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Inheritance Tax and Pensions Simplification

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Ivan Lewis): HM Revenue and Customs will be publishing tomorrow on their website draft Finance Bill provisions that clarify how inheritance tax rules will apply to members of registered pension schemes on and after 6 April 2006. A copy of the drafts will be available in the Library of the House.

Details of how this measure will apply were published on Budget day.

Valuation Office Agency

The Paymaster General (Dawn Primarolo): I have today set the following key performance indicators for the Valuation Office Agency for 2006–07:


To achieve overall customer satisfaction of 88 per cent.


Value For Money



Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency (Performance Targets 2006–07)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Don Touhig): The key targets have been set for the Chief Executive of the Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency (AFPAA) for the financial year 2006–07. The Targets build upon progress made by the Agency since it formed on 1 April 1997 and reflect the importance of the delivery of Joint Personnel Administration whilst maintaining current outputs. They provide customers with an assurance that, as well as focusing on Joint Personnel Administration and
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critical services such as pay and pensions, AFPAA will continue to give high priority to the delivery of both current and historic medals.

To Deliver Pay

To make 99.9 per cent. of all pay payments by the due date (excluding late payments caused by events determined to be outside the control of the Agency).

To keep the monthly error rate of accuracy for the volume of payments within 0.5 per cent.

To Deliver Pension Services

To make 99 per cent. of all pension payments (including new awards) by the due date (excluding late payments caused by events determined to be outside the control of the Agency).

To keep the monthly error rate of accuracy for the volume of payments within 0.1 per cent.

To Support the Delivery of Joint Personnel Administration Programme

To achieve live service to the RN in accordance with target set by MOD (currently by end October 2006).

To achieve live service to the Army in accordance with target set by MOD (currently by end March 2007).

To deliver an effective Enquiry Centre Service

To deal with 75 per cent. of queries received by the Enquiry Centre on first contact.

To prepare for delivery of AFPAA services post 2009

To develop the AFPAA contribution to the project team, establish and meet 100 per cent. of milestones i.e. achieve Investment Approval (Initial Gate).

To meet approved efficiency targets for the delivery of core services

To deliver Joint Personnel Administration (JPA) efficiencies in line with the benefits identified in the approved business case for JPA.

To deliver an efficient and effective MOD Medal Office

To deliver current medals against applications within the timescales agreed with the Services and Ministers:

Project Falcon

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): I am pleased to announce that a contract will be signed today with BAE Systems Insyte for the first increment of the Falcon Secure Trunk Communication System. Falcon will provide a modern, secure communications infrastructure for deployed formations and operating bases. As such it will help deliver the resilient information infrastructure that is key to providing our Armed Forces with the network enabled capability they need in the 21st Century. The contract is valued at over £200 million and the equipment will enter into service at the turn of the decade. This programme
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will also sustain more than 400 skilled jobs in the UK as well as helping British industry to remain at the forefront of military communications.


FiReBuy Limited

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Jim Fitzpatrick): I am pleased to inform the House that today we will be establishing a new executive non-departmental public body in England—FiReBuy Limited.

In November 2005 the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister published the National Procurement Strategy for the Fire and Rescue Service as part of the wider modernisation agenda. This gave effect to recommendations by the Audit Commission in their reports "In the Line of Fire" 1995 and "A Uniform Approach" 2000, as well as the 2002 report independent review of the FRS by Professor Sir George Bain, "The Future of the Fire Service: reducing risk, saving lives" and the 2003 White Paper "Our Fire and Rescue Service".

National procurement will contribute savings to the wider efficiency agenda, and savings made by Fire and Rescue Authorities (FRAs) will be retained locally for reinvestment in front-line services. FiReBuy Ltd. has been established as the national procurement body for the Fire and Rescue Service. In addition to being a non- departmental public body, FiReBuy Ltd. has been established as a company limited by guarantee.

FiReBuy Ltd. will enable savings to be made by negotiating better deals for buying in bulk and will eliminate the duplication of procurement of fire-specific equipment by individual FRAs. Rather than all 47 FRAs negotiating separately for service-specific items such as vehicles, protective clothing and respiratory equipment, FiReBuy Ltd. will negotiate contracts on their behalf and take the lead in subsequent contract monitoring and service level monitoring. It will be a Contracting Authority for the purposes of the EU procurement rules but ultimately it will remain the FRAs who acquire the assets and matching liabilities.

FiReBuy Ltd. will take the lead role in testing and acceptance activities for the lines of spend within its remit, thus avoiding the duplication of this work in each FRA.

A Chair, Mrs. Liz Barron, and a Board of five non-executive directors have been appointed after an open public competition held in accordance with the Code of Practice of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. Three ex-officio Directors have been appointed to represent the Local Government Association, the Chief Fire Officers' Association and the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority.

Copies of the new organisation's management statement and financial statement, once approved by the FiReBuy board and the Deputy Prime Minister, will be placed in the House Libraries later in the spring.


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Jim Fitzpatrick): Following a detailed evaluation of the bids from EADS Defence
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and Security Systems Ltd and O2 Airwave Ltd, I am announcing today that the Firelink contract has been let to O2 Airwave Ltd. This contracts ODPM to rolling-out the Firelink system in England and creates a framework for extending the system to Scotland and Wales, subject to decisions by Ministers in the Scottish Executive and the National Assembly for Wales.

Firelink brings fire and rescue service wide area radio communications into the 21st century with the levels of resilience and interoperability that these challenging times require, whilst ensuring the British taxpayer gets the best possible value for money.

Firelink will provide the service with a secure, highly resilient and flexible system supporting both voice and data communications and enable improved interoperability between fire and rescue services and other emergency services.

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