Previous Section Index Home Page

14 Jan 2010 : Column 1131W—continued

The search terms monitored by Tenant Services Authority are:

In addition the following are spokespeople for the Tenant Services Authority:

The public relations firm employed by the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit advise them of any mentions of the organisation in national and trade media. The National Housing and Planning Advice Unit do not hold a separate list of search terms.

In respect of search terms monitored by the Department I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given on 26 November 2008, Official Report, column 1491W.

Since then the search terms have been updated to include:

The names of Ministers who no longer work for the Department have been removed, as well as several other search words:

14 Jan 2010 : Column 1132W

Newham Homes

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what inspection the Audit Commission has undertaken of Newham Homes. [308308]

Barbara Follett: This is an operational matter for the Audit Commission, and I will ask the chief executive of the Audit Commission to write to the hon. Member direct.

Letter from Steve Bundred, dated 14 January 2010:

Non-Domestic Rates: Empty Property

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many of the properties receiving empty property business tax relief in each of the last five years were empty for more than six months; and how much was paid out in empty property business tax relief for such properties in each of those years. [310745]

Barbara Follett: This information is not held centrally.

In 2009-10 all empty properties with rateable values up to £15,000 are eligible for full relief from business rates. This temporary measure will continue for a further 12 months-to cover the whole of 2010-11-and the threshold will be uprated to £18,000, in line with the general movement of property values at revaluation. 70 per cent. of all properties are under this threshold and, if empty, will not be liable for rates in 2010-11. This temporary measure is providing real help to owners to manage short-term pressures in a difficult property market.

Ordnance Survey: Finance

Mr. Arbuthnot: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government with reference to the Re-mapping the future for Ordnance Survey-making public data public consultation, how much funding the Government plans to provide to Ordnance Survey for the provision of free mapping. [304098]

Mr. Ian Austin: Ordnance Survey currently covers all its costs-including investment-from the revenue it earns from licensing its data to customers in both the private and public sector. The Government will shortly be consulting on a proposal to make available certain Ordnance Survey datasets for free re-use to support greater transparency, improved public services and economic growth. There will be more detail in the consultation.

14 Jan 2010 : Column 1133W

Planning Permission: Totnes

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will direct the local planning authority to conduct an environmental impact assessment in respect of planning application 52/1442/09/F Rowes Farm Development, Aish Road, Stoke Gabriel, Totnes. [310801]

Mr. Ian Austin: Officials in the Government office for the south west carefully considered this matter following a request from a third party to overturn the local planning authority's decision that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) was not required to accompany a planning application for development proposed at Rowes Farm, Stoke Gabriel.

The proposed development was not considered by the Government office as likely to have significant environmental effects such as to merit an EIA, even though the proposals involved land in an area of outstanding natural beauty and thus a 'sensitive area' under the terms of the relevant regulations, A letter sent on 12 January informed the third party and was copied to the local planning authority.

Regional Government

Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether successor bodies to regional assemblies will be designated as public authorities for the purposes of (a) equality and human rights and (b) freedom of information legislation. [308588]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Following the commencement of the Local Democracy Economic Development and Construction Act joint responsibility for the single regional strategy will rest with the "Responsible Regional Authorities" who are regional development agencies and Local Authority Leaders' Boards. All authorities fulfilling a public function are bound by the Human Rights Act.

In relation to information regional development agencies are non-departmental public bodies and so the NDPB model publication scheme applies to them. The application of part 5A of the Local Government Act applies to leaders' boards (but only in their non-joint working) as it applies to a principal council.

The Freedom of Information Act applies to RDAs. It is the Government's intention that FOI legislation should apply to leaders' boards and they will be added to the schedule 1 of the FOI Act at the next opportunity.

Regional Planning and Development

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government with reference to the answer of 20 October 2009, Official Report, column 1401W, on regional development agencies, which bodies will be designated as regional planning bodies following the transfer of functions from the regional assemblies. [308387]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Following the commencement of the Local Democracy Economic Development and Construction Act no one will be designated as "Regional
14 Jan 2010 : Column 1134W
Planning Body". Joint responsibility for the single regional strategy will rest with the "Responsible Regional Authorities" who are regional development agencies and Local Authority Leaders Boards.



Mr. Fallon: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has received on the proposal to discontinue bank cheques; and what steps he plans to take to protect the interests of (a) elderly and (b) other bank customers who do not have access to internet banking in circumstances in which that proposal is implemented. [310708]

Mr. Timms: The Government have received various representations, from members of Parliament and the public, about the Payments Council's decision that cheques should be phased out to a 2018 timetable due to the declining trajectory of usage.

