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Written Statements

Wednesday 17 December 2008

Afghanistan: Roulement

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (John Hutton) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In his Statement to the House on 12 December 2007 (Official Report, col. 304) the Prime Minister said we shall continue to maintain a strong military force in Afghanistan. In his Statement to the House yesterday, the Prime Minister recognised the hard and dangerous work being undertaken by our Armed Forces, and reiterated the United Kingdom’s objectives in Afghanistan. The next roulement of UK forces in Afghanistan will take place in April 2009. The force package that we plan to deploy will see the current lead formation, 3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines, replaced by 19 (Light) Brigade which will command the majority of the units serving in Afghanistan. The forces deploying include:



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19 Light Brigade Headquarters and Signal Squadron (209)

Elements of 845 Naval Air Squadron

Elements of 846 Naval Air Squadron

Elements of 847 Naval Air Squadron

The Light Dragoons

40th Regiment Royal Artillery

38 Engineer Regiment

1st Battalion The Welsh Guards

The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland

2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters)

2nd Battalion The Rifles

19 Combat Service Support Battalion

29 Postal Courier and Movement Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps

2Medical Regiment

4 Close Support Battalion, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

173 Provost Company Royal Military Police

Elements of 2nd Royal Tank Regiment

Elements of 5th Regiment Royal Artillery

Elements of 12th Regiment Royal Artillery

Elements of 19thRegiment Royal Artillery

Elements of 32nd Regiment Royal Artillery

Elements of 39th Regiment Royal Artillery

Elements of 26 Engineer Regiment

Elements of 33 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal)

Elements of 42 Engineer Regiment (Geographical)

Elements of 170 (Infrastructure Support) Engineer Group

Elements of 15 Field Support Squadron

Elements of 7th Signal Regiment

Elements of 10th Signal Regiment

Elements of 14th Signals Regiment (Electronic Warfare)

Elements of 21st Signal Regiment (Air Support)

Elements of 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh

Elements of 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles

Elements of 1 Regiment, Army Air Corps

Elements of 3 Regiment, Army Air Corps

Elements of 4 Regiment, Army Air Corps

Elements of 4 Logistic Support Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps

Elements of 6 Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps

Elements of 7 Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps

Elements of 9 Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps

Elements of 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps

Elements of 17 Port and Maritime Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps

Elements of 23 Pioneer Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps

Elements of 24 Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps

Elements of 27 Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps

Elements of Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps Support Battalion

Elements of 7 Air Assault Battalion Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers

Elements of 104 Force Support Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

Elements of 101 Military Working Dog Support Unit

Elements of 1 Military Intelligence Brigade

Elements of the Joint Civil Military Co-operation Group (CIMIC)

Elements of 148 Expeditionary Force Institute Squadron (Volunteers) The Royal Logistic Corps

Elements of 51st Highland, 7th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland

Elements of 4th Battalion The Mercian Regiment

Elements of Joint Medical Command

Elements of 2 Medical Regiment

Elements of 4 Medical Regiment

Elements of 202 Field Hospital (Volunteers)

Elements of 225 Medical Regiment (Volunteers)

Elements to man 904 Expeditionary Air Wing, Royal Air Force

6 Force Protection Wing Headquarters, Royal Air Force Regiment

63 Queen’s Colour Squadron, Royal Air Force Regiment

Elements of 12 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 18 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 24 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 27 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 30 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 617 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of the Tactical Supply Wing, Royal Air Force

Elements to man the Joint Helicopter Support Unit

Elements of 1 Air Movements Wing, Royal Air Force

Elements of 1 Air Control Centre, Royal Air Force

Elements of 90 Signals Unit, Royal Air Force

Elements of 2 Motor Transport Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 5001 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of Mobile Catering Support Unit

Elements of Tactical Medical Wing

Elements of Tactical Armament Squadron

Elements of Tactical Imagery Intelligence Wing

These units represent direct replacements for previously announced deployments to Afghanistan. In addition, commanders on the ground need to retain tactical flexibility to call forward reserves on a temporary basis to meet short-term operational needs. Elements of 2 Battalion, the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment, the Theatre Reserve Battalion, are deployed or are about to be deployed in this capacity. In his Statement yesterday the Prime Minister announced the approval until August, including for the period of preparation for the elections, of an increase in the number of

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British troops deployed to Afghanistan from just over 8,000 to around 8,300. These additional troops will come from 2 Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, and will replace equivalent forces deployed from 2 Battalion, the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment. These forces will be building on recent security gains in central Helmand.

Volunteer and regular members of the Reserve Forces will continue to deploy to Afghanistan as part of this integrated force package, and we expect to issue around 600 call-out notices to fill some 575 posts. On completion of their mobilization procedures, the reservists will undertake a period of training and, where applicable, integration with their respective receiving units. The majority will serve on operations for six or so months, although some may have shorter tours. As part of this commitment, we expect up to 15 members of the sponsored reserves to be in theatre at any one time.

