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7 May 2009 : Column 379W—continued

7 May 2009 : Column 380W

Armed Forces: Housing

Willie Rennie: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 23 February 2009, Official Report, column 20W, on armed forces: housing, if he will make an assessment of the reasons for the changes in numbers of houses at grade (a) one and (b) four for charge between 2005 and 2007. [264226]

Mr. Kevan Jones: Given the way Grade for Charge data is collated officials need to identify and analyse information to answer this question. I will write to the hon. Member when this work is complete and place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.

Substantive answer from Kevan Jones to Willie Rennie:

GB SFA 2005 2007

Number of SFA at G1fC



Number of SFA at G2fC



Number of SFA at G3fC



Number of SFA at G4fC






GB SFA 2005 2007

Number of SFA at S1fC



Number of SFA at S2fC



Number of SFA at S3fC



Number of SFA at S4fC







Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) service personnel and (b) civil servants in his Department participate in a cycle-to-work scheme. [271291]

7 May 2009 : Column 381W

Mr. Kevan Jones: My Department has a strong commitment to cycle to work schemes in support of the MOD climate change strategy. During 2008-09, 322 Service personnel used cycles for their home to duty travel. Similarly during 2008-09, 336 interest-free loans were authorised for civilians to purchase cycles for commuting to work. In addition, at present 94 civilians have joined the MOD Defence Science and Technology Laboratory's cycle to work scheme which leases out cycles to staff using a salary sacrifice mechanism.

Departmental Consultants

Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much his Department spent on consultancy contracts in 2008-09. [272584]

Mr. Quentin Davies: This information is intended for future publication and will be placed in the Library of the House before the summer recess, as is our usual practice.


Mr. Fallon: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his policy is on the use of service facilities by ex-servicemen's clubs. [273143]

Mr. Kevan Jones: Ex-servicemen's clubs may use spare capacity in service facilities where this is compatible with operational requirements. Where publicly-funded facilities are provided the Department would normally be required to recover its costs; however, where there are justifiable benefits to defence, consideration can be given to abating the costs.

Terrorism: Northern Ireland

Gordon Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what arrangements his Department made for the transfer of the remains of Sappers Azimkar and Quinsey from Northern Ireland; whether the remains were transported in military aircraft; at which airfield the flight carrying the remains arrived, and on what date and at what time; what ceremonies were observed on arrival of the remains at the destination airfield; and who comprised the official party receiving the remains. [273223]

Mr. Kevan Jones: The bodies of Sappers Azimkar and Quinsey were returned from Northern Ireland to the mainland on 13 March 2009 in a similar manner to that which has been used over the past 35 years. A memorial service was conducted at Massereene Barracks by members of 38 Engineer Regiment before the bodies were transported to Belfast International Airport by the MOD Funeral Directors, Dignity. They were flown back to London Heathrow on Aer Lingus Flight ECI 032 which departed from Belfast at 0740 in the morning and arrived at 0950. The flight was met by Kenyons, the MOD Funeral Directors. The body of Sapper Quinsey was then passed from Kenyons to the family's appointed Funeral Directors, Co-Op, in Birmingham. Sapper Azimkar's body was taken by private ambulance to Kenyons in London, who were appointed by the Azimkar family as their Funeral Directors.

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Gordon Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions his Department had with media outlets on the media coverage of arrangements made for the funerals of Sappers Azimkar and Quinsey. [273283]

Mr. Hutton: We routinely discuss media attendance at the funerals of Service personnel with the families of those who have died and with media organisations. We aim to minimise any distress that might be caused to families, friends and former colleagues by media coverage.

Communities and Local Government

Church of Scientology

Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) of 31 March 2009, Official Report, column 1047W, on the Church of Scientology, whether the Church of Scientology is recognised as a religion for the purposes of (a) council tax exemption Class H and (b) business rate exemptions. [272240]

John Healey: It is for individual local authorities to decide whether Class H exemption from council tax applies in any case. The Department does not have information about those decisions as they relate to the Church of Scientology. It is for the valuation officers of the Valuation Office Agency to decide whether any hereditament is a place of public religious worship which is exempt from non-domestic rates in accordance with Paragraph 11 of Schedule 5 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988.

