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Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how much his Department spent on interior design in relation to office refurbishments undertaken in each of the last five years. 
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will issue guidance on his Department's policy on the relocation offshore of departmental jobs to companies bidding for contracts let by his Department. 
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many (a) questionnaires, (b) statistical enquiries and (c) investigations have been carried out wholly or partly at public expense on behalf of or by his Department or public bodies for which he is responsible in each year since 1997; and what the (i) nature, (ii) purpose and (iii) cost was of each. 
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many free television licences have been issued to residents of (a) Southend, West constituency, (b) Essex County Council authority area and (c) England and Wales in each year since such licences were introduced. 
Mr. Bradshaw: My Department does not hold the information. Free television licences for people aged 75 or over are issued by TV Licensing as agents for the BBC. This is, therefore, a matter for the BBC.
Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how much the television licence fee was in each year since 1990; what plans he has to change the level of the licence fee in each of the next three years; what discussions he has had with the BBC about the licence fee since January 2009; and if he will make a statement. 
A six year funding settlement for the BBC was announced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell) in January 2007 and took effect from 1 April 2007. The settlement provided for annual increases in the television licence for the six years of the licence fee period, subject to the making of the necessary regulations setting the licence fee for the coming year.
The Government remain committed to the settlement and do not intend to reopen it within the six-year period. This is because of the important principle that maintaining multi-year settlements helps to support the BBC's independence from Government and avoids suggestions of political interference.
Grant Shapps: To ask the hon. Member for South- West Devon, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission how many allegations of electoral malpractice have been reported to the Electoral Commission by police in each of the last 10 years. 
Mr. Streeter: The Electoral Commission informs me that police forces are not obliged to report allegations of electoral malpractice to the Commission. Since 2008, however, the Commission has worked with police forces to establish a mechanism for collating information about cases of alleged electoral malpractice reported to the police.
In 2008, police forces reported 103 cases involving a total of 476 allegations of electoral malpractice in England and Wales; there were no elections in Scotland. In 2009, police forces reported 48 cases involving a total of 107 allegations of electoral malpractice in Great Britain.
The Commission has published its analysis of these cases, including the outcome of investigations and prosecutions where relevant. Copies of its reports for 2008 and 2009 have been placed in the Library.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the hon. Member for South- West Devon, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission what timetable the Electoral Commission has set for the publication of its guidance on counting ballots on general election night; and if the Electoral Commission will make it its policy to ensure that counting on general election night is the expected norm. 
Mr. Streeter: The Electoral Commission informs me that each Returning Officer is individually responsible for making arrangements for the count, and for complying with any provisions which may impact on its timing.
The Commission further informs me that it published draft guidance for Returning Officers on the timing of UK parliamentary election counts on 16 March 2010 and will publish formal guidance when the relevant provisions of the Constitutional Reform and Governance (CRAG) Bill are commenced. The draft guidance is available on the Commission's website:
In its draft guidance the Commission has stressed to Returning Officers that they should be aware of the strength of support among Members of Parliament for overnight counts, although its policy remains that the accuracy of the result and confidence in the election result are of paramount importance.
Grant Shapps: To ask the hon. Member for South- West Devon, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission with reference to the answer to the hon. Member for Chichester of 15 January 2008, Official Report, column 1084W, on political parties: finance, what stage the Electoral Commission's research into the operation of the political levy and political fund has reached; and whether the Electoral Commission has met (a) the Certification Officer for Great Britain and (b) the Northern Ireland Certification Officer in the course of its research. 
Mr. Streeter: The Electoral Commission informs me that, further to the answer to the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) of 25 February 2008, Official Report, column 1149W, its research was limited to the legislative framework and information on how the political levy and political funds currently operate. The Commission completed this work in 2008.
The Commission further informs me that Commission staff met staff of the Certification Officer for Great Britain in the course of the research but that there were no equivalent meetings with staff of the Certification Officer for Northern Ireland.
