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Petitions

Volume 477: debated on Thursday 19 June 2008

Petitions

Thursday 19 June 2008

Observations

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

Post Office Closures (Essex)

The Petition of residents of Romford and surrounding areas,

Declares the Petitioners' belief that the threatened closure of the much valued Gobions Post Office in Collier Row, Romford will have a detrimental effect on the lives of the people who live in Havering-atte-Bower, Chase Cross and Collier Row, if it is closed.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to reverse the policy of closing sub Post Offices, notably Gobions Post Office, which provide local communities with their only source of accessing vital services.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Andrew Rosindell, Official Report, 29 April 2008; Vol. 475, c. 275 .] [P000183]

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 London has finished and POL has published its final decisions in an Area Plan Decision Booklet for London which is available on their website at:

www.postoffice.co.uk/networkchange

Having considered all representations and the criteria for the network change programme POL have confirmed that Gobions Post Office is to close.

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 (Essex)

The Petition of residents of Hornchurch and the surrounding areas,

Declares the Petitioners' belief that the threatened closure of the much valued Hylands Post Office in Hornchurch will have a detrimental effect on the lives of the people who live in Hornchurch and Hylands if it is closed.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to reverse the policy of closing sub Post Offices, notably Hylands Post Office, which provide local communities with their only source of accessing vital services.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Andrew Rosindell, Official Report, 29 April 2008; Vol. 475, c. 275 .] [P000182]

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 why it has put in place a new policy and financial framework to achieve this. The Government has invested £2 billion in the post office network 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 its decision to extend funding of up to £1.7 billion to 2011, including provision of an annual £150 million Social Network Payment to support the post office network up to this time. 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 which, if successful, 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 London has finished and POL has published its final decisions in an Area Plan Decision Booklet for London, which is available on their website at:

www.postoffice.co.uk/networkchange

Having considered all representations and the criteria for the network change programme, POL have confirmed that the Hylands Post Office is to close.

POL develops its proposals with the participation of sub-postmasters, local authorities and the consumer watchdog, Postwatch. When drawing up its implementation plans, POL 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 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 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 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. An addition to the review process provides for very difficult cases which remain unresolved after stage 3. At this stage the Chairman of Royal Mail Group will review the issues and reach a final decision.

Home Department

Policing

The Petition of Johnno Hills, and British citizens,

Declares that there is great dissatisfaction with target driven policing methods and calls on the Government to drop target driven policing which is undermining public trust and bringing the police into disrepute; and to cut excessive government bureaucracy which leaves our streets devoid of regularly visible police presence so that decent, law abiding citizens are afraid to walk the streets of their own country for fear of becoming crime victims.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons implore the Government to cut excessive bureaucracy and ensure police officers spend more time on the streets and to make the role of the PCSOs one which will support the return of regular police officers

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Bob Spink, Official Report, 22 April 2008; Vol. 474, c. 1285 .] [P000173]

Observations from the Secretary of State for the Home Department:

The Government's crime strategy aims to free up the police so that they are able to focus on serious crimes and local priorities. There are now fewer central targets and even greater flexibility for those at the front line to respond to issues important to the community. Bringing criminals to justice is a core responsibility for the police, but we do not expect officers to pursue detection numbers for numbers' sake if that means chasing minor misdemeanours at the expense of serious offenders. For, example, the national detection rate is not a target for 2008/09.

New Government targets announced in October 2007 give much more prominence to tackling serious crime. The latest performance indicators for the police include measures of the rate of offences brought to justice for serious violent crime, serious sexual offences and serious acquisitive crime. We are pleased to see forces are reflecting these priorities in their new performance plans.

Bureaucracy in the police service is necessary to ensure a fair process for victims, witnesses and alleged offenders and for the collection and collation of evidence to secure convictions. Paperwork is designed locally to ensure that each force can successfully operate processes for recording of crime and other incidents, the prosecution of offenders, the detention of suspects, engagement with the public and the servicing of internal business around resources and HR.

The Government is committed to tackling the root causes of unnecessary bureaucracy. To that end, Sir Ronnie Flanagan was commissioned and reported on this in his review of policing and whose final report was published with a statement in the House on 7 February. He identified risk aversion - in the police service, government and society—as the root cause. This issue and the specific remedies he proposed in stop and account, recording of data, use of IT (including the expanded use of personal digital assistants with extra funding) are being taken forward. The Government will say more on this in its Green Paper on policing.

Justice

Employment and Human Rights

The Petition of Mr Pinakin Pandya,

Declares that his rights under s.54 (1), and s,64 (1) (ii) of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978 not to be unfairly dismissed until the attainment of the State's retirement age, have been breached. Further declares that his rights under the Human Rights Act 1998, the Employment Rights Act 1996, the Race Relations Act 1976, the Employment Tribunal Practice and Rules and the Court of Appeal’s Civil Procedure Rules, House of Lords Rules, and European Court of Human Rights Rules, have been denied. Further declares that his rights under articles 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have been breached by the UK, the European Court of Human Rights, and the United Nations, culminating in failure of the judicial system.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to review the Human Rights Act insofar as it relates to employment tribunals and legislation.

And the Petitioner remains, etc.[Official Report, 6 February 2008; Vol. 471, c. 35P .] [P000121]

Observations from the Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice:

I am in receipt of the petition dated 6 February 2008 of Mr Pinakin Pandya, in which he asserts that he has suffered the breach of many of his legal rights and human rights as a result of the operation of the employment tribunal decision.

The Government is satisfied that employment legislation, including provisions governing the procedure of employment tribunals, is compliant with our human rights obligations. Under the Human Rights Act 1998, it is unlawful for a public authority to act incompatibly with a Convention right. Under section 6(3) of the Act, a “public authority” includes any court or tribunal. If a party to a case believes that its procedure or outcome breaches their Convention rights, they should ordinarily raise this by taking advantage of the means to them to challenge the decision (whether by way of review or appeal).

The Government of course opposes the breach of individuals' employment rights. Where it has not proved possible for the parties otherwise to resolve matters, employment tribunals are the first stage in the legal process for enforcing most statutory employment rights. Every case that proceeds through the system is determined on its merits. As employment tribunals are independent judicial bodies, the Government cannot comment on or intervene in the tribunals' handling of individual cases, or any decisions they make.

Where an individual wishes to pursue his case further, he has two options that should be notified to him when he receives the decision. These are to apply for a review of the Employment Judge's decision, or to appeal (on a point of law only) to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).

Applications for review should be made within 14 days of the decision being sent to the parties, although the tribunal has discretion to extend this time limit. Reviews are intended to correct very specific errors or mishaps in the conduct of a tribunal hearing, or to deal with new evidence that was genuinely not available at the time of the original hearing. A party can make more than one application for review, although a second application, when a first has been properly refused, is unlikely to succeed unless there are exceptional circumstances.

An appeal should be made within 42 days of the date on which written reasons for the decision or order of the tribunal was sent to the party, or, in a case where no written reasons are required, within 42 days of the date on which the written notification of the tribunal's decision was sent, although the EAT has discretion to extend the time limit.

Appeals from the EAT in England and Wales go to the Court of Appeal and, in Scotland, to the Court of Session. From the Court of Appeal, appeals go to the House of Lords.