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Local Organisations (Funding)

6. Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) (Lab): How many local organisations have received grassroots grants from her Department in the last 12 months. [304983]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Angela E. Smith): The £130 million grassroots grants programme provides much-needed support to small voluntary groups that are doing vital work in our communities across England. In the first 14 months, there have been more than 13,000 grant awards to small charities and voluntary organisations totalling more than £33 million. I am delighted that in County Durham alone grassroots grants has invested more than £487,000 in small grants to local voluntary groups. [ Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. As usual, there are far too many private conversations taking place on both sides of the Chamber. That is frankly discourteous and it conveys a very bad impression to those who are listening to our proceedings.

Phil Wilson: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Some £51,000-worth of grassroots grants have gone to community groups in my constituency such as the Ferryhill 2000 committee, Fishburn kurling club and Thornley Homing club. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that shows the Government's commitment to local people and communities, and makes an important contribution to the front line?

Angela E. Smith: Yes, I do. There are often small community groups in communities doing first-class, important work. A small amount of money can make a huge difference to their impact on the local community, and that is why the Government have invested so much money in the grassroots grants programme, which gives grants ranging from £250 to £5,000 to small local groups. As some of us who speak to those groups know, that makes a real difference in those communities.

Mr. Nick Hurd (Ruislip-Northwood) (Con): In April, the Department launched a programme of grants for small campaigning charities. In October, it sent out grant letters offering the funding. In November, the Minister withdrew the money that had been promised
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without any consultation. Of course, that has generated real anger in the sector, because with that one decision, the Department that is meant to champion the sector has made a mockery of the compact and has sent out a signal that it is okay for public grant makers to treat charities in that shabby way. I welcome her apology today, but is she really aware of the damage that she has done, and what will she do to repair it?

Angela E. Smith: I suspect that the hon. Gentleman wrote his question before he heard the hon. Member for Cardiff, Central (Jenny Willott) raise this issue. I regret any damage that has been done, because it is important that people understand my commitment to the compact and to voluntary organisations. I refer him to my earlier comments. At this time of recession, and given the comments that have been made to me by organisations up and down the country, the priority had to be given to organisations that deliver services to communities on the front line. Having said that, I deeply regret the concerns that people have raised, and I assure him that my commitment to the compact is strong.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): Often, when funding organisations are looking to provide grants to voluntary community organisations, they pay too much attention to the involvement of statutory bodies when they look at those organisations' financial viability. May I urge my right hon. Friend, when she is handing out grassroots grants, to ensure that the money is going to genuine grass-roots organisations in local communities?

Angela E. Smith: The grassroots grants programme is administered in constituencies on behalf of Government by the Community Development Foundation. I think that I can give my hon. Friend the reassurance he seeks on this matter, but I will send him a list of the organisations in his constituency that have received such grants so that he can make an assessment himself and talk to me further if he wishes to do so.

Government Statistics

7. Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): When she next expects to meet the national statistician to discuss policy on publication of statistics by Government Departments. [304984]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Angela E. Smith): I meet the national statistician regularly once every three months, but I have no plans to discuss with her the policy on the publication of statistics by Government Departments. Departments are expected to follow the code of practice for official statistics that is maintained by the independent UK Statistics Authority.

Mr. Bellingham: I thank the Minister for that reply. The ONS has just published the results of the recent census rehearsal, with responses coming in at just 35 per cent., compared with 54 per cent. in 2001. Is not that a major warning sign that the new census is far too long, too intrusive and too much hassle to fill in? Surely the excessive cost of £450 million is totally unacceptable, given the country's parlous finances.

Angela E. Smith: I refute the hon. Gentleman's comments on a number of grounds. First, the census pilots are voluntary, and more resources have been invested to ensure that we get accurate and clear responses from
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people up and down the country in the 2011 census, because we want the best information possible. Secondly, I also think that the cost of the census, which works out to 87p per person per year, is a reasonable amount to pay for the benefit that the census brings to the country.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): Is it not the case that there needs to be public acceptability of the level of detail in the 2011 census? Has my hon. Friend had discussions with Jil Matheson about the level of disaggregated data that will be published, the timetable that will be associated with that, and whether full census form information will be published rather earlier than the present limit of 100 years?

