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22 Jan 2009 : Column 1655W—continued

Mozambique: Police

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development whether he has made representations to the government of Mozambique in support of police reform in that country; and if he will make a statement. [249005]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: The UK Government are concerned about human rights violations and lack of police accountability of the kind described in the Amnesty International report on Mozambique—‘Licence to Kill’. In July 2008 the Secretary of State wrote to the government of Mozambique, highlighting some of the key measures required in order to make demonstrable progress in tackling corruption—including in the policing and justice sectors—and to strengthen the legislative framework to eliminate any idea of impunity under the law in Mozambique. The British high commissioner has also raised the issue of police accountability and reform with relevant Ministries on a number of occasions in 2008.

In the process of drawing up its Country Assistance Plan in 2007, the Department for International Development (DFID) decided not to enter the justice sector in Mozambique as a number of major donors—including the World Bank, UNDP, the European Commission, USAID, the Netherlands and Denmark—were already actively engaged. However, well established donor co-ordination mechanisms in Mozambique allow for regular technical dialogue between donors and with government, throughout the year, on the justice and other sectors. UK concerns about policing issues are also specifically raised with the Mozambique government through the EU and high commission.

Overseas Aid

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department plans to take to improve the UK’s position in the Centre for Global Development’s Commitment to Development Index. [245267]

Mr. Michael Foster: The 2006 White Paper “Making Governance Work for the Poor” set out the Government’s commitment to promoting coherent support for
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development across a wide range of international policies. One of DFID’s Departmental Strategic Objectives for the three year period 2008-11 is to:

Progress in this area is reviewed annually in DFID’s Annual Report which is available on the DFID website:

Sri Lanka: Politics and Government

Mr. Keith Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment has been made of the humanitarian situation in the Vanni area of Sri Lanka following (a) the government of Sri Lanka’s order to UN agencies and humanitarian non-governmental organisations to withdraw their staff and operations from the region on 5 September 2008 and (b) the flooding from Cyclone Nisha in November 2008. [246290]

Mr. Michael Foster: The Department for International Development’s (DFID) latest field assessment visit in September reinforced our considerable concern about the 230,000 or more displaced people and vulnerable residents in the Vanni and the lack of humanitarian assistance. Without regular direct access the detail of conditions in the Vanni is difficult to monitor. However, we remain in close contact with humanitarian agencies and plan another humanitarian mission in mid-February.

We have continually pressed for all parties to the conflict to respect International Humanitarian Law and for humanitarian convoys to be allowed to deliver assistance more predictably. A full UN-led needs assessment is essential, especially after Cyclone Nisha.

DFID has allocated £2.5 million to the UN, the International Red Cross and the International Organisation for Migration to help support the immediate needs of displaced and vulnerable residents in the Vanni and elsewhere in Sri Lanka. The problem, however, will not be resolved by funding alone and we are resolute in pressing for better humanitarian access and safe humanitarian space. I and other Ministers have pressed the Sri Lankan Government to allow this.

Communities and Local Government


Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many allotment allocations are vacant, in each constituency. [250378]

Mr. Iain Wright: We do not have centrally held figures for the number of allotment vacancies. Local authorities are responsible for keeping figures on vacancies and we do not require them to provide central Government with these figures. The number of vacancies changes regularly in line with local demand.

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what sets of criteria local authorities use to determine allotment allocations. [250379]

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Mr. Iain Wright: Under section 23 of the 1908 Allotment Act, when selecting tenants for allotments, local authorities are obliged to select only people resident within their area. There is no universal classification used by local authorities to allocate allotments. Most local authorities will allocate allotment plots according to the date of first application. Preference may be given by some local authorities to persons having special needs, such as old age pensioners, disabled persons or unemployed persons, but that is the decision of the local authority.

Council Tax: Eastbourne

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) how many summonses to court for council tax arrears were issued in Eastbourne constituency in each of the last five years; [248831]

(2) how many bailiff visits there were for the collection of council tax arrears in Eastbourne constituency in each of the last five years; [248832]

(3) how many householders have been declared bankrupt because of council tax arrears in Eastbourne constituency in each of the last five years. [250738]

John Healey: The administration of council tax is a matter for individual local authorities. The information requested is not collected or held by Communities and Local Government. Data on council tax enforcement is published by CIPFA.

