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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 12 May 2014

Electoral Commission Committee

Electoral Register

Chris Ruane: To ask the hon. Member for South West Devon, representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, what assessment the Electoral Commission has made of the profile of the electors who were not data matched on (a) national Government databases and (b) local government databases for purposes of individual electoral registration. [197407]

Mr Streeter: The Electoral Commission informs me that its report on the dry run of the confirmation process, through which electors will be matched against the Department for Work and Pensions database, provides a full analysis of the socio-demographic factors associated with low match rates. The report can be found at:

http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/163144/Confirmation-Dry-run-2013-Results-report.pdf

The commission also informs me that it was not possible to conduct a similar analysis on the results of local data matching as not all local authorities reported on their activities.

Electoral Register: Young People

Chris Ruane: To ask the hon. Member for South West Devon, representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, what assessment the Electoral Commission has made of the merits of auto enrolment of young people at the time they are given their national insurance number. [197425]

Mr Streeter: The Electoral Commission informs me that it will carefully consider with the Cabinet Office any proposals such as this for improving the efficiency of electoral registration processes as it monitors the implementation of individual electoral registration during 2014 and 2015. If such proposals appear to be viable, the commission will recommend that the Government bring forward any necessary measures to allow them to take place once the transition to individual electoral registration is complete.

Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014

Pete Wishart: To ask the hon. Member for South West Devon, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, pursuant to the answer of 17 March 2014, Official Report, column 418W, on the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014, when the Electoral Commission will have finalised its guidance on the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014; and how many charities (a) have been and (b) will be consulted in the compilation of that guidance. [197395]

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Mr Streeter: The Electoral Commission informs me that since Royal Assent of the Act, it has published a series of regular updates that explain how the new rules will work and how they may affect campaigners. These campaigner updates are available on the Commission’s website and Members of Parliament can also sign up to receive them at:

http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/find-information-by-subject/political-parties-campaigning-and-donations/non-party-campaign-spending-and-donations-at-elections/sign-up-for-updates

The Commission has held four roundtable discussions across the UK, and used an online survey to listen carefully to the needs of campaigners and explain its plans for the guidance. There were 82 responses from charities to the survey and 24 charities attended the Commission’s roundtable events. Electoral Commission officials have also spoken at events hosted by charity sector umbrella bodies.

The Commission will publish its full guidance on the new rules in the summer, ensuring that campaigners have guidance available to them in advance of the regulated period. Campaigners are also able to approach the Commission for bespoke advice as usual and will continue to be able to do this when the new legislation comes into force on 19 September 2014.

Northern Ireland

Electoral Register: Young People

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland with reference to the answer from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional and Political Reform of 11 October 2011, Official Report, column 344W, on electoral register: standards, what assessment she has made of the effects of the visits of electoral registration officers in Northern Ireland to schools with 10 or more pupils between the ages of 16 and 17 on electoral registration for that age group in Northern Ireland. [197953]

Mr Robathan: Concerns about under-representation of attainers were raised following the introduction of individual registration in Northern Ireland in 2002. The registration of attainers improved significantly with the introduction of the Chief Electoral Officer’s Schools Initiative. The Electoral Commission’s 2012 report on continuous electoral registration in Northern Ireland estimated that 66% of attainers were registered.

Although the number of attainers registered in December 2013 fell to 9,945 from 11,477 in December 2012, the Electoral Commission’s recent report on the electoral registration canvass suggests that this can be partially explained by the fact that the Electoral Office did not conduct any activity with schools to register attainers in autumn 2013 due to canvass activity. The Electoral Office will commence school visits in September 2014 for the academic year 2014-15 and will also take applications from those pupils not visited last year.

Foreign Investment in UK

Mr Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent estimate she has made of foreign direct investment in Northern Ireland. [197527]

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Mrs Villiers: Northern Ireland remains one of the most successful regions in the UK for attracting foreign direct investment, attracting some 6% of inward FDI with around 3% of the UK population.

The Northern Ireland Investment Conference, which the Prime Minister and I attended, held last year is continuing to bear fruit and I welcome the recent announcement that Convergys—with whose senior management the Prime Minister took time at the Conference to discuss the benefits of Northern Ireland as a cost-effective investment location—is setting up a customer service centre in Londonderry in collaboration with its client EE.

This investment will bring 333 jobs to the city over the coming year and generate over £5 million to the local economy annually.

The recent announcements from Concentrix of its intention to reinvest in Northern Ireland and add a further 1,043 jobs to its existing work force of 800, and from EY (which also attended the Investment Conference) of a further investment leading to 486 more jobs, are welcome votes of confidence that Northern Ireland is an excellent place to invest and to grow a business.

These two investments will inject some £38 million in salaries into the Northern Ireland economy.

It is particularly heartening that so many companies choose to reinvest after they have established a presence in Northern Ireland and seen for themselves the benefits it can offer as a cost-competitive business environment together with its high quality and well educated work force.

The G8 summit, which the PM brought to County Fermanagh in June 2013, also highlighted to the world the benefits of Northern Ireland as a place to visit and invest.

Giro d'Italia

Mr Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what contribution her Department made towards the cost of the staging of the Giro d’Italia in Northern Ireland. [198093]

Mrs Villiers: Sport is a devolved matter, so there is no provision for the Northern Ireland Office to contribute to the funding of the Grande Partenza of the Giro d’Italia.

The Giro d’Italia is supported by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and part-funded by the European regional development fund under the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland.

My officials have, at the request of the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, engaged with the Home Office and several of our embassies over the past fortnight, to help facilitate the granting of visas to some of the elite riders and help deal with queries that they have raised.

Public Inquiries

Mr Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what estimate she has made of the cost of public enquiries relating to Northern Ireland in each year since 1997. [197529]

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Mrs Villiers: The cost for public inquires relating to Northern Ireland published by my Department since 1997 is shown in the following table.

 £ million

The Bloody Sunday inquiry

191.5

The Rosemary Nelson inquiry

46.5

The Billy Wright inquiry

30.5

In addition, the Robert Hamill inquiry has been completed, but the report has not been published due to ongoing legal proceedings. The cost as of February 2011 stood at £33 million.

No public inquiries have been established by the current Government. In 2011, we set up a review into the murder of Patrick Finucane, which reported in 2012 at a cost of £1.1 million.

Sports

Mr Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent assessment she has made of the contribution of sports-related tourism to the economy of Northern Ireland. [197528]

Mrs Villiers: Northern Ireland has organised a number of world-class sporting events which bring huge benefits for tourism and the economy (sometimes providing a return against investment of 5:1) and encourage people to participate in sport.

The return of the Irish Open to Royal Portrush in 2012 for the first time since 1953 attracted some 130,000 spectators and was beamed into 350 million households. Golf tourism is particularly valuable as it contributes more to the economy, with the average spend per trip being £300 to £450 compared with the other visitors to Northern Ireland who spend some £188 per trip. I look forward to Northern Ireland hosting the Irish Open again in 2015 at Royal County Down and in 2017 at the Lough Erne Resort, which was also the location for the 2013 G8 summit.

The World Police and Fire Games in 2013 (the third biggest sporting event in the world) brought a direct economic boost of £7.34 million to the Northern Ireland economy. It has been reported that this figure could rise to £25 million once longer-term benefits to the tourist industry resulting from return visits, the positive media coverage received for Northern Ireland internationally and future international events that will come as a result of the games, are included.