Before any final decision is made in 2016, and ahead of the closure of the cheque clearing system, the council has committed to ensuring that adequate alternatives are in place for all users of cheques, in particular for users who are highly dependent on this method of payment.

Departmental Buildings

Sarah Teather: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the (a) area and (b) estimated value is of (i) vacant and (ii) occupied office space (A) owned and (B) rented by his Department. [310519]

Mr. Timms: There is currently 282.79 m(2) Net Internal Areas (NIA) of vacant space and 22,942.76 m(2) (NIA) of occupied space within 1 Horse Guards road. This building is managed under a PFI contract where the freehold reverts to the Crown at the end of the term. Valuation of land and buildings is set cut in the Annual Report and Accounts 2008-09 (HC 611). Vacant space is not separately valued.

There is currently no vacant space within 6,574.30 m(2) of occupied, rented space at Rosebery Court in Norwich. Leasehold premises are not valued.

EC Budget

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what recent discussions he has had with the European Commission on (a) the overall size of the EU's 2010 budget and (b) the UK's contribution to that budget. [310292]

Ian Pearson: At Budget ECOFIN (18 November) the UK secured a 2010 budget that was below the level of the Commission's proposals and almost €5 billion (4 per cent.) lower than proposed by the European Parliament, saving the UK taxpayer almost £0.5 billion. This is in line with our overriding objectives of promoting Budget discipline and value for money for taxpayers. This outcome has been made possible through close engagement with the Commission and our European partners throughout the 2010 budget negotiations process.

14 Jan 2010 : Column 1135W

The UK is required to make contributions to the EC Budget under obligations imposed by the Treaties. The European Communities Act, Section 2 in particular gives effect within the UK to Community law. Contributions to the annual EC Budget are determined in accordance with the Own Resources Decision (ORD), unanimously agreed by all member states and ratified in accordance with their constitutional requirements.

Excise Duties: Alcoholic Drinks

Dan Rogerson: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what steps his Department is taking to reduce levels of alcohol duty fraud; [310566]

(2) what steps (a) his Department and (b) HM Revenue and Customs is taking in co-operation with European counterparts to reduce levels of alcohol duty fraud; [310567]

(3) how many allegations have been received by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in the last 12 months of the sale of alcohol on which duty has not been paid; and how many such allegations have been investigated by HMRC. [310568]

Mr. Timms: The Chancellor announced at Budget 2009 the revised 'tackling alcohol fraud' strategy which has three principal themes:

The strategy is set out in further detail in "Renewal of the Tackling Alcohol Fraud strategy", published in April 2009 and available at

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is making good progress on all three strands of this strategy. The regulatory framework is being strengthened to reduce opportunities for fraud; the new operational model for HIV1RC to respond to fraud using new approaches and the full range of HMRC's powers is on track to be implemented from April 2010; and HMRC is working with the large brewers and wholesale buying groups on developing practical measures to close off illicit supply chains.

HMRC co-operates with its European counterparts on excise matters, including alcohol fraud, under the terms of EC Council Regulation 2073/2004 (on the administrative co-operation in excise matters) and the Naples II Convention. Additionally, over the past eight years the UK has worked with counterpart revenue authorities on the development of the EU-wide Excise Movement and Control System (EMCS). This provides an electronic system for monitoring the movement of excise goods in duty suspension within the EU and comes into effect on 1 April 2010.

In the period from 1 January to 31 December 2009 HMRC received approximately 650 allegations relating to alcohol. All allegations are actioned. A range of responses, including formal investigations, are considered as appropriate depending on the seriousness of the allegation and quality of intelligence provided. For operational reasons and to protect third party confidentiality HMRC cannot comment on how many allegations have been formally investigated.

14 Jan 2010 : Column 1136W

Financial Transactions

Jenny Willott: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many and what proportion of financial transactions made in the UK were made by (a) debit card, (b) credit card, (c) online transactions other than bank transfer, (d) bank transfer, (e) cash payment, (f) cheque and (g) another form of payment in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. [310480]

Mr. Timms: The number of financial transactions made through different forms of payments is provided in the following table using data provided by the Payments Council. Data for 2009 are not yet available.

Number of payments

2004 2005 2006 2007 2008

Debit card






Credit card






Online transactions






Bank transfer






























Next Section Index Home Page