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Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham): Will the Minister allow councils to pay a housing-related supplement to teachers in high-cost areas where recruitment and retention are difficult or impossible?

Mr. Raynsford: The right hon. Gentleman comes from an area that has benefited from substantial increases in grants. Wokingham received an 8.4 per cent. increase last year and will receive a 5.8 per cent. increase this year. West Berkshire, too, had large increases last year and this year. Those settlements reflect the extra money that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills is putting in to meet education needs. In addition, as the right hon. Member for Wokingham knows well, through schemes such as the starter homes initiative we are helping to provide good quality, value-for-money homes for people in key services, such as teaching, to enable them to have low-cost home ownership options in areas where, as he rightly points out, prices are relatively high.

Mr. David Kidney (Stafford): My right hon. Friend mentioned the transitional funding of £120 million in the education settlement that will be targeted on about one third of local authorities—although, sadly, not the third that are currently at the bottom of the funding league table. He said that there would be £300 million to

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fund pressures other than those relating to schools. Can he tell us whether any of that will deliberately, as a matter of policy, be directed to the poorest authorities?

Mr. Raynsford: That money is being put into the general settlement, so it is not targeted as such. I distinguished between special and specific grants, which are targeted on particular areas, and the general settlement, which is distributed according to the formula. The additional £300 million will go into the formula to ensure that it can be distributed according to various indicators of need—including, obviously, deprivation. I am pleased to say that Staffordshire is receiving a 5.4 per cent. increase in its grant, which is above average, against the national average of 4.7 per cent. I hope that my hon. Friend will welcome that.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire): By what percentage will the costs of local government increase due to statutory demands imposed by central Government?

Mr. Raynsford: As I said in the statement, we have adopted an extremely rigorous new burdens doctrine, which requires any additional burdens imposed by central Government on local authorities to be fully funded. That is why I was able to say that we are making a number of changes to ensure that authorities have the means to meet their responsibilities; we are not putting additional burdens on them without those burdens being funded. I gave specific examples in my statement and also indicated how in other matters, such as waste management, where local authorities said that they would have difficulty in meeting their obligations, we have taken action, which I announced this afternoon, to ease those pressures.

Those are the actions of a Government who are determined to ensure that local authorities have the means to meet their obligations and to do so without unreasonable council tax increases.

Several hon. Members rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. We must now proceed. I allowed the statement to overrun to permit a slightly more equal amount of time between Back Benchers and Front Benchers, and I hope that Front Benchers will take note.

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Points of Order

2.15 pm

Tony Baldry (Banbury): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it in order to ask that the names of those of us who did not manage to catch your eye this afternoon might be gently remembered when we debate the local government settlement in due course?

Madam Deputy Speaker: Absolutely. We shall certainly do our best to bear that in mind. I appreciate that many hon. Members in the Chamber were disappointed this afternoon.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Prime Minister informed the House that trade between the United Kingdom and the United States was £2 billion a year. During Prime Minister's questions, he revised the figure from £2 billion a year to £2,000 billion a year. As neither figure is correct, will Mr. Speaker be asking the Prime Minister to return to the Chamber to correct the record?

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): Yes, he must—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Mr. Speaker will have heard and will no doubt read the comments, but he is not responsible for the answers of any individual Minister in the House.

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Now that George Bush runs the foreign policy of this Government, why is he not coming to the House to make a statement?

Madam Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order for the Chair.


Corporal Punishment of Children (Abolition)

Mr. David Hinchliffe, supported by Mr. Hilton Dawson, Julie Morgan, Jane Griffiths, Dr. Rudi Vis, Geraint Davies, Mr. Paul Burstow, Dr. Jenny Tonge, Mr. Mike Hancock, Mr. Elfyn Llwyd and Dr. Richard Taylor, presented a Bill to amend the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 to remove any existing defence which justifies the corporal punishment of children and to give children the same protection as adults under the law on assault: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed. [Bill 185].

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First Aid Training in Schools

2.17 pm

Bob Russell (Colchester): I beg to move,

The Bill would save many hundreds of lives every year, produce annual savings to the national health service of hundreds of millions of pounds and result in a better quality of life for all age groups throughout the land. It is a modest Bill with anything but a modest outcome: lives saved; money saved. Whatever the cost of providing first-aid training in schools, it would be petty cash compared with the huge financial dividend that would be generated for the public purse and it would save lives every day.

I acknowledge that teachers have a heavy work load and that many people in education feel that the national curriculum is already over-burdened. However, my Bill would not add to the burden of individual teachers unless they were already qualified first-aiders, because first-aid training would be undertaken by qualified first-aiders drawn from wider society, primarily volunteer members of St. John Ambulance and the Red Cross. I pay tribute to both organisations and to other voluntary groups that provide first-aid cover at a wide range of events, many of which would not take place if their organisers could not afford to buy in medical cover.

