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Petitions

Volume 527: debated on Tuesday 26 April 2011

Petitions

Tuesday 26 April 2011

PRESENTED PETITION

Petition presented to the House but not read on the Floor

Privatisation of the Royal Mail

The Petition of staff and customers of Post Offices in Newcastle-upon-Tyne North constituency.

Declares that the petitioners are concerned about the proposed full privatisation of the Royal Mail and its impact upon on the number of Post Offices in Newcastle.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to reconsider the proposals contained within the Postal Services Bill to privatise the Royal Mail; to ensure the longest possible Inter-Business Agreement between Royal Mail and Post Office Limited; and to specify in law a minimum number of counter services for access to Royal Mail services.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Catherine McKinnell.]

[P000918]

OBSERVATIONS

Transport

Higham Hopper Bus Service

The Humble Petition of residents of Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire and surrounding areas,

Sheweth, that there is a considerable and ongoing need for the Higham Hopper bus service; that this is a vital mode of transport for the elderly and people with mobility problems; and that it is of the greatest importance that this bus service continues to provide transport for residents in Higham Ferrers and the surrounding areas.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House urges the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to request that Northamptonshire county council, in conjunction with East Northamptonshire District Council and Higham Ferrers parish council, explores ways in which the Higham Hopper bus service can continue to operate.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.—[Presented by Mr Peter Bone, Official Report, 8 March 2011; Vol. 524, c. 877.]

[P000893]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Transport, received 11 April 2011:

The Government do not determine local bus services, 78% of which are provided by commercial bus operators in a market environment. Others are provided by community transport operators or procured by Local Transport Authorities as “tendered services”.

The Government recognise that community transport provides invaluable services to those who are unable to access conventional public transport for whatever reason. With this in mind, the Government recently announced additional funding of £10 million to rural local authorities in England to support and kick-start community transport in their areas. Northamptonshire will receive £209,995.

The Government encourage Local Transport Authorities and local transport providers to work together to ensure that services meet the needs of the travelling public.

Rail Services (Melksham, Wiltshire)

The Petition of Melksham Oak Community School and the people of Melksham in Wiltshire,

Declares that Melksham has one of the poorest train services in the country for a town of its size with only two services a day each way at times which are impractical for commuters; notes that travelling to work, school, or even visiting friends could be made easier with more trains on Wiltshire’s railway; and further notes that the Government will be reallocating a number of trains no longer needed in London and the South East to other parts of the rail network.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons calls upon the Government to allocate additional carriages for use on the TransWilts service between Swindon and Salisbury, calling at Melksham.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Duncan Hames, Official Report, 3 March 2011; Vol. 524, c. 532.]

[P000892]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Transport, received 7 April 2011:

In the first instance, decisions on whether to provide financial support for additional local train services such as those requested for the Melksham line are primarily for local authorities rather than for the Department for Transport. In some circumstances, the Government may decide to relieve the local authority of the requirement to fund such additional services in the longer-term.

I made a written statement on 28 February 2011, Official Report, columns 17WS-18WS to clarify the Government’s position on support for additional local rail services. I said I was keen to encourage local bodies to identify the best solutions for identified local needs and therefore wished to ensure that they were not deterred from considering an improved rail service where it clearly offered value for money.

Nevertheless, the Government’s key priority remains one of reducing the budget deficit and, therefore, careful consideration has to be given to any proposal which might increase the cost of the railway, either in the short or long-term. However, we recognise the arguments put forward by promoters that regional and local rail services need to adapt to population, housing and economic growth in localities. Therefore, it is only right that, once they have demonstrated value for money after a trial period, new or improved services promoted by local authorities are treated in a similar way to the more established services which are currently funded as part of the national network.

It is important that a local authority promoter demonstrates that a rail scheme is the best way to address regional and local transport issues. Hence, promoters will still be expected to fund a new or enhanced service for the first three years to demonstrate its commitment to the service and show that it delivers value for money in the light of actual experience.

