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9 Dec 2002 : Column 18—continued

Territorial Army

15. Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire): What changes there have been in the strength of the Territorial Army in the last six months. [83970]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Dr. Lewis Moonie): I think that we have missed out question 13, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker: No, we have not. It has been unstarred.

Dr. Moonie: My apologies, Mr. Speaker—some people can be too smart.

As at 1 November 2002, the strength of the Territorial Army stood at 39,370, and on 1 May 2002 it was 39,125.

Andrew Selous : Can the Minister tell the House what specific steps the Government are taking to recruit ex-regular personnel to the TA?

Dr. Moonie: I cannot think of any specific steps, but a great many ex-regulars go into the TA and, by and large, provided that they were honourably discharged, are welcome because of the experience that they bring with them. However, I am happy to look at that, to see if more encouragement can be given. As part of the developing work under the new chapter, we are looking

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at increasing the number of people in the Territorial Army in particular—it would be useful to encourage as many people as possible to join.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As far as I am aware, question 13, which I tabled, was not unstarred. Can you provide clarification?

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman may not have heard my statement on 19 November. When an hon. Member volunteers a question—I did not ask the hon. Gentleman to do anything, but his name was called—I automatically unstar his question on the Order Paper. The trick is therefore not to rise for an earlier question.

Defence Fire Service

16. Mr. John Grogan (Selby): If he will make a statement on the defence fire service. [83971]

17. Angus Robertson (Moray): Whether the Government intend to continue with the privatisation of the defence fire service. [83972]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): The defence fire service continues to provide excellent support for the activities of the Ministry of Defence. Its responsibilities include the protection of defence assets, support for military operational capability, expert advice on fire-risk management and the provision of personnel for operations and exercises worldwide. Also at present it is providing vital support to those members of the armed forces engaged as emergency cover during the firefighters' dispute.

XFire Study 2000", a major review of the defence fire service, has recently been completed and is expected to propose a number of initiatives for modernising the defence fire service. The result of XFire Study 2000" will be used to inform the public sector comparator for the airfield support services project, which is a separate but complementary work stream that is seeking the most cost-effective and viable solution for the provision of airfield support services.

Mr. Grogan: Given that Mr. Ed Balls, no less, has said that there is a limit to the application of market

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principles to the delivery of public services, and given that the defence fire service trade unions have agreed a radical modernisation package that will reduce in-house costs by 20 per cent., does my right hon. Friend agree that it is time for the Government to abandon any privatisation proposals, which the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) has said cross the line of acceptable private sector involvement in public service delivery?

Mr. Ingram: I am not going to respond to the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith), but I shall reply to my hon. Friend, who has been raising this issue for a number of months. Indeed, he secured an Adjournment debate on the matter in November last year, when the precise way in which the proposals are developing was set out. He is right that XFire Study 2000" is an important in-depth analysis of the way in which we can make best use of existing resources, and I hope that he accepts that the Government should always look at best value in the delivery of the service overall. It would be wrong for any Minister, given the opportunities that may exist, to minimise the best value approach. As I told my hon. Friend during his Adjournment debate, we have to treat every penny as if it were a pound.

Angus Robertson: A few weeks ago a very senior RAF officer told me and a number of other Members of Parliament that he thought that there was a good chance that the airfield support services project might fail, although there could be an ASSP minus a privatised defence fire service. Does the Minister believe that the officer is misinformed or that the House is under-informed?

Mr. Ingram: I do not know who the officer was, but after Question Time, the hon. Gentleman will no doubt write and tell me precisely who he was. I will then reflect on the status of that advice and whence the officer was drawing his information and advice. I have given a detailed explanation of the fact that we continue to look for value for money, and it would be appropriate to examine the range of services provided across airfield services to see whether better use can be made of the taxpayers' money. That is the function of Government, but the hon. Gentleman is extremely unlikely ever to experience it.

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Speaker's Statement

3.31 pm

Mr. Speaker: Before I call the Secretary of State to make his statement, I want to make a brief statement myself.

In the report that the House approved on 29 October, the Modernisation Committee recommended that the full text of a ministerial statement should be made available to Members in the Chamber as soon as the Minister sits down, or at the same time as the statement is given to the Press Gallery, whichever is the earlier.This is the first occasion on which that recommendation is to be implemented. I would ask Members to co-operate with the Doorkeepers in distributing copies of the Minister's statement around the Chamber. May I make it clear that I am treating this as an experiment? If it seems to me that the disturbance that results from the new arrangement outweighs the benefit, I will review the matter.

