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Local Government Finance

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans he has to review the Barnett Formula for local authority finance; and if he will make a statement.[67441]

Mr. Raynsford: Mechanisms for the allocations of public expenditure are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He has made it clear on several occasions that the Government have no plans

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to review the Barnett Formula, which in any case applies to allocations to the devolved administrations, not to English local authorities.

Empty Homes

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister (1) what estimate he has made of the amount of empty social housing in England in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement; [65851]

Mr. Raynsford: The total number of vacant dwellings in England on 1 April in each of the last five years is presented in the table, along with the number that were owned by social landlords.

Number of vacant dwellings in England at 1 April

Year Total vacant housingof which: Social Housing
2001755,100121,600
2000760,500124,700
1999767,000116,600
1998753,300110,900
1997767,200107,900

Notes:

Figures presented to the nearest 100

Sources:

ODPM annual Housing Investment Programme return (HIP). Housing Corporation annual Regulatory and Statistical return (RSR).


New Housing

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what progress has been made on achieving the Government's target for constructing new housing on previously used land; and if he will make a statement. [65858]

Mr. McNulty: In 2001 an estimated 61 per cent. of new dwellings were provided on previously-developed land. This includes new dwellings provided from the conversion of existing buildings, which account for three percentage points. The Government's target is that by 2008, 60 per cent of additional housing should be provided on previously-developed land and through conversions of existing buildings.

Regional Assemblies

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans the Government have to review regional boundaries in areas which reject a directly elected regional assembly based on the regions set out in the Governments Regional Government White Paper; and if he will make a statement. [67453]

Mr. Raynsford: Our proposals for the boundaries of elected regional assemblies are set out in chapter 6 of the Regional Governance White Paper, Your Region, Your Choice.

Local Government White Paper

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister when he expects that the provisions contained in the Local Government White Paper will be implemented; and if he will make a statement. [65862]

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Mr. Raynsford: We published an implementation plan in April which sets out the planned dates for delivering the key proposals in the White Paper and which is updated monthly. It is available on the Department's web site. We continue to make good progress, with a draft Local Government Bill published for consultation on 12 June which takes forward a number of the proposals included in the White Paper.

Local Authority Public Services

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what progress has been made on achieving the Government's objective of putting all local authority public services online by 2005; and if he will make a statement. [65865]

Mr. Raynsford: All local authorities (bar one) in England responded in July 2001 to the invitation to prepare and submit Implementing e-Government Statements. These are corporate plans focus how each authority approaching the task of e-enabling their services.

Local government's self-assessment, as reported in their statements, of the average availability of electronic services as at July 2001 was at 29 per cent against the National Target (all services e-enabled by end of 2005). On the basis of these statements we expect local authorities to reach 45 per cent by March 2003, 73 per cent by March 2004 and 100 per cent by 2005.

In April we published for consultation a draft National Strategy ([email protected]: towards a national strategy for local e-government) that seeks to clarify a common and ambitious vision of local e-government and promote its delivery. We are also providing #350 million (over three years from 2001–02) of investment to promote its e-delivery in local government, which includes:


NORTHERN IRELAND

Fireworks

David Burnside: To ask the Secretary of state for Northern Ireland if he will consult (a) the Northern Ireland Fireworks Association and (b) other interested parties before proceeding with the Explosives (Fireworks) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2002. [54118]

Jane Kennedy: The Explosives (Fireworks) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2002 came into effect on 6 May.

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Representatives for the fireworks industry in Northern Ireland were afforded an opportunity to put forward their views on the problem of fireworks misuse in February when they met with officials from my Department. In addition I received written representations from, among others, MLAs, local councils and members of the public and I considered carefully every representation before deciding that prohibiting the purchase, possession, sale and use of garden fireworks except under licence would be the most effective first step in addressing the problems of fireworks misuse.

Weston Park Talks

Mr. McGrady: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he will appoint the international judge to address the six issues of concern identified in the July 2001 Weston Park talks. [56651]

Jane Kennedy: On 29 May 2002 the British and Irish Governments announced the appointment of the Honourable Mr Justice Peter deCarteret Cory, a retired member of the Supreme Court in Canada, to conduct the investigation of allegations of collusion. This follows the commitment made by two Governments following the Weston Park talks last summer to appoint a judge of international standing from outside both jurisdictions to undertake a thorough investigation of allegations of collusion in the cases, of the murders of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan, Pat Finucane, Lord Justice and Lady Gibson, Robert Hamill, Rosemary Nelson and Billy Wright.

Devolution

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what (a) units and (b) programmes he has established to develop the work of his Department since devolution; what units and programmes (i) ceased and (ii) began to be run down after devolution; and what functional units and programmes continue. [60851]

Jane Kennedy: Devolution did not significantly change the functions of the Northern Ireland Office, since the responsibilities transferred on 2 December 1999 were already managed by the separate Northern Ireland departments. The duties of the Secretary of State and his ministerial colleagues were, however, substantially reduced and private offices have been streamlined accordingly. In addition teams established to provide support for the Talks process and for the enactment of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 have been wound up. New teams have been established to take forward work on policing, criminal justice and prisons issues. A full description of the ongoing work of the Northern Ireland Office is given in the Department Report, published on 14 June (CM 5432).

Statutory Instruments

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many statutory instruments have been (a) introduced, (b) removed and (c) amended by his Department since 1 January; and what the (i) cost and (ii) saving has been in each case. [64628]

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Jane Kennedy: The Northern Ireland Office has introduced one Statutory Instrument since January 2001; the Criminal Injuries Compensation (NI) Order was introduced on 1 May 2002.

The approximate spend to March 2002 is #1,700,000, the forecast cost is expected to be around #1,900,000. This figure includes approximately #900,000 for the computer system for Compensation Agency to support the Tariff scheme. It must be note that a part of this system was to be introduced in the Compensation Agency anyway.

As the Order has only recently been introduced, it is too early to provide any figure relating to savings on the compensation budget.


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