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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 28 February 2006

DEFENCE

RAF Puma XW 221 Crash

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): On 19 July 2004 a RAF Puma helicopter of 33 Squadron crashed on landing at Basra airfield, Iraq, resulting in the death of the non-handling pilot, and injury to the handling pilot and crewman.

The RAF board of inquiry has now reported, and the findings have been given to the next of kin of the deceased crew member. I have today placed the Military Aircraft Accident Summary, which summarises the findings of the Board of Inquiry, in the Library of the House.

Defence Munitions Centre (Crombie)

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): Between 1 September 2003 and 12 March 2004 the future role of crombie study team carried out a comprehensive and objective examination of business processes, working practices and staffing levels within the Defence Munitions Centre (DMC) Crombie in Dunfermline West. The review was undertaken to distinguish between core and non-core activities for the Defence Storage and Distribution Agency (DSDA) and the then Warship Support Agency in order to identify any areas of potential overlap, conflict or concern.

The selected option entails structural and business changes at DMC Crombie, resulting in the reduction of 142 posts and the progressive removal of munitions -related tasks. The study team determined that the explosives storage capacity available at DMC Crombie is not required to meet the known and projected storage requirements of its customers. The team recommended the cessation or relocation of some non-core and all munitions processing tasks over a period of five years.

Last year I decided, subject to TU consultation, to implement those recommendations. The consultation period has now finished and I have given final approval for the changes to be made.

The recommendations will be implemented as quickly as possible so as to limit staff uncertainty. Major DMC Crombie customers will be made aware of the outcome of the study and will be given assurances that outputs will be maintained at the required levels both during and after implementation.

Implementation will be phased with a planned reduction of 67 posts in the first year, and a further 75 posts between years 2006–07 to 2009–10. Every opportunity will be taken to reduce via natural wastage and voluntary retirement, but redundancies may still be necessary. A "without commitment" preference exercise will be carried out to identify volunteers for redundancy. Staff affected will be compensated under
 
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the terms of the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme and the services of the MOD Outplacement Service would be available to help those who may be made redundant to identify new opportunities as appropriate.

EDUCATION AND SKILLS

Education and Skills Select Committee's Report (Government Response)

The Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Ruth Kelly): I have today published the Government response to the Select Committee report on the White Paper "Higher Standards, Better Schools for All".

I am grateful to the Committee for their work in producing the report. I have considered their recommendations carefully, alongside many representations from key stakeholders.

I am clear that there is widespread agreement to the aims and objectives of the White Paper: namely, excellence and equity for all. Much has been achieved through the radical programme of investment and reform over the last eight years. This year saw the highest standards we have ever achieved at every Key Stage. However, it would be wrong to rest upon these achievements whilst, for example, more than seven out of every ten children in receipt of free school meals fail to achieve five or more good GCSEs.

I am pleased, therefore, that the Committee accepts the key building blocks of the White Paper. In particular, the report welcomes reforms on personalisation, on discipline and behaviour and on improving the quality of teaching and leadership through better professional development and ongoing workforce reform. The report makes a series of recommendations in relation to school admissions, Trust schools and the role of the local authority, many of which I have accepted and which are reflected in the Education and Inspections Bill that will be introduced into the House of Commons today.

ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS

Low Level Radioactive Waste

The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Mr. Elliot Morley): On 18 March 2005, I announced that the UK Government and devolved Administration Ministers had agreed that a review of policy for the long-term management of the UK's low level radioactive waste (LLW) should be undertaken.

I explained that the initial stages of the review would be overseen by a Steering Group drawn from the Government's Radioactive Waste Policy Group (RWPG). I said that the Steering Group would be organising two national stakeholder workshops during 2005 to support consideration of the issues and possible solutions, and that this would contribute to the preparation and issue of a Government consultation on the revised policy proposals.

I can now inform this House that all this work has been completed and that this has resulted in the publication today of the consultation document "A Public Consultation on Policy for the Long-Term
 
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Management of Solid Low Level Radioactive Waste in the United Kingdom", copies of which have been placed in the Library of the House. This consultation is being sponsored jointly by Defra, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Scottish Executive, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment. Responses to the consultation are due by 31 May 2006.

The LLW management policy review is being carried out for three main reasons:

The policy proposals on which views are being sought include:

The LLW management policy review is being carried out in parallel with the work of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), which is assessing options for the long-term management of the UK's higher activity wastes. The outcome of the LLW consultation, and the policy statement resulting from it, should be available in the summer of this year at about the same time as CoRWM delivers its higher activity waste management recommendations.
 
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