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13 Jan 2011 : Column 421W—continued


12 months and over sentences
Prison Number of offenders Reoffending rate (percentage) Average number of previous offences Average number of previous custodial sentences Average age

All

2,950

9.2

15.4

1.7

35.7

Askham Grange

91

6.6

13.2

0.9

33.7

Blantyre House

26

*

*

*

*

East Sutton Park

70

5.7

5.9

0.3

36.2

Ford

269

6.3

13.9

1.4

35.7

Hewell Grange

130

6.9

16.4

1.7

35.5

Hollesley Bay

238

9.2

14.9

1.7

35.2

Kirkham

390

9.7

16.9

1.9

35.4

Kirklevington

122

6.6

13.6

1.3

34.3

Latchmere House

95

5.3

12.8

1.9

40.0

Leyhill

242

12.0

17.1

1.6

37.3

Moorland Open

192

10.9

17.7

2.0

34.0

North Sea Camp

179

15.1

17.7

1.8

35.7

Prescoed

107

9.3

18.4

1.7

35.2

Spring Hill

195

5.6

14.7

1.5

35.4

Standford Hill

263

10.3

14.0

1.8

36.0

Sudbury

341

11.1

16.0

1.7

35.5


13 Jan 2011 : Column 422W

Unfair Dismissal

Mr Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many employees have taken their employer to an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal where no grounds for dismissal have been given and where the dismissal took place after the employee had been employed for more than 12 months but less than two years in each of the last five years. [33270]

Mr Djanogly: The Tribunals Service publishes statistics annually and quarterly, including information on the types of complaints made to employment tribunals. The following table shows the number of unfair dismissal claims lodged with (or 'accepted') and determined or otherwise resolved ('disposed') in each of the last five complete financial years.

Data on whether or not grounds for dismissal were given in such cases, or statistics on the claimants' length of service, are not collated centrally. This information could only be provided at a disproportionate cost by manually checking individual case files and records.

Unfair dismissal claims accepted and disposed 2005 to 2010

Jurisdictional claims accepted Jurisdictional claims disposed

2005-06

41,800

35,400

2006-07

44,500

38,400

2007-08

40,900

37,000

2008-09

52,700

39,400

2009-10

57,400

50,900


Volunteers and Lay Advisers

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice whether he plans to ensure that volunteers and lay advisers who provide legal advice have a minimum qualification level; and if he will make a statement. [32622]

Mr Djanogly: The Government have no plans to ensure that volunteers and lay advisers who provide legal advice have a minimum qualification at this time.

There are reviews planned in the legal services sector however which may impact on the future provision of legal advice. The first is that the Legal Services Board, the oversight regulator for legal services, will in the next year undertake a review to assess whether the scope of regulation is set appropriately to protect consumers. The second is that the three largest legal regulators (the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Bar Standards Board and Institute for Legal Executives Professional Standards) are currently undertaking a review of regulatory requirements in relation to the education and training of the legal workforce. One of the issues the review will consider is whether regulatory requirements should be put in place in relation to the training and competence of individuals who are not qualified lawyers but who work in regulated organisations.

Young Offenders

Sadiq Khan: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many young offenders were in custody in England and Wales (a) in December 1996, (b) in December 2009 and (c) on the most recent date for which figures are available. [32939]


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Mr Blunt: Figures are provided in the following table and the data have been supplied by the Youth Justice Board (YJB). The YJB started collecting data on the number of young people in custody in England and Wales in April 2000 and it is not possible to provide comparable data from before that date. Data for December 2009 are provisional and will be finalised and published in the 2009-10 Youth Justice statistics. The most recent provisional data available are for October 2010.

The figures have been drawn from administrative IT systems, which, as with any large scale recording system, are subject to possible errors with data entry and processing and may be subject to change over time.

Number of young people under 18 in custody

April 2000 (earliest data available)

2,610

December 2009

2,203

October 2010 (latest provisional data available)

1,995


Transport

Bus Services: Finance

Andrew Gwynne: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the likely effect on future levels of local authority funding for bus services of the implementation of the proposal to reduce the Bus Service Operators Grant. [27665]

Norman Baker: Around 20% of local bus services in England outside London are provided under tender to the relevant local authority. It is possible that bus operators may seek higher funding levels from local authorities in future tender bids as a result of the reduction in Bus Service Operators Grant. However, it is up to local authorities to decide whether or not they wish to continue to fund tendered services in the light of available resources and local priorities.

The simplification of local transport funding undertaken through the spending review will give local authorities greater flexibility, enabling solutions to be tailored for the specific needs and circumstances of individual communities.

Mayor of London

Clive Efford: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what (a) meetings and (b) discussions he has had with the Mayor of London during the winter weather of November and December 2010; and if he will make a statement. [29629]

Mrs Villiers: The Secretary of State for Transport discussed the impact of winter weather on transport during a telephone conversation with the Mayor on Friday 3 December 2010. The Secretary of State had a further telephone conversation with the Mayor in the week ending 24 December 2010. The Secretary of State also spoke to Daniel Moylan on 18 December 2010 and has had frequent e-mail contact with him since.


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The Department for Transport has maintained contact with Transport for London and London Underground since before the start of the period of severe winter weather.

Plugged-In Places

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he plans to announce the outcome of the Plugged-In Places scheme; and if he will make a statement. [33031]

Norman Baker: The Secretary of State for Transport announced the outcome of the second round of Plugged-In Places funding on 14 December 2010. Five projects were successful, based in Northern Ireland, Central Scotland, Greater Manchester, the Midlands and the East of England. These supplement the three existing projects in London, Milton Keynes and the North East.

The outcomes of these projects will inform the development of national policy regarding electric vehicle infrastructure, with a strategy for promoting the installation of charging infrastructure due to be published in June 2011.

Railway Stations: Disability

Mr Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking with (a) Network Rail and (b) train operating companies to improve the compliance of railway stations with legal requirements for access for disabled passengers. [33525]

Norman Baker: The Equality Act 2010 requires service providers, including Network Rail and train operators, to make reasonable adjustments so that disabled people are not at a substantial disadvantage when using their services.

