Egypt

Ian Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the Egyptian Government to facilitate independent, international observation of the forthcoming parliamentary elections. [138969]

Alistair Burt: We have raised the question of international election monitoring with the Egyptian election authorities. They have taken early action and published guidelines for international observation for the forthcoming parliamentary elections. The Carter Center and another partner of the UK Arab Partnership programme, the South African-based Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa, have had constructive discussions with the Egyptian Government and fully expect to be accredited and deploy observers for these elections.

The UK is committed to supporting political transition and strengthening democracy in Egypt. This should include progress on free and fair parliamentary elections which allow all Egyptians to make their voices heard. Through the Arab Partnership Fund we provided early financial and public support to the Carter Center monitoring mission, one of the few international organisations allowed to observe the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2012.

Ian Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will assess the commitment of the Egyptian Government to equal rights for women. [138970]

Alistair Burt: We welcome President Mursi's stated commitment to protecting the rights of women and forming an inclusive Government, who govern on behalf of all Egyptians, respects human rights, and commits to tackling discrimination. The UK has been clear with the Egyptian authorities that women's participation is a key part of supporting political transition and building stability.

Along with other international observers we are concerned that the new constitution lacks full clarity on human rights, including equality for women. As such we welcome President Mursi's offer of a National Dialogue to consider contentious articles of the constitution. We, also, note that President Mursi has condemned the increase of harassment of women in Egyptian streets.

I visited Egypt on 16 January and discussed our concerns about the protection of women with a range of political and civil society figures in Egypt. We will continue to follow the human rights situation closely.

Ian Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of proposed legal steps taken by the Egyptian Government against opponents of the Presidential Decree issued in Autumn 2012. [138971]

28 Jan 2013 : Column 554W

Alistair Burt: We are closely monitoring progress on the political transition in Egypt. We look to the Egyptian authorities to respect the political freedoms of all individuals. I visited Egypt on 16 January and discussed the situation in Egypt including the national dialogue with a range of political figures, including the opposition. I have also been in contact with the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Mohammed Kamel Amr.

We are urging progress on an inclusive political process, including free and fair elections, broader participation in the national dialogue between different political forces and a review process for the Constitution. The UK condemns recent outbreaks of violence which cannot assist the process of dialogue needed to move political transition forward.

Kashmir

Mr Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will hold urgent discussions with the governments of both India and Pakistan to ensure that recent police messages in the Srinagar district to prepare for a nuclear attack do not escalate tension in the Kashmir region. [139694]

Mr Swire: We are aware through media reports, of the public notice. However, we have also taken note of the subsequent comments from the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir on the notice. We therefore do not judge that discussions are required at this time.

Mali

Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received of extra-judicial killings or human rights abuses by the Malian army; what recent discussions he has had with the French Government on any such reports; with reference to UN Security Council Resolution 2085, adopted on 20 December 2012, what steps he is taking to (a) expedite the deployment of an independent force of UN human rights monitors with the responsibility to monitor the application of international humanitarian law, investigate reports of human rights abuses and report regularly and publicly on any findings and (b) ensure that all incoming ECOWAS forces are given comprehensive training by their commanders in international humanitarian law before deployment to the front; if he will make it his policy that the mandate of the international force must include the need to develop rules of engagement that make minimising harm to civilians and civilian populations a priority during military operations and recommend that the international force include military lawyers with battlefield experience in the laws of war; and if he will make a statement. [140051]

Mark Simmonds: We are aware of reports of human rights violations carried out by members of the Malian armed forces. I discussed the issue with Malian Foreign Minister Coulibaly when I met him on 24 January.

We take any allegations of human rights violations very seriously. UN Security Council Resolution 2085, passed in December, emphasises the responsibility of the Malian authorities to protect civilians. As part of a multidisciplinary presence in Mali, the resolution also called on the UN to monitor the human rights situation.

28 Jan 2013 : Column 555W

We understand that a team of human rights officials will form part of the new UN Office in Mali, which began deploying on 19 January. We will encourage the Malian authorities to allow the UN monitors access to investigate allegations of human rights abuses and violations.

Human rights training will be an integral part of the EU Training Mission for Mali's armed forces, which we expect to deploy to Mali from February. The UK is also reviewing potential support options for Anglophone Economic Community of West African States contributors to the African-led International Support Mission to Mali. We anticipate that any military training would cover the relevant principles of international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians and human rights, and will take account of UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) 2071 and 2085. UNSCR 2085 clearly states the responsibilities on all parties to protect civilians and respect the primacy of international law.

Middle East

Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 18 December 2012, Official Report, columns 767-8W, on Middle East, what other actions the Government has taken to comply with paragraph 7 of UN Security Council Resolution 465 (1980). [140061]

Alistair Burt: The UK continues to comply with paragraph 7 of UN Security Council Resolution 465 (1980), calling upon states not to provide Israel with any assistance to be used specifically in connection with settlements in the occupied territories. We, together with the general international community, remain clear on the status of settlements: they constitute a clear violation of international law, are an obstacle to peace, and a threat to the viability of the two-state solution.

We continue to condemn Israeli settlement activity. Most recently the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, issued a statement on 18 December condemning the decision by the Jerusalem District Planning Board to give approval for a plan to build 1,500 housing units in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ramat Shlomo, and expressing concern at reports that the Board is considering giving the approval to a further 5,000 housing units in East Jerusalem. I also issued a statement on 26 December, making it clear that these steps were further profoundly provocative actions that run contrary to the Fourth Geneva Convention and created a further obstacle to peace. Our condemnation of the legalisation of outpost Nofei Nehemia and the publishing of tenders in Kiryat Arba and Efrat was raised by the UK's Permanent Representative to the UN during the UN Security Council's open debate on the Middle East on 23 January.

28 Jan 2013 : Column 556W

North Africa

Mr Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he plans to take with Governments in North Africa to help prevent that region becoming the next area where al-Qaeda or similar groups carry out terrorist acts. [139693]

Alistair Burt: The recent event in In Amenas, Algeria, and the international action to combat violent Islamist extremists in Mali highlight the threat from terrorism in North West Africa and the wider Sahel. The situation requires a strong collective response. We are working actively with international partners and the countries in the region to tackle the terrorist threat and counter the extremists' narrative, but also to address the underlying conflicts and grievances the terrorists exploit.

Refugees

Graham Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking on the international stage to tackle the problem of statelessness. [139009]

Mr Swire: The UK is signatory to two UN Resolutions on statelessness: The 1954 convention relating to the status of stateless persons and the 1961 convention on the reduction of statelessness. The UK remains committed to the principles set out in these conventions and to working with the UN high commissioner for refugees to provide lasting help to refugees and stateless persons across the world.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office makes bilateral representations to Governments, where appropriate, to ensure persons are not rendered stateless for political reasons and to regularise the status of those who are disadvantaged or suffering because they are stateless.