Community Development

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government for what reasons funding for the Inspiring Communities programme is restricted to 64 local authority areas. [273210]

Mr. Khan: Inspiring Communities is intended particularly for neighbourhoods where low aspirations have been identified as a barrier to young people achieving their potential. It is being targeted at deprived neighbourhoods and the 64 local authority areas are eligible to apply because on the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) 2007 they either have:

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the functions are of the regional neighbourhood training and resources centres. [273240]

Mr. Khan: The seven Neighbourhood Training and Resource Centres (NTRCs) in operation were originally set up by CLG to promote a unified approach to neighbourhood wardens by providing support and training to existing and new warden schemes. Over the last two years they have been diversifying, and now offer a
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broad range of training and advice services for people and projects operating at a neighbourhood level. The aim is to deliver improved neighbourhood working and increased community empowerment in order to achieve more resilient and sustainable neighbourhoods.

Community Relations

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent steps her Department has taken to increase levels of community cohesion. [272877]

Mr. Khan: We have demonstrated our ongoing commitment to community cohesion with a £50 million investment over three years and a public service agreement (PSA 21) to build cohesive, active and empowered communities. In addition to financial support we are working to support local authorities in delivering improvements in cohesion by providing a framework of guidance and targeted local support.

The latest part of this guidance framework was delivered in January 2009 and contains guidance on Meaningful Interaction and Building a Local Sense of Belonging, and summarises what we already know about the benefits of interaction and a local sense of belonging and how it can be achieved.

In addition, in we have also published an inter faith framework. Supported by a funding commitment of over £7.5 million, it aims to maintain and further develop good relations between faith communities and wider civil society.

Council Housing

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much has been spent under each budgetary heading on the Review of Council Housing Finance; and how many civil servants have provided support to the review. [272223]

Mr. Iain Wright: The review has spent £200,000 on external research and £186,000 on other activity—primarily to ensure maximum stakeholder input into the review. The Chartered Institute of Housing facilitated the delivery of 12 stakeholder workshops and three regional events in Bristol, Birmingham and Leeds. Stakeholders included local authorities, academic experts, housing practitioners, tenants and key sector representatives. Communities and Local Government also held separate seminars for national and regional tenant organisations during the review.

The review team consists of five civil servants in my Department and two from HM Treasury. They have been supported by other civil servants from both Departments and by a secondee from a local authority.

Council Housing: Rents

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which local authorities have responded to the consultation on the Draft Housing Revenue Account Subsidy Determination 2009-10 Amending Determination 2009 to the effect that they are considering taking up the offer of reducing rents for appropriate compensation. [272345]

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Mr. Iain Wright: 173 local authorities have responded positively to the consultation. We are currently reviewing all responses received, and having discussions with those who have not responded, before preparing an amending Housing Revenue Account Subsidy Determination 2009-10 for issue later this month.

Council Tax: Valuation

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what account was taken by the Valuation Office Agency of the Lands Tribunal decision of Baker (Valuation Officer) (VO) v Citibank NA 2007 in its council tax valuation methodology, in relation to new hereditaments and material changes of circumstance. [272430]

John Healey: The case of Baker (VO) v. Citibank LT 2007 confirmed the principle that a change in the boundaries of a hereditament created a new hereditament. This principle applies for council tax as it does for non-domestic rating.

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what property data from the stamp duty land tax database are used by the Valuation Office Agency for the purposes of (a) council tax valuations and (b) populating the automated valuation model with data. [272443]

John Healey: Data on property transactions are provided to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) by the Stamp Taxes Office of HM Revenue and Customs. These data are used by the VOA (a) to assist staff in maintaining council tax valuation lists and (b) as an input to its automated valuation modelling.

Councillors: Accountancy

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Peterborough of 12 March 2009, Official Report, column 737W, on councillors: Arun, what plans the Audit Commission has to require other local authorities to disclose the bank account details of councillors held in their payroll databases. [273686]

Mr. Khan: I refer the hon. Member to the answers given on 17 March 2009, Official Report, columns 1101-02W, 20 April 2009, Official Report, columns 423-24W and 6 May 2009, Official Report, column 232W.

Councillors: Complaints

Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what guidance (a) her Department and (b) the Standards Board has issued on whether anonymous complaints against councillors should be considered by a Standards Committee; and what guidance has been given on whether anonymous complaints making potentially defamatory claims should be recorded in public minutes. [272149]

John Healey: The Department does not issue guidance on the conduct regime. The Standards Board for England’s guide for authorities on the local standards framework
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includes specific guidance on the handling of anonymous complaints, making it clear that anonymous complaints should only be considered if supported by evidence indicating an exceptionally serious matter. The guidance also provides that some details of any complaint considered should be made public following the decision as to whether or not it should be investigated, but these details need not contain the name of the subject of the complaint.

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