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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): We have received a range of representations on Elsenham and all the shortlisted locations during the consultation on Eco-town: Living a greener future, and will issue our response to the consultation with a summary of comments received in due course.
Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 19 June (WA 197) concerning the disproportionate cost of answering Written Questions, why the current level is set at £700; and when that figure was set. [HL4664]
Lord Davies of Oldham: Since 1991 the disproportionate cost threshold (DCT) has been set at eight times the average marginal cost of answering Written Parliamentary Questions, marginal cost being taken as the direct cost of civil servants' time. Average marginal cost is based on a one-month sample of all Written parliamentary Questions answered by those departments with the highest volume of questions. Such samples are taken on a quinquennial basis, the next being due in 2009. In years between quinquennial samples, the Treasury applies indexation to the DCT, but only increases it in £50 steps to avoid the need for frequent small changes. The DCT has been set at £700 since the last such increase, in November 2006.
Whether they take into account unacceptable tax planning and behaviours, as set out in HM Revenue and Customs' Varney report, in determining public procurement policy; and, if not, whether they will consider how this could be done. [HL4521]
Lord Davies of Oldham: Public procurement is regulated by the Public Contracts Regulations, which implement the EU Public Procurement Directive. The regulations contain provisions that allow public authorities to seek information on bidders' tax payments and to exclude them if they have not met their obligations.
Advice has also been given to purchasing authorities that they may make it a contract condition, notified in advance when advertising the contract, that the successful bidder will be prohibited from using particular tax arrangements, including offshore tax havens, provided such a restriction would not discriminate against other bidders from the EU and other countries which have access agreements under the World Trade Organisation government procurement agreement.
In what circumstances they deport Darfuri asylum seekers to Sudan; what assessment they have made of the likely treatment of such asylum seekers by the Sudanese authorities on their return; how many have been returned in the past six months; and how many are scheduled for deportation in the near future. [HL4524]
Allegations of mistreatment of non-Arab Darfuri returnees to Sudan contained within a recent Aegis Trust report have been carefully investigated. No evidence has been found to establish that unsuccessful non-Arab Darfuri asylum seekers are at real risk of mistreatment by the Sudanese authorities in Khartoum upon their return there from the United Kingdom.
Between October 2007 and March 2008, the latest six-month period for which published figures are available, 15 Sudanese principal asylum applicants were removed to Sudan. Of these, 10 left under assisted voluntary return programmes and five were persons refused entry at port and subsequently removed (including cases dealt with at juxtaposed controls), persons departing voluntarily after enforcement action had been initiated against them and those who, it is established, have left the UK without informing the immigration authorities.
Further to the Written Answer by Lord Rooker on 4 June (WA 66), whether they are aware that the solicitors representing the Environment Agency Wales now claim that they have never been in receipt of any of Mr Gowans original documents; and whether they can explain what has happened to Mr Gowans documents and other data sent by Mr Gowan to the Environment Agency Wales between January 2006 and August 2007. [HL4479]
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): I have been informed by Environment Agency Wales that it is aware that its solicitors stated that they had not been in receipt of Mr Gowans original documents. This is not correct, and they have subsequently retracted this statement.
The original documents received from Mr Gowan were returned to him by the solicitors representing Environment Agency Wales in December 2007. All copies of those documents were destroyed on Mr Gowan's instructions.
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