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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 10 May 2001

CHURCH COMMISSIONERS

Walworth Church Commissioners Estate

Ms Harman: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell), representing the Church Commissioners, if he will make a statement about the future of the community of the tenants of the Walworth Church Commissioners estate in Southwark. [160749]

Mr. Stuart Bell: As my right hon. Friend will know, the Church Commissioners are consulting widely with interested parties over future letting policy in respect of a number of their residential estates, including that at Walworth in south London. The proposals forming the basis of consultation are, first, that the Commissioners will carry out a programme of improvements to the estates, and secondly, that over time, and for new tenants only, they will move to a mixture of affordable and market rents with the former being offered in future to key public service providers working in the local community.

That consultation is still in progress and includes seeking the views of residents groups, including the newly formed residents association on the Walworth estate. We have presented the proposals to some members of the association's committee and have been invited to give the same presentation at the inaugural meeting of the association on 15 May.

No decision will be taken until consultation has been concluded and the Commissioners have had a chance to consider the views of those affected by and close to the proposals.

Ms Harman: To ask the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell), representing the Church Commissioners, what the average rent level in tenancies is in the Walworth Church Commissioners estate in Southwark; and what assessment he has made of the average market rent levels in the Walworth area. [160748]

Mr. Stuart Bell: Properties at the Church Commissioners Walworth estate are let on a mixture of fair rents and assured tenancies, the former being applicable in the case of Rent Act tenancies granted before 1988.

The average rent levels (as at 4 May 2001) on the Commissioners Walworth estate in both cases, as compared with the equivalent estimated market rental values, are set out as follows:

Type of propertyFair rent (£ per week)Assured rent (£ per month)Market rent estimates (£ per month)
Bedsit47.50279434
1 bedroom flat53.00337650
2 bedroom flat63.50419869
3 bedroom flat68.004851,210
4 bedroom flat70.005301,500
1 bedroom ½ cottage53.50345534
2 bedroom ½ cottage50.00406760
1 bedroom cottage65.50343800
2 bedroom cottage70.50399869
3 bedroom cottage81.504331,086

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The total number of properties involved is 618.

Rent levels vary according to the condition of the property and there are too few properties within some categories to provide very meaningful averages but this has been done so far as is possible. There is only one two bedroom half cottage rented on a fair rent, it is unmodernised and hence the rent level is shown as less than the average charged for a one bedroom half cottage.

Market rents were estimated by a local property agent at the end of 2000.

PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL

Special Advisers (Overseas Visits)

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the President of the Council on how many occasions between 31 March 2000 and 31 March 2001 (a) departmental and (b) non-departmental special advisers have travelled abroad in an official capacity. [158545]

Mrs. Beckett: I have travelled abroad in an official capacity on three occasions between these dates. On each occasion one of my special advisers has accompanied me.

The requirements of the Civil Service Management Code were met in each case.

DEFENCE

Military Equipment

Mr. Viggers: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the procedure whereby military equipment which has become surplus to requirements is listed and described in order to give museums an opportunity to bid for the items, indicating when the existing procedure was instituted, how many artefacts have been so advertised to museums and how many bids have been (a) received and (b) accepted; and what changes are planned in the procedure. [160350]

Dr. Moonie: There are established procedures, introduced in March 1999, for the six principal service museums, the regimental and corps museums, the Imperial war museum, the science museum, the national maritime museum and museums sponsored by local authorities that have a clear defence interest allowing them to identify equipment that they may wish to acquire. If equipment identified is declared as surplus and gifting or loan is not an option, museums are invited to bid by the Disposal Services Agency (DSA) by means of competitive tender. Currently the DSA has 76 museums on their database covering interests such as aircraft and armoured vehicles. There are no changes planned in the procedure.

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The DSA conducts most of its sales, however, via its marketing contractors and the museums are, of course, at liberty to approach these direct to purchase equipments. Details of equipments held are available through the DSA website and the subsequent links to its contractors.

The full number of tenders issued to museums and the number of museums successful with their tenders can be provided only at disproportionate cost. However, for aircraft alone, two tenders have been issued to 66 museums since March 1999 and seven museums have been successful.

Special Advisers (Overseas Visits)

Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on how many occasions between 31 March 2000 and 31 March 2001 (a) departmental and (b) non-departmental special advisers have travelled abroad in an official capacity. [158558]

Mr. Hoon: Departmental special advisers have travelled abroad in an official capacity on six occasions during the period 31 March 2000 to 31 March 2001.

There are no non-departmental special advisers.

Fylingdales/Menwith Hill

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much has been spent in each year since 1990 on upgrading the communications monitoring bases at (a) Menwith Hill and (b) Fylingdales; and from what budget line the money has been drawn. [160711]

Mr. Hoon: RAF Menwith Hill is an integral part of a worldwide communications network, which supports UK, US and NATO interests. Information on detailed operations at RAF Menwith Hill, including funding issues, is withheld under exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information on the ground of national security.

The primary function of RAF Fylingdales is to provide the UK and US with early warning of a ballistic missile launch. It is not a communications monitoring base. The last upgrade of the early warning facilities took place in the early 1990s when the old "golf balls", which had become obsolete and difficult to maintain, were replaced with a modern solid state phased array radar. The UK Government contributed a total of £48 million to the costs of this upgrade, from the headquarters Strike Command budget. A yearly breakdown of this figure does not exist.

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many exchanges of information have taken place between Her Majesty's Government and the United States Administration in respect of (a) Fylingdales and (b) Menwith Hill since May 1997. [160808]

Mr. Hoon: The UK and US regularly discuss the existing early warning and communication functions that RAF Fylingdales and RAF Menwith Hill respectively have performed for many years.

Defence Systems

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many (a) people employed by his Department and (b) consultants working for his Department have (i) worked

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in the United States and (ii) co-operated with United States experts on defence systems deployable in space since May 1997. [160809]

Mr. Hoon: This information is not held centrally. Due to the wide range of defence applications which rely on the deployment of assets in space, it would be extremely difficult to derive the required information and, were it to be attempted, it could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Security Policy

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make an assessment of the report of the Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organisation, presented to the Chairman of the Committee of Armed Services of the US House of Representatives on 11 January, in respect of the aspects which have implications for United Kingdom security policy. [160812]

Mr. Hoon: We are aware of the report and await the US Department of Defense response to it. The outer space treaty places important limitations on military activity in space without entirely prohibiting it. We do not want to see a general prohibition on military use of space because, for example, as confirmed in the Strategic Defence Review, we perceive a continuing needs for secure satellite communications for the armed forces. We do not support the further consideration of the use of outer space by the conference on disarmament in Geneva.


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