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Petitions

Volume 476: debated on Monday 2 June 2008

Petitions

Monday 2 June 2008

Observations

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

Post Office Closures (Brighton)

The Petition of those affected by the closure of the Elm Grove Post Office in Brighton,

Declares that they believe that the Post Office provides an invaluable and local service to local residents, many of them older people and young families who need the many essential services provided by the Post Office close at hand. If the Government truly believes in building sustainable communities, it will withdraw this and other Post Office closure proposals.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to make representations to the Post Office Ltd. to withdraw its closure proposals for the Post Office at Elm Grove, Brighton, which plays such an important part in the life of the local community.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by David Lepper, Official Report, 11 December 2007; Vol. 469, c. 272 .] [P000078]

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

The Government fully recognise the important social and economic role of post offices, particularly in rural and deprived urban communities. That is why they are determined to maintain a national post office network, allowing people to have reasonable access across the whole country and why they have put in place a new policy and financial framework to achieve this. The Government have been investing substantial sums in the post office network, totalling £2 billion since 1999. This 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 confirmation of their decision, in May 2007, to extend funding of up to £1.7 billion to 2011, including provision of a £150 million Social Network Payment. 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 pubs, village halls, churches and mobile post offices) will mitigate closures, primarily in smaller and more remote communities. POL announced on 9 April that it will extend Outreach trials into urban areas. If successful, it could mean additional Outreach branches over and above the 500 originally planned. Nevertheless, 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 Sussex finished on 24 December 2007 and Post Office Ltd announced final decisions on 29 January 2008. Having considered all representations and the criteria for the network change programme POL have confirmed that the Elm Grove Post Office is to close. POL have published their decision in an Area Plan Decision Booklet for Sussex which will be available on their website at www.postoffice.co.uk/networkchange.

POL develops its proposals with the participation of sub-postmasters, local authorities and the consumer watchdog, Postwatch. It 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. 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 do 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 the 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;

evidence emerges from the consultation that the proposal for thebranch 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. There was an addition to the review process last November which caters for very difficult cases remaining unresolved after stage 3. Allan Leighton, Chairman of Royal Mail Group, will review the issues and reach a final decision.

The Government are not in any way constraining sub-postmasters. Sub-postmasters and mistresses, who own and operate 97 per cent. of the post office network, are private business people and contracted as agents on behalf of POL. As such, they are free to develop their associated retail business and to enter into contracts with anyone they choose, as long as the products provided are not in direct competition with key Post Office products.

The Government cannot ignore the fact that many people now want to access services in different ways, (using direct debits, ATMs, and the phone and the Internet). Government Departments must live within their financial constraints and it is only right that they ensure value for money in their delivery of services. We want the network to be autonomous and become the providers of choice and not of obligation.

Post Office Closures (Cumbria)

The Petition of those concerned about Post Office closures in Cumbria,

Declares that they give their full support to Flookburgh, Hallgarth, Heathwaite, Grasmere, Endmoor, Burneside, Beetham, Dent, Backbarrow, Burton in Kendal, Rinkfield, Lindale, Levens, Kents Bank, Storth, Hawkshead, Hutton Roof, as these are an integral part of the local community and to lose them would be a loss to all of them.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, to instruct the Post Office Ltd as it conducts its review of Post Office branches, to keep these Post Offices open; and further urges the Government to stop the unnecessary Post Office closure programme, and instead free business from restrictive regulation, invest in the future of the network and stop removing government business to safeguard our Post Offices.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Tim Farron, Official Report, 17 March 2008; Vol. 473, c. 717.] [P000141]

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

The Government fully recognise the important social and economic role of post offices, particularly in rural and deprived urban communities. That is why they have determined to maintain a national post office network, allowing people to have reasonable access across the whole country and why they have put in place a new policy and financial framework to achieve this. The Government have been investing substantial sums in the post office network, totalling £2 billion since 1999. This 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 confirmation of their decision, in May 2007, to extend funding of up to £1.7 billion to 2011, including provision of a £150 million Social Network Payment. The Government strategy includes provision for 2,500 compensated closures and 500 new Outreach services.

