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10 Nov 2009 : Column 205W—continued

Speed Limits: Cameras

Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport how many average speed cameras are in operation on (a) Highways Agency roads and motorways and (b) other roads. [297836]

Paul Clark [holding answer 5 November 2009]: The Department for Transport does not hold information about the number of average speed cameras on local roads. Since 1 April 2007, individual local road safety partnerships have been entirely responsible for the installation and operation of all cameras within their area.

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The Highways Agency currently has permanent average speed cameras at 10 locations on the strategic road network.

Temporary average speed cameras are used on roadwork schemes on the strategic road network. The number utilised varies according to the complexity of the site for example the number of lanes and junctions and volume of traffic contained within it, and not all of the cameras may be operational at any one time.

Further information on the location of both permanent and temporary average speed camera sites can be obtained from the safety camera partnerships websites which are listed within the Highways Agency website:

Taxis: Disabled

Mr. Scott: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport what recent discussions his Department has had on the merits of setting outline design parameters for wheelchairs to allow for their access to and secure fixing in taxis. [298970]

Mr. Khan: The Department for Transport has recently carried out a consultation exercise about how best to enhance the provision of taxis for people with disabilities, including wheelchair users. The consultation asked about the broad policy approach as well as technical specifications. As part of this exercise, officials engaged in discussions with a range of organisations and arranged regional roadshows.

I announced the way forward in a written ministerial statement on 28 October 2009.


Norman Baker: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport when he next intends to publish an update of his Department's guidance, New Approach to Transport Appraisal. [298457]

Mr. Khan: The New Approach to Transport Appraisal (NATA) is kept under constant review but the definitive set of documents, for use in preparing business cases, is only updated each year in spring.

We have recently published a set of new documents, for which we are inviting comment from interested parties, and aim to finalise by spring 2010.

International Development

Departmental Energy

Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the (a) energy rating and (b) energy band of each building occupied by his Department and its agencies was in each year for which figures are available. [299313]

Mr. Michael Foster: The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) publish central Government Departments' Display Energy Certificate (DEC) operational ratings on a building by building level twice a year. The most recent data, published on 31 July 2009, contain DEC data up to and including 28 February. Data relating to the month ending 30 September will be published on 18 December. This is available online at:

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Departmental Travel

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many miles (a) Ministers and (b) officials in his Department travelled by (i) car, (ii) rail and (iii) air on Government business in each year since 1997. [298543]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The requested information could not be provided without incurring disproportionate costs.

Travel by Ministers and officials is undertaken in accordance with the ministerial Code and Civil Service Code respectively.

Sri Lanka

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many visits members of his Department have made to the camps for internally-displaced Tamils in Sri Lanka since May 2009; and how many requests to visit such camps have been refused by the Sri Lankan authorities. [299218]

Mr. Michael Foster: Since May 2009, our Humanitarian Adviser, based at the High Commission in Colombo, has visited the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Vavuniya at least once a month to assess the humanitarian situation and monitor the progress of Department for International Development (DFID) funded projects. In September she also visited the IDP camps in Jaffna. Officials from London have accompanied her on various occasions.

No requests to visit the camps have been refused by the Sri Lankan authorities.

Syria: Overseas Aid

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assistance his Department has provided to Syria (a) directly and (b) through multi-lateral agencies for assistance to Palestinian refugees in each year since 2002. [299219]

Mr. Michael Foster: Department for International Development (DFID) support to Palestinian refugees in Syria is through the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) who assist more than 450,000 refugees providing them with education, health care, social support and microfinance opportunities. Most of our assistance is core funding to UNRWA's budget of which approximately 8.5 per cent. is spent in Syria. An annual breakdown is in the following table. In 2007 the UK committed £100 million over five years in core funding to UNRWA.

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£ million

UK funding to UNRWA general fund (calendar year) Estimated UNRWA spend in Syria (per calendar year)

























In addition to this funding, the Department for International Development provided a total of £2.6 million between 2001 and 2006 to help develop UNRWA's education system by strengthening management from headquarter to school level. This support helped improve the education provided to all Palestinian refugee children across the region, including in Syria.


Lindsay Roy: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what his most recent assessment is of the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe. [298973]

Mr. Thomas: The humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe remains challenging:

The Department for International Development (DFID) has provided £4.7 million to UNICEF to help prepare for any cholera outbreak and is in discussions with other donors about the best way to assist in the coming months. However, humanitarian support is not the long-term solution to Zimbabwe's problems. Only a resolution of outstanding political issues and progress on much needed reform will ensure that Zimbabwe can feed and provide for the needs of its people.


