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Decision on Portsmouth Naval Base given cross-party welcome

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Andrew Turner the Island’s MP welcomed the news yesterday that Portsmouth Naval Base will remain open. Last week Mr Turner together with other mainland MPs called for clarification on the future of the base before the beginning of the summer recess which begins today. Yesterday Des Browne the Defence Secretary confirmed that the base will remain open and also that two new giant aircraft carriers are to be commissioned which will be at least part-built in Portsmouth and may also be based there.

Mr Turner has been involved in a campaign to keep the naval base open along with Sarah McCarthy Fry MP (Labour – Portsmouth North), Mike Hancock MP (LibDem – Portsmouth South), Peter Viggers MP (Conservative – Gosport) and other affected organisations.

Mr Turner said
“Portsmouth Naval Base employs more than 13,500 people, some of them my constituents who have raised with me their concerns for the future. The base has strong links with the marine and defence industries locally and contributes £680 million to the economy of the South East. The threatened closure and consequent effect on the supply chain would have threatened the jobs of many of my constituents who work both on and off the Island.

“A strong case was made for on a cross-party basis to demonstrate to Government that the continuation of a strong naval base in Portsmouth is a key component to the economic success of this area and I am pleased that the Government has listened and come to the right decision.”

END

Contact : Andrew Turner’s office 01983 530808

CSR and Aircraft Carriers
1.48 pm
The Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne): I am pleased to inform the House that the Ministry of Defence has agreed with Her Majesty’s Treasury a comprehensive spending review settlement for the next three years. The total departmental expenditure limit for defence over the CSR period will be £34 billion in 2008-09, £35.3 billion in 2009-10 and £36.9 billion in 2010-11. That is an additional £7.7 billion for defence by 2011, and a 1.5 per cent. average annual real terms increase against our CSR baseline, excluding the costs of operations that are met from the reserves and the time-limited defence modernisation fund. The Treasury will, of course, continue to fund from the reserves the additional cost of operations over and above the defence budget, having already provided some £6.6 billion from the reserves to support the front line since 2001.

The settlement continues the longest period of sustained real growth in planned defence spending since the 1980s; that is evidence of the Government’s commitment to defence and to the men and women who serve with the utmost bravery in our armed forces.
The result of Labour’s consistent funding for defence is that the defence budget will be significantly higher in real terms than the budget that we inherited in 1997—on average, a billion pounds more for defence every year, for 10 years. Compare this with the last five years of the Tory Government, when the defence budget was being cut by around £500 million a year.

Our priority remains success on current operations. This settlement gives the MOD the financial certainty required to continue delivering that success. Over the past year I have been able to announce to the House important enhancements in protected vehicles, in helicopters and in surveillance. The settlement will enable us to do more in all these areas and others. It also allows for additional investment in the support that our service personnel deserve, building on recent improvements in pay, in the new tax-free operational bonus, in medical care for our wounded personnel and in accommodation.
At the same time as ensuring success on current operations, and support for our people, this settlement enables us to invest in the capabilities that we will need for the future. I am pleased to be able to confirm today that we will place orders for two 65,000 tonne aircraft carriers to provide our front-line forces with the modern, world-class capabilities that they will need over the coming decades. These will be named HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales. They are expected to enter service in 2014 and 2016, respectively.

This delivers on the Government’s promise in the 1998 strategic defence review. The carriers represent a step change in our capability, enabling us to deliver increased strategic effect and influence around the world at a time and place of our choosing. They will be a key component of the improved expeditionary capabilities that we need to confront the diverse range of threats in today’s security environment. They are evidence of our commitment to ensuring that our armed forces are modern, versatile and equipped for the future.

25 July 2007 : Column 866
In parallel, we will continue to work closely with France. Our co-operation has already yielded real benefits. We have shared the costs of developing the common baseline design to which we are committing today and we have capitalised on our huge collective technical and military experience. Our industries are exploring further opportunities for mutual benefit, including joint procurements of equipment for the carriers, and shared support arrangements. We look forward to making a joint announcement on further co-operation in the next few months.