In addition, European and UK-wide accessible standards in the Department for Transport's publication, "Accessible Train Station Design for Disabled People: A Code of Practice" should be followed whenever station infrastructure is renewed or installed. This is available on the Department for Transport's website at:

In 2006, the previous Government launched the Railways for All strategy which included a £370 million Access for All fund for improvements to stations, in addition to the commitments in rail franchises, and major upgrades or renewals, to accelerate this process. The coalition Government are continuing with the published Access for All Programme.

Railway Stations: Repairs and Maintenance

David Morris: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what funds his Department makes available for improvements in rail station access and infrastructure; and whether Silverdale Station in Lancashire is eligible to receive such funding. [33318]

Norman Baker: Funding for improvements to general station infrastructure is available through the National Stations Improvement Programme (NSIP). Adding
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Silverdale to this programme would be a decision for Northern Rail, but it would need to be at the expense of a station already included.

In addition, since 2006, funding for station accessibility improvements has been available through the Access for All Small Schemes Programme and, in 2007, £27,500 was offered to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to provide a ramp to improve access to Silverdale station. Unfortunately the scheme was later withdrawn and no further bids for funding have been received.

Railway Stations: Richmond upon Thames

Zac Goldsmith: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what funds allocated to improving rail platforms in the 2010 spending review will be spent in Richmond Park constituency. [32972]

Mrs Villiers: The detailed allocation of funding for platform improvements is a matter for Network Rail. Network Rail is funded to deliver a range of solutions, but the nature of these improvements will depend on the service changes proposed by the train operating companies to deliver the additional passenger capacity that the Government wish to provide.

Zac Goldsmith: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent assessment he has made of the level of overcrowding on commuter rail services which serve stations in Richmond Park constituency. [33065]

Mrs Villiers: Train operating companies submit morning and evening peak train plans to the Department for Transport for May and December timetable changes each year. Overcrowding levels are assessed by comparing counts of passengers against the plans. The assessment informs the plans for the next timetable iteration and the deployment of train capacity. These assessments contain commercially confidential information and are not published, but the Department uses the data as the base for strategic forecasts of peak demand change. The latest assessment for South West Trains, which operates services serving stations in Richmond Park constituency, was for the December 2010 timetable change.

London Overground also operates services in Richmond Park constituency. London Overground is franchised by Transport for London who would carry out any assessment of the level of overcrowding on these services.

Railways: Crimes of Violence

Mike Weatherley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many arrests relating to violence on trains were made in (a) 2007, (b) 2008 and (c) 2009. [32984]

Mrs Villiers: I refer my hon. Friend to my answer to him of 20 December 2010, Official Report, column 996W.

Railways: Finance

Richard Fuller: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will estimate the average amount of funding from the public purse (a) per kilometre and (b) per journey provided for rail travel (i) originating from Bedford, (ii) using the Thameslink line and (iii) nationally in the last 12 months. [33146]


13 Jan 2011 : Column 426W

Mrs Villiers: Train operator subsidies and support are calculated in accordance with franchise agreements and are not broken down by specific route.

Data on total subsidies and premiums paid or received by franchised train operators is available in National Rail Trends (NRT) which is published by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR). This data includes a calculation of subsidy per passenger kilometre for each individual franchise as well as nationally. National Rail Trends is available in the Library of the House and on the Office of Rail Regulation website at:

Roads: Repairs and Maintenance

Mr Offord: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he plans to take to reduce the level of roadworks in London; and if he will make a statement. [30359]

Mrs Villiers: It is for Transport for London and the London borough councils to manage and co-ordinate the works that are carried out on their highways.

There are a number of legislative and non-legislative tools available to local highway authorities to manage these works. The Department for Transport's business plan, available at:

includes a number of proposals to enhance these tools, for example the introduction of lane rental schemes and discussions on these proposals continues with Transport for London representatives of local government, and the Mayor.

Roads: Tyres

Steve Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the merits of (a) mandatory and (b) voluntary adoption of winter tyres on British roads. [32911]

Mike Penning: The Department for Transport has not undertaken a formal assessment on the merits of a mandatory requirement for drivers to fit winter tyres when driving on British roads.

It is appropriate for drivers rather than Government to make that decision about tyre choice and factors such as the costs of purchasing winter tyres, storing the original set of tyres, and refitting them when the conditions improve will be part of their consideration. The tyre industry provides advice and guidance to help people make that choice.

Rolling Stock: Greater London

Harriett Baldwin: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent discussion his Department has had with train operating companies on rolling stock for the London to Malvern train service which will operate on both electrified and non-electrified track. [30741]

Mrs Villiers: The Department for Transport has recently discussed with First Great Western the two leading options for rolling stock for the Great Western Main Line that were identified by the Secretary of State on 25 November.


13 Jan 2011 : Column 427W

South West Trains

Zac Goldsmith: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when his Department expects to complete negotiations with Stagecoach South West Trains for the delivery of additional passenger capacity and longer trains on the route to London Waterloo by 2014. [33129]

Mrs Villiers: Following the announcement by the Secretary of State for Transport on 25 November 2010 that additional carriages would be provided into Waterloo, the Department for Transport has recommenced discussions with Stagecoach South Western Trains. As these are commercial negotiations it is not possible to give a firm completion date at this stage. However, we are seeking to reach a commercial agreement in 2011 with Stagecoach South Western Trains, which provides value for money and affordability to the tax payer and will deliver additional carriages by 2014.

Transport: Standards

Mr Leech: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what methods other than cost-benefit ratios his Department uses to appraise and rank transport projects; [31478]

(2) what weight his Department proposes to give in appraising and ranking transport projects to the assessment of effects on (a) physical activity and obesity, (b) journey-time reliability, (c) gross value added to the economy, (d) carbon dioxide emissions and (e) time savings by users; [31479]

(3) whether the proposed changes to appraisal methodology for transport projects will include (a) an assessment of the size and distribution of time savings to users and (b) consideration of the effects on the level of carbon dioxide emissions. [31480]

Norman Baker: The Department for Transport's approach to appraising proposed transport schemes involves identifying a wide range of economic, environmental, and social impacts. An overview is available at:

Benefit-cost ratios (BCRs), after adjustment for non-monetised impacts, are used to inform the economic case through a value for money assessment. Scheme decisions are taken on the strength of their overall business case, of which the economic case is one part.

The impacts of a scheme on: physical activity and obesity; journey time reliability; carbon dioxide emissions; and, time savings by users are reported in the Appraisal Summary Table (AST). Impacts on GVA are captured within these and other categories in the table.

