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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 16 March 2005


Debt and Reserves Management

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Stephen Timms): The Debt and Reserves Management report 2005–06 is being published today. Copies will be available in the Library of the House at the conclusion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget statement.

Invest to Save—Inclusive Communities Fund

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Paul Boateng): I am pleased to announce that 37 bids from across the public and voluntary sectors have been successful in round 7 of the Invest to Save Budget at a cost of £37 million in total over the three years to 2007–08 for England. The allocated sum rises to £43 million to include consequential funding for the devolved Administrations. Details of the winners of this round have been placed in the Library of the House.

The Invest to Save Budget (ISB) provides support for projects that increase the extent of joint working between different parts of Government; identify innovative ways of delivering public services; and reduce the cost of delivering the services and/or improve the quality and effectiveness of services delivered to the public.

This, the seventh round of the ISB, concentrates on the priority areas of:

Winning projects must agree an implementation plan with the sponsor departments. Each project must provide six-monthly progress reports and carry out an evaluation of its success once it has been completed. Wider dissemination of the good practice from completed projects is then fed back into the whole spectrum of public service providers.


Private Finance Initiative (Fire and Rescue Authorities)

The Minister for Local and Regional Government (Mr. Nick Raynsford): Today I am inviting all English fire and rescue authorities to bid for a share of £150 million of credits available through the private finance initiative (PFI). This considerable new investment is available to help fire and rescue authorities
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to deliver some of the key assets that they need to keep building a better more effective and efficient service that saves more lives.

Over the past five years fire and rescue authorities have used £200 million PFI credits successfully to provide innovative new fire stations, training centres, headquarters, a vehicle fleet and other equipment. I am confident that fire and rescue authorities will have plenty of ideas for what they could deliver with a share of the £150 million credits now available. I look forward to receiving their proposals.

This investment re-confirms the Government's commitment to meeting their public sector agreement (PSA) target by 2010 to reduce the number of accidental fire-related deaths in the home by 20 per cent. and the number of deliberate fires by 10 per cent.

It comes on top of the Government's already significant investment in new assets for the English fire and rescue service. We are investing heavily in a new radio system and regional control centres and up to £188 million in mass decontamination and urban search and rescue equipment and training. Plus we have announced a £25 million fire prevention package to provide free smoke alarms and fire safety advice to one and a quarter million vulnerable households, mainly in deprived areas, in England over the period 2004–08. Every English fire and fire and rescue authority will again receive an above inflation increase in grant in 2005–06 and will receive a share of £57.98 million in supported capital expenditure.

Fire and rescue authorities have been asked to submit initial expressions of interest by 31 May 2005 and have until 7 October 2005 to submit indicative bids for the £150 million of credits to ODPM.

Copies of the fire service circular announcing the bidding round are available in the Libraries of both Houses and are on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's website at: www.odpm.gov.uk.


People with Learning Disabilities (Premature Deaths)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): I am announcing today the first stage of a confidential inquiry into premature deaths among people with learning disabilities. The Department of Health has asked the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA), which is taking responsibility for confidential inquiries from April 2005, to carry out a scoping study to establish the best way to conduct the inquiry.

The Government's White Paper "Valuing People", published in 2001, included as one of its main objectives improvements in the health of people with learning disabilities. In particular, it highlighted the need to address evidence of health inequalities. The Government have taken action to address this, primarily through asking learning disability partnership boards to develop plans for health action planning in their local areas. But "Valuing People" also noted that there was cause for concern about evidence of avoidable illness and premature deaths, and included an undertaking to look at the feasibility of establishing a confidential inquiry into mortality among people with learning disabilities.
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The Department has held wide-ranging discussions with experts and stakeholders and has determined that an inquiry would not only be practicable but would also provide valuable information about the health care of people with learning disabilities. Health care for this group has also continued to be raised as a matter of concern for organisations such as Mencap and the Disability Rights Commission.

Professor Sir John Lilleyman (Medical Director, NPSA) is the lead director for confidential inquiries and will be in charge of the management of the scoping exercise. The research will be overseen, managed and commissioned by Professor Richard Lilford's team at the University of Birmingham.

Our intention is that this inquiry should be carried out in a new and more flexible style compared to previous inquiries. It will be time-limited and produce results that can then be used to inform practice. The confidential investigation of health care histories of people with learning disabilities will be complex, since it will in many cases need to cover care provided in a variety of settings, for example residential care homes. The scoping project
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I have announced today is the first step to a full-scale inquiry and will also provide valuable information in its own right about the health care of people with learning disabilities.


Magilligan Prison

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Paul Murphy): The Government have received a report from HM chief inspector of prisons and the chief inspector of criminal justice in Northern Ireland, Kit Chivers. The report is on an announced inspection of Magilligan prison and has today been published.

The Government warmly welcome this report which recognises not only areas of good practice, but helpfully, identifies a number of areas for improvement. I shall be considering very carefully the report's recommendations. I have no doubt that the report will be of value in informing and re-assuring the public, and is helpful to the managers and staff who are involved in this challenging area of work.

Copies of the report have been placed in the Library.