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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The Government regard the disabled facilities grant programme as an important means to help disabled and older people continue to live as independently as possible by having their homes adapted. That is why we have more than doubled the government funds available for the programme from £57 million in 1997 to £146 million in 2008 with an increase of £10 million in each of the subsequent years making the budget £166 million by 2010. This represents a significant increase in the funding for this important programme.
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord McKenzie of Luton on 27 October regarding local housing allowances and disabled people needing 24-hour care, what representations they have received from the Snowdon Award Scheme; and what response they will send. [HL217]
Lord McKenzie of Luton: I have recently received a letter from the chief executive of the Snowdon Award Scheme, the contents of which is being considered. I will send a substantive reply in due course and copy it to my noble friend.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): We do not hold this information centrally. Decisions on the provision of refuge spaces are a local matter. It is the responsibility of the individual local authority to identify any gaps in service provision and put in place appropriate solutions to address this. We would expect local authorities to build services based on the needs of their communities, taking account of locally available information. We would expect refuge places to be available to all ages.
My department provides a homelessness prevention grant (approximately £200 2008-11) to local authorities and the voluntary and community sector to encourage activity to prevent homelessness. The Supporting People programme provides a significant proportion of revenue funding for housing-related support for victims of domestic violence, often delivered in refuges. In 2006-07 spend was £61.6 million, compared to £59.3 million in 2005-06.
My department also funds UKRefugesonline (UKROL), a UK-wide database of domestic violence services delivered in partnership by Women's Aid and Refuge which supports the national 24-hour free phone domestic violence helpline. It enables those working with victims of domestic violence to identify appropriate services and potential refuge vacancies around the country. UKROL produces the UK Gold Book, a guide to refuge and domestic abuse services, every two years.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the overall cost of home information packs to buyers and sellers in (a) the United Kingdom; and (b) Essex since their introduction. [HL342]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): Allowing for bids from different operating companies within recognised overall group structures, 133 organisations submitted bids to the Homes and Communities Agency to provide the HomeBuy Direct scheme.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what efforts they and the quartet's special representative are making to ensure entry into Gaza for essential sewage pipes, as requested by the United Nations Secretary-General. [HL375]
Lord Tunnicliffe: The Government regularly express our concerns about the current border restrictions in Gaza and urge the Israeli Government to improve the access for humanitarian supplies, commercial goods and people, including material to repair the sewage system in Gaza.
We also fully support the efforts of the quartet representative, Tony Blair, to negotiate with Israel on getting vital equipment and other supplies, including sewage pipes, into Gaza to repair the sewerage system. Tony Blair continues to negotiate access for these items with the Israeli authorities and last raised the issue with Israeli Defence Minister Barak on 17 December.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will give local authorities more control in the licensing of lap dancing clubs by enabling them to be licensed as sex encounter establishments through the forthcoming Policing and Crime Reduction Bill. [HL155]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): In a paper published on 2 December 2008, Fair Rules for Strong Communities, the Government announced that they would reclassify lap dancing clubs as sex establishments to allow local authorities to consider a wider range of community interests when determining whether to grant a licence.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they have taken to ensure that there is no conflict of interest between those responsible for preparing reports on financial cases to become unitary authorities and those bidding to undertake research on them. [HL10]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The department has commissioned a research study of unitary and pathfinder authorities following a competitive tender, which required bidders to account for any potential conflicts of interest. The department is satisfied that those commissioned to undertake the researcha consortium of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the Office for Public Management, and Cardiff Business Schoolhave effective arrangements in place to ensure that no conflicts of interest will arise.
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government, Iain Wright, on 10 November (Official Report, House of Commons, 86265W), if the average grant for 1,531 units purchased for social rent was £41,631, why the average for six units in Croydon was £175,667 and for four units in Southwark was £125,000. [HL275]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The average grant per unit is a national figure and varies between regions and the type/size of home purchased. Average grant rates in London are considerably higher than those in other regions.
For Croydon, five of the homes were three-bedroomed properties and one was a two-bedroomed. These compare favourably to the average cost per unit of around £115,000 in Croydon for all social rented schemes so far approved this year through the Homes and Communities Agency's affordable housing programme.