I am advised, for example, that one corporate sponsor of the WPFG decided to locate its international conference in Northern Ireland instead of another location in Europe directly as a result of the success of the games.

It is estimated that the Grande Partenza of the Giro d’Italia cycle race that commences in Belfast on 9 May (and featuring 200 riders from over 30 different countries and their technical teams and sponsors) will be seen by 775 million people in 174 countries. The Giro d’Italia is expected to attract 140,000 visitors to Northern Ireland and generate £2.5 million of economic activity and £10 million-worth of worldwide media publicity as it showcases the stunning scenery of Northern Ireland to the world.

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Victims

Mr Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if she will review the effect of the operation of section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 on services available to assist victims in Northern Ireland. [197526]

Mrs Villiers: Responsibility for victims in Northern Ireland was devolved in 2007. All public bodies in Northern Ireland have a duty to promote equality of opportunity, having regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group. The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland is responsible for the enforcement of this duty.

Culture, Media and Sport

Anniversaries: World War II

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what plans he has to commemorate the 70th anniversary of VE day in 2015. [198122]

Mrs Grant: DCMS has no formal plans to commemorate VE day in 2015. However, the Heritage Lottery Fund is open to applications for VE-day-related community projects.

Arts: Health Services

Dr Huppert: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will take steps to implement the recommendations of the Arts on Prescription 2010-2012 report produced by the charity Arts & Minds. [197995]

Mr Vaizey: The Arts & Minds charity is doing important work within the arts and health sector. I recently held a roundtable meeting on arts and health focusing on some of the issues raised in the Arts on Prescription report which the Executive Director of Arts & Minds attended. Health initiatives like the Arts on Prescription scheme have the potential to result in cost savings across health and social care and health practitioners and other relevant authorities should give careful consideration to the recommendations.

BBC: Pay

Mr Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will make representations to the BBC Trust in support of publishing the salaries of all BBC staff earning more than £100,000 per annum. [198045]

Mr Vaizey: There are no current plans to make representations to the BBC Trust on ensuring the publication of the salaries of BBC staff. The BBC annually publishes the salaries and total remuneration for those earning £150,000 and over, and discloses the pay of all of its senior managers. Information about BBC staff, including salaries and expenses, can be found on the BBC’s website here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/aboutthebbc/insidethebbc/managementstructure/seniormanagement/

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Internet: EU Action

Alun Cairns: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (1) what assessment he has made of the implications for his Department's policies on voluntary restrictions by network providers of adult content of recent proposals from the European Parliament on a European single market for electronic communications; [198046]

(2) what assessment he has made of EU proposals to remove the right for network operators to block 18-plus content. [197702]

Mr Vaizey: We are aware that there are some concerns that the European Parliament’s amendments to the draft connected continent regulation may restrict ISPs’ ability to block illegal content or to filter adult content at the request of customers. The UK Government support the aims of the connect continent package, but let me clear that we will not agree to any proposals that restrict the ability of parents to protect their children from inappropriate content online. We are confident that this was not the intention of the European Parliament and we are working with EU member states, the European Commission and the European Parliament to deliver a final package that promotes an open, safe and secure internet.

Mental Health

Dr Huppert: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what steps he is taking to improve cross-departmental working on promotion of the UK's arts and health sector in order to improve mental health care and wellbeing. [197599]

Mr Vaizey: I recently chaired a roundtable meeting on arts and health, which was attended by the co-chairs of the all-party group on arts, health and wellbeing, representatives from academia and health and Government officials, including from the Department of Health. DCMS will continue to work closely with the Department of Health on the promotion of the UK's arts and health sector in order to improve mental health care and wellbeing.

VisitEngland

Mr Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what nation branding work VisitEngland has commissioned from external consultants since its inception; with which consultancies the contracts were placed; and what the total value was of the contracts, by supplier. [197987]

Mrs Grant: Since its inception on 1 April 2009, the total spent on brand-related activity by VisitEngland, including research, motivational barriers, brand messaging and local-level brand management, is c.£61,000. Contracts were placed with three consultancies: Olive Insight, Firelighter and Brand Vista. Details are set out in the following table:

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 AgencyActivityValue (£)

2011

Olive Insight

To research and guide VE’s wider marketing strategy

1c.11,000

2011

Firelighter

To develop the brand messaging informed by the research project

10,000

2011

Brand Vista

Further development of local-level brand positioning and (attracting visitors to our most popular places that can dispersing consumers to surrounding areas)

40,000

1 The branding element was included only in the qualitative stage, and accounted for c.35% of the qualitative report—VisitEngland therefore estimates the spend on this element to be c.£11,000.

Women and Equalities

LGBT People

Tom Blenkinsop: To ask the Ministers for Women and Equalities whether his Department will attend the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia Forum 2014 in Valletta. [198074]

Sajid Javid: Yes.

Older Workers

Stephen Timms: To ask the Ministers for Women and Equalities what recent progress he has made on the appointment of a business champion for older workers. [197649]

Jenny Willott: I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the answer given on 2 April 2014, Official Report, column 651W.

Pupils: Bullying

Gloria De Piero: To ask the Ministers for Women and Equalities which organisations have been awarded funding to conduct a review of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools. [197302]

Jenny Willott: The contract to conduct a review of the available evidence on the most effective practices to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools has been awarded to NatCen Social Research following a rigorous assessment process.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Air Pollution

Luciana Berger: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 28 April 2014, Official Report, columns 474-75W, on air pollution, how much funding has been allocated to local projects by the Government's air quality grant programme in each year since 2010. [197879]

Dan Rogerson: Total funding allocated to local projects across England by DEFRA’s air quality grant programme since 2010:

Financial yearFinal award (£)

2010-11

2,361,000

2011-12

3,078,745

2012-13

3,100,000

2013-14

1,000,000

  

Total

9,539,745

Brighton

Simon Kirby: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will bring forward proposals to relocate (a) staff and (b) offices of his Department to Brighton; and if he will make a statement. [197452]

Dan Rogerson: There are no current plans for the Department to relocate staff or offices to Brighton.

Flood Control

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent progress has been made on the review of partnership funding for flood defences; and when the results of this review will be published. [197579]

Dan Rogerson: The independent evaluation of the Flood and Coastal Resilience Partnership Funding approach was published on 23 April 2014. The report is available on the DEFRA R&D web pages at the following link:

http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx ?Menu=Menu&Module=More&Location= None&ProjectID=18734&FromSearch=Y&Publisher= &SearchText=fd2663&SortString=ProjectCode&SortOrder= Asc&Paging=10#Description

Floods: Insurance

Adam Afriyie: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the time taken by insurance companies to compensate those affected by the current year's floods. [197736]

Dan Rogerson: Ministers meet insurers on a regular basis to discuss recovery, including time for claim payments. The next Government/industry roundtable is scheduled for 21 May.

Forests

Graham Stringer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what information his Department holds on the (a) level of world deforestation and (b) growth in world biomass power generation over the last 10 years for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. [197675]

Dan Rogerson: Latest figures, supported by recent publications from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, are that 13 million hectares of the world’s forest were converted to other uses or lost through natural causes each year in the last decade (2000-10), including 6 million hectares of primary forests.

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DEFRA does not hold information on the growth in world biomass power generation over the last 10 years.

