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Volume 473: debated on Wednesday 12 March 2008


Wednesday 12 March 2008

Petition presented to the House but not read on the Floor

Darfur Genocide

The Petition of Students from seven West Oxfordshire secondary schools; Bartholomew, Burford, Carterton, Chipping Norton, The Henry Box School, The Marlborough Schools and Wood Green,

Declares that genocide is taking place in Darfur, Sudan.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to move the issue of the Darfur genocide to the top of the political agenda and media spotlight, and to keep it there.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.[P000149]


Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

Post Office Closures (North Yorkshire)

The Humble Petition of Mr Derrick Jauncey of Save Linton on Ouse Post Office Action Group and others of like disposition,


That they fear the proposed Post Office Network review will result in unacceptable numbers of Post Office closures. They wish to see their access to Post Offices across North Yorkshire to remain as wide as is currently the case and that there be no further cuts in postal services. They recognise that their Post Offices provide a vital service in a rural community to the most vulnerable, the elderly, the less mobile, and those with young families.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House urges the Government to reverse the Post Office’s proposed Network Change Programme.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.

—[Presented by Miss Anne McIntosh, Official Report, 7 February 2008; Vol. 471, c. 1218 .] [P000122]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform:

The Government fully recognises the important social and economic role of post offices, particularly in rural and deprived urban communities. That is why it is determined to maintain a national post office network allowing people to have reasonable access across the whole country and has put in place a new policy and financial framework to achieve this. The Government has been investing substantial sums in the post office network, totalling £2 billion since 1999. That has, for example, paid for a computer link-up for every post office as well as support for non-commercial branches since 2003.

In its response to the consultation on the Post Office network, the Government announced, in May 2007, confirmation of its decision to extend funding of up to £1.7 billion to 2011, including provision for £150 million of Social Network Payment to support the post office network up to 2011. The Government strategy includes provision for 2,500 compensated closures and 500 new Outreach services.

The 500 new and innovative Outreach locations, operated in partnership with other local services such as in pubs, village halls, churches or in mobile post offices, will mitigate closures, primarily in smaller and more remote communities. Nevertheless, to ensure sustainability, there will need to be up to 2,500 compensated post office closures within the defined access criteria.

Post Office Limited (POL) is responsible for implementing the network change programme at a local level. It is developing a rolling programme of some 50 local consultations on detailed area plans, based on groups of Parliamentary constituencies. The first area plans went out to local consultation on 2 October last year and these plans will continue to be rolled out at regular intervals until August with the whole programme scheduled to take around 15 months to complete. The consultation period for North Yorkshire ended on 17 January last year. POL has announced their final decision and has decided to proceed with the proposed closure of this branch and its replacement with an Outreach service which will continue to offer post office services in the area. Post Office Ltd has published their decision in the Area Plan Booklet for the North Yorkshire area, which is available on their website at

POL develops its proposals with the participation of sub-postmasters, local authorities and the consumer watchdog, Postwatch, and takes into account the numeric access criteria set out by Government as well as local factors affecting ease of access, such as local geography: rivers, mountains etc when drawing up its implementation plans. POL is also required to consider the availability of public transport and alternative access to key post office services, local demographics and the impact on the local economy. Local consultations provide the opportunity to raise any specific concerns over particular proposals.

The Government does not have a role in proposals or decisions for individual post offices. No decisions on individual Post Offices are taken until after local consultations. Those decisions are made by POL in light of the responses to the consultation while subject to a four-stage appeals process involving Postwatch. The Review Process for closure decisions after public consultation process applies where Postwatch shows that, for an individual branch:

POL has not given due consideration to material evidence received during the public consultation in coming to its decision or;

where evidence emerges from the consultation that the proposal for the branch does not meet the Government’s policy requirements.

The aim of the further review process is for POL and Postwatch to reach an agreed way forward by bilateral review, with 3 stages available at increasing levels of seniority. A recent addition to the review process provides for very difficult cases which remain unresolved. After stage 3 the Chairman of the Royal Mail Group will review the issues and reach a final decision.