In Southwark the average grant rate per unit for social rented schemes so far approved this year through the affordable housing programme is £122,000. The four homes purchased were all two-bedroomed street properties and therefore available for letting immediately.
The Homes and Communities Agency in considering bids for funding through the affordable housing programme assess them against criteria including fit with regional and local priorities, deliverability, quality and design and value for money.
We feel that refuge provision is an important issue and one we need to understand better. That is why we have commissioned research that will look at the provision of refuge places across the country. This will help establish how many bed spaces are available for those fleeing domestic abuse. It is hoped it will look at provision for different groups such as men; women; black and minority ethnic people; disabled people; lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender people and more chaotic victims such as drug users, alcohol users and those leaving the sex trade.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: Bonuses in the Northern Ireland office are paid for from the budgets arising from successive spending review settlements. As the bonus system forms an element of the pay settlement for staff, provision has been made for payment of bonuses in the next financial year.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: Since 1992 the Northern Ireland office has paid a special allowance to all administrative staff working in Northern Ireland. The allowance was introduced in recognition of the department's work in the law and order field.
The allowance, which has not been uprated since 1994, is in two parts: Part A, an annual amount, paid monthly, of £287 and Part B, a daily attendance allowance of £1.31 paid only to individuals who attend certain designated sites. This element is subject to a maximum of £287 in any one year. A review of these allowances will commence shortly.
To ask Her Majesty's Government how many days the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has spent in Northern Ireland since his appointment; and what that figure is as a percentage of the total number of days. [HL128]
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: The Secretary of State has been in Northern Ireland on 147 days since his appointment on 28 June 2007, one month after the restoration of devolution in Northern Ireland. The figure given is up to 16 December.
The noble Lord will be aware that the offices of the Secretary of State are in Belfast and in London; Northern Ireland Office business is conducted in both places. As a member of Cabinet my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has duties which require his attendance in London for Cabinet, Cabinet Committees, the National Economic Council as well as additional duties in Westminster.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: The Northern Ireland Office Smoking Policy issued in January 2005 introduced a total smoking ban throughout all Northern Ireland Office premises. A similar ban was introduced in the Northern Ireland office premises in Millbank with effect from 7 March 2005.
The policy states that there is no entitlement for staff to leave the premises to smoke except during lunchtime. Depending on circumstances it may be possible for staff to smoke other than at lunchtime. However smoking is only permitted outside the perimeters of the entrance/exit areas of the premises in an area designated by the premises officer. Staff are expected to give priority to the demands of work during normal working hours.
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by the Lord President (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon) on 11 November (WA 123) concerning expenditure by the Northern Ireland Office on taxis, by whom each journey in the ninth four weeks of financial year 200708 was made; when it was made; to where; at what cost; and for what purpose. [HL209]
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by the Lord President (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon) on 11 November (WA 123) concerning expenditure by the Northern Ireland Office on taxis, by whom each journey in the tenth four weeks of financial year 200708 was made; when it was made; to where; at what cost; and for what purpose. [HL210]
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by the Lord President (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon) on 11 November (WA 123) concerning expenditure by the Northern Ireland Office on taxis, by whom each journey in the eleventh four weeks of financial year 200708 was made; when it was made; to where; at what cost; and for what purpose. [HL211]
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: Much of the information requested constitutes personal data which if released would breach the first principle of the Data Protection Act 1998, namely the fair and lawful processing of personal data. As none of the conditions in Schedule 2 to the Data Protection Act is met to authorise fair and lawful disclosure, the information requested is not available for release.
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by the Lord President (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon) on 24 November (WA 255), in whose possession are the weapons handed over by
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To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by the Lord President (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon) on 24 November (WA 255), in whose possession are semtex and other explosives handed over by the IRA and other terrorist organisations; and whether such material has been exploded or rendered permanently incapable of being exploded. [HL214]
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: Under the terms of the decommissioning scheme all arms which are decommissioned are destroyed according to the terms of the scheme. The Northern Ireland Arms Decommissioning Act 1997 defines destruction as making permanently inaccessible or permanently unusable. Acts of decommissioning are overseen and verified by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning.
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