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17 Jun 2008 : Column 818W—continued


Religion: Higher Education

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what steps the Government has taken to prevent religious extremist teaching in universities. [209713]

Bill Rammell: Academic freedom is at the heart of our higher education system. Universities have the primary responsibility for determining course content and maintaining the standards of the awards they deliver and the quality of the education they provide. The standards of degrees awarded by HEIs, and the quality of learning opportunities, are subject to independent review by the Quality Assurance Agency and external examiners.

It is important that universities are able to teach and research the wide range of theological and ideological religious views and that these views are subjected to true academic rigour and scrutiny provided that what is being taught does not break the law by espousing or advocating violent extremism.

In January of this year, we issued guidance to the higher education sector on tackling violent extremism on campus—“Promoting Good Campus Relations, Fostering Shared Values and Preventing Violent Extremism in Universities and Higher Education Colleges”. This document gave practical advice to universities on building resilience to violent extremism in their campus but also emphasised the need for free and open debate around extremist ideologies.

Science and Technology Facilities Council

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills who will be invited to participate in the consultation process on the programmatic review at the Science and Technology
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Facilities Council (STFC); which areas are being reviewed in the developing restructuring plan proposed by the STFC's executive board; and if he will make a statement. [211056]

Ian Pearson: The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) held a web-based consultation on its programmatic review in March. The consultation was open to all, and STFC received over 1,400 responses. The review covers all of STFC's programmes.

The comments were analysed by specially convened panels of experts, which then made recommendations on the way forward. These panels have sent their reports to STFC's standing Science Committees for Particle Physics, Astronomy, and Nuclear Physics, (PPAN), and for the Physical and Life Sciences (PALS). STFC Council will consider the advice of these committees on 1 July.

Students: Grants

Stephen Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what estimate he has made of the number of first year undergraduates he expects to receive grants of (a) £50 or less, (b) £524 or less, (c) £998 or less and (d) £2,002 or less in September 2008. [210438]

Bill Rammell: The July 2007 announcement increases the means-testing threshold below which full-time students are entitled to a full maintenance grant up from £17,910 for entrants in 2007/08 to £25,000 for entrants in 2008/09. The threshold for a partial grant will increase from £38,330 for entrants in 2007/08 to £60,005 for entrants in 2008/09. These thresholds relate to household income.

This will mean that around one third of all eligible students in England entering higher education in the academic year 2008/09 are expected to be entitled to a full non-repayable grant worth £2,835 and around another one third are expected to be entitled to a partial grant of between £50 and £2,835. Until students apply for support for 2008/09 we do not know the number of students within each of the specified bands. However, a third of new eligible students in 2008/09 is equivalent to around 100,000 students meaning we expect this number to be entitled to a full grant and the same number entitled to a partial grant.

Sustainable Development: Training

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills if he will ring-fence a proportion of his Department's budget for the delivery of training to develop skills required by environmental industries. [209335]

Mr. Lammy: The Department’s budget of £4.7 billion for adult further education and skills in 2008-09 is being used to meet the skill needs of a wide range of individuals and employers, including key sectors such as environmental industries.

The Government are taking action to assess the skills needs for a sustainable future, and a low carbon, resource intensive economy, and what further action may be needed by employers, individuals and Government. The Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) have all been asked to input to a study which DEFRA has commissioned on the skills required for a low carbon, resource efficient,
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economy. In parallel with that, my Department, the Learning and Skills Council, DEFRA and BERR are together working proactively with employers, SSCs and expert bodies to develop a strategic approach to skills for a sustainable future. My Department will look to find ways to support a strategic skills solution for the environmental industries through existing skills arrangements if a sufficiently compelling proposition emerges from the work being done with employers and other key stakeholders.

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what proportion of his Department's budget is spent on skills training relevant to the needs of environmental industries. [209336]

Mr. Lammy: The Department's budget of £4.7 billion for adult further education and skills in 2008-09 is being used to meet the skill needs of a wide range of individuals and employers, including key sectors such as environmental industries. The bulk of the further education and skills budget is managed by the Learning and Skills Council, but the LSC's systems do not record expenditure relevant to environmental industries separately.

Communities and Local Government

Asbestos: Essex

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many buildings in mid-Essex are estimated to contain dangerous levels of asbestos. [211242]

Mr. Iain Wright: The information requested is not held centrally.

Eco-towns: Marketing

Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much her Department spent on the promotional campaign Can Eco-towns be a Good Housing Solution (a) in total and (b) featuring Curborough, Staffordshire. [210208]

Caroline Flint [holding answer 12 June 2008]: Exact costs for the advertorials entitled: ‘Can Eco-towns be a Good Housing Solution’ are still to be finalised. However, we expect to spend approximately £53,000 in total for this series and I can confirm that the cost of buying media space for the Curborough advertorial was £1,250.64.

These advertorials encourage individuals in areas near potential eco-town locations to participate in the current period of consultation, which Government have a duty to support.