The 500 new and innovative Outreach locations (operating in partnership with other local services such as pubs, village halls, churches and mobile post offices) will mitigate closures, primarily in smaller and more remote communities. POL announced on 9 April that it will extend Outreach trials into urban areas. If successful, it could mean additional Outreach branches over and above the 500 originally planned. Nevertheless, 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 is scheduled to take around 15 months to complete. The consultation period for Cumbria started on 18 March and will finish on 27 May. POL is expected to announce final decisions on 18 June and the POL decision document will be available on their website at www.postoffice.co.uk/networkchange.

POL develops its proposals with the participation of sub-postmasters, local authorities and the consumer watchdog, Postwatch. It takes into account the numeric access criteria set out by the Government, as well as local factors affecting ease of access, such as local geography, rivers, mountains etc. 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 do 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 the 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;

evidence emerges from the consultation that the proposal for thebranch 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. There was an addition to the review process last November which caters for very difficult cases remaining unresolved after stage 3. Allan Leighton, Chairman of Royal Mail Group, will review the issues and reach a final decision.

The Government are not in any way constraining sub-postmasters. Sub-postmasters and mistresses, who own and operate 97 per cent. of the post office network, are private business people and contracted as agents on behalf of POL. As such, they are free to develop their associated retail business and to enter into contracts with anyone they choose, as long as the products provided are not in direct competition with key Post Office products.

The Government cannot ignore the fact that many people now want to access services in different ways, (using direct debits, ATMs, and the phone and the Internet). Government Departments must live within their financial constraints and it is only right that they ensure value for money in their delivery of services. We want the network to be autonomous and become the providers of choice and not of obligation.

Post Office Closures (Taunton)

The Petition of residents of Taunton constituency and others,

Declares that the government are proposing to shut 2,500 Post Offices which represents 1-in-5 of the present total. This will hit local communities in Somerset hard.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to save our vital Post Offices which offer an essential service to communities across Taunton constituency.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr. Jeremy Browne, Official Report, 6 February 2008; Vol. 1088, c. 471 .] [P000119]

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

The Government fully recognise the important social and economic role of post offices, particularly in rural and deprived urban communities. That is why they are 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 have 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 of £150 million 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 Bristol and Somerset began on 26 February 2008 and is expected to conclude on 7 May 2008.

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 do 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 that for very difficult cases which remain unresolved after stage 3, Allan Leighton, Chairman of Royal Mail Group will review the issues and reach a final decision.

The Petition of residents of the Taunton constituency and others,

Declares that the Post Office is proposing to close seven Post Offices in Taunton Deane, including Shuttern, West Monkton, Bradford-on-Tone, West Buckland, Kingston St Mary, Churchinford and Lydeard St Lawrence, all of which constitute a vital service to the residents of Taunton Deane, and whose closure will be extremely damaging to the fabric of the County of Somerset and the well-being of its communities in social, economic and environmental terms; that these Post Offices provide a lifeline for many vulnerable or disadvantaged people, and are particularly valued by pensioners and those without private transport; and that their proposed closure will risk or precipitate the closure of village shops in Somerset.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to reverse the Post Office's proposed Network Change Programme in Taunton Deane.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr. Jeremy Browne, Official Report, 28 April 2008; Vol. 475, c. 138 .] [P000179]

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 of £150 million 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 Bristol and Somerset finished on 7 May and POL will announce its final decisions on 29 May, which will be available on their website at: www.postoffice.co.uk/networkchange. POL have proposed an outreach service for Churchinford and Lydeard St Lawrence and closure of Shuttern, West Monkton, Bradford-on-Tone, West Buckland and Kingston St Mary. Final decisions on the branches will be communicated by POL.

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 that for very difficult cases which remain unresolved after stage 3, Allan Leighton, Chairman of Royal Mail Group will review the issues and reach a final decision.

