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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 27 March 2006



The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Cabinet Office (Mr. Jim Murphy): As part of a review being conducted by Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, into the role and functions of the Cabinet Office, the central operation and support functions for Directgov, and the 17 civil service posts providing them, will move to the Central Office of Information (COI) with effect from 1 April 2006.

COI already provides valuable support to Directgov and this transfer will provide a better longer-term location for this work including a wider pool of professional skills on which to draw. Nevertheless, Directgov remains key to Transformational Government, so strategic leadership will stay in the Cabinet Office.


Budget Resolution 61

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Ivan Lewis): It has been drawn to my attention that there was an inadvertent error in Budget Resolution 61. This resolution should have read as follows:


(1) Part 4 of the Finance Act 2003 shall be amended as follows.

(2) Section 64A shall be omitted.

(3) In section 101—

(4) This resolution shall have effect in relation to any land transaction of which the effective date is, or after, 22 March 2006 (but see paragraphs (5) and (6)).

(5) This resolution shall not have effect in relation to—

(6) For this purpose, a land transaction effected in pursuance of a contract is an excluded transaction if—

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(7) For the purposes of paragraph (6)(b) the contract is varied in a way that significantly affects the land transaction if (and only if)—

(8) Expressions which are used in part 4 of the Finance Act 2003 and in this resolution have the same meaning in this resolution as in that part.

And it is hereby declared that it is expedient in the public interest that this resolution should have statutory effect under the provisions of the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act 1968".

The corrected text will appear in today's Order Paper.


655 Squadron Army Air Corps

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): I would like to inform the House that we will disband 655 Squadron Army Air Corps (AAC), the Northern Ireland (NI) based Lynx light utility helicopter squadron, by April 2007. There are no military or civilian redundancies anticipated as a result of the disbandment.

This decision has been taken for two reasons. First, we need to reduce the size of the Lynx fleet (which will leave service in 2012). This will facilitate better focus of resources on sustaining and improving the remaining fleet until the arrival of its replacement in the form of the battlefield reconnaissance helicopter, which will be delivered as part of the future rotorcraft capability programme.

Secondly, the ongoing normalisation process in NI and the increasing ability of the Police Service of Northern Ireland to operate without military assistance means that the requirement for light utility helicopter support, currently provided by 655 Squadron AAC, is reducing and is expected to end completely by August 2007. The anticipated levels of aviation support required after April 2007 do not warrant the retention of a dedicated Lynx Squadron in NI beyond that date. Any residual requirement for helicopter support between April and August 2007 will be provided by other aircraft remaining in NI and mainland-based Lynx.
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This decision means that we can reduce the size of the Lynx fleet, better focus our resources and still sustain the current six deployable squadrons of Lynx to support expeditionary operations.


Further Education: Raising Skills, Improving Life Chances

The Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Ruth Kelly): I have today laid before the House a White Paper "Further Education: Raising Skills—Improving Life Chances" which sets out the Government's plans for the reform of further education.

There is much to be proud of in our further education system. We have many excellent colleges and training providers. Participation in education and training has risen significantly since 1997. Success rates are rising. Our 14–19 and skills strategies have set the country on the road towards a coherent, accessible, high-quality system of lifelong learning which meets the needs both of employers and of individuals.

But we cannot stand still. Major challenges remain if we are to ensure a high level skills base which matches and exceeds that of other high-performing economies. The FE sector is central to delivering the skills which are essential for economic success and which give individuals of all backgrounds and aspirations the basis for productive, sustainable employment and prosperity.

The White Paper sets out a comprehensive programme of change which will transform our FE system into a powerhouse of economic prosperity and social mobility. In developing our proposals, we have listened to the sector and the needs of its users, through Sir Andrew Foster's excellent review of the role of colleges and through widespread consultation with employers, providers and other key stakeholders. We have accepted, and are building on, the vast majority of Sir Andrew's recommendations.

Our plans will ensure:

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New investment announced in this White Paper and by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week will target the Government's priorities for FE including:

These reforms will build a further education system fit to meet the challenges of economic and social change, and to achieve its full potential as the powerhouse of a productive, competitive economy and a just, inclusive society.

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