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Pneumoconiosis

Paul Farrelly: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions whether the medical assessment procedure set up under the compensation scheme for pneumoconiosis may be accessed by mesothelioma claimants, irrespective of whether they may be able to sue their former employer or not. [58260]

Dr. Whitehead: The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions administers a scheme under the Pneumoconiosis etc (Workers' Compensation) Act 1979. The Act provides compensation for sufferers (or their dependants) of certain dust-related diseases who are unable to claim damages from the responsible employers as they have gone out of business.

Mesothelioma is one of the diseases covered by the Act. The three conditions of eligibility for a payment of compensation are that:




Mesothelioma is a listed prescribed industrial disease for the purposes of IIDB. IIDB is awarded by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). For such an award the claimant will have been referred for medical advice. There is no separate medical assessment process set up under the 1979 Act.

A claim for IIDB can be made irrespective of whether the claimant is pursuing a civil action against their employer. However, a payment under the 1979 Act cannot be made if there is a relevant employer still trading who may have caused or contributed to the claimants's condition.

Telecommunications Masts

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what assessment he has made of the impact on 3G cellular telephony roll-out of different models of planning controls with regard to masts. [55143]

Ms Keeble [holding answer 16 May 2002]: Different approaches to telecommunications planning apply in England and the devolved Administrations. In England, the installation of any telecommunications mast in protected areas, such as national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty, sites of special scientific interest and conservation areas, and of masts above 15 metres in height elsewhere, is subject to an application for planning permission for determination by the local planning authority. The installation of masts up to 15 metres in height, elsewhere, would be subject to a prior approval procedure under Part 24 of Schedule 2 to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (as amended). The planning arrangements do not distinguish between different generations of telecommunications equipment. The devolved Administrations have their own planning regulations.

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On 22 August last year, following consultation, we introduced changes that significantly improved the planning procedures and guidance for telecommunications mast development in England. Our changes, which included amendments to the 1995 Order, were:


These arrangements give authorities more time to consider proposals but with consent deemed to be granted if no decision has been made after 56 days so that development is not delayed.

The new arrangements strike the right balance by improving consultation with local people while minimising delay for the rollout of telecommunications networks and giving the 45 million people who use mobile phones the service they want.

Modular Homes

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) if new modular homes will be available to people on low wages in the private sector; [57274]

Ms Keeble: The Government recognise that there is an urgent and growing need to assist the number of key workers and others on intermediate incomes who cannot afford to rent or buy in high demand areas where house prices have risen sharply over the last few years. We are looking at a number of options for helping overcome this problem, including the potential to increase housing supply quickly by using the modular unit construction techniques as illustrated by the Peabody Trust scheme at Murray Grove, Hackney.

The Government do not hold costings on modular build.

Emergency Services (Communications)

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what proposals there are to provide a link between the fire service national radio communications system and the police radio system (Airwave); how they will be reflected in the competitive tendering process; and what plans there are to use common approaches to masts and other equipment between the fire, ambulance and police forces. [58110]

Dr. Whitehead [holding answer 21 May 2002]: It is intended that the requirement to provide effective interoperability between the fire service and the other emergency services will be included as part of the specification for a replacement wide-area radio system for the fire service. The design of a system which meets the requirements of the specification will be a matter for tenderers.

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Fire Service College

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions in relation to the fire service college, Moreton-in-Marsh, how many orders of over £1 million have been (a) won and (b) lost in the last three months; and on what date his Department took over responsibility from the Home Department. [57222]

Dr. Whitehead: During the last three months the FSC has neither won nor lost any orders whose value exceeded £1 million. The last order that the FSC received whose value exceeded £1 million was in January 2002. The largest order that the FSC has received in the last three months is valued at £0.85 million.

The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions assumed responsibility for fire matters, including the fire service college in June 2001.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what the status is of the review of the framework document on the fire service college, Moreton-in-Marsh; in drawing up financial targets for 2002–03, by how much in (a) number and (b) income he expects (i) domestic and (ii) foreign courses to change compared with 2001–02; and when he expects the 2001–02 reports to be presented to Parliament. [57224]

Dr. Whitehead: The review of the framework document for the fire service college will be an important undertaking for the task group announced in my written answer of today's date to my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, South (Helen Southworth).

Information on number and income of domestic and foreign courses is not held at the fire service college in the form requested. Therefore, such information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

The college expresses its targets in financial terms. The financial targets for 2002–03 as set out in the FSC business plan provide for a minimum increase in turnover over 2001–02 in the region of £1 million.

The FSC expects to present its 2001–02 annual report and accounts to Parliament in July 2002.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will list the studies and investigations, including audit investigations, instigated and commissioned by his Department on the fire service college, Moreton-in- Marsh; on what date they began; when each is due to report to his Department; if he will publish them; if he will make a statement on the areas in which he expects action to be taken as a result of these reports: and what plans there are to commission further reports. [57223]

Dr. Whitehead: DTLR have been conducting a review of financial regularity and propriety following the suspension of the Chief Executive on 31 January 2002. As there are a number of matters outstanding it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.

Following the suspension and subsequent resignation of the college's Facilities Manager, the Department commissioned a surveyors' review of value for money and probity in the procurement of estates works. The review started on 8 March 2002. A completion date has not been set. There are no plans for publication.

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The only other study set up by the Department which directly concerns the fire service college is the establishment of a task group to review the future direction and funding of the college. The aim of the group is to ensure that the college is in a secure position to undertake its valuable work in the future and its terms of reference can be found in my written answer of today to my hon. Friend, the hon. Member for Warrington, South (Helen Southworth). The task group, which is to report to Ministers in September, has been drawn from bodies representing fire service stakeholders and customers.

The Department has no plans at present for any further studies or reports.

Helen Southworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has to review the future direction and funding of the fire service college; and if he will make a statement. [59160]

Dr. Whitehead: I am today announcing the formation of a task group to report in September on short-term action to meet the current training requirements of the fire service and to make longer term recommendations.

The fire service college has a well deserved reputation as a centre of excellence in providing national training for Britain's firefighters. But we need to ensure that the college is in a secure position to undertake this role for the future. We are therefore asking the task group to:





Membership of the task group has been drawn from bodies representing stakeholders and customers.


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