In line with HM Treasury's Green Book appraisal guidance, wherever possible, impacts are monetised using evidence-based values. The size of each impact, and its monetary value, determine its contribution to a scheme's BCR, before it is adjusted for non-monetised impacts in the value for money assessment. However, the presentation of the impacts in the AST allows the decision maker to form their own view over each impact's relative importance, when considering the overall business case.


13 Jan 2011 : Column 428W

Last year, the Department for Transport issued 'in draft' scheme appraisal guidance requiring scheme promoters to report how benefits from travel time changes break down into time bands, one of which is zero to two minutes per trip. The guidance is available at:

At the same time, the Department for Transport also published updated 'in-draft' guidance to reflect the current carbon prices that were based on the then current guidance from the Department for Energy and Climate Change. These carbon prices are provided in Table 2a of the 'In Draft' 'Greenhouse Gases Sub-Objective' guidance available at:

These 'in draft' carbon prices were used for the appraisal of schemes during the spending review, to ensure decisions were informed by the most up-to-date values of carbon impacts.

The Department for Transport's Business Plan for 2011-15 states it will reform the way transport projects are assessed, and funding prioritisation decisions are made, so that the benefits of low carbon proposals are fully recognised. This includes reviewing and revising its guidance on appraising transport projects, as well as its processes for assessing schemes and supporting ministerial decisions. We aim to announce the scope and timetable of this review shortly.

Work and Pensions

Attendance Allowance

Mike Weatherley: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will bring forward proposals for the introduction of a mobility component for claimants of attendance allowance. [32991]

Maria Miller: We have no plans to amend the entitlement conditions for attendance allowance to introduce a mobility component. It is normal for pensions and benefit schemes to contain different provisions for people at different stages of their lives. Disability living allowance which has a mobility component is intended to focus additional help with the extra cost of disability on people who have the very considerable disadvantage of being severely disabled earlier in life and who as a consequence have less opportunity to work, earn and save compared to non-disabled people.

Attendance allowance provides help with the disability-related extra costs of people who experience the onset of disability after age 65. Based on the need for personal care, this help is part of the wide range of support that the Government make available to older people so that they can have a decent and secure income in retirement.

Disability Living Allowance

Mr Bain: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the compatibility with the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights of his proposed reforms to disability living allowance. [33456]


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Maria Miller: We believe that our DLA reform proposals are compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The coalition Government published a public consultation on disability living allowance reform on 6 December 2010. The closing date of the consultation is 14 February 2011 and we will consider the responses we receive as part of our response to the consultation.

Consideration was given to the equality impacts of our reforms as we developed the consultation document.

An equality impact assessment of our proposals will be published with our proposed legislation, and will be updated as we develop more detail of how our reforms will work in practice.

Members: Correspondence

Mr Winnick: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he plans to reply to the letter of 9 December 2010 from the hon. Member for Walsall North on a constituent, which was transferred to his Department from HM Treasury. [33461]

Chris Grayling: A reply was sent to the hon. Member on 11 January 2011.

Pensioners: Means-tested Benefits

Rachel Reeves: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will estimate the number of pensioners that would be lifted out of poverty if take-up of means-tested benefits was 100%; and if he will make a statement. [33325]

Steve Webb: Our latest estimates show that if there were 100% take-up of all means tested benefits (pension credit, housing benefit and council tax benefit) by pensioners entitled to them, the number of pensioners below 60% of contemporary median income, after housing costs, would fall by around 600,000, based on 2009-10 benefit rates.

We want to ensure that older people receive the help that they are entitled to and we are conducting a research study into the feasibility of using existing data to help to improve the take-up of pension credit.

The Pension Disability and Carers Service (PDCS) continues to work closely with local organisations to encourage and support people to take up the benefits they are entitled to. It will continue to work with local partners to reach particularly vulnerable customers who are not aware of their full entitlements, helping these customers complete application forms for the range of benefits during the one visit.

Social Security Benefits: Appeals

Mr Frank Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the reasons are for the time taken in listing Mr John McGlone's appeal against loss of benefit; and when he expects the case to be listed. [33295]

Maria Miller: The administration of Jobcentre Plus is a matter for the chief executive of Jobcentre Plus, Darra Singh. I have asked him to provide the right hon. Member with the information requested.


13 Jan 2011 : Column 430W

Letter from Darra Singh:

Business, Innovation and Skills

Consumer Direct

10. George Eustice: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent discussions Ministers in his Department have had with the Citizens Advice Bureau on the future management of Consumer Direct. [33237]

Mr Davey: I met the chief executive of Citizens Advice, on 29 September 2010 where the future of Consumer Direct was discussed along with the other functions that Government are planning to transfer to them. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills also met Gillian Guy on 4 November.

SMEs: Access to Finance

19. Mr Gyimah: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what steps he plans to take to ensure that small and medium-sized enterprises are able to gain access to finance. [33250]

Mr Prisk: We are currently in discussions with the banks seeking an agreement for them to lend verifiably more than they were planning to viable businesses-especially SMEs.

We want more competition in business banking which is why we have set up the Independent Banking Commission.

And we are supporting alternatives to bank lending such as the equity based enterprise capital funds.

Regional Growth Fund

Karl Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what assistance he expects small and medium-sized businesses to receive from the regional growth fund in the next 12 months. [33231]

Mr Prisk: The regional growth fund is a challenge fund, in which competitive bids are judged on merit. However, the fund has been designed to be accessible to a wide range of bidders and that includes small and medium sized businesses.

Employment Tribunals Service

Julian Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what consideration he has given to steps to avoid spurious claims being taken to the Employment Tribunal Service. [33533]


13 Jan 2011 : Column 431W

Mr Davey: As part of the review of employment laws, the Government are considering call for changes to the employment tribunal system and will be making announcements in this area shortly.

Forensic Science: Graduates

Michael Fallon: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills how many people completed degrees in forensic science in each year since 2005. [33328]

Mr Willetts: The latest information from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) is shown in the table. Figures are shown for forensic and archaeological science. This combined classification captures all forensic science courses, whether taught as a single subject or in combination with archaeological science. Figures for the 2009/10 academic year will be available from 13 January.

