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Volume 496: debated on Wednesday 15 July 2009


Wednesday 15 July 2009


Petition presented to the House but not read on the Floor

Post Office Closure (Kent)

The Petition of those concerned about the closure of Queensway Post Office.

Declares that Sheerness main Post Office is providing an inadequate service.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to instruct Post Office Limited to re-open Queensway Post Office.

And the Petitioners remain etc,



Children, Schools and Families

Schools (Manchester)

The Petition of persons concerned at Manchester City Council's proposal to close Ewing School in Didsbury, Manchester

Declares that Manchester City Council is currently considering proposals to close Ewing School in Didsbury, Manchester; notes that Ewing School is a specialist school that teaches children with speech, language and social communication disorders, from the ages of 5 to 16 years; further notes that Ewing’s pupils are among the 1 per cent. of children with more severe and complex speech, language and social communication needs; further notes that many of the pupils have specific problems with understanding and the use of the spoken word and have further difficulties with social interaction; recognises that Ewing School has a high teacher to pupil ratio, which enables the school to provide an intensive Teach and Learn environment.

Believes that Manchester City Council’s proposals to close Ewing School and relocate the pupils to mainstream schools are misguided; further notes that many of Ewing’s pupils have previously been excluded from mainstream schools; further believes that Ewing School offers a safe and secure learning environment that is more conducive to their pupils’ complex needs, which gives them the chance to achieve a high standard of education.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to do all in its power to persuade Manchester City Council to rethink its plans to close Ewing School and to permit the school to remain open and free from the threat of closure.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr. John Leech, Official Report, 15 June 2009; Vol. 494, c. 137 .]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families:

The Government recognises that a decision on provision for pupils with special educational needs (SEN) and any school re-organisation is never an easy one. Local Authorities are responsible for keeping under review their SEN provision and have a duty to ensure that there is sufficient provision for children with SEN in their area and that it is provided in a cost effective way.

The Government would expect the local authority, in this case Manchester City Council, to think strategically about its provision and reorganisation, having analysed future requirements such as demographic changes to ensure a better match between the need for places, parental preference and the supply of places, and to consider what provision would best deliver improved outcomes for children. We would expect it to consult widely on its proposals.

The local authority should also comply with the guidance on “Planning and Developing Special Educational Needs Provision”. This requires that when considering any reorganisation of SEN provision local authorities will need to demonstrate to parents and the local community how the proposed alternative arrangements are likely to lead to improvements in the standard, quality and/or range of educational provision for children with SEN.

It is for Manchester City Council to determine the precise nature of the communications and consultation with its partners. They must consult and inform all interested partners and allow adequate time and provide sufficient information for this process. Our advice to all local authorities is to start consulting early. All the normal processes associated with major changes to schools still apply, including the requirement to produce statutory proposals where required.

Manchester City Council has concluded the statutory consultation stage on the future development of Ewing School. When the City Council’s Executive has considered the comments made during statutory consultation it will decide on how to proceed. If the chosen way forward requires publication of statutory notices the local authority has provided assurances this will be done.

Ewing School is a community special school and pupils placed at the school, other than those placed for assessment purposes, will have a statement of SEN. Should Manchester LA take the decision to close the school then the LA responsible for maintaining each child’s statement will be required to amend the statement to change the name of the school named. The local authority will be required to consult parents about an amended statement and to ensure that any school named can meet the needs of the child and put in place the provision specified in the child’s statement. If parents disagree with the school named in their child's statement they will have a right of appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Special Educational Needs and Disability).

International Development

HIV and the G8

The Petition of members of City Gate Church, Brighton,

Declares that almost every minute of every day a baby is born with HIV, and that almost all of these babies are born in the world’s poorest countries; further declares that nine out of ten of all new HIV infections in children are as a direct result of mother to child transmission; further declares that the impact of HIV on infants is appalling and that without specialised treatment half will not live to see their second birthday; notes that in a number of countries, HIV and AIDs is the number one cause of death in under-five year olds.

Further declares that in rich countries the transmission of HIV from mothers to their babies has been virtually eliminated due to the availability of health care and the right drugs; notes, however, that in many low-income countries pregnant women and their babies are not receiving the same degree of care and protection; further notes that despite efforts to increase coverage of services to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV, figures from 2006 show that in low-income countries only one in five pregnant women with HIV had access to the necessary antiretroviral drugs to protect their babies.

Further notes that this shortfall is now attracting global attention and that in 2007 leaders at the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm recognised the importance of preventing mother to child transmission of HIV and promised 1.5 billion dollars to provide access to services for all pregnant women; and believes that the UK has a key role to play in turning this G8 commitment into reality.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to outline how it intends to contribute to G8 commitments on preventing mother to child transmission of HIV, and to encourage other G8 countries to take similar action.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by David Lepper, Official Report, 18 May 2009; Vol. 492, c. 1315 .]


Observations from the Secretary of State for International Development:

I wholeheartedly agree with your statement that we must continue to address the devastating impact that HIV is having on children in developing countries. The latest Universal Access report1 shows encouraging trends in the expansion of Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) services for women and children. However, the world is still far from providing anti-retro viral treatment (ARV) to 80 per cent. of HIV positive pregnant women by 20102. By 2007 only 34 per cent. of HIV positive pregnant women in low and middle income countries received treatment so much remains to be done. Working with others at national and international level, the UK is strongly committed to strengthening efforts to scale up PMTCT services.