Senior Civil Servants

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many and what proportion of officials of the three most senior grades in his Department have (a) resigned, (b) taken voluntary early retirement, (c) left the Department for alternative employment, (d) been dismissed, (e) taken long-term sick leave and (f) taken administrative leave since May 2010. [139217]

Alistair Burt: Senior managers with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's (FCO) senior management structure (SMS) fall within four grade bands. The following information therefore relates to SMS staff in grades 2, 3 and 4 only.

 SMS 2SMS 3SMS4

Currently employed

106

25

4

Since May 2010 average number employed

107

26

5

(a) Resigned

12 (11%)

0

0

(b) Early retirement

9 (8%)

4 (15%)

2 (40%)

(c) Left to take up alternative employment(1)

13 (12%)

10 (38%)

2 (20%)

(d) Dismissed

0

0

0

(e) Long term sick leave(2)

0

0

28 Jan 2013 : Column 557W

28 Jan 2013 : Column 558W

(f) Administrative leave(3)

0

0

0

(1 )These figures are from October 2010 only. We do not hold a complete record of all former SMS staff seeking alternative employment once they have left the FCO. However SMS staff are required to seek approval, through the FCO outside business appointments process, before taking up a new appointment, to avoid any suspicion of impropriety. All positions taken up by staff at SMS grades 3 and 4 are listed on the website of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA). (2 )We have applied the Cabinet Office definition i.e. any absence which is more than 21 working days or 29 calendar days. Due to the small number of staff at SMS grade 2, who have taken long term sick leave, the release of this information could lead to the individuals being identified. We therefore judge that disclosure would contravene data protection principles. (3 )The FCO does not use the term administrative leave. We have interpreted it to mean when a member of staff is suspended, on full pay, pending an investigation.

Sri Lanka

Mark Durkan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent reports he has received on the effects of high security zones in Sri Lanka on residents and displaced civilians in that country. [139850]

Alistair Burt: The British Government continue to monitor the situation in the north and east of the country and we consistently raise the need for progress on scaling back of high security zones.

We are pleased that the Government of Sri Lanka have, in the last two months, opened some high security zones for resettlement in the north of the country. This will allow numerous families to return home to their villages and subsequently allow welfare camps to be able to be closed down.

The British Government, together with international partners, will work to support the Sri Lankan people in their pursuit of enduring peace and reconciliation. We will continue to use all opportunities to discuss human rights concerns with the Sri Lankan Government.

Mark Durkan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of (a) the size of the Sri Lankan army's presence in Tamil-dominated areas and (b) the relationship between the civilian population and the security forces in the north of Sri Lanka. [139904]

Alistair Burt: The military presence in many areas is less invasive than at the end of the conflict, but armed forces continue to occupy large areas of civilian land, now classified as high security zones or military cantonments. Military involvement in civil and commercial activities has reduced in some areas but remains widespread and a source of tension.

We regularly encourage the Government to implement the Lesson Learnt and Reconciliation Commission recommendations, including scaling back the role of the military in civilian affairs and reducing its presence as far as is possible consistent with legitimate security needs.

Thailand

Kerry McCarthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received on the trial and conviction of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk in Thailand under that country's lèse majesté laws; and what recent representations he has made to the Thai Government to support the promotion of human rights in that country. [140047]

Mr Swire: Our embassy in Bangkok has been following closely the case of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk. Three representatives of the embassy attended the trial on 23 January, and the embassy subsequently reported details of the outcome to me. Following the verdict, the European Union issued a statement expressing deep concern at the decision to sentence Somyot to 10 years imprisonment. The statement noted that the verdict seriously undermined the right to freedom of expression and press freedom. Our ambassador has also raised the issue with the Thai authorities.

The Government frequently raise human rights concerns with Thailand, both at ministerial and official level. For example, the then Minister of State, the hon. Member for Taunton Deane (Mr Browne), raised human rights issues when he met Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung during his visit to Thailand in July 2012. That discussion included an exchange of views on lèse majesté.

Kerry McCarthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer of 21 May 2012, Official Report, column 454W, on Thailand, what recent representations he has made to the Government of Thailand in support of freedom of expression and reform of the lèse-majesté laws. [140058]

Mr Swire: The Government frequently raise the issues of freedom of expression and the lèse-majesté law with Thai interlocutors, both at ministerial and official level. The then Minister of State, the hon. Member for Taunton Deane (Mr Browne), raised lèse-majesté among other human rights issues when he met Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung during his visit to Thailand in July 2012.

Defence

Afghanistan

Mr Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the name of the mission that will succeed ISAF in Afghanistan after 2014 is; and how many troops the UK will commit to it. [139122]

Mr Robathan: At the NATO Chicago conference and at the request of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, a new post-2014 mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Security Force was agreed. As NATO reported, following a recent meeting of the ISAF Chiefs of Defence, details on how we will conduct the post-2014 mission have not yet been finalised; this includes the name of the mission.

28 Jan 2013 : Column 559W

No final decision has been made on the UK's post-2014 presence, but as we have made clear, UK troops will not operate in a combat role or be in significant numbers in Afghanistan. The UK has responded to the Afghans' specific request to lead the collective effort for establishing the Afghan National Army Officer Academy in Kabul, which is now under construction. The number of troops that may be required to fulfil this mentoring and training role is yet to be finalised. On 19 December 2012, Official Report, column 842, the Prime Minister said

“we are prepared to look at other issues above and beyond that, but this is the starting baseline”.

Mr Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many attacks have taken place in Afghanistan during the last three years in (a) the ANA and (b) the ANP. [139124]

Mr Robathan: We do not track the number of attacks in the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police; this is a matter for the Afghan Government.

Air Force

Mr Love: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the effect of reductions of the Royal Air Force and its pilot training programme on the UK's ability to (a) maintain operational viability in areas of active service and (b) retain capacity for future deployments; and if he will make a statement. [139601]

Mr Robathan: In line with the commitments set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review the RAF continues to ensure it has the capability to deliver its outputs in support of current and future operations.

Armed Forces: Coeliac Disease

Mr Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many members of the (a) Army, (b) Navy and (c) Royal Air Force are known to have been diagnosed with Coeliac disease. [139990]

Mr Francois: As at 1 December 2012, of the 180,460 UK armed forces personnel, 140 have been identified as having a diagnosis of coeliac disease.

Of those 140 UK armed forces personnel, 56 are Army personnel, 44 are Royal Air Force personnel and 40 Royal Navy personnel.

Service personnel who present significant conditions of the alimentary system such as coeliac, which either degrades the functional capacity and performance, and/or fails to respond satisfactorily to treatment, may require to be downgraded non-deployable, or recommended for medical discharge. However, the severity of each case is considered on its individual merit.