The House will also wish to be aware that 19 Light Brigade’s deployment will last until October 2009. On current plans, the brigade will then be replaced by 11 Light Brigade. I shall make a further Statement on the units we expect to commit from next October in due course.

Benefits: Child Dependency

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Jonathan Shaw) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I would like to announce measures to ensure that people who have dependent children will continue to receive the benefit they are entitled to through child dependency increases, payable with incapacity benefit, state pension, widows benefit, bereavement benefit, and carer’s allowance.

The Child Benefit Act 2005 introduced a new definition of qualifying young person used to decide whether or not child benefit is payable for people aged 16 to 19. However, the Act did not make corresponding amendments to provisions for child dependency increases made under the Tax Credits Act 2002.

As a result, payments of child dependency increases, where the child is aged 16 years or over, are not covered by primary legislation from 10 April 2006. This omission in primary legislation was an oversight and did not reflect Parliament’s intentions. Consequently these payments are considered irregular.

We estimate that 28,800 increases are affected in 2006-07 and 24,500 in 2007-08, with the level of overpayment amounting to approximately £15.1 million in 2006-07 and £12.6 million in 2007-08.

To enable payments of child dependency increases to continue as normal, we will reverse the unintentional effects of the Child Benefit Act 2005, by including a measure in the forthcoming welfare reform Bill. We expect this to be introduced in early 2009.



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In the mean time I am issuing this Statement to provide transparency and an assurance that no one will lose any benefit entitlement or be asked to make any repayment as a result of this oversight in legislation.

This Statement has been approved by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Children: Language and Communication

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls) made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Secretary of State for Health and I are today publishing Better Communication: An Action Plan to Improve Services for Children and Young People with Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN). Copies of the action plan will be placed in the Libraries.

Last year, we asked John Bercow MP to review services for children and young people with SLCN. His report, published on 8 July 2008, set out 40 recommendations to improve services across five key themes: communication is crucial, a key life skill at the heart of every social interaction and vital to children’s successful development; early identification and intervention is essential to maximise each child’s chance of overcoming their communication need and succeeding; a continuum of services designed around the family is needed for children with SLCN; joint working is critical to deliver services that provide effective support; and the current system is characterised by high variability and a lack of equity.

Today’s action plan provides the Government’s full response to the Bercow report. As we announced in July, we accept the report’s key recommendations and up to £12 million would be invested in providing national leadership to improve services for children with SLCN. The action plan sets out a range of initiatives across government and will improve services for children and young people with SLCN culminating in that national year of speech, language and communication in 2011-12. This includes:

up to 20 local area pathfinders will be used to develop good practice guidance and a supplemental joint commissioning framework on SLCN;up to £1.5 million will be invested in grants to the alternative and augmentative communication sector; andup to £1.5 million will be invested in a research programme looking at SLCN over the next three years.

To provide ongoing support to the delivery of these initiatives over the next three years, we will form a communication council and appoint a communication champion early in 2009. The communication council will provide government with ongoing advice and support on how best to develop effective services for children with SLCN. The communication champion will be appointed to raise awareness of speech, language

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and communication issues and work with delivery partners to co-ordinate initiatives and organise the national year of speech, language and communication.

The Government will also commission a review of progress to improve services for children and young people with SLCN in summer 2010.

Cremation

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Bridget Prentice) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I wish to make the following Statement to the House about new cremation regulations for England and Wales. New cremation regulations were laid in Parliament on 3 November 2008 and replace the Cremation Regulations 1930, which are now seen as confusing and outdated. They therefore required modernisation and consolidation.

These new regulations come into effect on 1 January 2009, with a transitional period of one month, during which time both old and new statutory forms may be used. The right of families to inspect the medical forms completed by doctors, contained for the first time in the new regulations, is a significant reform and follows recommendations from Dame Janet Smith’s inquiry into the Harold Shipman murders. The new regulations are an interim measure which will be replaced by a new system of death certification, on which the Department of Health is leading. The coroners and justice Bill mentioned in the Queen’s Speech on 3 December will create the role of medical examiner. The medical examiner will examine all deaths not requiring coronial post mortem or inquest, including those where the method of disposal is burial. The cremation regulations will no longer be required in their present form once the medical examiner system has come into effect throughout England and Wales.

These new regulations allow the applicant for cremation to inspect the medical forms of a deceased family member before a cremation takes place. The applicant will be able to draw the medical referee’s attention to any concerns about unexpected symptoms or discrepancies in the case.

The countersignature on the application form has been abolished, and instead a warning about making a false statement has been placed on all the forms. Making such a false statement is a criminal offence under Section 8(2) of the Cremation Act 1902 and is punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment.

The Secretary of State appoints medical referees on the nomination of the cremation authority and will also now have a power to revoke the appointment of a referee on the grounds of incapacity or misbehaviour. Guidance may also be provided for cremation authorities when considering who they would ask the Secretary of State to appoint as a medical referee.

There are also new statutory forms to permit the cremation of stillborn babies, as well as modernised versions of the forms made under the 1930 regulations.


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