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Education and Skills (Spending Plans)

3.32 pm

The Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Mr. Charles Clarke): With permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall make a statement on the Government's education and skills plans for the coming three-year period.

In July, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced the outcome of the 2002 spending review. He stated that education spending will increase by an average of 6 per cent. a year in real terms over the three years beginning in April 2003. Following that announcement, my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Estelle Morris), published our agenda for change, which was called XInvestment for Reform". This set out how we would match those extra resources with sustained reform to achieve our objectives of a world-class education and training system that meets the needs of individuals and the economy. I now want to tell the House more about these investment and reform plans.

With the exception of higher education, which will be the subject of an announcement next January, I am today announcing the details of our three-year settlement for the whole education and skills sector. I begin with the early years. The Government remain of the view that a strong early start is vital to continued educational success, so, as the Chancellor announced in July, we will be continuing our substantial investment in the early years, including our sure start programme, and funding a further expansion of 250,000 child care places.

Working together with my colleagues in other Government Departments, particularly in the Department of Health and the Department for Work and Pensions, we will continue to expand our sure start programme and to mainstream the approaches in those areas that we believe have been successful. As the Chancellor announced in July, expenditure on early years and child care will rise from about #1 billion this year to some #1.5 billion in 2005–06. Next year #300 million will be transferred to enable local authorities to provide universal nursery provision for three-year-olds.

I turn now to schools, which will form the subject of most of my statement today. The reforms that I am announcing will provide a simpler, fairer system. Alongside this, we are seeking a continued drive to raise standards in every school in the country. Last week my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and the Regions announced the outcome of the review of local authority funding. As he announced, the national average increase in overall funding for schools and local education authorities is 6.5 per cent. Moreover, every local authority will next year receive an increase in funding per pupil of at least 3.2 per cent. The new system provides every local authority with a basic entitlement per pupil, plus more money for authorities with significant deprivation or recruitment and retention difficulties. Our three-year funding announcement means that we are giving local authorities certainty about their budgets in future years, so they can give schools indicative three-year budgets—and we expect them to do so. That will enable head teachers and governing bodies to plan and implement longer-term reforms.

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As my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and the Regions announced last Thursday, the Government are committed to allowing local authorities more freedom over the use of resources. Ring-fenced grants will form a reducing proportion of local spending, so on top of the #4.3 billion increase by 2005–06 in local authority general education spending, which we have already announced, substantial funds will be moved from central DFES spending to local authority spending. That will be an extra #500 million in 2003–04 and a further #800 million in 2005–06. That means that, by 2005–06, more than 92 per cent. of all schools funding will be allocated through local authorities in accordance with local priorities. That compares with 87 per cent. in the current year of 2002–03.

Thus we will end the ring-fenced grants from my Department for the following programmes in 2003–04: nursery education for three-year-olds, funding for infant class sizes, the school improvement grant, school inclusion-pupil support, performance management and induction for newly qualified teachers. In 2004–05, in addition to the above, we will do the same with grants for special educational needs, study support, golden hello payments, advanced skills teachers, school support staff, drugs education and teacher sabbaticals. We will also focus grants for the national literacy and numeracy strategies and the key stage 3 national strategy. The substantial increases in local authority funding that I have set out will enable authorities to take over the delivery of those important programmes in ways that meet local needs. Of course, we will closely monitor the effects of those changes.

From 2005–06, we will also reform the system for rewarding those good, experienced teachers who pass the performance threshold. The money for teachers who pass the threshold will be devolved to the schools budget in that year. In the new year, we shall announce further measures to strengthen performance management in schools and cut associated bureaucracy. We shall also discuss with all stakeholders measures to ensure that the allocation of money meets the cost of the threshold payments made by schools.

We will however continue with ring-fenced funding to provide national drive in some key areas. Three key grants will contribute to that aim. First, the leadership incentive grant will be #175 million a year for each of the next three years. We will provide #125,000 to each of 1,400 secondary schools in the inner cities and in challenging circumstances beyond. That money is being provided because it is clear that a good head teacher and leadership team are the key to raising expectations and achievement in schools. The grant is intended to support them.

