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Petitions

Volume 481: debated on Monday 27 October 2008

Petitions

Monday 27 October 2008

OBSERVATIONS

Women and Equality

Ending Violence Against Women

The Petition of the Women’s Institute ending violence against women campaign,

Declares that 3 million women across the UK experience rape, domestic violence, forced marriage, stalking, sexual exploitation, trafficking or another form of violence each year; the Women’s Institute is concerned that the Government is not doing enough to prevent violence against women occurring; there seems to be a mentality that abuse of women and girls is a fact of life. The petitioners believe that violence against women is a cause and consequence of women’s inequality. In 1995 the UK adopted the platform for Action in Beijing at the 4th World Conference on Women to address the goals of inequality, development and peace for all women around the world. There were twelve critical areas of concern where strategic action was needed; one of these was violence against women.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to stand by the UK’s commitment to afford women and girls their basic human rights to live free from violence and its threat by taking steps to eliminate violence against women.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Andrew Selous, Official Report, 7 October 2008; Vol. 480, c. 248.]

[P000269]

Observations from the Minister for Women and Equality:

The Government is committed to addressing violence against women, in all its forms, and whatever circumstances. Violence against women perpetuates inequality and this Government does not accept that it should ever be viewed as a “fact of life”.

In recent years this Government has done a great deal to step up action to tackle violence against women, support victims and bring perpetrators to justice through our inter-linked action plans on domestic violence, sexual violence and assault and, human trafficking. This is in addition to legislation introduced by this Government, such as the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act 2004, which has improved both the way in which the criminal justice system deals with these crimes and victims’ access to justice.

Tackling violence against women is one of the three priorities for the Ministers for Women. In July, the Government Equalities Office published Women’s Changing Lives setting out progress against these priorities, including:

A £1 million cross-Government special fund to support rape crisis centres, helping them to stay open and delivering support to victims;

Improved support and access to justice for victims of domestic violence through the Specialist Domestic Violence Courts programme and Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences ensuring more successful prosecutions and fewer repeat incidences of domestic violence;

Introduction and implementation of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 which will give courts the power to issue Forced Marriage Protection Orders to prevent someone from forcing another person into marriage;

A Tackling Demand Review, led by the Home Office, to look at what more could be done to tackle the demand side of prostitution in order to protect those involved from sexual exploitation;

A UK-wide anti-trafficking policing operation, Operation Pentameter 2 in 2008 which resulted in the successful recovery of 167 victims.

More recently, the Home Secretary has announced £1.6 million in funding for new and existing Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs)—the Government wants to see a SARC in every area. We are on course to meet our commitment to ratify the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Beings by the end of this year, introducing a 45-day minimum reflection period for all identified victims and temporary one-year renewable residence permits in certain circumstances. This goes beyond Convention requirements.

We are not complacent and we recognise that there is more to do in order to tackle violence against women. Addressing underlying attitudes which facilitate these crimes is essential, which is why the Government Equalities Office has commissioned work to examine how we can improve the effectiveness of media campaigns addressing violence against women. The Home Office has recently commissioned scoping work to investigate how Government as a whole can be more strategic in its approach to violence against women.

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

Post Office Closures (Buckinghamshire)

The Petition of those concerned about the proposed closure of Hazelmere Post Office,

Declares the importance of this Post Office to the local community

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to instruct Post Office Ltd. to keep Hazelmere Post Office open.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mrs. Cheryl Gillan, Official Report, 22 July 2008; Vol. 479, c. 23P .] [P000262]

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 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. 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 their 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. Post Office Limited (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.

POL is responsible for implementing the network change programme at a local level. It is developing a rolling programme of 42 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 be complete by the end of this year. The consultation period for South Essex, South Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire finished on 17 June and POL has published its area plan decision booklet on its website. Having considered all representations and the criteria for the network change programme POL has confirmed that Hazelmere branch is to close. Further details of the closures are available on the POL website at www.postoffice.co.uk/networkchange.

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. An addition to the review process last November 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 those concerned about the proposed closure of Waterside Post Office,

Declares the importance of this Post Office to the local community.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to instruct Post Office Ltd. to keep Waterside Post Office open.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mrs. Cheryl Gillan, Official Report, 22 July 2008; Vol. 479, c. 23P .] [P000263]

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 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. 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 their 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. Post Office Limited (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.

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 South Essex, South Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire finished on 17 June and POL has published its area plan decision booklet on its website. Having considered all representations and the criteria for the network change programme POL has confirmed that the Waterside branch is to close. Details of the closures are available on the POL website at www.postoffice.co.uk/networkchange.

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. An addition to the review process last November 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 those concerned about the proposed closure of Botley Stores Post Office,

Declares the importance of this Post Office to the local community

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to instruct Post Office Ltd. to keep Botley Stores Post Office open

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mrs. Cheryl Gillan, Official Report, 22 July 2008; Vol. 479, c. 24P .] [P000264]

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 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. 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 their 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. Post Office Limited (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.

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 South Essex, South Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire has finished and POL has published its area plan decision booklet on its website. Having considered all representations and the criteria for the network change programme POL has confirmed that the Botley branch is to close. Details of the closures and any further reviews will be available on the POL website at www.postoffice.co.uk/networkchange.

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. An addition to the review process last November 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 those concerned about the proposed closure of Chalfont Common Post Office,

Declares the importance of this Post Office to the local community

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to instruct Post Office Ltd. to keep Chalfont Common Post Office open.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mrs. Cheryl Gillan, Official Report, 22 July 2008; Vol. 479, c. 24P .] [P000265]

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 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. 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 their 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. Post Office Limited (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.

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 South Essex, South Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire finished on 17 June and POL has published its area plan decision booklet confirming that Chalfont Common will remain open. Taking in all relevant factors and local opinion POL decided not to proceed with the closure. Details of closures and any further reviews are available on the POL website at www.postoffice.co.uk/networkchange.

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. An addition to the review process last November 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 those concerned about the proposed closure of Old Amersham Post Office,

Declares the importance of this Post Office to the local community.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to instruct Post Office Ltd. to keep Old Amersham Post Office open

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mrs. Cheryl Gillan, Official Report, 22 July 2008; Vol. 479, c. 24P.] [P000261]

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 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. 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 their 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. Post Office Limited (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.

POL is responsible for implementing the network change programme at a local level. It is developing a rolling programme of 42 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 be complete by the end of this year. The consultation period for South Essex, South Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire finished on 17 June and POL has published its area plan decision booklet on its website. Having considered all representations and the criteria for the network change programme POL has confirmed that the Amersham Old Town branch is to close. Further details of the closures are available on the POL website at www.postoffice.co.uk/networkchange.

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. An addition to the review process last November 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.