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Mr. Iain Wright:
We recognise the difficulties the housing market as a whole is currently experiencing and that is why we are committed to taking action. In May, July, September and at pre-Budget report last year we announced measures to tackle the downturn in the
housing market. We are responding to the short-term market conditions by introducing measures to provide extra help for first time buyers, homeowners facing difficulties, and keeping housing supply, especially social housing supply, as high as possible. We are bringing forward from 2010-11 £550 million to provide around 7,500 social rented homes 18 months earlier than they would otherwise have been delivered.
The new Homes and Communities Agency, which was established on 1 December 2008, is the Governments key delivery partner in relation to housing and regeneration. It has the ability to acquire land in support of its statutory objects and some of that land will be used for affordable housing. In addition, the HCA is responsible for the management of the programme for the delivery of more and better homes on surplus public sector land, with a target of 200,000 homes by 2016, of which the aspiration is that up to 50 per cent. of homes delivered will be affordable homes. In the current market, we are, however, keeping all options under constant review and the HCA is actively engaged in discussions with the industry.
Mr. Betts: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 13 January 2009, Official Report, column 619W, on council housing: construction, which local authorities have made (a) bids and (b) successful bids for social housing grants to the Homes and Communities Agency. 
Mr. Iain Wright: The first bids from local authorities for social housing grant from the Homes and Communities Agency will be submitted after we make the necessary changes to the revenue and capital rules described in the previous answer. We issued a consultation on these changes on 21 January. However, seven arm's length management organisations and other local authority wholly-owned special purpose vehicles have bid for grant, of which six have been successful and the other is awaiting assessment. Social homes owned by local authority vehicles of this nature are not subject to the revenue and capital rules which currently apply to council houses owned by the local authority itself.
Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the reasons were for her decision to issue additional guidance to the Boundary Committee on 8 December 2008 to the effect that they should assess the affordability of and support for new unitary local authorities in (a) Devon, (b) Norfolk and (c) Suffolk in aggregate rather than by individual proposed authority. 
John Healey: We decided it would be helpful to the Boundary Committee to provide the additional guidance on the approach we are seeking for assessing unitary proposals involving two or more unitary councils, as from the financial information published by the Committee on 21 November, it was not clear that such assessments would be on the basis set out in the original request to the Committee of considering such a proposal in aggregate across all the unitary councils involved.
Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will make it her policy to support the creation of new unitary local authorities in (a) Devon, (b) Norfolk and (c) Suffolk. 
John Healey: My right hon. Friend will take her decisions under the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 on whether or not to implement any unitary proposals she has received from the councils or the Boundary Committee after the end of a period of six weeks, as required by that Act, following the date on which the Boundary Committee has been requested to provide advice to the Secretary of State.
Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the (a) affordability and (b) level of support for new unitary local authorities in (i) Devon, (ii) Norfolk and (iii) Suffolk. 
John Healey: Such an assessment was made of those proposals for new unitary authorities submitted by Exeter city council, Ipswich borough council and Norwich city council which we made against the five criteria, including affordability and a broad cross section of support, set out in the October 2006 'Invitation to councils in England to make proposals for future unitary structures', and which we made prior to asking the Boundary Committee for advice on proposals for unitary local government in the three county areas of Devon, Norfolk and Suffolk.
Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether it is her Departments objective in creating new unitary local authorities that all authorities so created are financially viable. 
John Healey: Our Invitation to councils in England to make proposals for future unitary structures, published in October 2006, set out five criteria, including criteria on affordability and value for money local services, against which proposals for unitary local government would be assessed.
Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The Royal Navy does not station any vessels in the British Antarctic Territory. Construction of the necessary infrastructure required to support a permanent naval presence would not be permitted under the Antarctic Treaty.
However, the British Antarctic Survey provides a permanent scientific presence in the British Antarctic Territory and Her Majesty's Government are aware of the strategic importance of also maintaining a sovereign presence in Antarctica through Royal Navy patrols of the waters of the Territory in the austral summer.
Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the level of uptake was for each scheme to encourage home ownership among service personnel and veterans in each of the last three years. 
Mr. Kevan Jones: The MOD collates, on a quarterly basis, management information on the number of Service personnel fit for task, which provides a measure of the medical fitness of all trained armed forces personnel. These figures are broken down into three categories: Medically Fully Fit, Medically Not Fully Fit and Medically Unfit. It should be noted that the majority of those personnel who fall under the category of Medically Not Fully Fit remain fit enough to work in some capacity and therefore continue to make a contribution to operational effectiveness, often within theatres of operation.
Prior to 1 April 2006 information was collected by the single services for internal management purposes, but was not required to be reported centrally in a standardised format. It would therefore incur disproportionate cost to retrieve this information and collate it into comparable figures.
Medically fit for task figures from the first quarter of 2006-07 through to the second quarter of 2007-08 can be found in the following table. Personnel numbers are rounded to the nearest 10, and percentages rounded to one decimal point. For information on the period covering the third quarter of 2007-08 through to the second quarter of 2008-09 I refer the hon. Member to my answer of 20 January 2009, Official Report, columns 1262-64W.
|Numbers||Percentage of Trained Strength||Numbers||Percentage of Trained Strength||Numbers||Percentage of Trained Strength|
|(1)( )Figures for the Naval Service not available due to change over from legacy systems to the Joint Personnel Administration system.|
(2)( )Since 2007 the Army have collated figures for their deployable elements only not their total trained strength.
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