Plastic Bags

Mr Nicholas Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the effects of plastic bags on marine environments. [197740]

Dan Rogerson: DEFRA has funded a number of studies to investigate the potential for the absorption of contaminants by organisms that consume plastics. These studies are published in scientific literature. DEFRA is also currently conducting an analysis of the costs and benefits of the carrier bag charge, including on the marine environment.

In addition, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) has been monitoring sea bed litter since 1992 through fisheries stock assessments and marine litter surveys.

Mr Nicholas Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he expects to be able to announce his proposals for a single use plastic bag charge. [197743]

Dan Rogerson: Last September the Government announced plans to introduce a charge on single use plastic bags with effect from October 2015. We are developing our proposals and in doing so are considering the recent report of the Environmental Audit Committee, together with the response to our call for evidence. We will announce our response as soon as possible.

Roads

Toby Perkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will commission an inquiry into the extent of problems arising from the use of motorised vehicles on unmetalled roads. [197703]

Dan Rogerson: In the Deregulation Bill Committee debate on 25 March, we announced that we propose to form a working group along the lines of the current rights of way Stakeholder Working Group. We will invite stakeholders with the relevant experience and expertise to join a group with an independent chair and secretariat, ensuring that the group contains a balance across the full range of interests.

Any proposals made by the group for changing the current framework for managing the recreational use of motor vehicles would be subject to a full public consultation.

Business, Innovation and Skills

Apprentices

Andrew Percy: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills if he will collect data by constituency on apprenticeships in each industrial sector. [194613]

Matthew Hancock: We do not collect information centrally on apprenticeships by industrial sector at the

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parliamentary constituency level. Table 1 shows information from the 2012

1

UKCES Employer Perspectives Survey on the proportion of employers that offer formal apprenticeships by industrial sector in the UK.

Information on apprenticeship starts by Sector Subject Area and geography is published in a Supplementary Table to a Statistical First Release (SFR):

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/fe-data-library-apprenticeships--2

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/308418/apprenticeship-starts-by-region-and-sector-subject-area.xls

Sector Subject Areas are not the same as industrial sectors. Within an industrial sector a learner may undertake a wide range of apprenticeship frameworks, and individual frameworks are assigned under the Sector Subject Area classification.

1Available at:

http://www.ukces.org.uk/assets/ukces/docs/publications/evidence-report-64-ukces-employer-perspectives-survey-2012-full-report.pdf

Table 1: Percentage of employers that offer formal apprenticeships by sector in the UK
 Percentage

All employers

13

  

Sector of employer

 

Primary sector and utilities

6

Manufacturing

18

Construction

19

Trade, accommodation and transportation

11

Business and other services

12

Non-market services

21

Mike Crockart: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what information his Department has on the number of apprentices under 18 years who live at home. [197749]

Matthew Hancock: Information collected centrally does not distinguish between apprentices living at home with parents and those who have moved away for the purpose of study.

We annually ask apprentices for their views and 88% say they are satisfied with their apprenticeship.

Brighton

Simon Kirby: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills if he will bring forward proposals to relocate (a) staff and (b) offices of his Department to Brighton; and if he will make a statement. [197446]

Jenny Willott: We do not have any plans at this time to relocate staff or offices to Brighton.

BIS currently has one active property in Brighton, Crown House, which houses the Insolvency Service.

Any future decisions to move staff and offices to Brighton would be led by the business needs of BIS which would be supported by the Property and Asset Management Team.

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Conditions of Employment

Ms Abbott: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent steps he has taken to ensure that zero-hours contracts are not used in an exploitative manner. [197555]

Jenny Willott: The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, my right hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Vince Cable), launched a consultation on proposals to tackle abuses in the use of zero-hours contracts. The consultation was launched on 19 December 2013, closed on 13 March 2014 and received over 30,000 responses.

The Government response to the consultation will be published in due course.

Fairgrounds

Mr Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills if he will introduce legislative proposals to clarify the obligations that fairground attractions meet when publishing the price of rides. [197485]

Jenny Willott: There is already legislation, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs), which requires traders to provide consumers with the information they need to make informed decisions. The regulations prohibit commercial practices which omit or hide material information which the average consumer needs, according to the context, to decide how they meet these obligations in relation to the prices they charge, but having a clearly visible price list would be a relatively easy way of ensuring that consumers have access to relevant information. The CPRs also make it a criminal offence to give misleading price information.

Holiday Leave

Mr Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills if he will introduce legislative proposals that employers be required to calculate holiday pay solely by reference to standard contract hours. [198114]

Jenny Willott: There are no current plans to require employers to calculate holiday pay solely by reference to standard contract hours.

The arrangements for holiday pay are set out in the Working Time Regulations 1998.

These arrangements differ according to the working pattern of the individual worker. If a worker has fixed hours and fixed pay, then a week’s holiday pay is the same amount as a worker receives for each week’s work. If the worker has no fixed hours, then a week’s holiday pay represents the average pay that a worker received over the previous 12 weeks.

More information about holiday pay can be found on the gov.uk website at:

https://www.gov.uk/holiday-entitlement-rights/holiday-pay-the-basics

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Literacy

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills how many and what proportion of adults in (a) the UK and (b) the smallest geographical areas in the UK for which information is held are functionally illiterate. [197792]

Matthew Hancock: The 2011 Skills for Life survey provides an estimate of adult literacy levels for people aged between 16 and 65 years old in England, based on fieldwork conducted between May 2010 and February 2011. The headline findings of the survey were published in December 2011.1 The survey results show that 14.9% (5.1 million) of people had a literacy level below level 1. Level 1 is viewed as the level required to be ‘functionally literate’, the level needed to get by in life and at work2, and so people below this level could be defined as having a low level of literacy. Level 1 is equivalent to GCSE grades D to G. Adults with skills below level 1 can read or write, but their skills may be limited—for example, they may not be able to read bus or train timetables.

The 2011 Skills for Life survey also provided Small Area modelled estimates3 for sub-regional geographies. This analysis provides estimates of the proportion and number of people above and below the ‘functional literacy’ threshold (i.e. National Qualification Framework Level 1) for sub-regional geographies in England. The smallest geographical areas reported in this analysis are middle-layer super output areas—these are small areas of consistent size (of about 7,200 people) used for the collection and reporting of small area statistics by the Office for National Statistics.

The recent OECD Survey of Adult Skills, published in 2013, based on fieldwork August 2011 and March 2012, included estimates of UK literacy levels, based on England and Northern Ireland (Scotland and Wales did not participate in the survey). National reports for England and Northern Ireland4 based on the OECD survey note that 17% of adults in England had low proficiency in literacy (i.e. at or below the OECD level 1 in literacy, roughly equivalent to below NQF level 1 literacy), compared with 18% in Northern Ireland.

1 TNS-BMRB and AlphaPlus Consultancy Ltd. (2011) “2011 Skills for Life survey: headline findings”, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, BIS research paper 57. Available online at:

http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/further-education-skills/docs/0-9/11-1367-2011-skills-for-life-survey-findings.pdf

accessed on 7 May 2014.

2 As defined in the Leitch review of skills. See Leitch, S. (2006) “Prosperity for All in the Global Economy—world class skills”, available online at:

http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/media/6/4/leitch_finalreport051206.pdf

accessed on 7 May 2014: page 61-62.

3 Available online at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/2011-skills-for-life-survey-small-area-estimation-data

accessed on 6 February 2014.