Home Information Packs

Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the average (a) standard assessment procedure energy rating and (b) energy performance certificate rating was of new homes, broken down by type of landlord in the most recent period for which figures are available. [211016]


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Caroline Flint: The range of SAP rating for new Part L 2006 compliant homes (minimum standards), is between 69 and 82, and new homes constructed using public funds are expected to have a SAP rating ranging between 75 and 86. These ranges fall between EPC bands B and C. The average energy performance certificate rating for new homes is band B. The next version release of the Domestic EPC Register will enable the tenure of new homes to be identified.

Housing: Low Incomes

Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many reports her Department and its predecessors have commissioned on affordable rural housing since 1997. [211879]

Mr. Iain Wright: Communities and Local Government is responsible for housing policy in England, both rural and urban, and therefore much of the work commissioned by the Department on housing policy is relevant to all areas of the country, including rural areas.

Specifically on rural housing, in 1997 DETR commissioned a report from DTZ Pieda Consulting, published in 1998 on ‘The Nature of the Demand for Housing in Rural Areas’. In July 2005, ODPM and DEFRA set up the Affordable Housing Commission to identify ways of improving access to affordable housing for people in rural areas. Most recently (December 2007) the Prime Minister asked the hon. Member for Truro and St. Austell (Matthew Taylor) to conduct a review on how land use and planning can better support rural business and deliver affordable housing. The hon. Member is due to report on this next month.

Housing: Standards

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much funding was provided to Milton Keynes Unitary Authority from the Decent Homes programme in each of the last 10 years. [208627]

Mr. Iain Wright: Milton Keynes opted to deliver decent homes through a stock retention strategy using their existing funding streams.

The funding streams that the Department awards for spending on the improvement of council housing are supported borrowing and the major repairs allowance (introduced in 2001-02). Supported borrowing is where the Government pays the interest on local authority borrowing, allowing it to borrow for capital works to the stock.

Prior to 2006-2007 private sector renewal funding was included in the local authorities supported borrowing. This has since moved to a capital grant and is therefore no longer recorded in these data which explains the reduction in between 2005-06 and 2006-07.

The following table shows the major repairs allowance from its introduction in 2001-02 and the supported borrowing of Milton Keynes unitary authority for each of the last ten years.


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£

Major repairs allowance Supported borrowing

1997-98

n/a

2,376,000

1998-99

n/a

2,520,000

1999-2000

n/a

2,514,000

2000-01

n/a

4,843,000

2001-02

7,165,994

1,381,000

2002-03

7,261,700

1,517,000

2003-04

7,303,889

1,655,000

2004-05

7,211,639

1,941,000

2005-06

7,698,283

2,017,000

2006-07

7,550,439

832,000

2007-08

7,627,807

832,000


In addition local authorities may also borrow prudentially (receiving no Government support for the interest payments) and they can use any capital receipts they have.

Local Government

Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what guidance she has given on the creation of single-party support groups for local government cabinet or executive members; and whether such groups are required to (a) hold open meetings and (b) routinely publish minutes and papers. [209756]

John Healey: There is no statutory basis, or any requirements, about meetings of single party support groups. My Department has not issued guidance about such meetings, although the ‘New Council Constitutions: Guidance to English Local Authorities’, issued following the Local Government Act 2000, encourages the executive and its members to consult with whoever they think appropriate in relation to the discharge of their functions.

Non-domestic Rates

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will review the rate-free period applied to vacant commercial property; and if she will make a statement. [211256]

John Healey: The Government believe the recent reforms to empty property rates represent a fair balance between providing incentives to owners to re-let or re-develop property and providing rate relief for limited periods while they manage vacancies.

Non-domestic Rates: Smoking

Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether the presence of a smoking shelter outside a licensed premises is taken into account by the Valuation Office Agency when revaluing the property for business rates. [211385]

John Healey: The presence of a smoking shelter would be taken into account in valuing a licensed premises, insofar as it affects the rental value of the property.


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Rates and Rating: Prisons

Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether prisons are classified as a domestic, composite or non-domestic hereditaments for rating purposes. [211389]

John Healey: Prisons are classified as composite hereditaments for rating and council tax purposes.

Regional Planning and Development

James Duddridge: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when she expects the implementation of recommendations arising from the Review of Sub-National Economic Development and Regeneration to be completed. [210615]

John Healey: The Review of Sub-National Economic Development and Regeneration was completed and published in July 2007. In March 2008, my Department, with the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, published ‘Prosperous Places: Taking Forward the Review of Sub-National Economic Development and Regeneration’. This sets out and seeks views by 20 June 2008 on proposals for implementing certain conclusions of the Review. The Government intend to bring forward legislation at the earliest opportunity.

Rented Housing

Mr. Hepburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate she has made of how many private tenants there were in (a) Jarrow constituency, (b) South Tyneside, (c) the North East and (d) England in each year since 1997. [210968]

Mr. Iain Wright: Statistics on the number of private tenants at constituency or local authority level are not available on a regular basis. The lowest geographical level for which regular data are available is at the regional level.

The 2001 Census figure for the number of private renting households in the Jarrow constituency is published by the House of Commons Library at the following link:

Then select the "tenure" worksheet.

The 2001 Census figure for the number of private renting households in South Tyneside is published by the Office for National Statistics on their Neighbourhood Statistics website at:


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