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Mrs. Spelman: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission for how many months the offices at 14 Tothill street have been empty; for what reasons the offices have been empty; and what the cost of (a) rent and (b) business rates during this period has been. [Official Report, 5 May 2009, Vol. 492, c. 1MC.]
Nick Harvey: The building was acquired following a property search to meet a need from the House of Lords for decant space to facilitate the development of the Millbank Island site and a requirement for additional space from the House of Commons. The property search had revealed a dearth of suitable accommodation at that time within an acceptable distance of the Palace of Westminster, 14 Tothill street being the only one available with sufficient space that met the criteria.
When acquired it had been refurbished by the landlord ready for fitting out, including services, by the tenant. The initial 12 months were rent-free, reflecting the sort of period that would be needed for any tenant to bring the building into beneficial use. Work on the floors to be occupied by the House of Lords is timed to be completed for the return of the House from the summer adjournment and the move of the Law Lords to the new Supreme Court building. A decision will be taken this month on the occupation of the House of Commons space. The decision will be based on the need to free up 1 Derby Gate for occupation by Members as recommended by the Administration Committee.
Mr. Scott: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission how many House of Commons staff were recorded absent for non-medical reasons on (a) 2 February 2009 and (b) 3 February 2009; what estimate he has made of the (i) cost to the Commission and (ii) number of working hours lost as a result of such absence; and what guidance is issued to staff in respect of absence on those days. 
Nick Harvey: On 2 February 459 staff were recorded as absent from work owing to the adverse weather and the disruption to travel services and 64 were recorded similarly on 3 February. A number of those absent were able to work remotely from home and the House was able to continue sitting with reasonable services provided for Members. The figures do not include absences due to illness, training courses or planned annual leave. Figures for the cost and the number of working hours lost are not available. Managers attention was drawn to the standing instructions in the Staff Handbook which require staff to make every reasonable effort to get to work during a transport emergency, but give managers discretion to allow special leave where appropriate. The Staff Handbook is available on the parliamentary intranet.
Mr. Amess: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission if the House of Commons Commission will place on the Parliamentary (a) intranet and (b) internet site a sound recording of the debate held on the Motion on Her Majestys Government on 28 March 1979; and if he will make a statement. 
Nick Harvey: A history area of the website is planned, and this is the sort of material which will be considered for inclusion. In the meantime any hon. Member can obtain an audio copy of the debate from the Parliamentary Recording Unit.
Grant Shapps: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission how much the House of Commons Commission spent on staff surveys in each of the last five years; and which companies were contracted to carry out the surveys. 
Detailed figures for earlier years are no longer held, in line with the Houses data retention policies. The contracted work has been undertaken by Towers Perrin; Whitmuir Management Consultants and Empathica.
Mr. Amess: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what materials are produced by the Parliamentary Education Service for (a) schools and (b) individual pupils; what publications are planned during the next year; and if he will make a statement. 
Nick Harvey: The Education Service produces a range of materials about Parliament, the work of Members (of both Houses), and political literacy generally. All resources are provided free to schools. While many of the materials are suitable for use by individual pupils, they are primarily used in the classroom. One publication targeted at pupils directly is the young persons guide entitled The Houses of Parliament, which is distributed to all school-aged visitors taking a tour of Parliament.
Teaching resources currently in print include a range of different booklets targeted at pupils from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 5 (covering ages seven to 18). There is also a set of four films on DVD, including the award-winning Democracy? You Decide and Youve Got the Power. The latter has just been updated and is available with a teachers booklet for three age groups. It is also being made available on Parliaments YouTube channel
in October 2008. This provides a variety of resources which can be used online and also downloaded, including all the printed publications together with information pages, lesson plans, films, virtual tours of Parliament, games and activities, and podcasts. Users can also subscribe to a monthly electronic newsletter. The Education Service will provide materials on request to Members to support their work with schools.
Plans for the next financial year include the provision of a new set of printed publications to replace and consolidate the existing booklets which have been in use for a number of years. The new publications are being designed to support more directly the citizenship and politics curricula. New content is also being commissioned for the website, including interactive games. There are also plans to replace the films and other content following the next general election.
Mr. Amess: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what the average length of service is of the (a) police officers and (b) security officers employed in the Palace of Westminster; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Amess: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission how many armed police officers of each rank (a) are employed and (b) were employed on average in each year since 2001 in (i) the Palace of Westminster and (ii) the Parliamentary estate. 
Mr. Amess: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission where positions for (a) police officers, (b) armed police officers and (c) security officers employed on the Parliamentary estate are advertised. 
Nick Harvey: Vacancies for all police officers and security officers on the parliamentary estate, for all duties, are advertised to serving Metropolitan Police Service staff and officers internally and, when appropriate, externally in suitable security and police-related media. Information can be accessed at sites such as
Mr. Amess: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission how many (a) members of the public and (b) public libraries purchased the Vote Bundle in each of the last two years; what the retail price of the Vote Bundle per printed page is; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate her Department has made of the area of farmland of (a) grade 1 (excellent), (b) grade 2 (very good), (c) grade 3a (good), (d) grade 3b (moderate), (e) grade 4 (poor) and (f) grade 5 (very poor) in England taken for development in each of the last 10 years. 
|Area of agricultural land (hectares)|
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 24 February 2009, Official Report, columns 540-01W, on council housing: Greater London, when she expects the new analytical model to be in use by her Department; and if she will make a statement. 
The Minister for Housing announced on 6 March that Communities and Local Government will shortly be consulting local authorities on a reduced national average guideline rent increase of 3.1 per cent. for 2009-10. This halves the existing national increase of 6.2 per cent. in recognition of the current difficult economic times. Authorities that reduce their rent increases in response to our offer will be compensated through the subsidy system.
Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the terms of reference of her Department's review of council housing finance and rents policy are; and who is undertaking the review. 
Mr. Iain Wright: The review of council housing finance and rents policy is a joint review between HM Treasury and the Department of Communities and Local Government. It was launched by Ministers in March 2008 and the terms of reference were agreed with stakeholders at that event.
To develop a sustainable, long-term system for financing council housing, one that is consistent with wider housing policy, including the establishment of a regulator of social housing.
To inform the annual HRA subsidy determinations in the remaining two years of the current spending period;
To inform a policy framework for rents and standards for the regulator of social housing;
To consider options for the future of the subsidy system including rents policy and to inform the next spending review;
To commission research to support the review.
The terms of reference are underpinned by a set of guiding principles which seek to improve tenant empowerment, increase flexibility and self-determination (where appropriate) for local authorities, and ensure that rents remain affordable for all social tenants while maximising the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the services provided by their landlords.
Details of the county council's own average council tax requirement (in £) per resident of each county council in England for 2008-09 are shown in the following table. These do not include the council tax requirement of the lower tier authorities or any other authorities that precept on the lower tier authorities.
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