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.
(f) at or after the relevant time there is an assignment, subsale or other transaction (relating to the whole or part of the contract's subject-matter) as a result of which a person other than the purchaser under the contract becomes entitled to call for a conveyance to him.
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.
27 Mar 2006 : Column 43WS
The Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Ruth Kelly): I have today laid before the House a White Paper "Further Education: Raising SkillsImproving 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 1419 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.
Responsiveness to employers and learners: giving learners and employers greater say in the provision of education and training, more choices, and the tools to make the most of these opportunities. That includes expansion of work-based training to meet employer needs, and trialling a new accounts programme for adults.
New entitlements: introducing a new entitlement to free tuition and support to help 1925 year-olds gain technician, associate professional and skilled trades qualifications at level 3, and over time and as resources allow we intend to extend this entitlement so that it can include programmes within the foundation learning tier that support progression through to level 2 and beyond.
New freedoms for high performing colleges, coupled with tougher, faster intervention to combat poor performance. Quality will be improved through new styles of delivery, including federations, collaborative partnerships, and trusts.
A funding system which is driven by the choices and needs of learners and employers. Within local authorities' strategic leadership role for children's services overall, local authorities and the LSC will work closely together to drive progress through a shared strategy for delivering the 1419 entitlement in every area.
£20 million to address the skills and training obstacles faced by women, as identified by the Women and Work Commission. That will extend support for women in training at level 3, expand the availability of skills coaches to support women in entering employment, and develop new recruitment routes into industries where women are under-represented.
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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