4 NFER (2013) The International Survey of Adult Skills: adult literacy, numeracy and problem solving skills in England, BIS research report 139. Available online at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/246534/bis-13-1221-international-survey-of-adult-skills-2012.pdf

12 May 2014 : Column 313W

accessed on 7 May 2014; NFER (2013) The International Survey of Adult Skills: adult literacy, numeracy and problem solving skills in Northern Ireland, Department for Employment and Learning. Available online at:

http://www.delni.gov.uk/international-survey-adult-skills-2012.pdf

accessed on 7 May 2014.

Members: Correspondence

Sir Gerald Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills when he intends to reply to the letter to the Minister for Skills and Enterprise dated 27 February 2014 from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman) with regard to Mr John Mannion. [197511]

Matthew Hancock: Although the Department has received and responded to earlier correspondence from the right hon. Gentleman on behalf of this constituent, we have no record of having received the letter referred to. If he could send a copy of this latest correspondence, we will deal with it as a matter of urgency.

Regional Growth Fund

Mr Nicholas Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills how many Regional Growth Fund bids were submitted by each local enterprise partnership area in the most recent bidding round; and how many of these were successful. [197628]

Michael Fallon: 133 bids were submitted to round 5 of the Regional Growth Fund. Three of these bids withdrew and one was for less than the £1 million bidding threshold.

129 bids were therefore appraised, of which 98 were projects and 31 were programmes. Of these, 13 programmes and 37 projects were selected. Programmes may cover a number of local enterprise partnership (LEP) areas and some are national in scope so are not represented in the following table.

The following table shows the number of round 5 project bids by LEP area with the number of bids that were selected for funding. Project bids originating from an area covered by more than one LEP are shown at the bottom of the table.

Number
LEP round 5 projectsApplicationsSelected

Black Country

1

0

Cheshire and Warrington

5

1

Coast to Capital

2

1

Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly

5

0

Coventry and Warwickshire

2

2

Cumbria

1

0

Enterprise M3

1

1

Gloucestershire

1

1

Greater Birmingham and Solihull

6

3

Greater Cambridge and Greater Peterborough

1

0

Greater Lincolnshire

1

0

Greater Manchester

5

2

Heart of the South West

13

3

Hertfordshire

1

0

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Humber

2

1

Lancashire

4

1

Leeds City Region

3

2

Leicester and Leicestershire

2

0

Liverpool City Region

5

3

London

3

0

New Anglia

1

0

North Eastern

7

5

Sheffield City Region

2

0

South East

1

0

South East Midlands

2

2

Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire

1

0

Swindon and Wiltshire

2

1

Tees Valley

8

6

Thames Valley Berkshire

1

0

West of England

2

0

York and North Yorkshire

1

0

   

Project bids from an area covered by more than one LEP:

  

Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, and Sheffield City Region

1

0

Greater Birmingham and Solihull and Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire

1

1

Greater Birmingham and Solihull and Worcestershire

1

0

Greater Cambridge and Greater Peterborough and New Anglia

1

0

Northamptonshire and South East Midlands

2

1

   

Grand total

98

37

Shipbuilding

John Woodcock: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills with reference to the announcement of 25 April 2014, entitled Chancellor puts UK at forefront of ocean research with new polar science ship, if he will take steps to ensure that the new polar research ship is constructed in a UK shipyard. [197970]

Mr Willetts: This new polar flagship presents a significant opportunity for British business to show that it can compete with the best in the world. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) will be working hard to make sure that British business it aware of the major opportunities around the project. The UK has world-class skills and technology in this area and the Government hope that UK marine and maritime companies will take the wider range of opportunities—from the design and building of the ship, through to its operation and maintenance.

This ship will cost more than £200 million and legally it has to be procured through open competition. This ensures a fair process so that the UK gets the best possible product with the best value to the taxpayer. The Natural Environment Research Council’s British Antarctic Survey will be operating the ship. It will be consulting the scientific community on the detailed specification for the ship shortly. An invitation to tender is expected to be issued in summer 2015.

12 May 2014 : Column 315W

Timber: Imports

Graham Stringer: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what estimate he has made of levels of imports of wood for biomass combustion within the UK in the last three years for which figures are available; and from what countries that wood was imported. [197674]

Michael Fallon: Data on the value of imports of fuel wood are published by HMRC in Overseas Trade Statistics. Data for the years 2011 to 2013 are shown in the following table for Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) 245.01—Fuel wood, in logs, in billets, in twigs, in faggots or in similar forms (excluding wood waste).

UK imports of fuel wood (SITC 245.01) by partner country (sorted by total value of fuel wood imports over the three years, high to low)
£
 201120122013

Total (all countries)

2,164,613

2,515,611

3,668,665

    

Latvia

855,773

573,022

1,508,111

Netherlands

592,400

892,166

576,180

Poland

208,031

200,393

771,578

Ukraine

72,122

117,802

201,861

Indonesia

0

118,859

201,681

Irish Republic

18,387

7,802

151,518

Ghana

52,855

49,662

47,408

Germany

0

140,172

7,398

South Africa

108,207

9,337

0

Estonia

0

112,771

0

Thailand

50,750

53,545

5,680

United States

0

41,614

64,413

Malaysia

18,455

42,920

40,101

Sweden

52

62,245

10,451

Australia

65,785

0

0

Namibia

47,732

6,528

1,430

Hong Kong

0

46,680

0

Belarus

27,958

0

0

Egypt

0

8,807

15,494

Lithuania

1,369

2,144

20,669

Bosnia and Herz.

0

0

20,053

Vietnam

13,877

3,946

0

Canada

0

0

16,303

Denmark

0

14,536

0

China

6,165

6,251

610

Honduras

12,853

0

0

Pakistan

0

4,409

4,915

Jamaica

8,318

0

0

Guyana

3,524

0

0

India

0

0

1,822

UAE

0

0

530

Spain

0

0

459

Source: HMRC Overseas Trade Statistics

Communities and Local Government

Brighton

Simon Kirby: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will bring forward proposals to relocate (a) staff and (b) offices of his Department to Brighton; and if he will make a statement. [197454]

12 May 2014 : Column 316W

Brandon Lewis: While noting the many virtues of Brighton, as recognised by the conferring of city status to the towns of Brighton and Hove by Her Majesty in 2000, I am afraid I have to disappoint my hon. Friend. My Department has no current plans to dig out our bucket and spade and move to the seaside.

Since May 2010, my Department’s priority has been to rationalise our wider estate to reduce costs. This has seen the Department surrender six leasehold office properties through a combination of lease breaks and expiries generating net savings in the period of around £7 million per annum. The Department has also successfully sub-let surplus space across its leasehold office estate during the same period, reducing the overall property costs by around £11.1 million.

The Department has also negotiated the early surrender of Eland House and is shortly scheduled to relocate to 2 Marsham Street to share premises with the Home Office. This move will reduce our Department’s running costs by a further £9 million a year and generate savings for the taxpayer of £220 million over the lifetime of the building’s lease. This illustrates the scope for Government and, indeed, the public sector as a whole to make sensible savings through better property management.

However, I commend my hon. Friend for his cheerleading of the city as a place to do business.

