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Nurseries creep up Tory agenda

The Cabinet appears to have agreed that measures to expand the availability of nursery education may be included in next year's legislative programme.

Gillian Shephard, the Education Secretary, has not revealed her favoured option for fulfilling John Major's promise to increase provision, but she is under pressure to introduce a voucher scheme that would require changes in the law.

Legislation could also include moves to allow grant-maintained schools to borrow for building projects. The Department for Education has been working on measures that would allow grant-maintained schools to borrow from the private sector. The intention is to give schools the freedom to borrow against their existing buildings or against future income.

A core programme of 10 Bills has been agreed for next year, the last full session of Parliament before the general election. Details of the content of Bills are supposed to remain secret until the Queen's Speech in November.

Discussion of Bills so far ahead of schedule is being interpreted as a bid by the Government to demonstrate it has not run out of steam.

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