First-aid groups could do with more volunteers. Over time, my Bill would create a large pool of qualified first-aiders from which, it is hoped, many would become volunteers with St. John Ambulance and the Red Cross. In the short term, it is possible that there may be insufficient qualified first-aiders to train every child in school, so I realise that it may be necessary for the Bill's implementation to be phased, but the sooner the better in as many schools as it is possible to recruit qualified first-aiders to commence training.

My Bill sets out the framework. The precise details of implementation will emerge as a result of consultation with all the relevant bodies, including such considerations as what should be taught at what age group, the frequency of the training and so on. Today I am talking about the principle of the Bill.

I am grateful to St. John Ambulance, whose personnel have helped me to prepare my Bill. It believes that everyone should have life-saving skills, and it stresses that that could be achieved over time if everyone learned first aid at school. St. John says that currently fewer than 10 per cent. of schoolchildren in England are taught first aid—in many cases by teachers who have been trained by St. John, using materials provided by St. John Ambulance. That training, however, is purely at the discretion of the school and there is no obligation to provide first-aid training. My Bill would make it a requirement.

What I propose is not revolutionary. There are already aspects of the national curriculum in England that enable schools to teach first aid. St. John Ambulance's young lifesaver award links to the personal, social and health education syllabuses at both key stages 2 and 3, and to the citizenship syllabuses for

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key stages 3 and 4. The most direct link is probably with key stage 3, at which pupils should be taught basic emergency aid procedures and where to get help and support. That is better than nothing, but just think how much better it would be for all concerned if all children were taught first aid throughout their school years, starting as young as five, when they might learn how to react to a nosebleed, and continuing through to their early teens, when resuscitation could be accomplished.

The national healthy school standard says that, as a minimum, a school should provide opportunities for all pupils to develop health skills in relation to first aid. My Bill would take that concept forward and make it a requirement.

I am delighted to inform the House that in my constituency the Thomas Lord Audley school and language college has proposals, announced only last week, to establish a first aid club. Students would aim to get a recognised certificate from either the Red Cross or St. John Ambulance. It is felt that

It is also felt that the training would relate to existing curriculum subjects, ranging from modular science to food technology and from biology to physical education.

That school can see the wider benefits that first-aid training produces. If every school had first-aid training as part of the national curriculum, the benefits to the nation would be immense. Mr. Mark Allan of Colchester St. John Ambulance told me that

St. John Ambulance nationally trains 250,000 people every year in first-aid skills. Free first-aid training has been offered to teachers in the past. Each year, a number of schools at primary and secondary levels participate in the St. John Ambulance national schools first aid competition. Thus the concept of first-aid training in schools is not new.

I opened my speech by saying that hundreds of deaths could be prevented each year if qualified first-aiders were able to intervene. St. John Ambulance goes further and says that thousands of deaths could be prevented. Indeed, research has shown that perhaps 1,000 people a year who currently die as a result of injuries sustained in road crashes would be saved if first aid were applied before the arrival of paramedics. It is considered that a significant proportion of the 300,000 people who die from heart attacks would have a much-increased chance of survival if first aid could be applied at an early stage.

Alongside the important saving of lives, first-aid training would also reduce visits to overstretched accident and emergency departments by people whose injuries did not warrant hospital attention, and likewise reduce visits to doctors' surgeries if a qualified first-aider could more easily and more quickly deal with such minor matters at home or at their place of work. A pack of frozen peas placed on a sprained ankle is more appropriate than sitting in an A and E department for hours—a fact confirmed to me by family doctor Chris Hall, the current mayor of Colchester.

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St. John Ambulance has made the following statement:

I would go further and say that first-aid training in schools from an early age would make children more aware of what makes their body work—what is good for it and what is bad for it. Obesity is a growing problem, literally, with the number of obese children increasing every year and more children suffering from diabetes as a consequence. Asthma is also on the increase. Today's young people are, collectively, less fit than their parents and grandparents were at the same age. For the first time in 100 years, we are looking at the prospect of falling life expectancy. A medical time-bomb is ticking away. Unless urgent action is taken, today's schoolchildren will suffer heart, mobility and breathing problems at an earlier age than is currently the case, throwing ever more burdens on the national health service.

If youngsters were involved in first-aid training as part of the national curriculum, it would make them more aware of the need for healthy food and healthy lifestyles. It would hopefully discourage involvement with illegal drugs, smoking and binge drinking. It would certainly lead to greater personal awareness—social inclusion would be achieved.

My Bill is all about saving lives and improving the lives of today's children. I commend it to the House.

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