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Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 9 March 2006


Mental Capacity Act 2005 (Code of Practice)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Bridget Prentice): My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Baroness Ashton of Upholland) has made the following written ministerial statement in the other place today. "I have today published a consultation paper on the Code of Practice for the Mental Capacity Act. The Act provides a statutory framework to empower people to make decisions for themselves as far as possible and protect vulnerable people who are not able to make their own decisions. A key element for the successful implementation of the Act is the Code of Practice, which provides guidance illustrating how the provisions of the Act should be applied in practical situations. My Department is seeking views on the style and content of the draft Code before final publication".


Army Music

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): As part of our work on the future Army structure (FAS), the previous Secretary of State for Defence announced on 16 December 2004, Official Report, column 1795–1800, that there would be a reduction in the number of Royal Armoured Corps and Infantry bands within the Army, and that the band of the Light Division would be reduced by 14 posts, bringing it into line with the rest of the line infantry.

We are now in a position to announce more detail. The reduction in the number of bands in the infantry and Royal Armoured Corps will be achieved in the following manner:

Royal Armoured Corps (RAC) Bands. The following RAC band amalgamations will take place in 2006:

Infantry. The following Infantry band amalgamations will take place in 2006:

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In addition, the band of the Royal Irish Regiment will be disbanded by 31 March 2008. Each line infantry regiment will then be supported by the band that is affiliated to the division of line infantry to which the regiment belongs.

The Territorial Army band in Northern Ireland will be renamed The Royal Irish Regiment band (TA) and its performance capacity will be enhanced to ensure continued provision of military music in Northern Ireland, in combination with programmed visits by Regular Army bands based in Great Britain.

The restructuring of the bands will be achieved without any redundancies amongst bandsmen. Those serving in bands that are to be amalgamated or disbanded will be posted to the remaining bands. However, although members of the existing Territorial Army band in Northern Ireland will take priority, should there be vacancies in The Royal Irish Regiment Band (TA) when it is formed, members of the band of the Royal Irish Regiment and other Regular Army musicians will be able to leave the Regular Army and join it if they wish.


Primary Capital Programme

The Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Ruth Kelly): I am today publishing a consultation prospectus announcing our proposals for a long-term, strategic, capital investment programme to provide well-designed, sustainable 21st century primary school buildings at the heart of our communities. This uses the additional investment promised by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget last year. This prospectus sets out the objectives of the programme and consults on proposals for meeting them.

Our children deserve the best start in life. To that end, we have increased capital investment to unprecedented levels for the benefit of pupils, staff and the community. Building schools for the future and academies are already transforming secondary schools. For early years, Sure Start is providing new, modern infrastructure. We have already improved most primary schools, but now turn our attention to their longer-term building needs. It is time to help all local authorities, dioceses and communities to transform their primary schools and primary age special schools across the country.

The programme will enable us to meet a challenging set of objectives.

We will rebuild, remodel or refurbish at least 50 per cent. of primary schools. Within that, we would hope to rebuild or take out of use, as a minimum, at least the 5 per cent. of school buildings in the worst physical condition nationally, and to improve or take out of use the 20 per cent. of the worst condition buildings in our most deprived communities.
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Our primary schools need buildings that support high standards of teaching and learning, personalised learning and inclusion, and the provision of a wide range of services to pupils, their families and local communities, as envisaged in "Every Child Matters". We want all primary school buildings to be brought up to a good standard, with improvements to, for example, classrooms, kitchens and dining rooms, or sport and arts facilities. We also want every child and family to have access to year-round, 8 am–6 pm childcare, parenting support, specialist support services, a good range of after-school activities and access to ICT and sports and arts facilities after hours; access to be at their child's primary school or at a school or venue nearby, with supervised transfer arrangements for children.

The primary capital programme will help achieve a number of national strategies already underway. It will support particularly "Every Child Matters: Change for Children", the White Paper "Higher Standards, Better Schools for All" and proposals in the Education and Inspection Bill, and the Primary Strategy. It also brings together the 10-year childcare strategy, workforce strategy, sustainable development action plan, and ICT and extended schools programmes.

An extra £150 million will be available in 2008–09, rising to £500 million in 2009–10. It is expected that investment will remain at that level for around 15 years, subject to future public spending decisions—some £7 billion in total. This could be joined to other capital for primary schools from my Department to create a much larger sum for investment. On top of this could be added: other eligible investment from central Government Departments and agencies; local government investment, receipts and prudential borrowing; as well as contributions from the private sector and others. By joining up this funding and targeting it precisely we will achieve the ambitions of this programme.

All local authorities will benefit from capital allocated by a simple, open formula reflecting pupil numbers and deprivation. Devolved formula capital will still be available for primary schools not directly benefiting from this programme.

Authorities will need to set out how they will transform their primary schools over the long term and how they will target local deprivation from the start. My Department will support authorities that need help with this planning, and will approve all local plans before releasing funding.

We know that well-designed, sustainable buildings can transform how teachers teach and learners learn. We have learned much through developing primary school exemplar designs, and propose to use the current design quality indicators and building standards, which should be applied to all schemes.

We must be ambitious in looking at the best models of procurement and construction, if the programme is to achieve significant efficiency and deliver value for money for the taxpayer. We propose the use of local education partnerships (LEPs) where they will have been set up or, where there are no LEPs, other forms of local authority agreements, partnerships or national framework.
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At the heart of national policies for transforming teaching and learning is the effective use of ICT and access to stable, leading-edge technology, as set out in "Harnessing Technology" (2005). National and local plans will need to show how ICT will contribute to achieving outcomes.

We set out what we might expect from national government, local authorities, dioceses, schools and pupils—and the skills and capacity that they will need to make this complex programme succeed. We intend to run regional pilots to test planning, design and procurement issues, to find solutions to joined-up planning and funding, and to showcase good practice.

We are inviting responses to the consultation by 14 June 2006. Copies of the consultation prospectus are available on my Department's website and in the House.

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