Business Premises: Change of Use

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many conversions of office premises to housing have been notified to him since the lifting of planning approval requirements for such conversions; and how many social housing units have been included in such conversions. [198144]

Nick Boles: New homes are being created now because of the permitted development right for office to residential change of use. These new homes are helping to address the country’s housing need regardless of tenure. Developers seeking to convert an office to a residential property are required to seek prior approval from the local planning authority. A survey by Estates Gazette has found that there were more than 2,250 applications for change of use from office to residential in the first six months since the change was introduced. Some of these developments are, in themselves, each set to deliver more than 100 homes. The Department will begin collecting data on the number of prior approval applications from local planning authorities later in the year, covering applications from April 2014.

Combined Authorities

Mr Nicholas Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will publish the guidance he has issued to combined authorities on good practice on the representation of opposition councillors on (a) the new bodies set up under the Combined Authority regulations and (b) the scrutiny panels; and what sanctions he has in the event of combined authorities not complying with best practice. [197842]

12 May 2014 : Column 317W

Brandon Lewis: Following the recent establishment of four new combined authorities, I wrote to the leaders of the councils involved setting out the good practice that I expect them to follow with regards to governance and transparency. We believe that following such good practice will ensure that the various political parties represented on all the councils concerned will have appropriate involvement and influence in the work of the combined authorities. A copy of those letters were also published on the Government’s website at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/letter-from-brandon-lewis-on-combined-authorities-governance-and-transparency

and

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/letter-to-leaders-of-the-combined-authority-for-the-area-of-durham-northumberland-and-tyne-and-wear

The Government believe that it would reinforce the confidence all have in the effectiveness and accountability of combined authorities and economic prosperity boards, if the following of this good practice was guaranteed. I launched a consultation on 30 April regarding changes that the Government propose to make to the legislation relating to combined authorities and economic prosperity boards. This consultation includes the proposal to require combined authorities and economic prosperity boards to have one or more overview and scrutiny committee(s) constituted with a membership reflecting the political balance of the councils concerned. This consultation closes on 24 June and can be found at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/proposals-to-amend-legislation-relating-to-combined-authorities-and-economic-prosperity-boards

I have placed copies of the associated documents in the Library of the House.

Conditions of Employment

Pamela Nash: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many people in his Department have been employed on zero-hours contracts in each of the last two years. [196956]

Brandon Lewis [holding answer 1 May 2014]: My Department has employed the following numbers of staff on zero-hours contracts in each of the last two years:

2012-13—two

2013-14—two

In all cases, these were short-term arrangements for individuals to complete specific pieces of work which required particular expertise or professional skills.

Council Tax: Empty Property

Steve McCabe: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government for what reason the empty home premium starts when a property first becomes empty rather than when a property is bought with the intention of renovating and occupying it. [197269]

12 May 2014 : Column 318W

Stephen Williams: The empty homes premium aims to reduce the total length of time for which properties are empty, not the length of time for which they are empty under a particular owner.

Since the power came into effect on 1 April 2013, 239 councils in England have introduced the empty homes premium. The number of long-term empty homes fell by 38,009 between October 2012 and October 2013.

Properties that are left empty due to the death of the occupier are exempt from council tax for up to six months after the granting of probate, or after letters of administration have been signed.

Fire Services

Mrs Glindon: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much his Department paid Sir Ken Knight in (a) salary, (b) fees and (c) expenses for the independent review of efficiency and operations in fire and rescue authorities in England. [192775]

Brandon Lewis [holding answer 24 March 2014]: Sir Ken Knight worked on his independent review between 1 January and 22 June 2013. He was paid £53,635 during this period. Between 1 January and 28 January 2013, Sir Ken was also the Government’s Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser in addition to conducting initial fieldwork for his review. His salary rate while working on the Knight Review was in line with his previous salary rate when he was Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser.

Sir Ken’s review found huge variations in the way the 46 fire and rescue authorities in England operate and highlighted the scope for the services to find £200 million in savings while safeguarding emergency operations and protecting public safety. His report highlighted the importance of collaboration with other local services in helping fire and rescue authorities to transform the way they run to meet the changing needs of communities. The Government will be publishing a formal response to the report in due course. The best fire and rescue authorities are already beginning to collaborate with police and ambulance services and local authorities—through co-location of stations and services, through sharing back-office functions, including sharing senior staff, and through co-responding and joining up on service delivery.

Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government with reference to the letter of 30 April 2014 from the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to the chairmen of fire and rescue authorities and the Chairman of the Local Government Association's Fire Service Management Committee, if he will put forward the revised proposals for consideration by firefighters and the Fire Brigades Union. [198066]

Brandon Lewis: It is common knowledge that we agreed to ask the Government Actuary's Department to cost proposals put forward by the Fire Brigades Union. These were Fire Brigades Union proposals which the Government had not taken a view on.

12 May 2014 : Column 319W

My letter to the General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union of 23 April said that

“we are now considering this proposal across Government. While we are not yet in a position to respond positively to your suggested changes, I will inform you of the outcome of those deliberations as soon as possible”.

I had also been clear with the Fire Brigades Union leadership that it was only possible to consider such proposals during a period when strike action was in abeyance. Rather than continue and finalise that constructive process the Fire Brigades Union leadership chose to call a halt to discussions prematurely by announcing strike action.

Homelessness

Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the (a) change and (b) percentage change was in the number of homelessness acceptances arising from the end of a private sector tenancy in each (i) London local authority and (ii) English region between March 2010 and December 2013. [191523]

Kris Hopkins: To assist public scrutiny, I have placed in the Library of the House a table showing homelessness acceptances due to loss of private sector tenancy, by local authority, in each year from 2003 to 2013.

Data are not collected by parliamentary constituency. My Department does not publish statistics by the former Government office regions.

The dataset shows that under the last Administration, the average numbers were higher than under this Administration, especially when taking account the changes in the overall size to the private rented sector.

I would note that the rental sector policies of HM Opposition would make the problem worse, by reducing the availability of private rented accommodation, forcing up rents and discouraging investment in the private rented sector. By contrast, this Government are increasing house building, delivering £19.5 billion of investment in affordable housing, supporting billions of private investment in new private rented accommodation, providing £470 million to prevent and tackle all forms of homelessness, and avoiding the excessive regulation which would harm the interests of tenants.

Homelessness: Ashfield

Gloria De Piero: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many people in Ashfield constituency were homeless in each of the last five years. [197256]

Kris Hopkins [holding answer 6 May 2014]:Statistics for decisions taken on homelessness applications and acceptances in each financial year since 2004-05, by local authority area, are published in live table 784, which is available online at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/live-tables-on-homelessness

Figures are not collated by parliamentary constituency.

12 May 2014 : Column 320W

Local Government Finance

Andy Sawford: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the spending power is for (a) Wokingham Council and (b) Newcastle upon Tyne City Council in (i) 2013-14, (ii) 2014-15 and (iii) 2015-16. [196704]

Brandon Lewis [holding answer 1 May 2014]: Spending power figures by local authority are published as part of the Local Government Finance Settlement, which is laid before the House each year. This information is also reasonably accessible to the hon. Gentleman on my Department’s website at:

2014-15 and provisional 2015-16

www.gov.uk/government/collections/final-local-government-finance-settlement-england-2014-to-2015

2013-14

www.local.communities.gov.uk/finance/1314/settle.htm

Non-domestic Rates

Jim Shannon: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if he will bring forward proposals to enable small businesses to claim a rates reduction to help them retain staff. [197429]

Brandon Lewis: As announced at the Autumn Statement, the Government have introduced in England a £1 billion package of business rates support for 2014-15. That includes the continued doubling of Small Business Rate Relief for a further year, which we estimate will support 540,000 businesses. The Localism Act 2011 has also made it easier for small firms to claim the rate relief to which they are entitled. This support builds on the £11 billion a year of tax cuts this Government have announced to corporation tax, employer national insurance contributions and fuel duty.

