 2008.

The WHO Health Actions in Crisis department (WHO/HAC) in Geneva has sent one of their epidemiologists to the region. DFID is providing £1.95 million to WHO/HAC in 2008.

No requests for any further funding have been received by DFID in response to this current Ebola outbreak. DFID DRC will continue to monitor the situation, and any need for funding, closely.

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