Angela E. Smith: I have obviously had discussions with the ONS about ensuring public confidence in the census, although I have not had particular discussions about how long information will remain confidential. I think that 100 years is appropriate, but if my hon. Friend wants to write to me about the matter, I will look at it again.

2011 Census

8. Mr. Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) (Con): What her most recent estimate is of the cost of the 2011 census. [304987]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Angela E. Smith): The cost of the 2011 census in England and Wales is estimated at £482 million, as stated in the White Paper on the census published in December 2008. As I just mentioned, that equates to 87p per person per year.

Mr. Crabb: Is not the Government's failure over the last 10 years to monitor correctly the number of people coming into the country one reason why we are facing such an expensive census in 2011?

Angela E. Smith: I think that the hon. Gentleman struggled to find a point to make on this matter. What he suggests is not the case at all: in fact, a comparison of the cost of the census in this country with the cost of that conducted in other countries around the world shows that our census is much more reasonable. It costs about a third of the census in the US, and is significantly less than that conducted in New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Ireland and Scotland. The cost cannot be called excessive, so his point is completely unfounded.

Paul Rowen (Rochdale) (LD): Given the costs of the census, does the Minister think that including questions on a person's immigration status is a useful use of public funds, when that information can be collected more accurately by other means?

Angela E. Smith: On the issue of costs, the benefits to the Treasury from the information that it gets from the census amounts to the equivalent of around £700 million. That far exceeds the costs of the census, but the point that the hon. Gentleman makes is also not valid because the ONS chooses the questions independently. It looks at why the questions are needed, and the answers to them are used to ensure that the billions of pounds of public funds are disbursed on the basis of accurate information.

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9. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the operation of the provisions of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 in relation to the recent floods in Cumbria. [304989]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Ms Dawn Butler): I know that the hon. Lady recently visited the affected area to see for herself the impact of the flooding and to meet emergency responders. All sides of the House have paid tribute to PC Bill Barker, who lost his life.

Despite the unprecedented nature of the rainfall that occurred, the prompt and effective response to the flooding in Cumbria was exemplary, due to meticulous and effective preparation by local and national responders working through the framework set out in the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. As part of the ongoing Civil Contingencies Act enhancement programme, we will ensure that any lessons that can be learned from events such as this are used to enhance our guidance even further, but tribute must be paid to those respondents who worked together during this time.

Miss McIntosh: Will the Minister join me in congratulating those wardens on the ground in Cumbria who were there knocking on doors and evacuating people, thanks to the warning? Obviously, we regret the loss of PC Barker. The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 seems to be working, but we need more wardens of the type that we saw in Cumbria.

Ms Butler: The hon. Lady makes the valid point that we must congratulate those people and wardens on the ground, and I completely endorse her sentiments. The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 has been working, and it provides a framework that has now been well established. We will continue to look at any lessons that can be learned from that and ensure that it is enhanced further.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): Would the Minister like to congratulate the emergency services and the armed forces on the provision of the temporary bridge, which has made a real difference to the people of Workington?

Ms Butler: The emergency services and the armed forces worked exceptionally well and speedily in ensuring that the new bridge was built in time and to the benefit of all concerned, so I completely endorse my hon. Friend's sentiments.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked-


Q1. [304963] Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 9 December.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): Before I list my engagements, it is with deep sorrow that we remember, from 1st Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment, Lance
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Corporal Adam Drane, who died in Afghanistan on Monday. My thoughts and, I know, those of the whole House will be with his family and friends. Every life lost during this year and during previous years is a personal tragedy, and we mourn every single loss. We mourn heroes whose acts of bravery recognise that a more stable Afghanistan means a safer Britain, and the scale of their sacrifice does not diminish but strengthens our resolve.

This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today.