Business rates in Northern Ireland is a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Non-domestic Rates: Chelmsford

Mr Simon Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate he has made of how many small businesses in Chelmsford constituency will benefit from the extension of the small business rate relief scheme. [187458]

Brandon Lewis [holding answer 13 February 2014]: No estimate has been made of the number of small businesses in Chelmsford constituency that will benefit from the extension of the doubling of small business rate relief.

The Government estimate that around 540,000 businesses in England will benefit from the extension of the doubling of small business rate relief announced at autumn statement 5 December 2013, Official Report, columns 1101-1113.

It is planned that next month some new local figures for small business rate relief by billing authority will be published.

12 May 2014 : Column 321W

Policy

Mr O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in what circumstances he uses a calculation of the (a) value of preventing a fatality, (b) willingness to pay and (c) cost-per-quality adjusted life year approach to quantify the value of a policy intervention; what other tools he uses to quantify the benefit of a policy intervention; and if he will make a statement. [196459]

Brandon Lewis: The Green Book and associated supplementary guidance is publicly available on the Treasury website. It sets out a range of approaches and methods that may be appropriate in a number of different appraisal circumstances.

Racial Discrimination

Mr Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how much financial support his Department provided to Hope not Hate in each of the last three years; and what steps he takes to prevent the use of such monies for party political campaigning. [198044]

Stephen Williams: Hope not Hate has not received any financial support from the Department for Communities and Local Government.

This Department provided Searchlight Educational Trust, a registered charity, with a grant of £66,000 in the financial year 2012-13 to establish community partnerships to foster integration in four neighbourhoods.

Following completion of the project, Searchlight Educational Trust changed its name to Hope Not Hate Educational Ltd. We monitored progress with the project closely and are satisfied that the funding for Searchlight Educational Trust was used for purposes outlined in the funding agreement and that no funding was used for party political campaigning. Conditions in the funding agreement prevent funds from being spent on political campaigning. Furthermore, an organisation that exists for political purposes would not meet the criteria for charitable status, so we would be unable to award it a grant under the Charities Act 2006.

I am aware that it has been claimed that the Department has funded campaigning by Hope not Hate against a certain political party. This is completely untrue.

Respite Care

Paul Maynard: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which organisations have received how much funding from his Department aimed at supporting access to short breaks and respite provision for children, young people and their families experiencing all types of disadvantage in each of the last five financial years. [197820]

Brandon Lewis: Funding for such schemes would be a matter for local authorities, rather than being directly funded by my Department.

12 May 2014 : Column 322W

Social Security

Simon Danczuk: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what funding will be put in place to support local discretionary welfare provision after 2015. [182969]

Brandon Lewis [holding answer 16 January 2014]: The nationally run Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans were poorly targeted and failed to help those most in need. So, in 2012 as part of wider welfare reform, the Department for Work and Pensions abolished these national discretionary schemes and transferred responsibility to local authorities so they could deliver and tailor new local support as part of their existing services to their communities.

Councils can continue to provide support to those in their community who face financial difficulties or who find themselves in unavoidable circumstances, but there is no requirement to replicate the previous approach adopted by central Government.

In contrast to a centralised grant system that was poorly targeted, under the reforms of the Department for Work and Pensions, councils can now choose how best to support local welfare needs within their areas—what is right for, say, Rochdale may not be for other authorities. Some councils have already chosen to wind down their dedicated schemes following underspends.

In the next spending round period, from April 2015, central Government continue to provide support to local authorities through general funds as part of the coalition Government’s commitment to reducing ring-fencing and ending top-down Whitehall control.

The Department for Work and Pensions provided a separate fund for 2013-15 and is carrying out a review of the provision to date.

Social Security Benefits

John Woodcock: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what representations he has received on the decision to withdraw the local welfare provision grant in 2015-16; and what consultation he undertook prior to making that decision. [185294]

Brandon Lewis [holding answer 30 January 2014]: DCLG Ministers and officials talk regularly to elected members and officers of local authorities about a range of issues.

The nationally run Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans were poorly targeted and failed to help those most in need. So, in 2012 as part of wider welfare reform, the Department for Work and Pensions abolished these national discretionary schemes and transferred responsibility to local authorities so they could deliver and tailor new local support as part of their existing services to their communities.

Councils can continue to provide support to those in their community who face financial difficulties or who find themselves in unavoidable circumstances, but there is no requirement to replicate the previous approach adopted by central Government.

12 May 2014 : Column 323W

In contrast to a centralised grant system that was poorly targeted, under the reforms of the Department for Work and Pensions, councils can now choose how best to support local welfare needs within their areas—what is right for, say, Barrow and Furness may not be for other authorities. Some councils have already chosen to wind down their dedicated schemes following underspends.

In the next spending round period, from April 2015, central Government continue to provide support to local authorities through general funds as part of the coalition Government's commitment to reducing ring-fencing and ending top-down Whitehall control.

The Department for Work and Pensions provided a separate fund for 2013-2015 and is carrying out a review of the provision to date.

Temporary Accommodation: Greater London

Sadiq Khan: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many families were placed in temporary accommodation in each London borough in each of the last five years. [184631]

Kris Hopkins: I refer the right hon. Gentleman to Live Table 784 available on my Department’s website at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/live-tables-on-homelessness

The numbers of households in temporary accommodation in London are still well below the level they were at their peak, under the previous Administration, when they hit more than 63,800. Councils have a responsibility to move homeless households into settled accommodation as quickly as possible and we made common-sense changes to the law to enable them to use suitable private rented homes. Indeed, the average stay in temporary accommodation in England has been reduced from 20 months at the beginning of 2010 to 14 months now.

We have also seen a 42% reduction in the numbers of families with children in bed and breakfast for more than six weeks on this time last year across the country. The seven local authorities that we funded to tackle families in bed and breakfast have made significant progress, achieving an overall reduction of 96% since the funding began.

Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what change there has been in the number and proportion of homeless households in nightly booked temporary accommodation in London since March 2010. [191723]

Kris Hopkins [holding answer 17 March 2014]: The Department does not collect information specifically on numbers of homeless households in nightly-booked temporary accommodation.

Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what the actual and percentage change was in the number of households from each London local authority provided with temporary accommodation outside their home borough between March 2010 and December 2013; [191727]

12 May 2014 : Column 324W

(2) if he will rank how many homeless households were placed in each London local authority by other local authorities since 2010; and how many homeless households each London local authority has placed in authorities other than their own since 2010. [191726]

Kris Hopkins [holding answer 17 March 2014]:I refer the hon. Lady to my answer to her of 19 December 2013, Official Report, column 713W.

Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the actual and percentage change was in the number of homeless households in temporary accommodation in each London local authority between March 2010 and December 2013. [191728]

Kris Hopkins [holding answer 17 March 2014]:I refer the hon. Lady to the Live Table 784 available at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/live-tables-on-homelessness

The dataset is already accessible for statistical analysis.