Empty Property

Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate she has made of the number of empty habitable houses in (a) northern England, (b) the Midlands and (c) the South East and South West; and how many such houses are (i) publicly owned, (ii) privately owned and (iii) owned by housing associations. [249881]

Mr. Iain Wright: Information on the total number of empty habitable dwellings and the number of privately owned empty habitable dwellings is not held centrally; however, an estimate of the number of empty habitable dwellings owned by local authorities and registered social landlords is held and these figures are shown in the following table:

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Region Estimates of local authority habitable vacant dwellings (as at 1 April 2007) Estimates of Registered Social Landlord habitable vacant dwellings (as at 31 March 2007)




North East



North West



Yorkshire and the Humber






East Midlands



West Midlands



South East



South West



Regulatory and Statistical Return submitted to the Homes and Communities Agency by Registered Social Landlords, Business Planning Statistical Appendix and Housing Strategy Statistical Appendi x submitted to Communities and l ocal g overnment by local authorities

Housing: Rural Areas

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans she has to increase (a) the availability of and (b) access to affordable housing in rural areas. [248183]

Mr. Iain Wright: The Homes and Communities Agency has been set a national target to provide 10,300 affordable homes in smaller rural communities from 2008-09 to 2010-11 for both social rent and low cost home ownership. Grant will be allocated to those schemes which meet the needs of local people, the regional strategy and demonstrate strong value for money from the £8 billion National Affordable Housing Programme. The target itself is a significant increase in comparison with previous delivery and represents a significant challenge, by its focus on completions not allocations. However, given current market conditions, it is too early to predict outputs with certainty over the period to 2010-11.

In addition, provisions in the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 will enable all providers of shared ownership houses to restrict the equity share which shared owners may acquire in order to retain the benefit of the shared ownership homes for future purchasers in areas, such as small rural settlements, where replacement would be difficult.

The Government are also committed to helping the development of a viable, well managed and financially robust Community Land Trust sector. Community Land Trusts have the potential to get the weight of the community behind the development of affordable housing and bring forward land for development, particularly in rural areas. We recently published a consultation on the development of a viable Community Land Trust sector and we have received 63 responses from a wide range of stakeholders which we are currently analysing. We will publish the results in the near future.

Access to social rented housing is determined by the allocations legislation. This is designed to ensure the widest possible access whilst ensuring that priority goes to those people who are in the greatest housing need.

Access to low cost home ownership schemes funded through the Affordable Housing Programme is open to first time buyers with an annual household income of £60,000 or less who are unable to buy a home in the market.

The Prime Minister commissioned a report from the hon. Member for Truro and St. Austell (Matthew Taylor) who has been looking at how land use and planning can better support rural business and deliver affordable housing in rural communities. His report, published in July 2008, provides a comprehensive review of the issues that our rural communities face, including access to
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affordable housing, and provides a number of practical recommendations. We are looking at the report in detail and will publish a full response shortly.

Infrastructure Planning Commission: Recruitment

Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what information the recruitment consultants for the post of Chairman of the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) provided to candidates for the post on the conditions governing early termination of the employment contract, including compensation payable, in the event of abolition of the IPC. [248459]

John Healey: The information pack provided to all candidates draws attention to the Government's intention to conduct a review of the Commission two years after it first becomes operational but does not set out the conditions that would govern any early termination of the employment contract or any compensation payable. These will be set out in the contract of employment in accordance with the provisions of the Planning Act 2008 (Schedule 1 paragraph 5). The terms will be agreed with the successful candidate before appointment.

Local Government: Billing

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what guidance her Department has issued to local authorities in England on the payments of invoices within 10 days; what assessment her Department has made of the extent to which local authorities are meeting this target; and what steps her Department has taken to facilitate local authorities in England paying suppliers within 10 days of receipt of invoice. [250210]

John Healey: In the pre-Budget report, in order to help businesses manage their cash flow, the Government announced that they would aim to pay their suppliers as soon as possible and within 10 days. This commitment has been adopted by a number of local authorities.

Local Government: Suffolk

Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when she expects the Boundary Committee for England to report to her on options for the local government structure of Suffolk. [249817]

John Healey: The Boundary Committee has been requested to provide advice to the Secretary of State no later than 13 February 2009 on proposals for unitary local government in Suffolk.

Locla Government Finance: Bexley

Mr. Evennett: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent representations she has received on the local government finance settlement for the London borough of Bexley in 2009-10. [248492]

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John Healey: One representation was received from the London borough of Bexley during the consultation period on the local government finance settlement for 2009-10 which ended on 7 January 2009. Issues raised in the representation included the level of the floor and efficiency savings.

Views were also received from the Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Mr. Evennett) after the consultation period ended.

Members: Correspondence

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when the Minister for Housing will reply to the letters of 5 November 2008 and 5 December 2008 from the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, reference FD1764, on rent increases for tenants of housing association properties. [250408]

Mr. Iain Wright: I have replied to the letters from the hon. Member.

Non-domestic Rates: Small Businesses

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many businesses have been granted small business rate relief in each year since its introduction in April 2005, broken down by local authority area; what the value was of such relief in each authority area in each year; and if she will make a statement. [247898]

John Healey: I have placed in the Library of the House a table showing (a) the number of businesses that were in receipt of small business rate relief in each local authority in England as at 31 December 2006, the only year for which this information is currently available and (b) the total relief granted in each local authority in England in 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08.

Planning Permission: Inland Waterways

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what planning guidance exists on residential mooring; and if she will make a statement. [250094]

Mr. Iain Wright: No national planning guidance has been published on the provision of residential moorings. That is not to say, however, that development plans should not address the issue of residential moorings where local planning authorities feel it is appropriate to do so.

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