Robert Neill: I am sure that the whole House would endorse the Prime Minister's tribute to the lance corporal, and endorse his sentiments as well.

Last week the Prime Minister told the House that Spain was in the G20 and that it had been in recession for longer than this country-neither of which, upon checking, turns out to be correct. Do we conclude from that that the pain in Spain is mainly in his brain?

The Prime Minister: I am very glad that we are starting this week's Question Time exactly as we ended last week's Question Time- [ Interruption ] -by talking about the economy. [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. We want to hear the Prime Minister's reply, and certainly people listening elsewhere wish to hear it. We will have no further interruptions.

The Prime Minister: There are some people who get into the White House on false pretences, get their photograph taken and do not have a formal invitation, but the Prime Minister of Spain was invited to the G20 by the President of America, to be part of the G20. I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that I invited the Prime Minister of Spain, Mr. Zapatero, to the G20 meeting that took place in London. Mr. Zapatero was at the G20 meeting that took place in Pittsburgh. In other words, Spain was part of the G20. [ Interruption. ] I know that the Opposition are going to talk down Britain, but it is bit much them talking down Spain.

Ms Angela C. Smith (Sheffield, Hillsborough) (Lab): The fatal attack last week on four-year-old John-Paul Massey from Merseyside again raises concerns about the effectiveness of legislation relating to dangerous dogs. Will my right hon. Friend agree to meet, with me, a small delegation of those who are concerned about the issue to discuss what can be done?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This was a terrible death, and I am very sorry to learn about what happened to the little boy in Liverpool, John-Paul Massey. She knows that the police are continuing to investigate the circumstances of the death. They have also referred their handling of an original report from February 2009 to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. It would obviously be inappropriate to comment further on that instance, but the issue of the status of dangerous dogs was raised at the antisocial behaviour working party a few days ago. We are working with the Home Office to ensure that those who are on the front line make full use of the powers available to them to tackle the problem of dogs affecting communities.
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The Government have provided additional advice to the police, and funding to the Association of Chief Police Officers to help to train officers in dangerous dog legislation. This was an event that should not recur, and we will do everything in our power to make sure that it does not happen.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): May I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to Lance Corporal Adam Drane, who was killed in Afghanistan on Monday? The 100th military casualty this year is a very sad milestone. We should honour his memory; we should help his family.

As the Prime Minister and I have both seen, when one speaks to our troops in Afghanistan, it is not sympathy and pity that they are after, but support, not just for what they are doing, but for the mission in which they are engaged. In my view, they are every bit the equal of those men who stormed the beaches of Normandy or who fought their way across Africa in the second world war, and we should be proud of what they are doing.

The new counter-insurgency strategy and the extra troops announced by America last week show that we have the last best chance to get this issue right. Does the Prime Minister agree that we simply cannot waste any time in getting every element of the strategy in place, including troops, helicopters, equipment, development aid, civilian co-ordination and, of course, the pressure on President Karzai to cut corruption?

The Prime Minister: I am very pleased that the right hon. Gentleman was able to go to Afghanistan, and I also know that many Members have visited our troops in Afghanistan. I pay tribute to them for visiting our troops, but I pay greater tribute to our troops for the great work that they do.

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that we must move quickly. Our additional troops will be going to Afghanistan in the next few days. We have called a conference for 28 January in London, to bring together all the powers that are involved in Afghanistan-the 43-nation coalition. That will discuss-and, I hope, agree on-civil co-ordination. President Karzai has agreed to come, and he will have to report on the reforms that he promised to make in his Administration as he started his second period of duty. At the same time, we are making available all the equipment that is necessary-helicopters and vehicles-to our armed forces.

I can just add one thing-that 80 per cent. of the deaths have been the result of explosive devices. We have now brought in far more surveillance equipment; we have brought in extra engineers; we have brought in extra drones to survey the area; we have brought in more intelligence officers; and we are backing up our troops with the best equipment possible. We will do everything we can to avoid the loss of life as a result of this guerrilla warfare.

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