Forensic and archaeological science first degree graduates( 1) -UK higher education institutions, academic years 2004/05 to 2008/09
Academic year Qualifiers

2004/05

745

2005/06

1,195

2006/07

1,445

2007/08

1,640

2008/09

1,710

(1) Covers qualifiers from both full-time and part-time first degree courses and qualifiers of all domiciles.
Note:
Figures are based on a HESA qualifications obtained population and have been rounded to the nearest five.
Source:
Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

Higher Education: Admissions

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills how many students from Coventry local authority area entered each higher education institution in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. [33034]

Mr Willetts: The latest available information from the Higher Education Statistics Agency on the numbers of entrants from Coventry local authority to higher education courses at UK higher education institutions can be found in the Libraries of the House. Figures for the 2009/10 academic year will become available from 13 January 2011. Comparable local authority level information for entrants to higher education courses at further education colleges is not available. These figures have been calculated using a new methodology based on updated postcode information and are, therefore, not comparable with local authority and constituency-level data which may have been published previously.

Innovation

Joan Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what sites he is considering as locations for technology innovation centres; and when he expects such centres to be established. [33088]


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Mr Willetts: I refer the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North to the answers given by my hon. Friend, the Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning (Mr Hayes) to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah) on 15 November 2010, Official Report, column reference 643W, and on 16 November 2010, Official Report, column reference 745W.

The Technology Strategy Board has recently published a prospectus to begin the process of establishing the centres. The prospectus identifies potential candidate technology areas for centres and notes that the Technology Strategy Board is seeking to establish the first centre in high value manufacturing. After consultations a decision will be taken on the establishment of this first centre in March 2011. Future centres will be established in two phases, with the first phase starting in 2011/2012 and the second during 2012/2013.

Rupert Murdoch

Paul Farrelly: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what meetings (a) he, (b) Ministers and (c) officials in his Department have had with (i) Rupert Murdoch, (ii) James Murdoch, (iii) Rebekah Wade, (iv) individuals representing News International, (v) individuals representing News Corporation and (vi) individuals representing BSkyB since 4 November 2010. [32213]

Mr Vaizey: [holding answer 21 December 2010]: I have been asked to reply in my role as Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries.

There has not been direct ministerial level meetings with any member or representative of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

On 3 December, two individuals from BSkyB attended an official level discussion at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) on proposed changes to Ofcom's appeals regime. On 4 November, an individual from BSkyB attended my roundtable on digital content along with several other ISPs. Again on 17 December two individuals from BSkyB attended an official level discussion at BIS on the Government's Growth Review programme.

Students: Finance

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what estimate he has made of the administrative costs of (a) annual uprating and (b) five-yearly uprating of the earnings threshold for graduate repayments of student loans; and if he will make a statement. [32599]

Mr Willetts: High level indicative costs for proposed higher education reforms are included in an interim impact assessment, which has been published and is available on BIS's website at:

More detailed costs are currently being assessed, however, the Student Loans Company and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, who administer income contingent repayments of student loans, have indicated that the
13 Jan 2011 : Column 433W
cost of uprating the earnings thresholds for graduate repayments of student loans both on an annual and five-yearly basis are not expected to be significant, and relate mainly to the updating of the relevant information, advice and guidance for employers and graduates.

These costs will be incurred more regularly by uprating annually but this approach is fairer to graduates and is an important element of a progressive system of repayments of student loans.

Communities and Local Government

Affordable Housing: Construction

Jeremy Lefroy: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many social housing units have been built in (a) Stafford
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constituency and (b) Staffordshire in each year since 1997; and how many social housing units his Department estimates will be built in each such area in each of the next two years. [32837]

Andrew Stunell: The available information, showing the number of new build affordable homes delivered for each local authority district in Staffordshire, is provided in the table. This information is not collected by parliamentary constituency.

Not all affordable housing is provided through new build completions as supply can also come from the acquisition and refurbishment of private sector homes. In 2009-10, for example, a total of 790 affordable homes were provided in Staffordshire through new building, acquisition and refurbishment.

The Department does not forecast levels of future house building as delivery will be determined by local housing plans.

New build affordable homes supplied by local authority district in Staffordshire

Cannock Chase East Staffordshire Lichfield Newcastle-under-Lyme South Staffordshire Stafford Staffordshire Moorlands Tamworth Total

1997-98

60

70

20

50

40

*

20

10

270

1998-99

20

40

60

20

60

10

10

80

290

1999-2000

20

20

60

60

70

10

40

40

320

2000-01

70

*

30

10

60

100

*

110

390

2001-02

30

10

90

20

20

30

10

40

240

2002-03

10

20

90

10

20

30

10

40

230

2003-04

*

10

150

20

10

130

30

10

350

2004-05

60

30

100

20

10

260

60

90

630

2005-06

40

30

120

10

20

120

20

*

350

2006-07

40

90

10

*

10

50

*

10

220

2007-08

90

60

90

*

40

70

10

20

390

2008-09

60

20

50

80

90

60

*

*

370

2009-10

110

90

170

80

70

40

20

90

670

"*" indicates less than 5.
Note:
Figures rounded to nearest 10 homes therefore the county total shown may differ from the sum of the districts.
Source:
Homes and Communities Agency; Local authorities

Bus Services: Concessions

Neil Parish: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government for what reasons Devon county council received 42 per cent. less in formula grant for concessionary travel for 2011-12 than it did for 2010-11; and if he will make a statement. [33854]

Robert Neill: Formula grant is an unhypothecated block grant ie authorities are free to spend it on any service. For this reason, and due to the method of calculating formula grant, particularly floor damping, it is not possible to say how much grant has been provided for any particular service, including concessionary travel.

Coalfields Regeneration Review

Joan Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment he has made of the findings and recommendations of the Coalfields Regeneration Review Board; what recent assessment he has made of the performance of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust; what funding for coalfield regeneration he plans to allocate to the North Staffordshire Coalfield area in 2011-12; and if he will make a statement. [33086]

Andrew Stunell: Government are considering the findings and recommendations made in the Coalfields Regeneration Review Report, and aim to respond formally to the report shortly.

A full copy of the report is available on the Communities and Local Government website at:

We are currently considering detailed business cases for all programmes, before decisions are made on priorities following the spending review settlement for the Department. This includes a comprehensive business case for the continuation of dedicated funding for coalfields areas, which includes evidence on the performance of the Coalfields Regeneration Trust.