Business: Government Assistance

Mr. Amess: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent assessment he has made of the likely effects on small businesses of the downturn in the economy; what assistance he plans to give during the next six months to small businesses; what representations he has received on this issue; and if he will make a statement. [298226]

Ian Pearson: The Treasury actively monitor economic conditions and their impact on businesses of all sizes. The Chancellor has received a number of suggestions from small businesses for further policy action to respond to the downturn. We have also heard from representative
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organisations that access to finance remains a challenge for small businesses, but that conditions are improving. All suggestions for further policy action are given careful consideration in the light of the Government's overall policy objectives and public finances.

We have introduced a range of temporary measures to respond to the changing economic conditions and needs of small businesses, and will be reviewing these going forward to ensure that they remain appropriate.

Council Tax: Valuation

Robert Neill: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the Valuation Office Agency takes account of reputational issues connected with a dwelling when valuing it for council tax valuation and revaluation purposes. [296749]

Ian Pearson: The basis of valuation for council tax is set out in the Council Tax (Situation and Valuation of Dwellings) Regulations 1992 (SI No. 550) as amended by the Council Tax (Situation and Valuation of Dwellings) (Amendment) Order 1994.

Reputational issues would only be taken into account to the extent that they affect open market value at the relevant valuation date and existed when a property is first entered into a council tax valuation list.

Departmental Rail Travel

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer pursuant to the answer of 19 October 2009, Official Report, column 1285W, on departmental rail travel, how many (a) journeys were paid for and (b) people travelled in each year; whether any nugatory expenditure was incurred in each year; and if he will make a statement. [298173]

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: This information is not normally held, because the Treasury's accounting system records the costs of travel but not the number or type of tickets bought. However, the Treasury's travel management company provided information on the number and type of tickets purchased through them covering travel by all members of the Department.

In 2008-09, 191 members of staff took first class rail journeys. Information on the number of travellers in 2007-08 and 2006-07, the number of first class rail journeys taken by departmental staff and whether any nugatory expenditure was incurred in all three years is not available within the disproportionate costs threshold.

Economic Policy

John Hemming: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will place in the Library copies of the data on which the Treasury Economic Model is based. [297153]

Ian Pearson: The Treasury Public Model was last issued in April 2008. The Treasury macroeconomic model is principally a model of the economic activity described and recorded in the National Accounts published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The model documentation identifies sources for all data on which the model is based, and the data are publicly available
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from the ONS. An electronic copy of the macroeconomic model documentation for the March 2008 Treasury Public Model has been deposited in the House of Commons Library.

Economic Situation

Mr. Amess: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the findings contained in the latest Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report on the British economy; and if he will make a statement. [298227]

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: The Government take account of a range of external views, including those of the OECD, when making its assessment of the UK economy and in policy formulation. The Government will set out its own updated assessment of the UK and world economies in the pre-Budget report later this autumn.

Excise Duties: Diesel

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much tax revenue was foregone as a result of the reduced rate of duty paid on red diesel for the agricultural industry in the latest period for which figures are available. [298169]

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: Reliable information on the end use of fuel is not available, as fuel duty is paid by fuel producers and importers, rather than by end consumers.

Information on revenue from Hydrocarbon Oils is available from HM Revenue and Customs 'Hydrocarbon Oils Bulletin', which can be found on HMRC's UK Trade Info website. Red diesel is classified as 'gas oil'.

Housing Benefit: Travelling People

Robert Neill: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the policy is of the Valuation Office Agency's Rent Service on whether Traveller pitches which do not have planning permission may be rated for local housing allowance. [298444]

Ian Pearson: The Local Housing Allowance (LHA) was introduced nationally on 7 April 2008 and is applicable to new applicants for housing benefit or for claimants moving property. However there are exemptions to the LHA and these include pitches or caravans. Therefore any application to the local authority for housing benefit will be subject to a referral to the rent officer and for the rent officer to make a determination of a reasonable rent for housing benefit subsidy purposes. The amount of any award for housing benefit will rest with the local authority.

The rent officer's duty is to determine the reasonableness of the rent being charged for the property in the referral. It is the responsibility of the local authority to assess housing benefit for individual claimants.

Housing Revenue Account

Mr. Betts: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he plans to add the estimated surplus on the housing revenue account (HRA) subsidy to the council house capital debt that is being considered for distribution to local authorities for repayment as part of the review of the HRA subsidy system. [299158]

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