The petition rightly acknowledges that mother to child transmission of HIV has been virtually eliminated in developed countries. This is because in these countries, women of reproductive age have access to high quality family planning and maternity care services into which HIV prevention, treatment and care has been integrated. DFID will continue to work to ensure that women in poor countries have the same choices and opportunities.

Scaling up PMTCT services requires effective health systems. This is why DFID helps to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV through our support to health systems’ strengthening. In June 2008 the UK published a new AIDS Strategy which commits us to spending £6 billion up to 2015 to support the strengthening of health systems for improved health and HIV outcomes. The updated Strategy also commits the UK to work with others to reduce the unmet need for family planning by 50 per cent. by 2010 and eliminate unmet need by 2015.

In Zambia DFID is providing £5.5 million to support a multi-sectoral response to tackling HIV which includes support for PMTCT. And in Zimbabwe DFID is providing £25 million to support a programme which addresses maternal and newborn health, including HIV. This and similar work supported by DFID in our focus Public Service Agreement (PSA) countries is achieving significant results. The estimated percentage of HIV positive pregnant women who received ARVs for prevention of mother to child transmission increased in many African countries between 2004 and 2007, for example in Ghana from 1 per cent to 21 per cent., in Malawi from 4 per cent. to 32 per cent. and in Uganda from 9 per cent. to 34 per cent.

We are working with bilateral and multilateral partners to ensure that the Gleneagles G8 Summit commitment to provide universal access to treatment, prevention and care is implemented. This was reaffirmed by the G8 at Heiligendamm in 2007 where commitments that will significantly assist in funding and developing national AIDS plans were made. This included the provision of long-term predictable funding to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. The UK has since committed £1 billion to the Fund in support of countries' comprehensive national plans to address the AIDS epidemic. We have been working to ensure that the G8 Summit at L'Aquila delivers a much stronger framework for G8 countries to be held accountable for their commitments on global health, including HIV. Through the High Level Task Force for Innovative International Financing for Health Systems, which the Prime Minister co-chairs, we are also leading efforts to secure additional resources to help countries build the stronger health systems required to make durable progress on maternal and newborn mortality, including through enhanced access to PMTCT services.

We provide core funding to UNICEF and other UN agencies (WHO, UNAIDS) working to end mother to child transmission of HIV. In addition to core funding, DFID has provided more than US$1.5 million to an “Accelerating Action for Children Affected by HIV and AIDS” programme. This gives focus to the “4 Ps - Protection, Prevention, PMTCT and Paediatric AIDS”. We are also participating in a US-led HIV and AIDS paediatric public-private partnership which seeks to develop formulations of HIV drugs suitable for children in developing countries, together with the pharmaceutical industry.

More recently, DFID has become a member of the Inter-agency Task Team on Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (co-convened by UNICEF and WHO).

And on 21 May we held a consultation with UK stakeholders in collaboration with the AIDS Consortium to discuss ways to accelerate the scale-up of PMTCT services.

Through our prominent position on the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV in developing countries and engagement in international fora, we will continue to show leadership and to advocate for joint action in this vital area.

1Progress towards Universal Access report, UNAIDS, WHO, UNICEF, 2008.

2This is the international target set by the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on AIDS in 2001.


Taxation (Bingo Clubs)

The Petition of residents of Llanelli,

Declares that the imposition of Gross Profits Tax of 22 per cent. on bingo clubs, compared with a gaming industry average of 15 per cent., is unreasonable and will be damaging to the continued viability of small bingo clubs, which play an important part as centres of the community as well as places of entertainment.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons approves a Gross Profits Tax maximum rate of 15 per cent. for bingo clubs.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Nia Griffith, Official Report, 30 June 2009; Vol. 495, c. 273 .]


Observations from the Chancellor of the Exchequer:

The Government notes the petition, and makes the following observations:

The Government continues to recognise the important social role played by bingo clubs in many communities, especially for pensioners and women.

Budget 2009 introduced a package of reforms intended to simplify the bingo tax regime, continuing a process of reform that began in 2003. Bingo participation fees became VAT exempt, and bingo duty was increased to 22 per cent. The Bingo industry had been campaigning for some time for VAT exemption on bingo participation fees, and the bingo duty increase should not be seen in isolation.

The Treasury’s estimate of bingo’s effective tax rate before the Budget was 24-25 per cent., an estimate agreed with the industry. It is not the case that the “gaming industry average” effective tax rate is 15 per cent.

The effective tax rate on bingo, now at 22 per cent., is comparable to the average effective tax rates on gaming machines, casinos and the national lottery, all of which are taxed within a 20-25 per cent. range. Before the Budget the effective tax rate on bingo was estimated at 24-25 per cent., which in turn was down from 35 per cent. as recently as 2003.

The bingo industry will benefit from the increased allocation of category B3 gaming machines (machines typically found in bingo halls that can offer up to a £500 prize) that a club may offer. The maximum allocation was increased from 4 to 8 in February 2009. The industry will also benefit from social regulation changes recently implemented by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The changes double the stake and prize limits for category C gaming machines, to £l/£70. Estimates from BACTA, the amusement machine trade association, suggest that gaming machine revenue could be boosted by as much as 20 per cent. following these changes. At Budget 2009 the Government amended the amusement machine licence duty categories to realign with the new regulations.

The Government recognises the challenges faced by the bingo industry, including changing tastes and greater competition in the wider leisure sector. The Government will continue to engage with the bingo industry about the state of the sector and the impact of taxation.