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14 Jun 2010 : Column 300Wcontinued
Chris Bryant: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the value is of the Government wine cellar. 
Mr Bellingham: The Government wine cellar is valued in accordance with guidelines issued by the National Audit Office and currently has an estimated value of £864,000, a reduction of approximately £13,000 since this question was tabled by the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) in December 2009.
Mr Liddell-Grainger: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his policy is towards Kashmir; and if he will make a statement. 
Alistair Burt: The long-standing position of the UK is that it is for India and Pakistan to find a lasting resolution to the situation in Kashmir, one which takes into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people. It is not for the UK to prescribe a solution or to mediate in finding one. We welcome the positive steps being taken by India and Pakistan to build trust and confidence between them.
Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the Government of Pakistan on religious discrimination in that country and the effects of section 295-C of Pakistan's Penal Code on Ahmadi Muslims. 
Alistair Burt: The Government condemn all forms of unfair discrimination, including those based on religion. We regularly raise our concerns with the Government of Pakistan, both bilaterally and through the EU. We have raised our concerns with regard to section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code which deals with the offence of blasphemy. We believe this law should be amended to prevent its abuse, and also that it should not attract the death penalty.
Jo Swinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations the Government have made to the Government of Pakistan on the attacks on Ahmadi Muslims in Lahore, Pakistan on 28 May; what response has been received; and if he will make a statement. 
Alistair Burt: The Government condemn all forms of violence and discrimination against individuals or groups, irrespective of their faith or belief. The attacks on the Ahmadiyya mosques in Lahore on 28 May were a tragic example of the discrimination faced by the Ahmadiyya community.
Our high commissioner in Islamabad has raised the attacks and the discrimination suffered by the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan with the Chief Minister of Punjab along with his EU colleagues, and the issue has also been raised by our high commission with the Pakistani Ministries of Interior and Minorities.
The Government of Pakistan at federal and provincial level have underlined how seriously they take these attacks, and are overseeing an immediate police investigation into the incident.
Mr Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has received a response from the Government of Israel to his statement of 5 June 2010 calling for an end to the closure of Gaza. 
Alistair Burt: We continue to discuss these issues with the Government of Israel and our international partners-including members of the Quartet and the EU. There has been a slight easing in some of the items allowed into Gaza which we welcome. But we continue to call for more significant steps to lift Gaza's closure. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has made clear, it is important that there is unfettered access to meet the humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza and to enable the reconstruction of people's homes, livelihoods and trade.
Lindsay Roy: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his latest assessment is of the political situation in Gaza; and if he will make a statement. 
Alistair Burt: The UK is extremely concerned by the humanitarian, economic and political situation in Gaza. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has made clear, it is essential that there is unfettered access not only to meet the humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza but to enable the reconstruction of people's homes, livelihoods and trade.
At the same time it is important to remember that Hamas continues to pursue an ideology of violence which directly undermines prospects for peace in the region. We call on Hamas to take immediate and concrete steps towards the Quartet principles and to release Gilad Shalit unconditionally.
Lindsay Roy: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what his latest assessment is of the political situation in Thailand; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr Jeremy Browne: I am deeply concerned by the recent violence and loss of life in Bangkok. As a friend of Thailand, the UK wishes to see all sides engage in an urgent process of national reconciliation to address the underlying social, economic and political causes of the recent violence and instability. I welcome the announcement by Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva that an independent inquiry will take place into the violence that took place. I also welcome Prime Minister Abhisit's announcement of efforts to address the underlying causes of the violence through a five-point reconciliation road map, which includes commitment to tackle economic disparities and inequality, and the involvement of all parties in the process of reconciliation. We are encouraging the Thai authorities to take forward this process as a matter of urgency.
We underlined our concern in a statement to the Human Rights Council on 31 May. On 21 May the High Representative of the European Union, Baroness Ashton, also made a statement on behalf of the EU.
Matthew Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what progress he has made on the ending of regional spatial strategies. 
Greg Clark: We committed in the Queen's Speech to abolishing regional strategies. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has written to all council leaders saying that he expects them to have regard to this as a material planning consideration in any decisions they are currently taking.
Karen Lumley: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps are being taken to ensure even distribution of funding across the west midlands by the Advantage West Midlands regional development agency. 
Mr Prisk: I have been asked to reply
It is for the RDA to determine the level of spend in line with local and regional priorities and these are set out in the corporate plan. In agreeing these priories, the RDA has a duty to consult with regional partners and stakeholders including local authorities.
Karen Lumley: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment his Department has made of the value for money of funding provided by Advantage West Midlands for residents of Redditch. 
Mr Prisk: I have been asked to reply
There have not been any value-for-money assessments specific to Redditch. The National Audit Office (NAO) led an independent performance assessment in 2006-07 which judged AWM to be performing well. The report highlighted in particular AWM's consistent achievement of targets and its strong evidence base. An independent supplementary review of all RDAs is also being carried out by the NAO which is due to be published soon.
Andrea Leadsom: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what his policy is on the future of (a) the West Northamptonshire Development Corporation and (b) the West Northamptonshire Joint Planning Unit. 