The carrier programme will sustain and create some 10,000 jobs across the UK, but we have always been clear that the carriers cannot be built without change in the maritime sector. As we set out in the defence industrial strategy, we need further improvements in efficiency to ensure that the taxpayer is getting value for money. We need to ensure that the UK maritime industry is the right size and shape, so that it is sustainable in the longer term, so I am pleased that VT Group and BAE Systems intend to form a joint venture in naval shipbuilding and support.

The creation of such a joint venture will enable the Royal Navy to work with industry to deliver the infrastructure that the Navy will need to support the fleet in the future while retaining all three of our existing naval bases at Portsmouth, Devonport and Faslane. This will be good news for the three communities and the service, civilian and contractor personnel employed at the bases. None the less, some reductions in the 17,600 personnel currently employed will be necessary and will be taken forward in consultation with trade unions in the usual way. We aim to rationalise infrastructure and spare capacity, streamline processes and build on partnering and other commercial arrangements. For example, today we are also announcing a £1 billion partnering arrangement with Rolls-Royce for the in-service support of the nuclear steam raising plant that powers the Royal Navy’s submarines over the next decade.

I am determined to ensure that more of our money is spent where it is really needed, reducing overheads to put more into the front line and into supporting our people. To enhance the spending power that this settlement gives us, we will make savings against the Department’s overheads, including a 5 per cent. year-on-year saving in our administrative overhead over the next three years and a 25 per cent. reduction in our head office. These are additional to the £2.8 billion efficiencies delivered over the spending review 2004 period.
A priority through the CSR period will be the continued investment in improving accommodation for our people and their families.

We expect to spend some £550 million on this over the three-year period, including plans to upgrade over 18,000 barrack-type bed spaces. This builds upon the achievements of recent years in providing upgrades to our service families’ homes and our plans to spend £5 billion over the next 10 years on upgrading and maintaining accommodation. We also intend to explore with the Treasury and the Department for Communities and Local Government how best we can support the wishes of many servicemen and women to own their own homes.

25 July 2007 : Column 867
Full details of the CSR settlement for defence will be announced in the autumn, alongside the outcome for all Government Departments. Today, however, I am providing a summary for the Library of the House.

Our armed forces are admired and respected world wide. I am conscious that with operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, we are currently asking our armed forces to do a lot. In return we must ensure that the Government do all they can to support them and their families. This significant additional investment shows that the Government are determined to do just that, and to ensure that in the years ahead they maintain their well earned and much deserved reputation for being the best armed forces in the world.

END

Contact : Andrew Turner’s office 01983 530808

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Broadlands jobs safe

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Island MP Andrew Turner has received confirmation that the future of jobs and services at Broadlands House are secure following press reports that previously announced new jobs would not now be coming to the Island. Mr Turner said that yesterday’s press reports were completely at odds with assurances he had received both from the Minister last summer and the regional manager as recently as November last year. On hearing the reports that plans had changed he contacted the senior management of JobCentre Plus to seek clarification of the position.

Mr Turner said

“I have now received definite confirmation that the plans of Jobcentre Plus have not changed and that they will be keeping a benefit processing centre on the Island as well as establishing one of only two national insurance number processing centres here. I have been told that the additional jobs will arise as their plans are implemented over the coming months.”

Mr Turner went on to say

“During our meeting last November Guy Tompkins Jobcentre Plus’s regional manager was very complimentary about their workforce on the Island and told me that the positive approach of the staff was one of the reasons why they planned to expand on the Island. I am very glad that they see the sense of bringing work to the Island rather than taking it to the mainland and I will continue to press Government to follow their example.

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School Reorganization – Where will £70m come from?

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Government have denied promising the IW Council £70 million to pay for reorganizing Island schools from a three- to a two-tier system. And the Island’s MP has criticized the ‘optimistic noises’ on funding given at consultation meetings.