Armed Forces: Housing

Mr Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many members of the (a) Army, (b) Royal Air Force and (c) Royal Navy are not living in service family accommodation; [139807]

(2) how many members of the armed forces currently serving in Afghanistan are not living in service family accommodation. [139808]

28 Jan 2013 : Column 560W

Mr Francois: I refer the right hon. Member to the answer I gave on 19 December 2012, Official Report, column 830W, to the hon. Member for Dumfries and Galloway (Mr Brown).

Armed Forces: Housing Benefit

Mr Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues on changes to housing benefit in relation to the under-occupancy of social housing; [139890]

(2) what recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the effect of changes to housing benefit on (a) regular and (b) reserve forces. [139809]

Mr Francois [holding answer 25 January 2013]:I refer the right hon. Member to the answer I gave on 9 January 2013, Official Report, column 285W, to the hon. Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (Tom Blenkinsop).

Armed Forces: Redundancy

Duncan Hames: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many personnel reached their immediate pensions point in (a) 2005 and (b) 2006 and were made compulsorily redundant within one year; [139570]

(2) how many Army personnel made compulsorily redundant between 1993 and 2006 within one year of reaching their immediate pensions point were (a) officers and (b) non-officers; [139571]

(3) how many personnel between (a) 1993 and (b) 1994 reached their immediate pensions point and were made compulsorily redundant within (i) one year and (ii) two years. [139572]

Mr Francois: The information for these years is not held centrally in the required format and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the Written Ministerial Statement of 22 January 2013, on armed forces redundancy programme tranche 3, (1) what estimate he has made of the potential effect of those redundancies on jobs in manufacturing military equipment; [139644]

(2) what estimate he has made of the potential effect of those redundancies on jobs in the armed forces' supply chain. [139645]

Mr Francois: The armed forces redundancy programme is about service personnel reductions and the restructuring of the armed forces. It does not apply to private sector civilian jobs in manufacturing military equipment and neither should it have an effect on civilian jobs in the armed forces supply chain.

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the written ministerial statement of 22 January 2013, on armed forces redundancy programme tranche 3, how many of those redundancies will be from civilian jobs. [139646]

28 Jan 2013 : Column 561W

Mr Francois: None. The armed forces redundancy programme does not apply to civilian personnel, for whom there is a separate programme to achieve the necessary reductions. It is planned that we will have reduced the civil service totals within the Ministry of Defence by 32,000 by 2020.

Army: Recruitment

Owen Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) which Army Careers Offices and Careers Clinics he proposes to close in each region in the next 12 months; [138257]

(2) how many Army Careers Offices and Careers Clinics have closed since May 2010; [138258]

(3) how many Army Careers Offices and Careers Clinics there are in each region. [138259]

Mr Francois: As part of the Recruit Partnering Project (RPP) the Army, working with its partner Capita Business Services, is changing the way in which it recruits its personnel in the future. This will see the introduction of a number of more modern and convenient ways for potential recruits to make contact with the Army, including

28 Jan 2013 : Column 562W

improved digital access, thereby offering a more flexible service. As a result the number of recruiting offices is being reduced.

Over the years the Army has continually adjusted the number and location of recruiting offices across the UK to meet the business requirement and the changing demands of the recruiting environment. But we continue to recognise that high street offices play a key role in recruiting for the Army, particularly in providing face-to-face contact with Army personnel, helping to develop critical relationships between the Army and prospective candidates and embedding the Army in the fabric of society. Some 73 recruiting offices will be retained under the RPP and will be known as Army Career Centres. These centres will be situated to ensure that there is a centre within a reasonable travelling distance of over 90% of the target population. They will be manned by a combination of military and civilian staff.

Details of the 83 Army Careers Offices and Career Clinics which have closed since May 2010, or are due to close under the RPP by 26 March 2013, by region are listed in the following table, together with the 73 Army Career Offices and Career Clinics that will remain open. There are currently no plans for any further closures.

RegionArmy Careers Office and Career Clinics that have closed since May 2010 or will close by 26 March 2013Number of Army Careers Office and Career Clinics to remain in each region

Scotland

Dumfries

Aberdeen

 

Perth

Dundee

 

Dunfermline

Edinburgh

 

Kirkcaldy

Glasgow

 

Bathgate

Inverness

 

Galashiels

 
 

Dumbarton

 
 

Hamilton

 
 

Irvine

 
 

Paisley

 
 

Stirling

 
 

Wick

 
 

Elgin

 
 

Greenock

 
   

North West

Crewe

Carlisle

 

Birkenhead

Liverpool

 

Workington

Chester

 

Kendal

Manchester

 

Burnley

Stockport

 

Bury

Preston

 

Wigan

Bolton

 

Blackburn

Lancaster

 

Blackpool

 
 

Warrington

 
 

Barrow-in-Furness

 
 

Oldham

 
 

Rochdale

 
 

Kirkby

 
   

North East

Barnsley

Hull

 

Scarborough

York

28 Jan 2013 : Column 563W

28 Jan 2013 : Column 564W

 

Bishop-Auckland

Middlesbrough

 

Huddersfield

Newcastle

 

Ashington

Sunderland

 

Halifax

Leeds

 

Durham

Bradford

 

Darlington

Sheffield

 

South Shields

Doncaster

 

Wakefield

 
 

Catterick

 
   

Wales

Pontypridd

Cardiff

 

Abergavenny

Newport

 

Carmarthen

Swansea

 

Haverford West

Wrexham

 

Rhyl

Bangor

 

Aberystwyth

 
 

Bridgend

 
   

West Midlands

Burton upon Trent

Birmingham

 

Telford

Coventry

 

Rugby

Wolverhampton

 

Kidderminster

Shrewsbury

 

Stafford

Hereford Worcester Stoke

 

Shrewsbury—Contact Point

 
   

East

Corby

Cambridge

 

Southend

Peterborough

 

Boston

Luton

 

Chesterfield

Leicester

 

Watford

Northampton

 

Colchester

Lincoln

 

Scunthorpe

Grimsby

  

Chelmsford

  

Nottingham

  

Derby

  

Mansfield

  

Norwich

  

Ipswich

   

South East

Aylesbury

Brighton

 

Eastbourne

Crawley

 

Hastings

Chatham

 

Newport Isle of Wight

Canterbury

 

Basingstoke

Portsmouth

 

Tunbridge

Aldershot

 

Dover

Southampton

 

Chichester

Reading

 

Woking

Oxford

 

Maidstone

Slough

 

Ashford

Milton Keynes

   

Wessex

Dorchester

Bournemouth

 

Weymouth

Salisbury

28 Jan 2013 : Column 565W

28 Jan 2013 : Column 566W

 

Torquay

Bristol

 

Bath

Exeter

 

Bodmin

Taunton

 

Barnstaple

Gloucester

  

Swindon

  

Plymouth

  

Redruth

   

Northern Ireland

 

Belfast

  

Enniskillen

  

Coleraine

  

Portadown

   

London

Bromley

London—Handle Street

 

Croydon

London—Rochester Row

 

Ilford

 
 

Wembley

 
 

Herford (located in Germany)

 
 

Dalston

 
 

Hounslow

 

Of those Army Careers Offices and Careers Clinics which have closed since May 2010, 13 were closed prior to the award of the RPP contract in March 2012.