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We are due to finalise priorities shortly, and will make an announcement about funding for the Coalfields Regeneration Trust as part of this.

As I indicated in the adjournment debate on 26 October 2010, we intend to provide the support needed to enable the contractually committed, physical regeneration projects in the Homes and Communities Agency national coalfields programme to come to fruition. Based on current forecasts, the Homes and Communities Agency plans to spend £750,000 on committed Coalfields projects in the North Staffordshire Coalfield area in 2011-12. In addition, funding is available to support the growth of businesses and encourage entrepreneurship in Coalfields areas through the Coalfields Enterprise Funds.

Community Development: Finance

Mr Blunkett: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 19 November 2010, Official Report, columns 972-3W, on community development: finance, what progress has been made on assisting the completion of existing commitments which have already received approval under the Community Builders Programme but cannot in practice be completed by 31 March 2011. [29163]

Andrew Stunell [holding answer 7 December 2010]: Communitybuilders is a £70 million investment fund which provides loans and grants to improve the sustainability of neighbourhood community-led organisations. The programme is being delivered by a consortium led by the Adventure Capital Fund which is responsible for day-to-day operation of the Fund and for individual investment decisions. The Adventure Capital Fund provides support and regularly reviews progress individually with organisations who have received an offer from the Communitybuilders Programme.

We have been considering options to maximise the flexibility of the fund and secure the best value for money. We are actively considering an endowment approach. This will first involve resolving any legal and procurement issues. Consultations will then begin with the Adventure Capital Fund.

Departmental Christmas Cards

Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much his Department has spent on Christmas cards sent by Ministers in his Department in 2010. [32087]

Robert Neill: In 2009, the Department spent £2,855 of taxpayers' money on Christmas cards. In December 2010 the departmental Christmas card was produced at no cost to the taxpayer and was sent electronically. Recognising the need to look after the vulnerable at this time of year, we also supported the homeless charity Shelter in the card.

Fire Services: East of England

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government who owns the proposed East of England Regional Fire Control Centre; what his Department's contractual obligations
13 Jan 2011 : Column 436W
are with respect to the building; what plans he has for the future of that building; and if he will make a statement. [32800]

Robert Neill: The East of England building is owned by Control Centre Partnerships Ltd. The Department is responsible for paying the rent and estate charges, and for maintaining the building in accordance with the lease.

Over the next few weeks we intend to identify the legacy assets from the project that can be used for the benefit of Fire and Rescue Services and local communities in the future. As part of this, the Department will be talking to representatives of all Fire and Rescue Authorities about the future use of the control centre buildings.

On 13 December 2010, Official Report, columns 64-65WS, a written ministerial statement which launches a consultation on the future of control services in England and will be engaging the fire and rescue sector was made and is available in the Library of the House.

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the estimated cost of completion was of the East of England Regional Fire Control Centre (a) at the commencement of the project and (b) in the latest period for which figures are available; and how much his Department has spent on that project to date. [32801]

Robert Neill: The cost of construction and installation of the control centres was borne by the developers as the buildings were procured through a private developer scheme. The Department is responsible for paying the rent and estate charges, and for maintaining the building in accordance with the lease. The estimated accumulated total in rent and running costs payable by the Department for the East of England Control Centre to the end of December 2010 is £3.6 million.

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the planned date for the opening of the East of England Regional Fire Control Centre was (a) at the commencement of the project and (b) prior to his announcement not to proceed with the project. [32802]

Robert Neill: The first published date for when calls were expected to be taken at the East of England Control Centre was October 2011. At the time of the December 2010 announcement the published date was November 2011.

Fire Services: Essex

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will provide the finance to enable Essex Fire and Rescue Service to transfer its control centre from its former headquarters to its current headquarters. [32799]

Robert Neill: Essex Fire and Rescue Authority, like all fire and rescue authorities, already receives funding that enables it to fulfil its statutory duties including provision of a control service.


13 Jan 2011 : Column 437W

Housing Benefit

Alison Seabeck: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in how many and which broad rental market areas is 80 per cent. of the market rent, as assessed by his Department, in excess of the proposed housing benefit cap. [29229]

Grant Shapps: As set out in my written ministerial statement published on 9 December 2010, Official Report, columns 31-34WS, our new delivery model for affordable housing will offer housing associations flexibility to charge rents higher than social rent and at a maximum of 80% of local market rents.

A housing association's calculation of the market rent would need to be based on a

residential lettings estimate for a property of the appropriate size, condition and area. Valuations should be in accordance with a RICS recognised method. We anticipate that landlords nonetheless have regard to the relevant local housing allowance cap for the broad rental market area in which the property is located and other caps on benefits which are currently being implemented such as the aggregate benefit cap. It should be noted that 80% of market rent is a maximum, not a fixed requirement. So it would be open to housing associations to offer a rent at less than 80% of market rates if that best suited local circumstances, including for example if the benefits cap limited the ability of tenants to pay the maximum level of rent in some areas.

A broad rental market area is the area used to set local housing allowance. It is an

area within which a person could reasonably be expected to live having regard to facilities and services for the purposes of health, education, recreation, personal banking and shopping, taking account of the distance of travel, by public and private transport, to and from those facilities and services. The range of rents and how they are dispersed within a broad rental market area depends on the profile of the area itself. In practice, a broad rental market area may include a diverse range of micro-markets with differing rental values, all influenced by the access to facilities and services but equally influenced by very local factors.

There are 152 broad rental market areas in England and each broad rental market

area typically contains three to four local authorities. Information on median rents as at December 2010 for broad rental market areas in England is published by the Valuation Office Agency and is available from the following link. The median represents the "average" rent but in practice there will be variation in rent levels within broad rental market areas.

The above link also contains information on what the proposed lower local housing allowance rates would be if based on the 30th percentile of rents as at December 2010 and taking into account the new upper limits for each property size.

Given broad rental market areas are so large in size, the median rental figures will mask a very significant variation in rents. Even within a local authority area, market rents will vary street by street, ward by ward. The median, by definition, represents the statistical
13 Jan 2011 : Column 438W
mid-point across a range of figures, both low and high. In this context it is potentially misleading to make assumptions about the availability of private rented properties, the implications of the upper limits on local housing allowance rates, and the scope for housing associations to charge 80% of market rents based on broad market rental area data covering such wide areas.