In a Parliamentary Answer to Island MP Andrew Turner it was revealed that there have been absolutely no promises from the Government to provide the estimated £70 million needed for the changes being proposed by council officials. In answering Mr Turner, Stephen Twigg MP, the Minister responsible for school funding, made it clear that the Isle of Wight council has received no assurances that extra money will be made available for the proposed changeover. Mr Turner has criticized the impression given to parents and teachers that obtaining the money needed from central government would not present a problem.

Andrew Turner said,

“During the meeting I attended at Sandown High School it was clearly stated that ‘we can get’ the £70 million needed to change the system. I was surprised to hear that because that simply isn’t the way that Government works. I have asked the Government what promises they have given and they have clearly told me that they have given none. I have now asked the Council what led them to give such a misleading impression to those who went to the trouble of attending the meeting. I have been told that there have been informal meetings with government officials who support these proposals – I am afraid that does not represent government spending commitments. Frankly I am shocked that optimistic noises were made which misled people.”

Exam results and education standards on the Island are far below the national average and the recent report costing £100,000 by 4S recommended changing the system but did not provide any evidence that this alone would improve standards. Mr Turner went on to say:

“There may well be arguments for changing the system – but changing the system does not guarantee improving standards; the issues should not be mixed up. Even the advocates of change admit it would cost a fortune. If that money does not come from central government it will have to come from existing council budgets and be topped up by Island council taxpayers.

“It is at very least disingenuous to suggest that finding the money to achieve change is not an important issue that needs to be discussed as part of these proposals. I am worried that the Council seems to believe that informal discussions with civil servants translates into promises of many millions of pounds – sadly that is not the case.

“We need to raise standards but that is best done by the Council accepting that some schools are better than others, publishing that information to parents, governors, teachers and the wider public, and tackling the problems on a school-by-school basis. It is not as glamorous as being the architect of a whole new system, but it is much more likely to give our children the quality schooling they deserve.”

END

Contact : Andrew Turner 01983 530808

School Building (Isle of Wight)

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what (a) commitments and (b) undertakings she has made to the Isle of Wight Council regarding future capital allocations provided (i) through the Building Schools for the Future programme or (ii) otherwise, whether (A) contingent on or (B) not contingent on school reorganisation. [216280]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: A letter has been sent to all council leaders stating that, for authorities not prioritised in the first three waves of Building Schools for the Future (BSF), including the Isle of Wight, we are determined to make a start on BSF plans between 2005–06 and 2010–11. Our ambition is that in the next full Parliament, subject to future spending decisions, 60 per cent. of all authorities will have started in the BSF programme, or else be given resources to renew at least one secondary school with the greatest need as a school for the future, or as an academy. Each BSF scheme will be judged on its merits, and is not necessarily contingent on school reorganisation. Other capital allocations to the council and its schools were announced on 30 November, and are set out in the following table:

£000
2006–07 14,853
2007–08 15,446

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Can we become a Fairtrade Island?

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As World Fair Trade Fortnight draws to a close this Sunday the Island’s MP Andrew Turner has praised the work of the IW Fairtrade Forum. The Forum is working towards the accolade of Fairtrade Island by building on existing users and suppliers of Fairtrade products to spread the word about the products and the good they do for their producers in the developing world. There are now more than 250 products bearing the distinctive green and blue logo which guarantees a fair deal to producers of such items as coffee, tea, sugar and bananas.

Andrew Turner said,

“The Fairtrade product range has expanded over recent years and whilst once they were seen as an expensive alternative they now offer good value and quality. In order to become a Fairtrade Island we need more suppliers of the products so everybody really can make a difference by asking their local coffee shop or convenience store to stock a few items from the range. As the largest constituency in the country the Island gaining this accolade really would make a difference and give a boost to the national campaign. Fairtrade really makes a difference to those communities that need a helping hand – and I know that on the Island we have a really caring and compassionate community”.

Jim Curtis the co-ordinator of the IW Fairtrade Forum said

“I very much value Andrew’s support for this campaign. In order for the Island to be recognised in this way we need the active support of the Isle of Wight council as well as that of suppliers across the Island. I urge everyone to let their local councillors know that they would be proud to see us become a Fairtrade Island helping less fortunate people to take control of their own lives and build themselves a better future.

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