AWE Aldermaston

Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) on what dates (a) his Department, (b) the Office for Nuclear Regulation and (c) the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator were notified by Atomic Weapons Establishment Aldermaston about problems with the structural condition of building A45 at Atomic Weapons Establishment Aldermaston; [140032]

(2) how many buildings at Atomic Weapons Establishment Aldermaston are affected by degradation of steelwork in building structures; in which building production operations have been halted; what assessment he has made of the potential effect on the delivery of the Astute class submarine programme; and if he will make a statement; [140033]

(3) what his target date is for completion of work to remedy structural problems identified in steelwork in buildings at Atomic Weapons Establishment Aldermaston; what is the expected cost of remedying those problems; whether the costs of this work will be paid out of the budgeted costs of the management and operation contract for the Atomic Weapons Establishment between his Department and AWE Management Ltd or by other means; and if he will make a statement. [140034]

Mr Dunne: An inspection conducted on 21 August 2012, as part of the regular maintenance process, found signs of corrosion in a steel column in the uranium handling facility located on the Atomic Weapons Establishment's (AWE) Aldermaston site. Routine operations were suspended as a precaution.

AWE informed the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) on 23 August 2012 and the Ministry of Defence on 30 August 2012. The Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator was subsequently informed by ONR in accordance with extant regulatory arrangements. The ONR issued an Improvement Notice on this facility on 7 November 2012.

An enhanced site-wide survey has revealed some corrosion at two other buildings of similar construction; however, these buildings do not undertake any nuclear operations. Production operations have been halted in the uranium handling facility only. There has been no impact on any of our submarine programmes.

In conjunction with the ONR, work is ongoing to identify the optimum method of remediation, which will enable the ONR's target date for implementation of AWE's improvements by December 2013 to be met. It is too early to estimate the costs involved, or to say whether they will be met within the budgeted cost of the management and operation contract.

Defence: Procurement

Peter Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the contribution of the Niteworks organisation to improving defence acquisition; and if he will make a statement. [139173]

Mr Dunne: Niteworks is a Ministry of Defence (MOD) funded partnership with industry which provides evidence-based advice to inform capability planning and acquisition. It currently comprises 117 members drawn from across industry, including prime contractors and small to medium-sized enterprises. The current Niteworks contract ends in March 2013 and a business case to extend this arrangement for a further five years is currently being considered, through an internal MOD approvals process. The contribution of the Niteworks organisation, in terms of operational and business benefits to the MOD, has been taken into account within the business case.

28 Jan 2013 : Column 567W

European Fighter Aircraft

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the progress of the Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile integration project onto Typhoon aircraft. [139030]

Mr Dunne: Integration work continues with the successful firing of a Meteor missile from a Typhoon in December 2012.

HMS Victory

Mr Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether his Department will only grant permission to raise artefacts from the wreck of HMS Victory if the applicant is compliant with the archaeological principles set out in Annex A to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. [139607]

Mr Francois: In considering any request to raise artefacts from the site of HMS Victory which sank in 1744, the Ministry of Defence will ensure that the proposals are consistent with the Annex to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage.

Major Projects Review Board

Sir Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) who the members of the Major Projects Review Board are; [139530]

(2) how regularly the Major Projects Review Board reports; [139531]

(3) which projects the Major Projects Review Board is considering. [139532]

Mr Dunne: The Major Projects Review Board meets quarterly and its members are:

Secretary of State for Defence (Chair)

Minister Defence Equipment, Support and Technology

Ministry of Defence Director General Finance

Chief of Defence Materiel

Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Military Capability)

With regards to which projects the Board considers and how it reports, I refer the right hon. Member to the answer I gave to the right hon. Member for East Renfrewshire (Mr Murphy) on 17 December 2012, Official Report, columns 615-16W.

Military Bases: Ripon

Julian Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent assessment he has made of the living conditions at Claro Barracks in Ripon; and what investment is planned at that site. [138891]

Mr Francois: It is recognised that not all living accommodation at Claro Barracks Ripon is of the highest standard that service personnel deserve. There are 601 single living accommodation (SLA) bed-spaces at the site, of which 448 are at the lowest standard of four, for condition and scale. £200,000 has been spent

28 Jan 2013 : Column 568W

on delivering new fitted furniture to one of the SLA blocks over the past two years and there are plans to invest a further £200,000 in the next financial year.

In contrast, all 277 service family accommodation properties at Claro Barracks are at the highest two standards for condition, 154 at Grade 1 and 123 at Grade 2.

Military Police: Early Retirement

Fabian Hamilton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Ministry of Defence Police working in each US base on UK soil have applied for the Voluntary Early Retirement Scheme. [139672]

Mr Francois: The information requested is shown in the following table:

StationNumber of VERS applicants

Alconbury

2

Lakenheath/Mildenhall

1

Fairford

6

Menwith Hill

18

Navy

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the Order of Battle is of the fleet. [138941]

Mr Robathan: The Royal Navy Order of Battle includes all Royal Navy assets in the fleet programme, regardless of their readiness level.

As at 23 January 2013, the Order of Battle for the Fleet is as follows:

 Number

Landing Platform Helicopter

(1)2

Landing Platform Dock

2

T45 Destroyer

4

T42 Destroyer

1

T23 Frigate

13

Hunt Class MCV

8

Sandown Class MCV

7

Offshore Patrol Vessel—River Class

3

Offshore Patrol Vessel (Helicopter)

1

Inshore Patrol Boats

18

Ocean Survey Vessels

1

Coastal Survey Vessels

2

Inshore Survey Vessels

1

Ice Patrol Ship

1

Ship Submersible Ballistic Nuclear

4

  

Ship Submersible Nuclear

 

Trafalgar Class

5

Astute Class

1

  

Assault Helicopters—Sea King Mk 4

3 squadrons

Search and Rescue—Sea King Mk 5

1 squadron

Airborne Surveillance and Control—Sea King Mk 7

3 squadrons

  

Anti Submarine and Anti Surface

 

Merlin Mk 1

4 squadrons

Lynx Mk 3 and Mk 8

2 squadrons

28 Jan 2013 : Column 569W

  

Battlefield Helicopters—Lynx Mk 9

1 squadron

Elementary Flying

3 squadrons

Beechcraft King Air 350ER Avenger

1 squadron

(1) HMS Illustrious is now operating in the Landing Platform Helicopter role.