Housing Revenue Accounts

Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government with reference to the answer to the former hon. Member for Swindon South of 30 April 2007, Official Report, columns 1518-9W, on housing revenue accounts, what the (a) amounts distributed to authorities in deficit, (b) amounts contributed by authorities in surplus and (c) net expenditure by the Exchequer were in (i) 2006-07, (ii) 2007-08, (iii) 2008-09 and (iv) 2009-10. [32636]

Andrew Stunell: The overall surpluses, deficits and the net Housing Revenue Account Subsidy position, are given in the following table:

Housing revenue account subsidy 2006-07 to 2009-10
£

2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10

Total surpluses (receipts)

-590,725,464

-613,702,090

-765,932,668

-687,317,344

Total deficits (payments)

720,697,416

668,246,757

500,222,937

574,134,156

Net HRA Subsidy

129,971,952

54,544,667

-265,709,731

-113,183,188

Note:
All assumed surpluses are captured and transferred to the Exchequer. Payments to authorities in deficit are not dependent on the amounts received from those in surplus.

Measures have been published in the Localism Bill to reform the HRA finance regime and replace housing revenue account subsidy with a system of self-financing for local housing authorities.

Private and Social Rented Housing: Rents

Caroline Flint: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what estimate he has made of the average weekly rent in the private rented sector in each region in the latest period for which figures are available; [31492]

(2) what estimate he has made of the average weekly registered social landlord rent in each region in the latest period for which figures are available; [31493]

(3) what estimate he has made of the annual change in average registered social landlord weekly rent in each region in each of the last 10 years; [31494]

(4) what the annual change in average weekly rents in the private rented sector was in (a) the North East, (b) the North West, (c) Yorkshire and the Humber, (d) the East Midlands, (e) the West Midlands, (f) the East, (g) London, (h) the South East and (i) the South West in each of the last 10 years; [31676]

(5) what the annual change in average local authority weekly rent has been in (a) the North East, (b) the North West, (c) Yorkshire and the Humber, (d) the
13 Jan 2011 : Column 439W
East Midlands, (e) the West Midlands, (f) the East, (g) London, (h) the South East and (i) the South West in each of the last 10 years; [31677]

(6) what the average local authority weekly rent is in (a) the North East, (b) the North West, (c) Yorkshire and the Humber, (d) the East Midlands, (e) the West Midlands, (f) the East, (g) London, (h) the South East and (i) the South West. [31678]

Grant Shapps: The Survey of English Housing provides information on regional level market rents for privately-owned properties. The results are based on a two year average due to sample size issues. The most recent regional level estimates are an average for 2006-07 and 2007-08, available from:


13 Jan 2011 : Column 440W
Average weekly rent in the private rented sector

2006-07 and 2007-08 combined (£ per week)

North East

96

North West

95

Yorkshire and the Humber

89

East Midlands

97

West Midlands

102

East

126

London

208

South East

145

South West

117

Source:
Survey of English Housing

The annual percentage change in average weekly rents in the private rented sector in each of the last 10 years was as follows:

Percentage
Combined

1997-98 and 1998-99 1998-99 and 1999-2000 1999-2000 and 2000-01 2000-01 and 2001-02 2001-02 and 2002-03 2002-03 and 2003-04 2003-04 and 2004-05 2004-05 and 2005-06 2005-06 and 2006-07 2006-07 and 2007-08

North East

-2

-6

7

17

3

1

4

-1

12

16

North West

4

14

0

1

3

2

3

3

6

4

Yorkshire and the Humber

0

6

0

4

10

8

7

-4

-4

13

East Midlands

14

0

-8

16

10

2

2

4

5

4

West Midlands

-8

0

13

8

4

4

0

4

7

7

East

1

1

8

5

2

7

11

8

3

0

London

6

5

2

9

14

1

-6

3

6

7

South East

4

1

7

10

13

0

-4

4

4

2

South West

7

5

2

9

4

1

6

5

5

2

Source:
Survey of English Housing, percentage change reflect change on previous year

Information on average weekly rents for registered social landlord dwelling units are available for general needs self-contained units owned and/or managed by registered social landlords. Information is collected on the Regulatory and Statistical Return (RSR) survey by the Tenants Services Authority. The average weekly rent as at 31 March each year from 1997 to 2010 in each region is published on the Department for Communities and Local Government website in Table 703. The link for this table is as follows:

Average weekly rents for local authority dwelling units are collected from Housing Revenue Account subsidy forms. The average weekly rent as at 31 March each year from 1998-99 to 2010-11 in each statistical region is published on the Department for Communities and Local Government website in Table 701. The link for this table is as follows:

The following tables show the annual change in average local authority and registered social landlord weekly rent.


13 Jan 2011 : Column 441W

13 Jan 2011 : Column 442W
Annual percentage changes in registered social landlord average weekly rents, by statistical region
Percentage
At 31 March:

2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10

North East

2.4

1.5

2.4

3.1

5.5

5.7

2.7

4.2

5.8

5.7

North West

1.4

5.8

1.9

3.4

5.8

3.6

4.4

4.6

4.6

5.9

Yorkshire and the Humber

-1.4

3.7

-0.4

2.8

1.3

5.5

1.7

5.9

6.9

5.3

East Midlands

1.8

1.2

2.4

2.7

6.6

5.3

4.2

4.5

4.7

6.6

West Midlands

-0.1

4.7

1.8

3.2

5.9

4.8

4.3

5.9

5.5

6.4

East

2.7

3.1

2.6

2.6

5.0

4.1

4.0

5.0

5.5

6.5

London

2.2

4.2

3.4

3.5

6.9

4.6

4.5

5.0

5.5

6.3

South East

2.1

4.0

2.6

2.0

7.0

4.7

3.6

4.2

4.9

5.8

South West

1.9

4.2

2.7

2.3

6.3

4.1

3.4

5.0

4.7

3.2

Notes:
1. Data are collected by the Tenant Services Authority via the annual Regulatory and Statistical Return based on general needs stock only.
2. Figures are based on only the larger registered social landlords completing the long form. Up until 2006 the threshold for completing the long form was that the registered social landlord owned/managed at least 250 units/bedspaces. From 2007 this increased to 1,000 units/bedspaces.
3. Averages are calculated for self-contained units only.