Andrew Stunell: The Government will be reviewing West Northamptonshire Development Corporation's (WNDC's) future work programme against the Government's priorities taking account of the previously announced wind-up date of 2013-14 and the potential for transition to a local authority-led regeneration body. The Government are committed to decentralisation and achieving efficiencies and WNDC will be contributing to the efficiency savings planned by the Department of Communities and Local Government.
The West Northamptonshire Joint Planning Unit (WNJPU), which is entirely separate from WNDC, was constituted at the request of the three local planning authorities and Northamptonshire county council under section 29 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. The Act provides that the joint committee can be dissolved at the request of a constituent authority.
John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many convictions for non-completion and return of the annual registration form for the Register of Electors there (a) were in 2009 and (b) have been in 2010. 
Mr Harper: I have been asked to reply.
This information is not collected centrally. Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) have a statutory duty to compile and maintain a complete and accurate electoral register and they have a number of mechanisms available to them in achieving this. It is a decision for individual EROs to decide what action to take in relation to non-completion of an individual annual canvass form.
Stephen Gilbert: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment he has made of the effect of ending the south-west regional spatial strategy on active house building in Cornwall. 
Greg Clark: We are absolutely committed to abolishing regional strategies, including regional housing targets and will introduce legislation in the first Session to do so. The Secretary of State has written to all local authority leaders and the Planning Inspectorate confirming the Government's intention and that letter can be used as a material consideration in planning decisions.
Cornwall council will now be able to make its own decisions on housing supply. We will introduce strong incentives so that the benefits of growth in jobs, investment and housing are enjoyed by local people.
Stephen Gilbert: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what new criteria for housebuilding will be put in place after the ending of regional spatial strategies. 
Greg Clark: As the coalition agreement makes clear, local councils will be responsible for decisions on housing and planning after the abolition of regional spatial strategies. I expect decisions to be based on sound local plans, which have regard to national planning policy statements and reflect co-operation with neighbouring authorities on issues that cross local authority boundaries. They will be taken in the context of powerful financial incentives so that the benefits of development are shared with local people.
Stephen Gilbert: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether the proposed numbers of houses in the eco-town development at St Austell will count towards the total housing need in the mid-Cornwall area. 
Grant Shapps: Cornwall council will be able to make its own decisions on the level of housing supply to plan for, based on its own evidence. The St Austell eco-town will help to meet their needs like any other new development.
Stephen Gilbert: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment he has made of the appropriateness of local authority housing targets in Cornwall in light of the ending of the south-west regional spatial strategy. 
Greg Clark: It is for local authorities to assess the appropriateness of local housing targets in the context of preparing and maintaining local plans whose soundness is subject to the public scrutiny through examination in public.
Mr Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will call in planning applications 09/00013/COND10, 09/00014/COND8, 09/00018/COND6, 09/00023/COND10, 09/00023/COND8, 09/00029/COND6 and 09/01301/OUT for decision by his Department on the ground that they are applications to build on green belt land; and if he will make a statement. 
Robert Neill: The planning applications referred to have yet to be considered by Tewkesbury borough council, the local planning authority, and it would be inappropriate to comment on them. However, the local planning authority has confirmed that none of the land subject to these planning applications involves land designated as green belt.
The borough council has the discretion to review the scale of housing development required in the borough since the intention to abolish RSS was confirmed by the Secretary of State in letter of 27 May to all council leaders.
Mr Blunkett: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate he has made of the likely change to his Department's capital investment allocation for Sheffield in (a) percentage and (b) cash terms in 2010-11; and if he will make a statement. 
Robert Neill: The announcement on 24 May set out the immediate savings of over £6 billion that needed to be made as down-payment on the public deficit. We continue to review the position on all budgets and any further decisions on funding for 2010-11 will be taken at the Emergency Budget on 22 June. A full review of capital projects will be undertaken once the final funding position for 2010-11 is clear.
Mr Blunkett: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate he has made of the likely change to his Department's aggregate external finance allocation for Sheffield in (a) percentage and (b) cash terms in 2010-11; and if he will make a statement. 
Robert Neill: I refer the right hon. Member to the written ministerial statement which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State laid in the House on 10 June 2010, Official Report, columns 15-17WS.
Mr Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans he has to withdraw ODPM 01/06 instructing planning inspectors to presume in favour of otherwise illegal Gypsy encampments. 
Andrew Stunell: In the coalition agreement the Government stated that they will publish and present to Parliament a simple and consolidated national planning framework covering all forms of development. An announcement on how we propose to take forward the national planning framework and the implications for specific areas of planning policy will be made in due course.
The Secretary of State wrote to all local authority chief planners prior to the Whitsun bank holiday weekend to remind them of the potential risks of unauthorised development and to draw their attention to the existing enforcement powers at their disposal to deal with such breaches of planning control.
Damian Hinds: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps he plans to take to prevent the use of the retrospective planning application process in relation to unauthorised Gypsy and Traveller sites. 
The new Government are working on proposals to strengthen the powers that local authorities
have to enforce against breaches of planning control and to limit the opportunities for retrospective planning applications in relation to any form of unauthorised development.
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