For the Royal Fleet Auxiliary:

 Number

Fleet Tankers

2

Support Tankers

1

Small Fleet Tankers

2

Fleet Replenishment Ships

3

Landing Ship Dock

3

Aviation Training Ship

1

Forward Repair Ship

1

RAF Lossiemouth

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when 6 Squadron and 1 Fighter Squadron will move to RAF Lossiemouth. [139502]

Mr Robathan: Planning is progressing to facilitate the phased relocation of the RAF Leuchars element of the Typhoon Force to RAF Lossiemouth starting from the end of 2013.

Royal Engineers

Mr Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about the (a) size and (b) skills sets of units capable of building and repairing railways in the Corps of Royal Engineers. [139125]

Mr Robathan: Within the Corps of Royal Engineers, the only unit specifically rolled to provide railway infrastructure expertise is 507 Specialist Team Royal Engineers (Volunteers) (Railways Infrastructure).

This unit has a total of 34 Territorial Army posts covering the range of skills necessary for the design and construction of railways such as draftsmen, fitters, track layers and plant operator mechanics. This unit is supported, as necessary, by other Corps of Royal Engineer units or construction contractors, who would assist in the building or repair of railways should the need arise.

Written Questions

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many and what proportion of

28 Jan 2013 : Column 570W

questions for written answer on a named day by his Department

(a)

received a substantive answer after the named day and

(b)

have not received a substantive answer in this Session; [139291]

(2) how many and what proportion of questions tabled for ordinary written answer by his Department (a) were answered after 30 days and (b) have not been answered in this Session. [139292]

Mr Francois: The Ministry of Defence (MOD) strives to answer all parliamentary questions on time, but it is often challenging to answer substantively within the limited timescales for named day questions. However, 79% of named day questions for answer between 9 May 2012 and 23 January 2013 were answered on or within five days of the day named. 82% of ordinary written questions were answered within 10 working days.

From the total of 679 named day questions received during this parliamentary Session, 2012-2013, up to 23 January 2013, 471 (69%) were answered after the day named, with a further 18 (3%) still awaiting a substantive answer.

From the total of 1,496 ordinary written questions received by the MOD, 36 (2%) were answered more than 30 days late and 59 (4%) have not yet been answered.

The Government have committed to providing the Procedure Committee with information relating to written parliamentary question performance on a sessional basis and will provide full information to the Committee at the end of the current Session. Statistics relating to performance for the 2010-12 parliamentary Session are available on the Parliament website at the following link:

http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/procedure/P35_Memorandum_Leader_of_the_House_ Monitoring_ PQs.pdf

Transport

British Transport Police

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many (a) full-time equivalent police officers, (b) full-time equivalent police community support officers and (c) other staff there were working for the British Transport Police in (i) total, (ii) each region and (iii) each constituent part of the UK in (A) 2010-11, (B) 2011-12 and (C) 2012-13 to date; and if he will make a statement. [139433]

Mr Simon Burns: The information requested is set out in the following tables:

Staff numbers—British Transport police
2012-13 (at 23 January 2013)
 Police officersPolice staffPCSOsSpecial constables

Force Headquarters

356

777

0

4

London North

438

102

99

34

London South

399

92

43

42

London Underground/DLR

673

211

104

47

North Eastern

271

74

16

33

North Western

258

63

28

21

Scotland

219

51

0

17

28 Jan 2013 : Column 571W

28 Jan 2013 : Column 572W

Wales and Western

252

70

63

30

Total

2,866

1,440

353

228

2011-12 (at 31 March 2012)
 Police officersPolice staffPCSOsSpecial constables

Force Headquarters

333

758

0

4

London North

454

96

103

38

London South

404

87

51

58

London Underground/DLR

675

212

74

60

North Eastern

272

72

20

32

North Western

256

64

32

24

Scotland

218

45

0

13

Wales and Western

253

68

48

22

Total

2,865

1,402

328

251

2010-11 (at 31 March 2011)
 Police officersPolice staffPCSOsSpecial constables

Force Headquarters

355

779

0

2

London North

456

104

106

29

London South

413

93

48

64

London Underground/DLR

667

204

47

70

North Eastern

253

70

21

26

North Western

262

53

36

10

Scotland

208

35

0

6

Wales and Western

252

67

40

26

Total

2,866

1,405

298

233

Driving: Licensing

Meg Munn: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what proportion of drivers in the UK currently hold Group 2 driving licences. [139814]

Stephen Hammond: On 18 January 2013 there were 44,807,737 driver records in Great Britain. The total number of drivers holding a group 2 (bus and/or lorry) driving licence is 1,380,796. Of these, 1,126,652 hold full entitlement and 254,144 hold provisional entitlement. The overall proportion of drivers in the UK holding a group 2 driving licence is 3.1%.

Information from Northern Ireland has not been included in this answer as driver licensing is a devolved matter in Northern Ireland.

Meg Munn: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 13 December 2012, Official Report, column 409W, on driver licensing, what information is kept on the age of the drivers whose licences were revoked for failing to meet the eyesight standards. [139995]

Stephen Hammond: The following table provides the age-ranges of drivers who had their driving licence refused or revoked because they could not meet the eyesight standards. This table reflects the age of the driver at the time of the refusal or revocation.

Drivers refused and revoked for failing to meet eyesight standards
Age20102011

17-19

139

194

20-29

483

407

30-39

343

378

40-49

469

522

50-59

552

610

60-69

624

667

70-79

1,335

1,582

80-89

1,266

1,336

90-99

188

219

100 and over

0

1

Total

5,399

5,916

Meg Munn: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 13 December 2012, Official Report, column 409W, on driver licensing, what proportion of overall licences held were revoked or refused because the applicant failed to meet the eyesight standards for (a) Group 1 licences and (b) Group 2 licences. [139996]

Stephen Hammond: The following table provides statistical information on the overall numbers and proportion of driving licences held in Great Britain that were revoked or the application refused because the applicant failed to meet the eyesight standards for group 1 and 2 licences.

28 Jan 2013 : Column 573W

28 Jan 2013 : Column 574W

  Group 1 revoked or refusedGroup 2 revoked or refused
 Total number of driver records in GBNumberPercentageNumberPercentage

2010

44,547,489

4,906

0.011

493

0.001

2011

45,127,884

5,258

0.012

658

0.001

Meg Munn: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 13 December 2012, Official Report, column 409W, on driver licensing, how many of the car and motorcycle licences revoked or refused because the applicant failed to meet the eyesight standards were (a) self-reported by the driver, (b) referred by a medical practitioner and (c) refused at the initial practical driving test stage. [139997]

Stephen Hammond: Information on how many revocations or refusals were as a result of a driver self reporting or referrals from medical practitioners is not held. In 2010, 501 licences were refused at the initial practical driving test stage. In 2011, the figure was 635.

Great Western Railway Line

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether he expects the first electric services on the Great Western Main Line to start running in December 2016. [139847]

Mr Simon Burns: I expect the first electric passenger services on the Great Western to start running in 2016.

