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26 Nov 2002 : Column WA29

Written Answers

Tuesday, 26th November 2002.

Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene

Lord Hunt of Chesterton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the policies on the issues of resources, sanitation and flooding that they will be advocating in 2003 at the World Water Forum and during the World Water Year.[HL42]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): The Department for International Development supports an integrated approach to water supply, sanitation and hygiene designed to improve health and combat poverty. The department is working with developing countries, other development agencies and financial institutions to ensure that support is provided to develop integrated water resources management and water efficiency plans by 2005 and to try to ensure that the millennium development goal targets to improve access to water and sanitation are achieved.

We aim to assist disaster-prone countries better to manage natural and environmental risks such as flooding through encouraging countries to include risk reduction, disaster management and mitigation in their development planning processes and supporting community initiatives to reduce their vulnerability to major risks.

Our efforts at the Third World Water Forum in Kyoto will be directed towards ensuring that the international community delivers on its promises made at the World Summit on Sustainable Development by moving to an intensive period of implementation.

Lord Hunt of Chesterton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether during 2003, the World Water Year, they will be ensuring that all the relevant government departments and agencies providing the United Kingdom's representatives will be advocating consistent policies at the United Nations agencies and international bodies concerned with water issues; and whether the United Kingdom will be increasing its funding to those organisations for these policies.[HL43]

Baroness Amos: Government departments, including DFID, FCO and Defra, are working together with the UK Mission to the UN to ensure that consistent policies and responses on water issues are being advocated and that there is a co-ordinated response to the International Year of Freshwater.

The Government's core funding to UN agencies is determined by our assessment of their effectiveness in using such funds to help reduce poverty and achieve

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the millennium development goals. Support to specific initiatives arising from the World Summit on Sustainable Development will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Joan

Equality Commissions; Framework Agreements

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Filkin on 4 November (WA67), whether they will publish the framework agreements between the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission and the responsible Ministers.[HL14]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): The duties, powers and responsibilities of the commissions are set out in the Race Relations Act 1976, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Disability Rights Commission Act 1999, respectively.

No single document sets out a framework agreement between each equality commission and its sponsoring Minister.

Key documents which set out the broad operating framework and mechanisms for agreeing and accounting for resources include management statements, financial memoranda and corporate or business plans. Ad hoc letters and agreed papers are used to amplify the key documents.

Copies of the key documents relevant to each of the commissions have today been placed in the Library of the House.

All are subject to periodic review and some of those to be laid before the House today are currently being updated. Revised copies will be placed in the Library once available.

Anti-social Behaviour Orders

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many anti-social behaviour orders have been made by courts in England and Wales. [HL17]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): An anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) is a civil order made by a court which currently can be applied for by a local authority or the police.

We are aware that the numbers of ASBOs made locally have been consistently under-reported in returns made by magistrates' courts and are considering how reporting can be improved.

The number of notifications received by the Home Office of ASBOs issued within England and Wales from their introduction on 1 April 1999 to 30 June 2002 (latest available) is 654.

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Tax Relief for Private Pension Contributions

Baroness Greengross asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much was spent in 2001–02 on tax relief for private pension contributions; and [HL21]

    What amount would have been spent in 2001–02 if tax relief for private pension contributions had been restricted to the basic rate of taxation. [HL22]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Estimates of the cost of tax relief on private pension contributions are contained in table 7.9 of Inland Revenue Statistics. The latest version is on the Inland Revenue website: t09 1.htm

Of the estimated £6.4 billion relief on contributions by employees and the self-employed in 2001–02, around £3.7 billion is in respect of higher rate taxpayers, and on employer contributions of the total of £9.5 billion around £5.4 billion is in respect of higher rate employees. These amounts do not represent the yield from restricting relief to the basic rate as there could be a significant behavioural response.

The employers' component is estimated on the basis that under present arrangements, employer contributions are not taxable as a benefit in kind of the employees. The estimates assume that the proportion of total employers' contributions relating to higher rate taxpayers is the same as that observed for employee contributions.


Lord Watson of Richmond asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made in identifying, locating and freezing the assets of leading members of Mr Mugabe's regime.[HL170]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: A total of 28 accounts containing funds totalling £513,116.02 has been frozen in the UK and Crown Dependencies since the EU Common Position imposed an asset freeze on members of Mugabe's regime. We will continue to work with UK financial institutions to identify and freeze more accounts and funds belonging to the targeted individuals.

British Energy: Deferred Payments of Business Rates

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many local authorities have deferred payments of business rates from British Energy; and how much this has cost the local authorities concerned.[HL39]

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The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the deferment of payments of business rates, such as those granted by Lancaster City Council to British Energy, can be deemed to be exempt from the obligation of publication.[HL40]

Lord Rooker: Local authorities may by resolution exclude the public from a meeting during an item of business whenever it is likely that exempt information would otherwise be disclosed to members of the public. The resolution must identify the proceedings, or the part of the proceedings to which it applies, and state the description, in terms of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, of the exempt information in question. Among the information which may be covered by a resolution is that relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (other than the authority)—paragraph 7 of Part I of Schedule 12A.

Local Government

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps the Government are taking to devolve power to local government and what action they are taking to follow up the results of the comprehensive performance assessment for county and unitary authorities in England.[HL276]

Lord Rooker: The Minister for Local Government, the Regions and Fire said today in the other place: "I am announcing today a significant devolution of power to local government. This includes the steps that the Government intend to take to follow up the results of the comprehensive performance assessments (CPA) of county and unitary authorities which the Audit Commission is due to publish in December. This will mark a significant milestone in completing the proposals in the Local Government White Paper, Strong Local Leadership—Quality Public Services. I have placed copies of our proposals in the Library."

Our aim is progressive improvement in authorities' performance as measured by the CPA. Our package means that there will be greater freedom for local councils to allow them to meet the needs of their communities, support where it is needed and effective action to tackle failure. The nature of the action will vary between the different CPA categories.

Overall there will be greater devolution of power to local government from central government control. It means greater freedom for councillors and those in the front line to take decisions locally to shape and improve services and respond to local needs.

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All councils will have greater control over how they spend their money, with a reduction in the level of ring-fencing in government revenue grants and an increase in the funding for capital going through the single capital pot. We will also reduce current requirements to produce separate plans by over 75 per cent.

For the best councils there will be a set of more radical changes. These will include even greater flexibility to decide how to spend money received from central government (other than money which has to be passed to schools); no requirement to produce plans for central government; and a three-year holiday from most inspection activity.

The announcement also sets out further details about how we shall work with local government on a package of support for councils, with central government matching pound for pound the additional funding agreed with the LGA for capacity building.

For the weakest authorities we are confirming the principles for tackling poor performance on which we consulted earlier in the year. The Government will engage directly with all such authorities from an early stage.

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