The numbers of households in temporary accommodation in London are still well below the level they were at their peak, under the previous Administration, when they hit more than 63,800. Councils have a responsibility to move homeless households into settled accommodation as quickly as possible and we made common-sense changes to the law to enable them to use suitable private rented homes. Indeed the average stay in temporary accommodation in England has been reduced from 20 months at the beginning of 2010 to 14 months now.

We have also seen a 42% reduction in the numbers of families with children in bed and breakfast for more than six weeks on this time last year across the country. The seven local authorities that we funded to tackle families in bed and breakfast have made significant progress, achieving an overall reduction of 96% since the funding began.

Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) how many homeless households have been placed in temporary accommodation in each London local authority by councils other than their own in each of the last eight quarters; [191730]

(2) which 30 local authority areas have received the largest number of homeless households in temporary accommodation placed by London local authorities since March 2010; [191722]

(3) how many households have been placed in temporary accommodation in each London local authority by councils other than their own since March 2010; [191729]

(4) how many households have been placed in temporary accommodation by London councils in each local authority area outside London since March 2010. [191731]

Kris Hopkins [holding answer 17 March 2014]:I refer the hon. Lady to my answer to her of 19 December 2013, Official Report, column 713W.

Urban Areas

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps he is taking to promote the enhancement of urban (a) green infrastructure and (b) waterways. [197761]

12 May 2014 : Column 325W

Nick Boles: The National Planning Policy Framework is clear that local planning authorities should plan positively for the creation, protection, enhancement and management of green infrastructure. This is supported by the recently published planning guidance which includes guidance on green infrastructure.

The maintenance and promotion of inland waterways is a matter for navigation authorities rather than Government. However, Government provide grant-in- aid funding to the two largest navigation authorities in England and Wales—the Canal & River Trust and the Environment Agency.

Urban Areas: Climate Change

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment he has made of the recommendations in the report commissioned by the EU Committee of the Regions on Policy instruments for adaptation to climate change in big European cities and metropolitan areas. [197762]

Dan Rogerson: I have been asked to reply on behalf of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

We have noted the report’s recommendations and recognise the complex challenges cities face from climate change.

DEFRA published the first National Adaptation Programme (NAP) report last July. This sets out a wide range of actions to develop the UK’s resilience to climate change and associated severe weather events. In developing this report, the Government worked with the Core Cities Group (comprising the largest eight cities in England), London councils and the Greater London Authority to agree the NAP Cities Commitment. We continue to work closely with these cities to support this commitment to action, including through a recent inward secondment to DEFRA from Newcastle city council.

The Mayors Adapt initiative recently launched by the European Commission under the EU Adaptation Strategy also provides a vehicle through which cities across Europe can network and share their experiences on adaptation.

Written Questions: Government Responses

Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when he plans to answer Question 196666, tabled on 25 April 2014 for answer on 30 April 2014. [197921]

Brandon Lewis: Question 196666 was answered on 6 May 2014, Official Report, column 29W.

Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when he expects to reply to Question 191523, on homeless households, tabled by the hon. Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck) on 11 March 2014. [198152]

Kris Hopkins: Question 191523 has been answered today.

12 May 2014 : Column 326W

Ms Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when he expects to reply to questions 191722, 191723, 191726, 191727, 191728, 191729, 191730 and 191731, on homeless households, tabled by the hon. Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck) on 12 March 2014. [198153]

Kris Hopkins: Questions 191722, 191723, 191726, 191727, 191728, 191729, 191730 and 191731 were answered today.

International Development

Afghanistan

Mr Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how her Department plans to develop its existing work on violence against women in Afghanistan in its next operational plan. [197884]

Justine Greening: DFID works with partners in Afghanistan, including other donors, Afghan women and civil society groups, and the Afghan Government to build on our existing work tackling violence against women and improving women’s rights.

This includes £3 million funding for a joint programme with the Australian Government to improve the implementation of laws designed to protect women and girls affected by violence. From 2014, up to £2 million in grants from the DFID-funded Tawanmandi programme to Afghan civil society organisations will also be primarily focused on the elimination of violence against women and girls.

Mr Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development whether she plans to implement the Independent Commission for Aid Impact's recommendation that beneficiaries in Afghanistan should be directly consulted when new projects are being designed and that Afghan women should be consulted on development of the new strategic priority on violence against women. [197981]

Justine Greening: DFID already uses a variety of methods to ensure intended beneficiaries in Afghanistan are consulted in the design of new programmes and monitoring of existing programmes.

DFID already consults Afghan women and civil society groups to inform our strategy and programmes for tackling violence against women and improving women’s rights.

Brighton

Simon Kirby: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will bring forward proposals to relocate (a) staff and (b) offices of her Department to Brighton; and if she will make a statement. [197447]

Mr Duncan: DFID currently has dual UK headquarters in London and Scotland. We have no plans to relocate staff to Brighton.

12 May 2014 : Column 327W

Developing Countries: Disability

Jim Dobbin: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps she is taking to ensure that her Department's vaccination programmes reach children with disabilities. [197640]

Lynne Featherstone: The UK is a leading advocate for vaccination coverage that ensures that the poorest and most vulnerable groups, including those with disability, have access to essential vaccines. The UK funds the GAVI Alliance, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and the Measles and Rubella Initiative to conduct supplemental immunisation activities, specifically targeting children who are outside the routine immunisation service delivery system.

The UK’s goal on immunisations is that every child is fully immunised with equitable coverage of core vaccines. In 2011, the UK committed over four years to vaccinate over 80 million children against preventable diseases, including diseases which can lead to disability, through the GAVI Alliance. DFID’s 2014 Annual Report shows we are on track to meet this commitment.

Developing Countries: Energy

Mr Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps she is taking to ensure that access to safe, affordable energy in rural areas is being treated as a specific high-priority target in the formulation of the Sustainable Development Goals. [197522]

Justine Greening: The UK is engaging fully in the UN Open Working Group where discussions on the next set of development goals are taking place. We continue to push strongly for the inclusion of targets in line with the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, including universal access to modern energy services by 2030.

Developing Countries: Equality

Mr Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what consideration she has given to the case for having a stand-alone, specific goal on inequality in the Sustainable Development Goals. [197521]

Justine Greening: The UK supports a focus on “leaving no one behind” across the post-2015 framework, as was recommended by the High Level Panel which was co-chaired by the Prime Minister.

Developing Countries: HIV Infection

Mr Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many full-time members of staff in her Department have responsibility for issues relating to HIV/AIDS. [197815]

Justine Greening: I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the answer I provided to him on 11 March 2014, Official Report, column 187W.

12 May 2014 : Column 328W

Developing Countries: Malaria

Mr Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many full time members of staff in her Department have responsibility for malaria programmes. [197816]

Justine Greening: There are 12 full-time staff in the Health Services Team and Global Funds Department whose roles include work on malaria. In addition there are a wide range of staff across the Department, including research, press, policy, financial and corporate advisers and staff in the regional departments and country offices, whose roles include work on malaria.

Developing Countries: Marketing

Mr Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) which nation-branding consultancies have been funded or part-funded by her Department to work in overseas states and territories in which it has operated in the last 10 years; and what fees have been paid to each of those consultancies in each year since 2004; [197986]

(2) whether her Department, its executive agencies or non-departmental public bodies have funded or made contribution towards funding relating to nation- branding development in any overseas state or territory in which it operates or has operated in the last 10 years. [197985]

Justine Greening: DFID does not fund nation-branding development.