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of whether his Department's proposed changes to the scope of the Great Western Main Line electrification project will affect the timetable for completion of that project. [139848]

Mr Simon Burns: In July 2012, the Government announced major capacity improvements at Bristol and Oxford plus electrification of the Spine, Valley Lines and between Cardiff and Swansea. I have asked Network Rail to ensure that these additional improvements are delivered alongside or built upon Great Western electrification which I expect to be completed on target between 2016 and 2018.

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether the project to electrify the Great Western Main Line is on schedule; and when he expects the project to be completed. [139849]

Mr Simon Burns: Electrification of the Great Western Main Line is on target. The programme will be complete when electric trains start running between Cardiff and Swansea which I have targeted for 2018.

Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of whether the early design and development stages of the Great Western Main Line electrification project will be delivered on time; and if he will make a statement. [139928]

Mr Simon Burns: In July 2012 the Government announced additional electrification between Cardiff and Swansea, of the Valley Lines and of the Electric Spine plus major capacity improvements at Bristol and Oxford. I expect Network Rail to achieve the next design milestone in April 2013.

London Airports: Snow and Ice

Henry Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent discussions he has had with his ministerial colleagues on how best to ensure that London airports do all they can to avoid pre-emptively cancelling flights during periods of severe inclement weather. [139795]

Mr Simon Burns: Development of airports' winter weather resilience plans is a matter for airport operators in collaboration with airlines and other partners. At Heathrow airport, which operates throughout the year at almost full capacity, cancelling a proportion of a daily flight schedule in advance of forecast severe winter weather allows resilience for necessary snow and ice clearance from runways and taxiways, and for increased take-off and landing separation in poor visibility. The decision to reduce a flight schedule is reached jointly only after analysis of weather forecasts by the airport operator, air traffic control, Heathrow's Airline Operators Committee, airlines, and the independent airport slot co-ordinator. The airport considers that it is a better option to cancel a proportion of flights in advance so that normal operations can resume quickly the following day, than risk short-term flight cancellations which cause more annoyance and inconvenience for air passengers.

Metal Theft

Graham Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what funding his Department will provide for the British Transport Police metal theft task force in 2013. [140110]

Norman Baker: The Department has provided £5 million for the National Metal Theft Task Force for the year 2012/13. Discussions are under way with the Home Office about a request from the British Transport Police for additional funding for 2013-14, but no decisions have yet been taken.

Metropolitan Police

Mr Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much funding his Department allocated to the Metropolitan police in (a) 2010-11, (b) 2011-12 and (c) 2012-13; how much he plans to allocate in future years; and if he will make a statement. [139427]

Mr Simon Burns: My Department has not made any payments to the Metropolitan police in any of the years in question.

28 Jan 2013 : Column 575W

Railways: Franchises

Gavin Shuker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport with reference to the Brown Review of Rail Franchising, what work is being undertaken to extend the use of management contracts; and if he will make a statement. [139908]

Mr Simon Burns: In light of Mr Brown's review, the Department is reviewing the whole future franchising programme, which we are committed to restarting as soon as possible.

The forward programme we announce in the spring will be ambitious but based on a rigorous and realistic assessment of what is achievable, and of what the appropriate commercial arrangements might be for individual franchises.

Railways: South West

Stephen Gilbert: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will bring forward proposals to improve the railways in the South West for the purposes of preventing severe flooding from affecting rail connections between the region and the rest of the UK. [139767]

Norman Baker: Earlier this month I wrote to Network Rail to emphasise the importance of the resilience of the network, including in the South West.

The strategic business plans published by Network Rail and the rail industry for the period 2014-19 include plans for investment which will improve the resilience of the railway infrastructure, including measures to improve flood mitigation. The plans include significant extra spend on areas of known weakness but are strategic plans and are still being developed. These plans are now subject to review by the Office of Rail Regulation, which will determine the appropriate level of funding and delivery obligations for Network Rail over that period.

Senior Civil Servants

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many and what proportion of officials of the three most senior grades in his Department have (a) resigned, (b) taken voluntary early retirement, (c) left the Department for alternative employment, (d) been dismissed, (e) taken long-term sick leave and (f) taken administrative leave since May 2010. [139226]

Norman Baker: The number and proportion of staff in the three most senior grades in the Department for Transport who have (a) resigned, (b) taken voluntary early retirement, (c) left the Department for alternative employment, (d) been dismissed, (e) taken long-term sick leave and (f) taken administrative leave since May 2010 is shown in the table below:

 TotalProportion

Resigned

1

2.7%

Voluntary Early Retirement

5

13.5%

Alternative Employment

6

16.2%

28 Jan 2013 : Column 576W

Dismissed

0

0.0%

Long Term Sick Leave

1

2.7%

Administrative Leave

1

2.7%

Thameslink Railway Line

Gavin Shuker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport with reference to the Brown Review of Rail Franchising, whether the Thameslink route will be considered for a management contract arrangement; and if he will make a statement. [139909]

Mr Simon Burns: Mr Brown's review recommends that the Government should determine, by February, our plans for the three franchise competitions, including Thameslink, that were put on hold last October. We accept that recommendation, and the Secretary of State for Transport, will update the House when we have determined those plans.

Chris Williamson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he last discussed the Thameslink rolling stock procurement with the European Commission. [140055]

Mr Simon Burns: Officials keep the European Commission informed about this major rolling stock procurement, as they often do in relation to significant procurement projects.

Chris Williamson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport for what reason the Thameslink rolling stock procurement process is being carried out under utilities regulations. [140056]

Mr Simon Burns: I would refer to the paragraph entitled Procurement Directive, in Annex 2, Ev 26 of the Transport Committee's report on the Thameslink rolling stock procurement, published in December 2011.

Wales

Paralympic Games 2012

Dr Francis: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with disability organisations in Wales on the legacy in Wales of the London 2012 Paralympics; and if he will make a statement. [139107]

Mr David Jones: A Paralympic Legacy Advisory Group has been established, consisting of external representatives from leading disability charities, disabled people’s user-led organisations (DPLUOs), Paralympians, businesses and the media. It provides a forum through which to engage external organisations, seek their advice and ensure that disability opportunities are exploited and delivered across the whole of the legacy programme.

Wales Office Ministers will continue to work with organisations in Wales and the Welsh Government to ensure that Wales is able to benefit from the legacy of the Games.

28 Jan 2013 : Column 577W

Plants

Rachel Reeves: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how much his Department has spent on indoor and outdoor plants and trees since his appointment. [139952]

Stephen Crabb: Since September 2012, the Wales Office purchased two Christmas trees for its offices in London and Cardiff at a total cost of £142. There has been no further spend on plants or trees.

