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Volume 496: debated on Thursday 16 July 2009


Thursday 16 July 2009


Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Sea Defences (Essex)

The Petition of Councillor Dave Blackwell, Canvey Island residents, and others,

Declares that the Environment Agency proposal to abandon, to the sea, 800 acres of land on the west of Canvey Island is wrong; further declares that sacrificing such a large, ecologically and environmentally important area could increase Canvey's problems; believes that Canvey issues like flooding, building a thousand more houses, an additional Canvey access road, hazardous industrial plants and protecting Canvey's very special environment are interlinked, and believes these should be considered together as they affect island people's future safety and quality of life.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to abandon its plans to flood such a large area of Canvey Island and to meet with the Hon Member for Castle Point, Councillor Dave Blackwell and Canvey councillors to discuss their plans.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Bob Spink, Official Report, 30 March 2009; Vol. 490, c. 761.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:

The Environment Agency's Thames Estuary 2100 (TE2100) project has developed a long-term tidal flood risk management for the estuary. This plan sets out what is required to manage increasing flood risk through to the end of the century and also identifies seven potential locations where the alignment of defences could be changed in order to create new inter-tidal habitat which is being lost locally through sea level rise. West Canvey Marshes, as a former saline marsh, is one of those potential locations. Although West Canvey has been identified as one of seven potential sites, with demonstrable benefits and advantages, no decision has been made and the proposal is open to full and transparent consultation.

The creation of new inter-tidal habitat is required under the European Birds and Habitats Directive to compensate for habitat lost due to sea level rise. The Environment Agency in consultation with Natural England have assessed that around 1,200 hectares of this designated habitat will be lost in the estuary as sea levels rise over the century. Inter-tidal habitat is vitally important for the continued health of the estuary ecology providing both a feeding ground for birds and a source of food for the estuary fishery. West Canvey Marshes, which are owned by the RSPB, would be a sustainable site for inter-tidal habitat creation because it retains the topography of the original salt marsh that occurred in that area before it was reclaimed and drained in the 17th century.

The required inter-tidal habitat creation could be achieved by the managed realignment of the existing flood defences. This would not increase flood risk on Canvey Island and it would help provide justification for constructing an improved defence that would lower the risk of failure of the current local barriers. This new defence could also provide the opportunity for a new road link for the island; the Environment Agency's public engagement shows that the limited access/egress to/from Canvey is an issue of major concern to many Canvey Island residents.


Hospital Parking Charges (Cheshire)

The Petition of residents of Northwich, and others,

Declares that the car parking charges of the Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust at Victoria Infirmary, Northwich are excessive and represent a charge on people accessing National Health Services.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to take whatever action possible to require the Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to remove the unfair car parking charges at Victoria Infirmary, Northwich.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr. Mike Hall, Official Report, 1 July 2009; Vol. 495, c. 439 .]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Health:

The provision of car parking is the responsibility of local NHS organisations, which take into account differing local circumstances. In England, hospital car parking charges are decided locally by individual NHS organisations to cover the cost of running and maintaining a ear park.

I have been informed that the Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is already aware of the petition, and has issued a press release to clarify its position on this important matter.

Stroke Services (London)

The Humble Petition of the people of Croydon,

Sheweth, that there is just cause and need to maintain Mayday University Hospital’s Hyper-Acute Stroke Unit (HASU) as not only is it critical to receive treatment after a stroke within thirty minutes, but also because Mayday is ranked in the top ten per cent of HASUs in the country.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House will urge the Government to preserve Mayday University Hospital’s funding at a level that will allow it to maintain and expand its HASU provision following Healthcare for London’s review of stroke services; and will further urge the Government to prevail upon Healthcare for London to recognise the need for Mayday's HASU to remain open and to operate twenty-four hours a day.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.—[Presented by Mr. Andrew Pelling, Official Report, 26 June 2009; Vol. 494, c. 1112 .]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Health:

Although the Department of Health provides strategic leadership to the NHS and social care, power is devolved and it is for local NHS organisations to plan, develop and improve services for local people. Therefore, any proposals for improvements to services are matters to be decided locally.

Healthcare for London has told us that it has consulted on the best way to improve and specialise stroke and trauma care in the capital. The consultation proposals suggested the establishment of eight Hyper Acute Stroke Units (HASUs) supported by a network of stroke units.

HASUs represent a completely new service for Londoners, offering an immediate brain scan and if appropriate, clot-busting drugs within 30 minutes of arriving at hospital. All Londoners will be within 30 minutes ambulance journey time of a HASU.

The location of the HASUs will be determined not only by the potential quality of services, but also by the location of the hospital. HASUs must be evenly spaced around the capital to ensure everyone can reach the care they need within 30 minutes. Therefore some high performing hospitals will not be designated as HASUs.

Mayday hospital was not a preferred option for a HASU, however it was recommended that the Hospital should retain its stroke unit.

Acute Trusts, such as Mayday Healthcare NHS Trust, receive funding through PCTs, which commission services from them. If Mayday hospital retains its stroke unit, it will receive sufficient funding through these channels to enable it to provide excellent 21st century stroke care.

The consultation responses were published on 29 June 2009. All Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) are being asked to submit responses for consideration by the Joint Committee of PCTs (JCPCT).

Following receipt of these comments, and an assessment of the responses provided by the Clinical Advisory Group, the JCPCT will consider all the information and make decisions and recommendations. This meeting is timetabled to be held on 20 July 2009.

In such circumstances it would therefore be wrong for the Secretary of State or Ministers to intervene.