That money will be used in a variety of ways, including strengthening poorly performing departments, helping strong departments to help other schools and buying in specialist advice on leadership or working together with other schools to provide leadership training. In the weakest schools in particular, the money can be used to change the school's leadership. One purpose of the money is to encourage local schools to behave in a more collaborative fashion. It will be for local schools to decide

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how best to use it to strengthen their leadership teams, but I will reserve powers to ensure that the weakest schools make effective use of it.

Secondly, the school standards grant, at #800 million in 2003–04 rising to #875 million by 2005–06, to be paid directly to schools, is intended to drive forward reform of the school work force. It will allow more and better trained teaching assistants to be employed to help the school team to work together more effectively. As we made clear in July, our substantial extra investment in the school standards grant must be matched by a commitment from unions and employers to a restructured teaching profession and a reformed school work force that is more flexible, diverse and focused on raising standards. We are making good progress towards agreement, but the extra resources will not be released until a satisfactory agreement is reached.

Thirdly, the standards fund—about #1.5 billion in each of the next three years—will enable schools to galvanise reform on standards, behaviour and choice. In 2003–04, that will allow us to support, for example, the following programmes: the key stage 3 strategy at #120 million, ethic minority achievement at #80 million, music services at #60 million, excellence in cities and excellence clusters at #290 million, and school support staff and training at #170 million.

As I announced a couple of weeks ago, we will provide sufficient funding for every school that fulfils the required standard to become a specialist school. The money will also provide support for primary literacy and numeracy. We are determined to build on the outstanding improvements that our primary schools have made since 1998. The national literacy and numeracy strategies have transformed standards but much remains to be done to achieve the ambitious targets that we set. We shall therefore continue to provide funding and support that is focused on schools which are under-performing by comparison with similar schools.

Schools will have the freedom to spend their standards fund budget on any purpose, provided that they deliver the improvements in standards, behaviour and choice that we seek. We have already given the details to local authorities and we want significant improvements in outcomes.

I am publishing today details of the capital funding that schools will receive to improve and modernise buildings. A typical secondary school will get #75,000 of devolved capital funding next year, increasing to #82,000 by 2005–06. That is part of a total investment in school buildings which, including private finance initiative credits, will increase from #3 billion in the current year to #3.8 billion in 2003–04, to #4.5 billion the following year, and to more than #5 billion by 2005–06. Although that represents a sevenfold increase in capital spending since 1996–97, too many school buildings have suffered decades of underinvestment. The extra amounts that I am announcing today include substantial extra resources to provide clean, modern and secure places for children to learn.

I have announced a real-terms increase in overall funding for schools of more than 7 per cent. from 2002–03 to 2003–04. That will be followed by annual real-terms increases of more than 4 per cent. and subsequently 5 per cent. That is a total of more than

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17 per cent. in real terms over the three years of the spending review. It means an average real-terms increase in revenue funding per pupil of more than #1,000, from approximately #2,840 to #3,850 in the 10 years between 1996–97 and 2005–06.

I conclude with further education and skills. Its importance cannot be overstated. Developing our people's skills is critical to improving our productivity and hence to the country's economic and social future. We must transform the performance of the learning and skills sector and make it far more responsive to the needs of learners, employers and communities. We need to improve the quality of the sector and increase the achievement of those who study and learn in it.

The document that I published last month, XSuccess for All", sets out our work on the further education reform strategy and our challenge to the further education sector. We shall work closely with the Department of Trade and Industry to co-ordinate our Departments' work more effectively. We are investing to match our ambition. I have already announced, at the Association of Colleges conference on 19 November, #1.2 billion for reforms to further education. That forms part of the Learning and Skills Council's budget, which I announced last week. It will rise by #1.4 billion, reaching a total of #9.2 billion by 2005–06. That means an increase in total spending on skills from #8.6 billion in 2003–04 to more than #10 billion in 2005–06—a real-terms increase of almost 12 per cent. over the spending review period.

As the Chancellor made clear in his pre-Budget statement a fortnight ago, we face economic uncertainty and it is therefore more important than ever to continue to invest and reform to increase the skills of our people and improve our productivity as a nation. The substantial investment in education and skills funding that I announced today is a necessary but not sufficient condition for raising standards in our schools and colleges, thereby tackling the attainment gap and creating a world-class education and training system at all stages. That will be achieved only if, as well as investing, we reform our schools and colleges so that they genuinely fulfil every child's aspirations. That is the ultimate test of our success at the end of the spending review period. I am confident that, with the help of the millions of people throughout the country who are committed to our educational success, we will pass the test.

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