Post Office Closures (West Sussex)

The Petition of Post Office Users of Worthing and Adur,

Declares that the closures proposed by the Post Office Ltd (POL) to nine post offices located in Worthing and Adur in West Sussex, which come on top of previous substantial closures and are the most severe changes suggested in the whole of Sussex, are not in the best interests of local residents many of whom are elderly and are unable to travel the increased long distances that closures entail, local shops rely on Post Offices to encourage local business or indeed the local community as a whole which already experiences long queues for access to Post Offices.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges Her Majesty's Government, as a matter of urgent public importance, to instruct the Royal Mail Group to suspend this closure programme and redifine the criteria on which closures are being proposed with regard to the hardship it will cause communities with high levels of elderly people and deprivation and poor public transport links in particular.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Tim Loughton, Official Report, 17 December 2007; Vol. 469, c. 675 .] [P000087]

The Petition of Post Office Users of Worthing and Adur,

Declares that the closures proposed by the Post Office Ltd (POL) to nine post offices located in Worthing and Adur in West Sussex, which come on top of previous substantial closures and are the most severe changes suggested in the whole of Sussex, are not in the best interests of local residents many of whom are elderly and are unable to travel the increased long distances that closures entail, local shops rely on Post Offices to encourage local business or indeed the local community as a whole which already experiences long queues for access to Post Offices.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges Her Majesty's Government, as a matter of urgent public importance, to instruct the Royal Mail Group to suspend this closure programme and redifine the criteria on which closures are being proposed with regard to the hardship it will cause communities with high levels of elderly people and deprivation and poor public transport links in particular.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Peter Bottomley, Official Report, 17 December 2007; Vol. 469, c. 5P .] [P000099]

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 of £150 million 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 2007 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 Sussex finished on 24 December 2007 and POL announced its final decisions on 31 January. Post Office Ltd has decided to retain 236 branches and proceed with the closure of 41. A further eight branches are subject to further review by Postwatch and decisions on those will be communicated in due course. An Outreach service will replace two branches. POL have published their decisions in an Area Plan Decision Booklet for Sussex which is available on their website at: www.postoffice.co.uk/networkchange

In the decision booklet POL have confirmed the closure of nine branches in the Adur and Worthington Council Districts:

1. Bowness Avenue; 2. The Parade; 3. Downlands; 4. Old Shoreham; 5. North Lancing; 6. South Lancing; 7. West Beach; 8. Heene Road; 9. The Strand;

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 three stages available at increasing levels of seniority. A recent addition to the review process provides that for very difficult cases which remain unresolved after stage 3, Allan Leighton, Chairman of Royal Mail Group will review the issues and reach a final decision.

Government is not in any way constraining sub-postmasters. Sub-postmasters and mistresses, who own and operate 97 per cent. of the post office network, are private business people and contracted as agents on behalf of POL. As such, they are free to develop their associated retail business and to enter into contracts with anyone they choose, as long as the products provided are not in direct competition with key Post Office products.

Government cannot ignore the fact that many people now want to access services in different ways, (using direct debits, ATMs, and the phone and the Internet). Government Departments must live within their financial constraints and it is only right that they ensure value for money in their delivery of services. We want the network to be autonomous and become the providers of choice and not of obligation.

Health

Development and Healthcare (Hampshire)

The Humble Petition of Mr Alan Scard and others,

Sheweth,

That Gosport Borough Council, Fareham Borough Council and the Haslar Task Force have proposals for the future use of the Haslar site and have urged that ways be found to utilise the site for the provision of healthcare services and treatment in Gosport, Fareham and the surrounding areas.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House shall urge the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Health and all other relevant bodies to promote this particular proposal.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.—[Presented by Peter Viggers, Official Report, 12 May 2008; Vol. 475, c. 1169 .] [P000189]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Health:

This is a matter for the local National Health Service to now take forward the plans to implement the planned changes and I would urge the relevant NHS organisations and the local community to work together in order to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill

The Petition of residents of the United Kingdom,

Declares that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (2007) proposes to endorse the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos in the laboratory; the widening of the scope for experiments on human embryos, and the creation of human embryos for other purposes without regard for the welfare and status of such embryos.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons vote against the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, and urges the Government to change its policy towards endorsing the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos in the laboratory; the widening of the scope for experiments on human embryos, and the creation of human embryos for other purposes without regard for the welfare and status of such embryos.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr. David Burrowes, Official Report, 12 May 2008; Vol. 475, c. 1170 .] [P000190]

Observations from the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Health:

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill will ensure that human admixed embryos (defined in clause 4 of the Bill) are within the scope of statutory regulation and their creation, keeping and use allowed only for projects of research subject to the licensing decisions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the limits and controls (including a prohibition on the development of such embryos beyond 14 days) contained in legislation. The House of Commons voted on Monday 19 May to reject amendments to the Bill that would have altered this position.