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Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: No Ministry of Defence training land would be rendered completely unusable.

Playing Fields

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bach: Planning policy guidance note 17 places an obligation on local authorities and not the Ministry of Defence to carry out local audits of open space, sports and recreational facilities in order to develop appropriate policies within the local planning framework.

Nevertheless, the Ministry of Defence will consult local authorities prior to marketing surplus land and property in order to establish the planning framework for a particular site, which may involve an independent assessment of such matters.

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Apache Attack Helicopter

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied with the progress of the Apache AH1 attack helicopter in the recent exercise Eagles Eye 2004.

Lord Bach: One of the main objectives of Exercise Eagles Eye 2004 was to validate the initial operating capability of the Apache attack helicopter, and this was achieved very successfully.

Local Government Finance

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will allow local authorities in England, which are not receiving the full amount of revenue support grant implied by the new needs-based formula allocation system as a result of "ceilings" in grant payments made under the transitional regime, to levy additional council tax without being capped, in order that they can spend closer to, or at the level that is implied by, the new formula.

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): It is premature to speculate about the level of government funding that will be available to local authorities in 2005–06, as the proposals for the provisional local government settlement for 2005–06 have not yet been announced.

No decisions on capping in 2005–06 and beyond have been made. But the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has made it clear that we expect to see significantly lower council tax increases next year and will take even tougher capping action in 2005–06 if that proves necessary.

Gypsy and Traveller Encampments

Lord Dixon-Smith asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the judgment in the Court of Appeal in the case of First Secretary of State and Others v Chichester District Council has implications for present planning guidance in relation to the provision of sites for Gypsy caravans.

Lord Rooker: This judgment does not change present planning guidance. The case does however send a clear message that local authorities, in line with existing guidance, should seek to ensure adequate provision of Gypsy sites through the development plan process.

Lord Dixon-Smith asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many local authorities might be vulnerable to the establishment of Gypsy encampments without planning permission as a consequence of

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    the local authorities not having sufficient established sites with planning permission within their boundaries and the local authorities subsequently taking no action to provide additional sites.

Lord Rooker: It is not possible to estimate how many unauthorised Gypsy site developments might result from local authorities not taking the advice given in Circular 1/94 "Gypsy Sites and Planning". This states that they should identify suitable locations in their development plans wherever possible and failing that, they should have realistic criteria for suitable locations as a basis for their site provision policies.

Lord Dixon-Smith asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How a local authority is to differentiate between the need to protect the countryside and the need to provide sites for Gypsy caravans in order to avoid breaching Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Lord Rooker: Local authorities determine planning applications in accordance with their development plan and other material considerations. Development plans must reflect government policy aimed at protecting the countryside, including the green belt. Local authorities have to decide whether there are circumstances to justify development in such areas. In doing so, they must also take account of the human rights of applicants. Each case is decided on its own merits.

Children's Health

Lord Pendry asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ensure that ring-fencing will be provided for children's health within the National Health Service budget.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): Children's health is an important priority for this Government. This is why we published the National Service Framework (NSF) on Children, Young People and Maternity Services on 15 September 2004 and have ensured that the Department of Health's public service agreement from the 2004 spending review contains targets on childhood obesity, child and adolescent mental health services, infant mortality and the under-18 conception rate. Implementation of the NSF is mandatory during its 10-year span.

However, we believe that funding should be allocated to the National Health Service with the absolute minimum of earmarking for specific services. This allows the NHS locally to make the right decisions on how to address local priorities while meeting national standards and targets.

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Integrated Children's System Database

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why no provision has been made for the roll-out of the integrated children's system database in the Children Bill; and

    Given the provision in Clause 9 of the Children Bill, what additional purposes are intended to be serviced by the integrated children's system database.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Lord Filkin): The integrated children's system (ICS) will be quite different from the information database(s). The ICS is a framework for councils with social services responsibilities' (CSSRs') work with children in need and their families that provides a single approach for assessment, planning, intervention and reviewing based on an understanding of children's development needs in the context of their families and communities. It is designed to improve outcomes for children in need. The information gathered in the course of working with children and their families must be recorded by social services. These records have traditionally been paper-based but increasingly councils have electronic record-keeping systems in place. As part of implementing the integrated children's system, social service records kept on their work with children in need will all be kept electronically, replacing paper-based systems. The ICS is simply a better way to maintain and meet existing record-keeping requirements and, therefore, requires no legislative provision.

The ICS will provide a more effective way of keeping and accessing records relating to social services work with chidren and families than exists at present. This will help to improve standards of service to children and families.

The information database(s) provided for by the Children Bill will not contain detailed case information such as this. The information sharing databases will be broader in their coverage than the ICS (they will cover all children in England, whereas the ICS will record information about the 4 per cent of children in need known to social services at any one time), but narrower in terms of the information they will hold about the child. They will contain basic information about all children and the contact details of practitioners working with them across the board. This will be a new and valuable tool in aiding a wide range of practitioners in working together to meet children's needs.

There is no explicit relationship between the IT system which supports the use of the ICS and the information databases. The IT system which CSSRs purchase for the ICS are designed to hold information about children in need and their families, who are in receipt of services from social services. It is, therefore, a specialist system for holding case-based data.

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