Huw Irranca-Davies: Local authorities have a duty to keep their relevant land, including beaches above the high water mark, clear of litter and refuse. While local authorities monitor cleanliness through the National Indicator 195 (improved street and environmental cleanliness), DEFRA does not ask authorities to specifically report on the cleanliness of their beaches. This makes it difficult to assess whether or not beaches in general are achieving higher levels of cleanliness. Through the Blue Flag Beach Award scheme, administered by DEFRA's delivery partner Keep Britain Tidy, beaches are assessed for litter, amongst other indicators. The latest awards will be announced in May of this year.
Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many full-time equivalent staff of each grade are employed by his Department to assist special advisers. 
Dan Norris: The Code of Conduct for Special Advisers states that, in order to enable special advisers to work effectively, departments may allocate permanent civil servants to provide support of a non-political nature. In DEFRA, two members of the Secretary of State's private office assist the special advisers; they are an executive officer and an administrative officer.
Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will make it his policy to ensure that all households are able to have a weekly domestic refuse collection. 
Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the effects of an electromagnetic pulse strike caused (a) deliberately and (b) through solar activity on the critical infrastructure of his Department. 
Dan Norris: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr. Hanson) to the hon. Member for East Devon (Mr. Swire) on 3 March 2010, Official Report, column 1282W.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether he has made a recent assessment of the (a) likelihood and (b) potential effects of surface water flooding in built-up areas in Castle Point constituency; and if he will make a statement. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: The Environment Agency has modelled areas susceptible to surface water flooding in Castle Point constituency and elsewhere. The model shows the effects of a single storm with a 1:200 annual chance of occurring, allowing for regional variations in rainfall.
DEFRA carried out an assessment which ranked settlements nationally based on numbers of properties at risk. Castle Point settlements identified were: Canvey Island: 240th (1,700 properties), Benfleet: 316th (1,000), and North Benfleet: 1,411th (100).
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations his Department has received from (a) Essex county council and (b) Castle Point borough council on the methodology used to allocate funding for the development of surface water management plans. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: My Department has received no formal representations from Essex county council or Castle Point borough council about the methodology used to allocate £9.7 million funding for the development of surface water management plans (SWMPs) announced in August 2009, or on the allocations for Early Actions bids announced on 19 March 2010.
A formal process was put in place for local authorities to challenge the methodology used to allocate the £9.7 million funding for the development of SWMPs. This was not used by either Essex county council or Castle Point borough council.
Castle Point borough council wrote to the Secretary of State on 16 March 2009 requesting consideration be given to funding a SWMP for Canvey Island and my reply of 14 May 2009 explained the funding arrangements available.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether his Department received bids for funding for early actions to tackle local flood risk from (a) Essex county council and (b) Castle Point borough council. 
Castle Point borough council bid for a Surface Water Management Plan (SWMP). This was unsuccessful. We received bids totalling in excess of £20 million. Allocation was prioritised on the scale of risk reduction; number of properties within the SWMP; certainty of the risk being managed; and confidence of the proposal delivering by March 2011.
Huw Irranca-Davies: All tree felling is administered by the Forestry Commission in accordance with the felling regulations under the Forestry Act 1967 (as amended). Any felling carried out without a licence is an offence, unless it is covered by one of the exemptions specified in the legislation. Under the Forestry Act, the Forestry Commission usually attaches conditions to the felling licence to secure replanting of the area felled.
Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether local authorities will be fully refunded for costs incurred in complying with the proposed landfill ban under the new burdens principle. 
Dan Norris: A consultation is currently taking place on options to restrict the landfilling of biodegradable and recyclable wastes, including landfill bans. This is a first stage consultation on the principle of introducing such restrictions, and responses from this consultation will inform Government consideration of whether it is desirable, practical and affordable to introduce restrictions.
The consultation is accompanied by an impact assessment which sets out the estimated costs and benefits of any potential landfill restrictions. Should Government conclude they wish to introduce restrictions, the specific proposals would be the subject of a second stage consultation.
Depending on the nature of any proposal the Government may publish in a second stage consultation, the new burdens principle would apply to any policies which increase the cost of providing local authority services and impact solely or disproportionately on local government.
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