Annual percentage changes in local authority average weekly rents by statistical region, England
Percentage

2001-02 to 2002-03 2002-03 to 2003-04 2003-04 to 2004-05 2004-05 to 2005-06 2005-06 to 2006-07 2006-07 to 2007-08 2007-08 to 2008-09 2008-09 to 2009-10 2009-10 to 2010-11( 1)

North East

2.7

1.2

3.5

4.8

5.0

6.8

4.0

2.9

3.3

North West

3.7

1.5

1.6

3.6

3.7

5.5

3.8

2.8

2.3

Yorkshire and the Humber

5.7

1.9

4.0

4.2

4.9

7.2

4.1

3.3

2.3

East Midlands

5.3

1.8

3.4

5.1

4.4

6.5

4.4

2.6

2.6

West Midlands

4.5

1.6

3.9

4.7

4.9

5.9

3.9

3.2

2.9

East

3.9

1.2

4.7

4.9

4.4

7.6

3.2

1.9

2.0

London

3.7

0.7

2.3

4.5

4.6

5.5

3.8

3.4

1.2

South East

4.4

2.2

3.2

3.7

3.8

6.1

4.3

3.0

1.6

South West

3.6

0.7

3.2

3.1

3.9

5.9

4.2

3.8

1.8

(1) Provisional.
Notes:
1 Rents data are based on the financial year. Stock figures used to estimate the average for each region are taken at 1 April of the following financial year.
2. Average rents data for between 2003-04 and 2007-08 inclusively are estimated using total stock figures from Housing Revenue Account audited base claim form. Before 2003-04 the average rents data are estimated using total stock figures from the Housing Revenue Account second subsidy claim form.
3. Some local authorities may have supplied net rents excluding service charges from 2003-04 onwards Prior to 2003-04 some local authorities may have been including service charges in their rent figures.

Defence

Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the cost to the public purse was of the use of chartered aircraft to transport service personnel from Afghanistan to the UK in each of the last two months. [33441]

Peter Luff: The Ministry of Defence (MOD) charters aircraft to move personnel to and from the middle east. Personnel are then transported to Afghanistan on military transport, usually C17 or occasionally CI30 aircraft. Chartered aircraft do not fly to Afghanistan for force protection reasons.

The estimated cost of chartering aircraft to transport service personnel to and from the middle east for onward transmission by RAF flights to and from Afghanistan was around £3.4 million for November 2010, and around £1.9 million for December 2010. As we charter the aircraft on a return flight basis, it is not possible to cost just the return half.

The figures are inclusive of aviation fuel, duties and taxes and represent our best estimates of costs, as the vast majority of final invoices have yet to be presented.

Costs for flights for operations are borne by the contingency fund and not the MOD budget.

Armed Forces: Private Education

Thomas Docherty: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Edinburgh West of 10 November 2010, Official Report, column 391W, on the armed forces: private education, what proportion of serving service personnel in receipt of the continuity of education allowance are serving overseas; [33322]

(2) to how many schools his Department pays school fees for serving personnel; what the name and location of each is; and how much was paid to each in the latest period for which figures are available. [33451]

Nick Harvey: The purpose of continuity of education allowance is to allow the children of service personnel to achieve a stable education against a background of parental postings both at home, and overseas.

As at autumn term 2010, 15% of service personnel in receipt of continuity of education allowance were serving overseas.

Accurate details broken down according to specific educational establishments are not held.

Defence: Procurement

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he plans to provide a redacted copy of the contract for the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft
13 Jan 2011 : Column 443W
Carrier Project and the BAE System Surface Ships Terms of Business Agreement for consideration by the Committee of Public Accounts; and if he will make a statement. [33035]

Peter Luff: Redacted copies of the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carrier contracts and the BAE Systems Surface Ships Terms of Business Agreement have been provided to the House of Commons Liaison Committee, Treasury Committee and the Public Accounts Committee.

These documents are already in the public domain and on the Ministry of Defence (MOD) website through publication of the MOD's Freedom of Information Disclosure Log, available at:

Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what contingency plans his Department has put in place to maintain airbridges in the case of the A330 Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft not being delivered on time. [33444]

Peter Luff: The Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) Programme is on schedule with the first two A330 aircraft converted to the tanking role. These aircraft have begun flight trials and their certification and qualification flight programme. The new facilities being provided by AirTanker are ahead of schedule in readiness for the delivery of the first aircraft in late 2011.

In the unlikely event of a delay to FSTA delivery, we would plan to extend the use of existing assets or else make greater use of civil charter.

Met Office

Chris Heaton-Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the Met Office has received representations on the quality of its advice from customers who subscribe to its services in the last 12 months. [33050]

Mr Robathan: The Met Office both seeks feedback from its customers and users, and receives unprompted comments and representations. Overall the feedback the Met Office receives is significantly more positive than otherwise.

During the recent cold spell positive feedback has been received from both paying customers like the aviation industry who found Met Office forecasts accurate and helpful, and similarly from the public, who found the severe weather warnings both useful and accurate. Nine out of 10 people said they found the Met Office's severe weather warnings useful.

Chris Heaton-Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what forecasts for the winter of 2010 the Met Office sent to Government Departments and local authorities for planning purposes in September and October 2010. [33131]

Mr Robathan: The Met Office provides the Government with rolling three month long range forecasts on a monthly basis for planning purposes, each updating the
13 Jan 2011 : Column 444W
previous one. Additionally, for the public, the Met Office provides short range forecasts out to five days ahead, as well as forecasts for six to 15 days and 16 to 30 days ahead. This winter, the Met Office's 30 day forecasts accurately highlighted the cold weather in late November and through December and its day to day forecasts and warnings have been widely recognised as providing consistently good advice through the exceptionally cold weather, both to the public and emergency responders.

Military Aircraft

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the availability rate was of each TriStar aircraft in each of the last 12 months. [33442]

Nick Harvey: The available information is shown in the following table. The figures represent the average number of airframes from each TriStar variant available in the forward fleet during each month of 2010. The forward fleet comprises aircraft which are serviceable and those which are short-term unserviceable.