Recruitment

Rachel Reeves: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how much his Department has spent on advertising job vacancies since May 2010. [139984]

Stephen Crabb: There has been no spending by the Wales Office on advertising job vacancies since May 2010.

Senior Civil Servants

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many and what proportion of officials of the three most senior grades in his Department have (a) resigned, (b) taken voluntary early retirement, (c) left the Department for alternative employment, (d) been dismissed, (e) taken long-term sick leave and (f) taken administrative leave since May 2010. [139228]

Stephen Crabb: The numbers requested in relation to each question are as follows:

(a): 0

(b): 0

(c): 7

(d): 0

(e): 0

(f): 0

Of the seven staff who have left the Department for alternative employment, three were on loan to the Wales Office and returned to their home Departments; and two are on loan to other Government Departments but can return to the Wales Office at the loan end.

Training

Rachel Reeves: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many away days his Department has held since 2010; and what the cost was of each such event. [139964]

Stephen Crabb: The Department has held no away days since 2010.

Written Questions

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales (1) how many and what proportion of questions for written answer on a named day by his Department (a) received a substantive answer after the named day and (b) have not received a substantive answer in this Session; [139327]

28 Jan 2013 : Column 578W

(2) how many and what proportion of questions tabled for ordinary written answer by his Department (a) were answered after 30 days and (b) have not been answered in this Session. [139328]

Stephen Crabb: The information requested is shown in the following tables:

 Named day PQs

Total number received—10 May 2012 to 21 January 2013

32

  

(a) PQs that received a substantive answer after the named day

0 (0%)

(b) PQs that have not received a substantive answer in this Session

0 (0%)

 Ordinary written PQs

Total number received—10 May 2012 to 21 January 2013

210

  

(a) PQs answered after 30 days

0 (0%)

(b) PQs not answered in this Session

0 (0%)

The Government have committed to providing the Procedure Committee with information relating to written parliamentary question performance on a sessional basis and will provide full information to the Committee at the end of the Session. Statistics relating to Government Departments' performance for the 2010-12 parliamentary Session were previously provided to the committee and are available on the Parliament website.

Scotland

Conditions of Employment

Ann McKechin: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what proportion of staff in his Department currently work (a) part-time, (b) in a job-share or (c) in another flexible working arrangement. [139376]

David Mundell: 12.5% of staff work either part-time or in another flexible working arrangement.

Retail Trade

Ann McKechin: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether recent job losses in the retail sector will be discussed in the Employability Forum to be held between the UK and Scottish Governments on 31 January 2013. [139835]

David Mundell: The Scottish Employability Forum will bring together a range of partners to discuss issues relating to unemployment. The retail sector will be represented at the forum.

Senior Civil Servants

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many and what proportion of officials of the three most senior grades in his Department have (a) resigned, (b) taken voluntary early retirement,

28 Jan 2013 : Column 579W

(c)

left the Department for alternative employment,

(d)

been dismissed,

(e)

taken long-term sick leave and

(f)

taken administrative leave since May 2010. [139225]

David Mundell: The Scotland Office does not employ staff directly; staff join the office on an assignment or secondment/loan agreement from other government bodies, mainly the Scottish Government and the Ministry of Justice. Since May 2010, three senior civil servants have left the Scotland Office, one through resignation and two who left the office to take up posts elsewhere within the civil service.

Work Programme

Ann McKechin: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether the operation of the Work programme and opportunities for training will be discussed at the Employability Forum to be held between the UK and Scottish Governments on 31 January 2013. [139838]

David Mundell: The Scottish Employability Forum will bring together a range of partners to discuss issues relating to unemployment. The main Work programme contractors in Scotland will be represented at the forum.

Written Questions

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) how many and what proportion of questions for written answer on a named day by his Department (a) received a substantive answer after the named day and (b) have not received a substantive answer in this Session; [139321]

(2) how many and what proportion of questions tabled for ordinary written answer by his Department (a) were answered after 30 days and (b) have not been answered in this Session. [139322]

David Mundell: For the period 10 May 2012 to 21 January 2013, the Scotland Office received 70 named day parliamentary questions, nine of which (13%) received a substantive answer after the day named. All have been answered substantively in this Session.

For the same period, my Department received 147 ordinary written questions. All were answered within 30 days.

The Government have committed to providing the Procedure Committee with information relating to written parliamentary question performance on a sessional basis and will provide full information to the Committee at the end of the Session. Statistics relating to Government Department's performance for the 2010-12 Parliamentary Session were previously provided to the Committee and are available on the Parliament website.

Communities and Local Government

Building Alterations: Planning Permission

Roberta Blackman-Woods: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether his Department's proposed extension of permitted development rights will be limited to 50 per cent of a property's garden or 50 per cent of the total curtilage as stated in the original consultation. [139505]

28 Jan 2013 : Column 580W

Nick Boles: The technical consultation on extending permitted development rights for homeowners and businesses closed on 24 December 2012. We are now considering the responses before confirming the changes we will make.

Community Infrastructure Levy

Roberta Blackman-Woods: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what estimate his Department has made of the number of community groups that will qualify to receive 25 per cent of community infrastructure levy receipts raised in their neighbourhood area by 31 March 2013; [139446]

(2) what estimate his Department has made of the number of community groups that will qualify to receive 25 per cent of community infrastructure levy receipts raised in their neighbourhood area by 31 December 2013; [139447]

(3) what estimate he has made of the number of community groups qualified to receive 25 per cent of community infrastructure levy receipts raised in their neighbourhood area as at 14 January 2013. [139450]

Nick Boles: The amount of community infrastructure levy that will pass to community groups that have adopted a neighbourhood development plan, and will therefore qualify for 25% of the levy receipts, will depend on (a) take up of the Community Infrastructure Levy and (b) areas where a neighbourhood development plan has been through referendum and brought into force.

Parish or town councils will receive this money directly. In communities without a parish or town council the local planning authority will retain it and spend it in accordance with the wishes of the community. Guidance will be published when the regulations come into force.

Roberta Blackman-Woods: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate his Department has made of the number of affordable homes that will be built as a result of the policy to give 25 per cent of community infrastructure levy receipts to community groups in the neighbourhood area in which the receipts were raised. [139449]

Nick Boles: The community infrastructure levy does not fund affordable housing but by giving communities a proportion of levy receipts we expect to communities to accept more house-building by giving them a tangible share of the benefits it brings. A proportion of those houses will be affordable, depending on local policies.