Developing Countries: Tuberculosis

Mr Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many full time members of staff in her Department have responsibility for tuberculosis. [197814]

Justine Greening: There are 12 full-time staff in the Health Services Team and Global Funds Department whose roles include work on tuberculosis. In addition there are a wide range of staff across the Department, including research, press, policy, financial and corporate advisers and staff in country offices, whose roles include work on tuberculosis.

Nigeria

Alison McGovern: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assistance her Department has provided to supporting security capacity building in Nigeria since 2010. [197904]

Lynne Featherstone: Since 2010 DFID has supported a £35 million Justice for All (J4A) programme which seeks to improve personal security and access to justice for all Nigerians.

FID also supports a £39 million Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme which supports Nigerian institutions and partners to manage conflicts, reduce incidence of violence and the impact of violence on the most vulnerable groups including women and girls.

12 May 2014 : Column 329W

Alison McGovern: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development whether any adjustments have been made to her Department's funding programmes or priorities in Nigeria in response to the mass kidnapping of 14 April 2014. [197905]

Lynne Featherstone: We are currently reviewing existing programmes which are active in northern Nigeria and considering with other UK Government Departments what additional support may be required to support the Government of Nigeria in their response to the abductions in Borno State.

DFID’s Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme is already scaling up its work in Borno State. This includes commencing work with a range of local civil society organisations to prevent violence against women and to support survivors of sexual violence, including through the provision of trauma counselling.

Alison McGovern: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what meetings she and Ministers in her Department have held with Nigerian (a) Ministers, (b) Government officials and (c) consular officials regarding the safety of young women in Nigeria since the mass kidnapping of 14 April 2014. [197906]

Lynne Featherstone: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is leading on engagement with Nigerian Government officials. I refer the hon. Lady to the answer provided by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness (Mark Simmonds), on 6 May 2014, Official Report, column 74W, to the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman).

In addition, DFID has discussed what development support we can offer with our key development counterparts in Government.

Alison McGovern: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what meetings she and Ministers in her Department have held with programme partners regarding the safety of young women in Nigeria since the mass kidnapping on 14 April 2014; [197907]

(2) what advice her Department is providing to its partners involved in education provision in Nigeria on the safety of female students. [197908]

Lynne Featherstone: DFID officials are in regular contact with programme partners working in the northern states of Nigeria. Since the mass kidnapping we have discussed what further support we can offer, particularly through our security focused programmes.

DFID Nigeria actively monitors the security situation and assesses risks within all areas that we operate, providing regular security updates to partners involved in project implementation.

Pitcairn Islands

Meg Munn: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development pursuant to the answer of 6 May 2014, Official Report, column 80W on the Pacific Islands, how much support and under what categories her Department gave directly to Pitcairn Island in 2013-14. [198148]

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Mr Duncan: DFID holds a legal obligation to meet the reasonable needs of Pitcairn Island. In 2013-14 DFID provided a total of £2,809,462 to Pitcairn Island to ensure the maintenance of a range of basic public services (e.g. electricity, telecommunications), to ensure continued child safeguarding is in place for the remaining children on Pitcairn, and to support the shipping service that provides the only freight and passenger services to and from the island.

South Sudan

Mr Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will raise at the UN the prospects of severe famine in South Sudan. [197991]

Lynne Featherstone: The UK is extremely concerned about the humanitarian situation in South Sudan. The ongoing conflict, which has led to the displacement of over 900,000 people within the country, limited the ability of people to plant their crops, and disrupted trade and local markets. There is concern that those in conflict-affected states will experience famine later this year.

The UK is taking a leading role in responding to the crisis. We have so far contributed £20 million to the United Nations and international non-governmental organisations for emergency humanitarian assistance inside South Sudan. We are considering additional support. We will continue to take every opportunity, including in the United Nations, to raise our concerns about the deteriorating humanitarian situation.

Treasury

Debt Collection

Ian Lavery: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what the staffing levels at HM Revenue and Customs debt management collectors were in (a) debt management telephony centres, (b) field force, (c) debt collection intervention teams, (d) debt technical offices and (e) late stage intervention in each of the last three years; [196351]

(2) what the average annual (a) cost of employing HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) debt management collectors and (b) value of interventions undertaken by individual HMRC debt management collectors are in (i) debt management telephony centres, (ii) field force, (iii) debt collection intervention teams, (iv) debt technical offices and (v) late stage intervention. [196354]

Mr Gauke: Staff numbers fluctuate throughout the year, but the following number of staff were in post at 31 March for each of the last three years:

 2011-122012-132013-14

DMTC/DCIT

1,276

1,194

1,336

Field Force

631

601

531

DTO

1,012

1,223

1,113

LAST

242

277

Total

2,919

3,260

3,257

12 May 2014 : Column 331W

HMRC uses an appropriate mix of interventions to recover outstanding debt based on assessments of previous behaviour, (credit) risk and likely ability to pay. The allocation of various activities to specific debts is not mutually exclusive—some debtors may experience multiple contacts if they do not respond to initial attempts at recovery.

The table below shows the overall annual amount of debts which HMRC has pursued and cleared in recent years.

£ billion
 2010-112011-122012-132013-14

Total debt processed

51

53

47

59

Entry Clearances

Adam Afriyie: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions his Department has had with the Home Office on the economic effect of the Tier 1 (Investor) visa; and if he will make a statement. [197732]

Danny Alexander: Treasury Ministers and officials have regular discussions with the Home Office on a wide variety of topics as part of the process of policy development and delivery.

Housing: Taxation

Mr Clappison: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what methods of assessing liability for a levy on higher-value homes have been considered by his Department in the course of preparatory work on the introduction of such a tax; whether individual valuation of properties has been considered in such work; and what estimate has been made of the cost of implementation of such a tax; [193361]

(2) what estimate has been made of the yield of a levy on higher-value homes during the preparatory work carried out by his Department into the possible introduction of such a tax; [193358]

(3) what estimate has been made of the number of properties in each region liable for a possible levy on higher-value homes; [193359]

(4) what work has been carried out by his Department’s officials on the possible introduction of a levy on higher-value homes; what starting points for liability in the value of properties have been considered in the course of any such work; and if he will publish that work; [193360]

(5) what consultations have been carried out with (a) valuers and (b) other organisations on the possible introduction of a levy on higher-value homes; [193362]

(6) what account his Department has taken of mortgage liability in its assessment of liability for levy on higher-value homes as part of its work preparatory to the possible introduction of such a tax. [193510]

Mr Gauke: The Government do not intend to introduce a new levy on higher-value homes.

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The number of residential properties in the UK valued at more than £2 million was estimated before Budget 2012 to be around 55,000. The Treasury does not have a precise regional breakdown of properties worth over £2 million.

Budget 2012 introduced a number of changes to high value property tax, including the introduction of the annual tax on enveloped dwellings (ATED), a tax on residential properties valued at more than £2 million owned through certain corporate ‘envelopes’.

Self-assessment was chosen for ATED. The cost of implementing ATED was set out in the tax information and impact note published alongside Budget 2013, available at:

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/budget2013/tiin-1182.pdf

The cost of implementation of a new levy would be dependent on the nature of the tax.

As part of the introduction of ATED, a public consultation document was published and a variety of organisations responded. The response to the consultation can be found at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/ensuring-the-fair-taxation-of-residential-property-transactions

When developing ATED, no account was taken of mortgage liability.