Tri S tar forward fleet

C2 KC1 K1

January

2

2.9

0

February

1.9

2.5

0

March

1.9

2.9

0.5

April

2

3.3

1

May

1

3.8

0.7

June

1

3.8

0.9

July

0.8

3.9

1

August

1

4

1

September

1

4

1

October

1

4

0

November

1.4

2.8

0.7

December

1.6

2.3

1


I will write to the hon. Member shortly.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects the grounding of the TriStar fleet to be lifted; and what assessment he has made of the effect of the grounding of the TriStar fleet on air-to-air refuelling operations. [33443]

Peter Luff: The TriStar fleet has not been grounded. Flying was temporarily suspended on 17 December 2010 in order to enable engineering checks to be undertaken following the identification of a technical issue with the fleet. Following engineering checks, the first TriStar returned to service on 23 December 2010 and, subject to any rectification work, aircraft continue to return to service. As a result of these engineering checks three programmed air to air refuelling sorties were cancelled between 17 and 31 December 2010.

Nimrod Aircraft

Mr Tom Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the cost to his Department of cancelling production of the Nimrod MRA4; and what penalties his Department will incur as a result of such cancellation. [33008]

Peter Luff: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 28 October 2010, Official Report, column 450W, to the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones).


13 Jan 2011 : Column 445W

Mr Tom Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his policy is on the future production of the Nimrod MRA4 for commercial sale; and if he will make a statement. [33009]

Peter Luff: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 30 November 2010, Official Report, columns 748-49W, to the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon).

RAF Kinloss

Mr Tom Harris: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the (a) redundancy, (b) resettlement and (c) other costs to his Department in the five-year period following the closure of RAF Kinloss consequent upon that closure. [33010]

Jonathan Reynolds: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence under what budget headings the proposed cost savings of the decision to cancel the Nimrod MRA4 programme will be made. [33074]

Nick Harvey: The Ministry of Defence (MOD) made estimates of the costs and savings accrued from measures in the strategic defence and security review for the purposes of formulating policy. It is estimated that not bringing Nimrod MRA4 into service and the RAF vacating Kinloss will save around £2 billion over the next 10 years. Release of further detail may prejudice commercial interests. Furthermore, final savings figures will depend on detailed implementation, which will generally be subject to full consultation with all relevant parties, including the trades unions and the devolved Administrations, as well as the results of mandatory assessments on the impact that the measures will have on sustainability, equality and diversity and health and safety. The MOD is therefore not able to release more detailed figures at this time.

Rescue Services

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to take a decision on signing the search and rescue harmonisation contract with Soteria. [33463]

Peter Luff: I refer the hon. Member to the written statement made by the Secretary of State for Transport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond) on 16 December 2010, Official Report, column 133WS.

Strategic Defence and Security Review

Mr Russell Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much his Department spent on external consultants as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review. [31463]

Dr Fox [holding answer 20 December 2010]: The Ministry of Defence spent around £75,000 on external consultants as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review, principally in support of the development of costing models.

The Department also incurred expenditure on external assistance and technical consultancy for the Trident value for money review as set out in the answer I gave on 11 November 2010, Official Report, column 449W,
13 Jan 2011 : Column 446W
to the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) and the right hon. Member for Coventry North East (Mr Ainsworth).

Education

CAFCASS: Finance

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education what assessment he has made of the likely effects on service delivery in 2011-12 of changes in the budget of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. [30717]

Tim Loughton: I have discussed with the chief executive of CAFCASS his plans to continue to deliver a service within the available budget. Officials in the Department have worked closely with their counterparts in CAFCASS to ensure that plans are realistic, deliverable and that they enable CAFCASS to meet its statutory duties.

The additional £10 million invested by the Department in CAFCASS in the current financial year has enabled it to develop more streamlined and efficient working practices; I am confident that, as a result, the organisation is better placed to meet the challenges of the current financial climate.

Children's Centres

Bill Esterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Education in respect of how many Sure Start centres each local authority has announced its plans for (a) closure and (b) termination of development at phase (i) three and (ii) four. [26332]

Sarah Teather [holding answer 25 November 2010]: Children's centres are at the heart of the Government's vision for supporting families with young children and intervening early to prevent problems from becoming crises. That is why the recent spending review announced that there is funding available to maintain the current network of children's centres.

The Department for Education does not collect data on local authority plans for closure or termination of development of children's centres. However local authorities have duties under the Childcare Act 2006 to consult before opening, closing or significantly changing Sure Start children's centres and to secure sufficient children's centres provision to meet local need.

Departmental Written Questions

Ian Austin: To ask the Secretary of State for Education how many written questions tabled for answer on a named day each Minister in his Department has answered since 11 May 2010. [29706]

Tim Loughton [holding answer 9 December 2010]: The information requested is in the following table:

Minister Named day questions answered since 11 May 2010

Nick Gibb

323

Sarah Teather

57

Tim Loughton

63

Total

443


13 Jan 2011 : Column 447W

Disabled Students' Allowances

Henry Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Education if he will review the time taken to process claims for disabled students' allowances. [32637]

Mr Willetts: I have been asked to reply.

The application process for disabled students' allowances (DSAs) has several stages involving a number of parties. On receipt of a DSA application form, the Student Loans Company (SLC) will assess the student's eligibility for DSAs and, if the student is eligible, authorise an assessment of their course-related needs at an independent assessment centre. On receipt of a report from the assessment centre, the SLC will write to the student telling them what equipment and other support can be paid for from the DSAs.

This Department has provided the SLC with additional resources to speed up the processing of DSA applications for the academic year (AY) 2010/11 and set shorter target times for completing the two stages of the process for which it is responsible. Last year (AY 2009/10) the SLC's target was to assess eligibility within 15 working days of receipt of the DSA application form and decide what support can be paid for from the DSAs within 15 working days of receipt of the needs assessment report, for 95% of applications. This year (2010/11) the SLC is required to complete each of these stages within 10 working days, in 95% of cases. In November 2010, the latest month for which there is complete data, the SLC was achieving the target level for 94.3% of applications for the first stage and 87.5% of applications for the second stage.

In consultation with stakeholders-through a stakeholder forum which includes representatives from a range of disability organisations as well as higher education institutions and needs assessment centres-SLC has streamlined its processes for dealing with DSA applications, including:

These measures have contributed to improved processing times for the overall process from receipt of the application to payment. We recognise that there is still more to do and the SLC continues to work with partners and stakeholders to improve the service for disabled students.


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