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We are aiming to create an education system that is not merely good but world class and which is built around the needs of all young people, employers and our society. We are guaranteeing more choice about what young people can learn so that they have a head start for a rewarding future. Our recent White Paper "Higher Standards, Better Schools for All" proposed reforms to ensure that every school is a good school and that every child receives increasingly tailored support. A continued focus on improving standards, especially in English and maths, in developing more personalised learning and in creating greater flexibility are strong components of both the l419 reform agenda and of our strategy for schools.
At the heart of this system is a new curriculum entitlement which will offer each young person a choice of high quality learning pathwaysincluding the option of more theoretical or more practical approaches at an appropriate level for themwhich can be the basis for progression to further learning, higher education and employment. Delivering this entitlement will require profound change in the education system with collaboration of all players a key requisite for success.
At the local level, a coherent 1419 system will need excellent partnerships between Local Authorities and local Learning and Skills Councils. The role of Local Authorities as the integrators of services of children up to the age of 19 will be crucial.
This Plan sets out how we will strengthen the role of local Government in 1419 education, and pilot better models of partnership working between Local Authorities and the local LSCs to ensure the strategic development of 1419 provision in their area, particularly in relation to local skill needs.
The agenda is a long-term one and we are working closely with key delivery partners to make it a reality. In taking work forward we will continue to consult with a wide range of individuals and organisations.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw):
As presidency of the European Union, Her Majesty's Government are today circulating to all member states of the European Union revised proposals for the European Union budget in the
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next financial period 200713 inclusive. Copies of the proposal are available in the Library of the House and in the Vote Office.
Secondly they help the new member states in the enlarged EU by building their economies and societies, and they more fairly distribute the costs among the better off nations. On 5 December, the UK offered an extra contribution to these costs of enlargement amounting to 8 billion euros over the budget period.
Fourthly, the proposals ensure there can be no fundamental change in the rebate without fundamental reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. All spending, including on agriculture, will be subject to a review during the coming budget period.
The revised proposals do, however, take account of the discussions amongst EU Foreign Ministers on 7 December and of the intensive bilateral contacts we have had with other member states and the European Commission since then. In particular, the revised proposals:
Extend the scope of the practical changes we proposed to the rules governing structural and cohesion funding, and extend their application to Greece and Portugal, all of which should increase the impact of EU money on the ground in enhancing prosperity, stability and competitiveness.
Provide extra money for the decommissioning of nuclear power plants in Slovakia and Lithuania, and additional structural and cohesion fund support for Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Latvia.
The Secretary of State for Health (Ms Patricia Hewitt):
A review of ambulance services, "Taking Healthcare to the Patient: Transforming NHS Ambulance Services" was published in June 2005. It set out a clear strategic direction for ambulance services that would improve patient services. Over the next five
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years, ambulance services will provide an increasing range of mobile healthcare for patients who need urgent care. They will work to help provide diagnostic services and support patients with long-term conditions and they will continue to improve the speed and quality of ambulance responses to 999 calls.
This review was undertaken by Peter Bradley CBE, Chief Executive of London Ambulance Service National Health Service Trust and National Ambulance Adviser, at the request of the Department of Health. He was supported by a reference group of key stakeholders including ambulance trust chief executives, clinicians and representatives of other NHS organisations. Copies of the review were placed in the Library in June 2005.
The reference group's view was that in order for the benefits outlined in the review to be fully realised, ambulance trusts need to have sufficient strategic capacity, and to be of a size to attract the high calibre senior managers and leaders necessary to manage these new organisations. The review therefore recommended that there should be significantly fewer, larger ambulance trusts, so that ambulance trusts would have the infrastructure, capacity and capability necessary to deliver and sustain the changes needed.
I have accepted the recommendation for fewer ambulance trusts. A 14-week consultation, led by strategic health authorities (SHAs) on my behalf, will now consider the future organisation of ambulance trusts. Consultation will begin today and conclude on 22 March 2006. Any changes to the organisation of ambulance trusts will only happen following local consultation and discussion with relevant parties in the local area.
We expect that SHAs will involve hon. and right hon. Members in the consultations, including sending them copies of the consultation document. Some copies of the consultation document have also been placed in the Library.
We believe these proposals to reorganise ambulance trusts, coupled with all other recommendations made in "Taking Healthcare to the Patient: Transforming NHS Ambulance Services" will put the NHS in the best position to provide more convenient, consistently high quality and appropriate mobile healthcare for the people of England. Under these proposals, there would be no reduction in ambulance vehicles or frontline staff. Instead, they will mean less bureaucracy and more money to invest in front-line services. Response times for life-threatening situations will not be adversely affected by these changes.
I can confirm that the proposals for the reconfiguration of SHAs and the proposals for the reconfiguration of primary care trusts (PCTs), as set out in my written statement of 1 December, are also going forward for consultation from today. All proposals will
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be subject to a fourteen-week local consultation and will therefore run concurrently with the consultation on the proposed reconfiguration of NHS ambulance trusts. No decisions will be taken regarding the reconfiguration of SHAs or PCTs until the results of the local consultations have been considered and any recommendations reviewed.
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