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.
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.
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 200607 to 200910. 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.
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 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.
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 national LLW disposal facility, near to Drigg in Cumbria, does not have sufficient capacity to meet future forecasts of LLW arisings. Indeed, the Environment Agency's ongoing review of the site's disposal authorisation has served to call into question its previously estimated capacity;
the NDA must have the necessary disposal routes available if it is to progress its decommissioning and clean-up programme of the UK's older, publicly-owned civil nuclear sites. It is also questionable whether the large amounts of lightly contaminated rubble and soil that will arise from such decommissioning and clean-up should be dug up and transported over large distances, merely to deposit it again at the LLW disposal facility close to Drigg, which is a limited and relatively expensive national resource;
whether we should allow greater flexibility in the way LLW is managed. Government propose that it should not all be sent to the LLW disposal site near to Drigg in Cumbria. This would particularly apply to the large amounts of very low activity LLW that will arise from decommissioning and clean-up activities that could be disposed in various ways, at the site of arising if this is the best practicable option. But this flexibility must also maintain the necessary level of safety through the use of a risk-informed approach, and the preparation of plans and safety cases that are acceptable to the regulatory bodies; coupled with this more flexible approach to disposal, could we effectively place greater emphasis on minimisation of arisings through use of the waste management hierarchy advocated for other forms of non-radioactive waste management;
whether NDA should be placed in the lead for providing disposal facilities for all nuclear LLW, and also whether it should make its disposal facilities available for non-nuclear LLW generators where this is practicable, subject to appropriate commercial arrangements. It is also proposed that the NDA would be placed in the lead for securing any replacement to the LLW disposal facility close to Drigg;
whether local communities should take greater responsibility, through appropriate use of planning strategies, for dealing with non-nuclear LLW arising from non-nuclear producerseg hospitals and research and educational establishmentsthat serve their community. Government propose to contribute to this process by commissioning a study of the extent and geographical distribution of arisings of such non-nuclear industry wastes.
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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