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30 Nov 2001 : Column: 1163W
Ms Keeble: 127 planning applications were called-in in the last financial year (1 April 2000 to 31 March 2001). Of the 55 applications which have so far been determined planning permission was refused in 31 cases.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on how section 106 agreements can be made to encourage cross-boundary co-operation between authorities for the purposes of the delivery of affordable housing; and what guidance he gives on what reference should be made to (a) circular 6/98 and (b) Planning Policy Guidance 3. 
Ms Keeble: Planning Policy Guidance Note 3 "Housing" advised that regional planning bodies may need to estimate the future balance between market and affordable housing, and identify and assess regional and sub-regional trends and factors which are likely to influence local housing need. In drafting regional planning guidance, they should also take into account regional housing statements which provide a regional context for local authorities when drawing up their housing strategies and support the development of more strategic approaches to tackling housing need.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what checks his Department makes to ensure that there are consistent determinations through the planning process with particular reference to the provision of affordable housing through section 106 agreements. 
Ms Keeble: Development plans form the framework within which decisions on proposals for development are taken. The Secretary of State is a statutory consultee in their preparation and can make objections when there are conflicts with national guidance, including on affordable housing, which do not appear to be justified by local circumstances. He has powers of intervention to direct that plan proposals shall be modified before adoption. He can also call in planning applications where the provision of affordable housing is at issue.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will list those planning applications that have been agreed for development in the flood plains since the introduction of the revised Planning Policy Guidance 25; and what was the position of the Environment Agency in each case. 
The Environment Agency reports annually under the high-level targets published in 1999 on its response to planning applications, identifying cases where the agency sustained objections on flood-risk grounds and final decisions, by the local planning authority or on appeal,
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were in line with or contrary to agency advice. The report for 19992000, covering the period from 1 October 1999 to 31 March 2000 was placed in the Library of the House by the then Minister for Planning on 21 December 2000, Official Report, column 311W. The report for 200001, covering the period from 1 April 2000 to 31 March 2001, is expected to be published shortly.
Sandra Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) what assessment he has made of the ability of the NATS PPP to provide for the (a) debt repayment and (b) capital investment contained in the business plan negotiated with the strategic partner; 
Sandra Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if an application has been made to alter the strategic agreement for National Air Traffic Services; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jamieson: The Airline Group (the Government's strategic partner in the Public Private Partnership for National Air Traffic Services) has made application to alter the Strategic Partnership Agreement in relation to the deferral in the completion of the New Scottish Centre. The Strategic Partnership Agreement regulates the relationship between the Government and the Airline Group as shareholders in National Air Traffic Services.
Sandra Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how the costs of voluntary redundancies at NATS will be met; and what assessment he has made of the effects on the pension fund. 
Mr. Jamieson: NATS has made provision for such restructuring costs as part of its Business Plan. The direct effect on the pension fund will be the injection of moneys to the fund to support the cost of pension enhancement for those fund members taking voluntary retirement.
Sandra Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if Service Level Agreements with NATS engineers will be guaranteed following the engineering review. 
Mr. Jamieson: NATS has defined service levels for all its operational equipment systems. As part of its engineering review, the company has been reviewing the required levels of service for these systems, and these will continue to be included in Service Level Agreements.
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Sandra Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what progress has been made in replacing the oceanic system at Atlantic House in Prestwick; and what is his estimate of its operational date. 
Mr. Jamieson: Procurement options are being investigated and, pending a decision on the way forward, it is not possible to predict the operational date of the new system. In the meantime the current system is subject to a sustained programme that will keep it fully operational and capable of meeting the forecast capacity demand at least until 2006. The existing system is currently enjoying its best performance since its introduction, with 100 per cent. availability in 2001.
Sandra Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what is his estimate of the lifespan of the upgraded radar system being installed at Atlantic House, Prestwick. 
Mr. Jamieson: The new radar data processing system at Prestwick is capable of displaying a maximum of 350 aircraft on a radar screen at any one time. The current maximum number being displayed is around 150. The system could be modified to display a greater number of targets if that were required. However, the project plan was based on the assumption that the system would not reach the capacity of 350 aircraft being displayed on a screen before 2012.
Mr. Coleman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when he will make an announcement of the rough sleepers unit's progress towards meeting the target to reduce the number of people sleeping rough. 
BFI reports that the council's performance in benefits administration was poor and counter fraud activity was very weak at the time of inspection. Inspectors found claims processing backlogs and a very poor filing system.
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There was a significant risk of internal fraud with procedural weaknesses including flawed computer access control and management checking.
BFI considered the council's overpayment administration was inadequate with some £3.5 million of overpayments outstanding for over two years without any recovery action being instigated. Overpayments were regularly reclassified as "fraudulent" without evidence of it£2.2 million was reclassified in this way in 19992000.
The report notes the council recognised its benefit administration inadequacies and restructured its service shortly before the inspection. This included the establishment of a central overpayment team.
Inspectors found that a high level of WBS savings was claimed inappropriately. The council was failing to gather enough evidence and was not meeting subsidy order requirements. The report also notes other weaknesses in the council's counter fraud activity including a failure to analyse risks or use inspectors' powers.
We have set firm targets for reducing the amount of fraud and error in income support and jobseeeker's allowance and we have already met our first milestone, of a 10 per cent. reduction, 18 months ahead of schedule.
Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will place in the Library the legal advice received by his Department on the disclosure of databases of personal data held by third parties to benefit fraud officials, as covered by the anti-fraud social security legislation of 1997 and 2001. 
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