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Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Health by what means Her Majesty's Government intends to evaluate the relative importance of new evidence in respect of the effects of practices which give rise to exposure to ionising radiation as is required under Article 6 (iii) of the Basic Safety Standards Directive covering radiation exposures, Council Directive 96/29/Euratom, 13 May 1996. [61970]

Mr. Meacher: I have been asked to reply.

I believe this question is intended to refer to Article 6 (ii) of Directive 96/29/Euratom. The Department is preparing an administrative note describing the way that decisions will be taken by the responsible Secretaries of State under Articles 6 (i) and (ii) of the Directive. The note will be published in due course.

The responsible Secretary of State will, in accordance with Article 6 (ii) of the Directive, consider whether a review of an existing class or type of practice should be carried out whenever new and important evidence about its efficacy or consequences is acquired.

The responsible Secretary of State will assess very carefully any information which comes to his or her attention which suggests that a review of justification may be appropriate. If the responsible Secretary of State decides to undertake a review, interested bodies and members of the public will be invited to comment on the Secretary of State's initial assessment of whether the class or type of practice continues to be justified. Any representations made to the responsible Secretary of State either about the case for carrying out a review or about whether a class or type of practice continues to be justified will be very carefully considered before a final decision is reached.

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Mr. Collins: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) what the average response time was to departmental correspondence from Government departments to (a) members of the public and (b) hon. Members in the last 12 months; [62826]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: I have been asked to reply.

Departments' handling of hon. Members' correspondence is published in the form of an annual report. For details of departmental performance in 2001, I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley, on 24 May 2002, Official Report, column 674-76W. The handling of correspondence from members of the public forms one of the six service standards that focus on the performance of the main central government departments and agencies in dealing with the public. Details of Departmental performance against these standards has previously been published by the Cabinet Office in the form of an annual report. The last report covers the period 1 April 2000 to 31 March 2001 and was published at the end of July 2001. This and previous reports are available in the Library of the House.

In future, Departments and agencies will be required to report on their progress in improving handling of correspondence as part of their Service Delivery Agreements which will be published in departmental annual reports and on departmental websites.

Fire Services

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister, pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) of 12 June 2002, Official Report, columns 1296-98W, if he will express the Fire Service SSA figures as a sum per head of population in each Fire Service authority area. [63759]

Mr. Raynsford: Fire SSA figures as a sum per head of population in each fire authority area, for the six years ending 2002–03, are shown in the table:

Fire Standard Spending Assessment (# per head)

Bedfordshire and Luton20.7221.9322.7623.5024.7225.72
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough19.6721.0721.9222.5623.3824.07
County Durham and Darlington23.0324.0924.8625.7726.7227.06
East Sussex24.0325.3826.3527.3128.7029.66
Greater Manchester28.3729.9130.6531.5532.8633.49
Hereford and Worcester18.4819.1520.5421.1221.5422.52
Isle of Wight24.9227.0628.4829.8030.9432.05
Isles of Scilly147.34155.06158.44160.90161.53165.15
Kent and Medway Towns21.3922.7123.3424.3125.5926.47
Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland20.9621.7422.2923.0223.8524.58
North Yorkshire19.6020.8221.9922.5623.6325.19
Nottinghamshire & City of Nottingham22.2523.5724.1324.7225.7026.22
Royal Berkshire22.0923.3023.6824.5726.1927.43
South Yorkshire24.7826.1127.3627.9428.7829.77
Staffordshire Fire Authority19.9920.8321.1921.9222.5123.05
Tyne and Wear31.5432.1932.8833.9035.6536.84
West Midlands27.4228.6329.7930.7131.7332.87
West Sussex21.6723.2823.0424.7825.8026.97
West Yorkshire27.2128.2629.0429.4630.8531.23
Wiltshire and Swindon17.7118.6119.7019.9620.8321.37

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* Current name of fire authority. A number of authorities were affected by local government reorganisation on 1 April 1997 and 1998 and (London) 3 July 2000

NB—In the case of combined fire authorities, for example, Kent & Medway Towns, the fire SSA is allocated to the constituent local unitary authorities.

Better Public Buildings Initiative

Ms Shipley: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what steps the Government Offices for the Regions are taking to deliver the Prime Minister's Better Public Buildings Initiative. [59831]

Mr. Raynsford: The management of the Government Offices' own buildings comes under the Estate Strategy for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. A good example of Government Offices responding to the Better Public Buildings initiative is the project for a new home for the Government Office for Yorkshire and the Humber. The scheme aims to be an exemplar of design excellence and sustainability.

The Government Offices also play an active role in encouraging better public buildings by working in partnership with other regional agents. For example, the Government Office for London procured City Hall, the new Headquarters for the Greater London Authority. This building, designed by the architects Foster and Partners, is due to be handed over to the Mayor on 24 June 2002.

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Government Offices have responsibility, in conjunction with local partners, for the delivery of European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) which have supported many projects to develop public buildings. One example is the showcase Millennium Point building in Birmingham which received over #20 million ERDF.

Parish Councils

Norman Lamb: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) how many parish councillors in England and Wales have signed up to the new Parish Councils Code of Conduct; [63798]

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Mr. Raynsford: Over 4,300 parish councils in England have notified the Standards Board for England that they have adopted new codes of conduct. No central records are kept of the number of individual councillors who have given an undertaking to observe the code.

Parish councillors are under no obligation to inform the Government or the Standards Board if they choose to resign. Around 30 parish councillors have written informing us that they have resigned in response to the introduction of the code of conduct.

All parish councillors are now subject to the code. On election, new parish councillors must give a written undertaking to observe the code before taking office. When a council has adopted a code, its existing members must within two months give a written undertaking to observe the code, or cease to be councillors. In those councils which have not yet adopted a code, there is no obligation on existing councillors to give a written undertaking to observe a code, although all such councillors are subject to the provisions of the national code. In Wales, these matters are the responsibility of the National Assembly for Wales.

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