Council Tax

Mr Raynsford: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will publish a table setting out the distribution between council tax bands A to H of (a) existing housing stock and (b) new additions to the housing stock in 2011-12 that were used to determine new homes bonus allocations in (i) England and (ii) each housing authority and the proportion of the total accounted for by each council tax band. [R] [134463]

28 Jan 2013 : Column 581W

Mr Prisk [holding answer 20 December 2012]: Council tax base data for the number of dwellings in each council tax band for each local authority area in England, in October 2012 and October 2011, have been published at the following locations:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/14811/Web_2012_Council_Tax_Base_Nov_2012.pdf

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/6692/203045312.xls

Net additions are calculated by subtracting effective stock (total stock less long-term empty homes), as recorded on the council tax base form in the later year from the earlier year. The net additions, as calculated for this year's provisional calculations, are published on the Department's website:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/36865/121212_Provisionals_-_version_for_gov_uk_site.xls

For these provisional allocations, there are 29 authorities where we have asked for clarification of empty homes data provided, and have not included an empty homes component in their provisional allocations. We will take account of those authorities' responses when determining final allocations, and at that stage all authorities will receive an allocation that includes any empty homes element due to them.

I have placed in the Library of the House a table showing, for each local authority in England, the numbers and proportions of net changes in effective stock by council tax band.

I would draw the right hon. Member's attention to the answer to him of 27 February 2012, Official Report, column 36W. As Ministers explained then, council tax bandings are overseen by an independent executive agency which does not receive the new homes bonus. Their banding methodology has not changed, and new additions are only added if there is a substantive material change and a genuine new dwelling created.

The lion's share of new homes being created and rewarded by the new homes bonus are in council tax Bands C and B, followed by Band D and then by Band A.

Compared to the existing profile of the housing stock in England, more of the new homes are in Band B and C. If the right hon. Member's reclassification theory was actually correct, then there would be a disproportionate growth in Band A properties, but the reverse is the case.

Percentage
Council tax bandBreakdown of net change in stock October 2011 to October 2012Profile of existing dwelling stock

A

17

25

B

23

20

C

25

22

D

17

15

E

9

9

F

5

5

G

3

4

H

1

1

Source: Existing dwellings data from Valuation Office Agency Council Tax Valuation List Summary for September 2012 and Council Tax Base information October 2012

28 Jan 2013 : Column 582W

The new homes bonus is supporting affordable housing, as evident from two-thirds of the new dwellings being in Bands A to C and, overall, the new housing is in line with the general profile of England's housing stock.

Housing: Construction

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which recent representations he has received on the potential harmful effects to self-build developments as a result of the community infrastructure levy and the affordable housing levy. [138625]

Nick Boles: We recognise that self-build operates on a different basis to volume house builders. We are currently reviewing whether additional steps should be taken to ensure the self-build industry is not adversely affected by the community infrastructure levy.

In relation to section 106 planning obligations, there are a series of measures we have introduced or are introducing to ensure that such obligations do not make otherwise acceptable development economically unviable.

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate he has made of the number of housing developments which are no longer going ahead following the introduction of the community infrastructure levy and the affordable housing levy; and how many such developments were planned for greenfield sites. [138626]

Nick Boles: The Department does not collect this information although our policies are designed to support development. The community infrastructure levy is optional and when local planning authorities choose to adopt the levy they must determine the appropriate rate or rates. This is a local decision based on evidence of economic viability and infrastructure need. Affordable housing requirements, provided through Section 106 agreements, are locally negotiated. We are introducing provision, in the Growth and Infrastructure Bill to allow developers to review affordable housing requirements to ensure they are viable in current market conditions. The effective provision of infrastructure to mitigate the impacts of development is essential if we are to support sustainable growth.

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which (a) builders, (b) self builders, (c) architects, (d) surveyors and (e) estate agents' organisations were consulted by his Department over the production of the economic impact assessments for the (i) affordable housing levy and (ii) community infrastructure levy. [139020]

Nick Boles: We consider impacts throughout the policy making process and make full use of available evidence to identify impacts on particular groups and sectors. We do not formally consult on impact assessments as a matter of course, although any comments made when they are published are taken into account when they are revised.

28 Jan 2013 : Column 583W

I would observe that the community infrastructure levy was introduced under the last Administration, with enabling legislation through the Planning Act 2008. Initial impact assessments were published to accompany the Bill.

A consultation paper on draft regulations and a partial impact assessment was published in July 2009. A final impact assessment and a summary of responses to the consultation were published in February 2010, and the regulations came into effect in April 2010. More information can be found on the National Archives website.

This Government updated the impact assessment in January 2011 to accompany the decentralising reforms in the Localism Bill, and again in October 2011, to accompany a consultation paper on further reforms to the community infrastructure levy regulations.

We have published separate impact assessments on a consultation on revising pre- April 2010 Section 106 agreements and on the Growth and Infrastructure Bill's proposals on renegotiating economically unviable Section 106 agreements.

Housing: Greater London

Mr Raynsford: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much each London borough spent on housing capital in each year between 2005-06 and 2011-12; and how much was spent through (a) each local authority, (b) registered social landlords and (c) other providers. [137758]

Mr Prisk: A table has been placed in the Library of the House which shows capital expenditure on housing by each local authority in London from 2005-06 to 2011-12. It is not possible to say how much of this relates to registered social landlords or other providers.

These figures exclude spending by the Greater London Authority. I observe that the Mayor's proposed strategy states:

“£1.8 billion of public funding has been secured by the Mayor which will unlock an estimated additional £3.7 billion of other investment for London to enable 55,000 affordable homes to be delivered between 2011 -15.”

(Mayor of London, ‘The Revised London Housing Strategy', December 2011, p.35).

Listed Buildings

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment his Department has made of success in removing red tape and bureaucracy for owners of listed heritage buildings. [R] [139017]

Nick Boles: There are provisions in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, which is currently before Parliament, which will simplify the listed building consent regime. The planning theme of the Government's red

28 Jan 2013 : Column 584W

tape challenge, which is expected to go live shortly, will include heritage secondary legislation. In addition, the planning guidance review undertaken by Lord Taylor of Goss Moor recommended a rationalisation of existing heritage related guidance. Public consultation on those recommendations ends on 15 February 2013.

Local Government Finance

Mr Blunkett: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the answer of 13 December 2012, Official Report, column 443W, on local government finance, what impact assessment has been undertaken by his Department and HM Treasury on a further two per cent reduction in centrally-funded expenditure on local government from 2014. [134586]

Brandon Lewis: Every bit of the public sector need do to their bit to tackle the deficit left by the last Administration; this includes local government which accounts for a quarter of all public spending. The settlement is a fair one—fair to north and south, fair to rural and urban areas and fair to shires and metropolitan areas.

It is for individual local authorities to determine their budgets, however, we have been clear that councils should be making sensible savings, to protect frontline service and keep council tax down.

An equality statement was published alongside December's provisional Local Government Finance Settlement; I have placed a copy in the Library of the House.

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many meetings each Minister in his Department has had with local authority leaders to discuss the Local Government Finance Settlement 2013-14; what the date of each meeting was; and who attended on each occasion. [138979]

Brandon Lewis: Details of Ministers' meetings with external organisations are routinely published on my Department's website.