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Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport when the advisory committee referred to in the guidelines for the European City of Culture will be appointed; who will appoint individuals; what selection procedures will be used to select and appoint committee members; what the deadline is by which interested cities must declare an interest in bidding; how many cities will be shortlisted; if there will be a programme of visits to bidding cities; and if there will be a limit on the nature and the extent of illustrative material which can be submitted to support a bid. 
The members of the advisory panel will be appointed by Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Ministers. They will be selected from the usual sources used by the Department for public appointments. These include: DCMS and Cabinet Office databases, consultation with other Government Departments and with the devolved Administrations, nominations from individuals or by other organisations. While appointments to the advisory panel are not expected to fall within the Commissioner for Public Appointments' Code of Practice, the Department will apply the spirit of the code when making these appointments.
The deadline for applications by interested cities is 31 March 2002 and we anticipate that the shortlist will be announced by autumn 2002. No decision has been made regarding the number of cities which will be shortlisted. No decision has been made regarding visits to bidding cities. We have placed no limit on the nature and extent of illustrative material to support a bid, except that any audio-visual material should last no longer than 30 minutes.
David Maclean: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many days on average were lost per employee in her Department because of sickness; and how many officials retired early from her Department in each of the past 10 years. [R] 
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Department are set out in the following table. These figures are for each complete year from 1993 following the creation of my Department in 1992.
|Year||Average days sick||Early retirements|
Tessa Jowell [holding answer 19 July 2001]: Extending the statutory targets for subtitling, signing and audio description on digital terrestrial television to digital cable and digital satellite services requires primary legislation. My intention is for the increased 80 per cent. subtitling target to be included in the forthcoming draft Communications Bill.
Dr. Howells [holding answer 20 July 2001]: Responsibility for the subject of this question has been delegated to the Royal Parks Agency under its Chief Executive, William Weston. Mr. Weston wrote to my hon. Friend on 14 August as follows.
Mr. Caborn: Most of this Department's funds are allocated through non-departmental public bodies. It is for those bodies to determine how their funds will be used, in accordance with their funding agreements with the Department.
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The funding system for the arts will be reformed to create a single funding organisation with regional arts councils and considerably enhanced levels of local government involvement. The new system will enable the regions to be active drivers of the funding system, rather than merely clients of a national body. It will result in a more streamlined organisation which will offer up savings that can be ploughed back into the arts, as well as providing a structure that is simpler and more consistent for those applying for funds and support. The Arts Council of England is currently consulting on the detail of the proposed changes.
In relation to national lottery funding, we have asked the community fund to target £100 million and the new opportunities fund an additional £50 million to some 50 areas which are both deprived and have received less lottery funding than other parts of the country.
Mr. Denis Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what criteria will be used to select the next group of Sport Action Zones; and how many will be designated in the next (a) 12 and (b) 24 months. 
Mr. Caborn: Sport England has decided that the remaining 18 Sport Action Zones will be designated following a bidding process which it proposes to launch in January next year. The bidding process will focus on the top 20 per cent. of deprived areas in the country and the criteria to be taken into account in assessing the applications will relate to the degree of socio-economic deprivation; the scope for working with other partners and initiatives in the area; and the level of sporting need and deprivation. It is anticipated that each region will have at least one zone and a maximum of five. Sport England expects to announce its decisions in October 2002.
Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport by what date all households in Essex will be able to receive digital television by (a) cable and (b) terrestrial distribution systems; and if she will make a statement. 
Dr. Howells: The Government are committed to ensuring that everyone who currently receives the main public service channels broadcasting on analogue will continue to do so digitally after the switchover to digital television, whether by terrestrial, cable or satellite means. The BBC and ITC, who are responsible for the digital terrestrial television (DTT) network, are considering, in consultation with the digital broadcasters, manufacturers, consumer groups and Government, how to improve the core coverage of all digital television multiplexes across the UK. Maps showing the current predicted DTT coverage from each of the UK DTT transmitter sites have been placed in both Houses on CD-ROM and maps are also available on the Digital Television Group website: www.dtg.org.uk. These show that most of Essex is served by the Crystal Palace, Sudbury and Bluebell Hill transmitters. Cable services are available in Essex, although coverage concentrates on areas of dense
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Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if she will list the top 10 companies to which her Department contracted out their construction and refurbishment work in the last 12 months. 
Dr. Howells: My Department leases existing buildings in central London and has not commissioned any construction projects. Two limited refurbishment contracts were let in the period January 2000 to March 2001. The contracts were the subject of competitive tenders and the two successful lead contractors were Interiors Plc and Levertons UK Ltd.
Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what (a) building and (b) refurbishment projects are planned by her Department in (i) the current year and (ii) the next financial year; and what the costs will be of each project. 
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