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Planning

Lord Hanningfield asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): Detailed housing targets are not directly set by government, but are set out in regional and local plans which are developed through regional and local planning processes.

The Government set the overall strategy for housing supply in England. The housing Green Paper, Homes for the Future: More Affordable, More Sustainable (Cm 7191), published in July 2007, set out a target to increase housing supply to 240,000 additional homes per annum by 2016.



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In 2006-07 199,200 additional homes were delivered. Finalised figures for net additional homes in 2007-08 will be published in early 2009.

The Government do not publish forecasts for private housebuilding. Housing starts in 2007-08 were 10 per cent lower than in 2006-07 and this is likely to be reflected in lower levels of housing completions during 2008-09.

Planning: Inquiries

Lord Burnett asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The number of planning appeals, made to the Planning Inspectorate, that were waiting to be heard at a public inquiry on 29 October 2007 were 514 and the number that were waiting to be heard at a public inquiry on 29 October 2008 were 448.

Based on planning appeals received by the inspectorate for the first half of the financial year 2008-09, the current average time between the appeal being received and the public inquiry being opened, or a date for the inquiry being arranged, was 26 weeks.

Planning: Websites

Baroness Hamwee asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): This is an issue on which the Killian Pretty review of the planning application process has sought views (in its Call for Solutions paper published in June 2008). The Government will consider the issue further after the Killian Pretty review has reported later this year.

Police: Northern Ireland

Lord Morrow asked Her Majesty's Government:



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Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: That is an operational matter for the chief constable. I have asked him to reply directly to the noble Lord, and a copy of his letter will be placed in the Library of the House and the Official Report.

Lord Morrow asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: That is an operational matter for the chief constable. I have asked him to reply directly to the noble Lord, and a copy of his letter will be placed in the Library of the House and the Official Report.

Post Offices

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform & Cabinet Office (Baroness Vadera): Some 97 per cent of post offices are privately owned and operated so the Government can never introduce an absolute moratorium on post office closures. However the Government's funding package for the post office network, announced in May 2007, includes provision for a subsidy of up to £150 million a year to 2011 to support the social network of non-commercial offices. The Government's funding package and Post Office Ltd's business case are both based on the network, after the present Network Change programme, being sustained at around 11,500 outlets to 2011. The Government continue to view such a network as necessary to provide an appropriate level of national coverage and have no plans for a further closure programme.

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:



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Baroness Vadera: The Government's current funding package for the post office network provides for a network of around 11,500 offices to 2011.

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Vadera: The Government support Post Office Ltd's commitment to maintaining and further developing the range of public and private sector products and services offered through post offices.

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Vadera: The Government are providing, and have secured state aid clearance for, £150 million a year to support the post office network of around 11,500 outlets which will remain after the Network Change programme. There is no financial provision to provide additional funding for a network which is larger than this.

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Vadera: The Government fully recognise that the important social and economic role of post offices in the communities they serve can, according to individual circumstances, extend beyond the provision of post office services to the range of associated retail facilities which may be offered alongside post office services. Accordingly in developing its Network Change programme proposals for local consultation, Post Office Ltd has considered a range of socio-economic factors including the impact of a proposal on the local economy.

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Vadera: Royal Mail is facing significant challenges as mail volumes continue to fall due to people and businesses switching to digital media to meet their communication needs. In addition, mail volumes have historically tracked GDP so, as businesses cut their costs, the advertising market is vulnerable to a downturn leading to further volume reductions in mail.



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The Independent Review of the Postal Sector led by Richard Hooper will be reporting to Ministers later this year and will provide advice on how best to maintain the universal postal service. The review's initial response to evidence in May stated that the status quo was untenable. Ministers look forward to receiving the review's report but will not speculate on what the independent panel's recommendations might be.

Prisons: Northern Ireland

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: Measures to assist those dealing with personal debt, as well as matters relating to corporate insolvency in Northern Ireland, are the responsibility of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.

Details on proposals relating to the enforcement of fines, including those fine defaults which lead to prison sentences, are available in Fine Default in Northern Ireland—A Consultation, which was published in July this year by the Minister of State for Northern Ireland (Paul Goggins) along with the Minister of State for the Ministry of Justice (David Hanson).

The document is available from the following link at www.nio.gov.uk/fine_default_in_northern_ireland _a_consultation.pdf.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: In categorising those prisoners that are not British citizens, prisoners who have declared themselves of Irish nationality are not included, as the Belfast agreement explicitly recognises the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose and therefore it is not possible to state definitively how many prisoners have Irish nationality.

Although not required to do so, as of 23 October, 154 prisoners had self-declared themselves to be of Irish nationality. This figure includes five females and 28 male young offenders—a total of 10 per cent of the population.

Questions for Written Answer: Late Answers

Lord Jopling asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is in the process of introducing an improved system for the processing of Parliamentary Questions, which will help ensure we provide a reply within the two-week target.

A number of Answers to Parliamentary Questions have been delayed recently due to administrative error, and will be given shortly.

I apologise for the delay.

Questions for Written Answer: Unanswered Questions

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: Of the 445 Questions received by the Northern Ireland Office since 1 January, 243 have been answered within 14 days. This represents 55 per cent of the total.

These figures cover Questions tabled up to and including 15 October.

Railways: Engineering

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): There is an internal industry process for pre-planning railway engineering work. Projects are planned at least 55 weeks in advance to ensure that the travelling public have timetable information at least nine weeks before they travel. This process is monitored and enforced by the independent Office of Rail Regulation under the conditions of Network Rail's network licence.

Railways: First Great Western

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): The Department for Transport does not determine the amount of rolling stock for First Great Western (FGW) or any other train operator.



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However, the department continues to work closely with First Great Western to explore the opportunity to meet the capacity requirements set out in last year's rail White Paper commitments. The department's updated Rolling Stock Plan (published in July 2008, and available at www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/pi/rollingstock/ hlosupdatejuly08) envisages an additional 52 vehicles for the franchise.

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Adonis: The Department for Transport's Rolling Stock Plan, published in January 2008, stated that First Great Western (FGW) would receive, for regional services around Bristol, additional class 150 diesel multiple unit (DMU) vehicles cascaded from London Midland. Furthermore, it states that FGW would receive new DMU vehicles for the London suburban services.

The plan noted, however, that these plans were not prescriptive and were subject to a development process within the industry. The actual number of vehicles will be decided in negotiation with FGW. Discussions with FGW are at an early stage.

Railways: Overcrowding

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): Her Majesty's Government have not issued any recent guidance or instructions about overcrowding of railway trains.

Railways: Pacer Fleet

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): The Government are not looking to replace the Pacer fleet, which has a number of years to go before it reaches life expiry. The current emphasis is to increase the fleet on the network by 1,300 vehicles to meet capacity requirements set out in the high-level output specification rolling stock plan.



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