Regulation of Bus Services (Leeds)

The Petition of residents of Leeds and supporters of the Fairer Fares Campaign,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that there is a need for Leeds to have a regulated bus service that provides a regular service for the community, with an honest fare that is not just for profit; and notes that such a bus service must provide an improved customer service that helps the people of Leeds in their day to day lives.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to take steps to regulate the bus service in Leeds and to ensure that the service is honest and reliable.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Greg Mulholland, Official Report, Tuesday 8 March 2011; Vol. 524, c. 878.]

[P000896]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Transport, received 11 April 2011:

The Government do not determine the fare prices of local bus services, 78% of which are provided by commercial bus operators in a market environment. Where there are no commercial services, services are procured by Local Transport Authorities as “supported services”.

Local Transport Authorities can impose a limit on fares upon an area as part of a statutory Quality Partnership Scheme or introduce a Quality Contract Scheme. Under such a Quality Contract Scheme, a local authority or authorities can determine what local bus services and facilities are provided in a described area and what fares are charged, subject to a statutory public interest test.

Metro, the West Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority (ITA) and West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (PTE), plans to introduce a Quality Contract Scheme or Partnership that would make Metro responsible for setting routes, fares, timetables and quality standards across the whole of West Yorkshire.

The Government are waiting for the outcome of the current Competition Commission inquiry into the local bus market before making any decision about whether to change the framework for bus services in England outside London. In the meantime, the Government encourage Local Transport Authorities and commercial bus operators to work together to ensure that bus services meet the expectations of the travelling public.

Health

Hospital Services (Shropshire)

The Petition of residents of Montgomeryshire,

Declares that the petitioners oppose plans to move the Special Care Baby Unit, the Children’s Ward and some maternity services from Shrewsbury to Telford.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to take all possible steps to prevent these services being moved from Shrewsbury to Telford.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Glyn Davies, Official Report, 23 March 2011; Vol. 525, c. 1053.]

[P000907]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Health:

The issue referred to has been subject to a local consultation exercise. I am asking NHS West Midlands to ensure the views of the petitioners are taken into account.

I am advised the consultation document, “Keeping it in the County”, published by Shropshire County Primary Care Trust (PCT), NHS Telford and Wrekin, and Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, outlines why the local NHS believes change is needed to some of the services it provides in the Shropshire area. These include in-patient children’s services and services provided in the maternity building at the Royal Shrewsbury hospital site. Proposals are based on evidence supporting the delivery of the bulk of children and maternity services at Princess Royal hospital, Telford. Midwife led care would continue to be available at both sites as is currently the case and children’s out-patient services would also continue to be available at both sites. I understand public consultation began on 9 December 2010 and concluded on 14 March 2011. Issues identified as part of that consultation needing further work will be addressed as part of the next phase of the local process.

Health is a devolved responsibility. In England, PCTs are responsible for improving the health of their local community, securing the provision of high quality services and integrating health and social care locally. In Wales, Local Health Boards fulfil a similar function. Both the Department of Health and the Welsh Assembly Government recognise that some patients resident in one country will receive care on the other side of the border, for reasons of practicality or preference. For this reason, both Governments send representatives to the Cross Border Health and Social Care Group, which meets to discuss topical cross border issues. They have also, with input from the NHS in England and Wales and the Wales Office, agreed a “cross border commissioning protocol”, which seeks to address some of the consequences of the diverging structures of the NHS in England and Wales. The document circumscribes the responsibilities of the commissioners of health services.

The Petition of residents of Shrewsbury and Atcham,

Declares that the petitioners oppose plans to move the Special Care Baby Unit, the Children’s Ward and some maternity services from Shrewsbury to Telford.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to take all possible steps to prevent these services being moved from Shrewsbury to Telford.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Daniel Kawczynski, Official Report, 23 March 2011; Vol. 525, c. 1053.]

[P000908]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Health:

The issue referred to has been subject to a local consultation exercise. I am asking NHS West Midlands to ensure the views of the petitioners are taken into account.

I am advised that the consultation document, “Keeping it in the County”, published by Shropshire County primary care trust (PCT), NHS Telford and Wrekin, and Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, outlines why the local NHS believes change is needed to some of the services it provides in the Shropshire area. These include in-patient children’s services and services provided in the maternity building at the Royal Shrewsbury hospital site. Proposals are based on evidence supporting the delivery of the bulk of children and maternity services at Princess Royal hospital, Telford. Midwife led care would continue to be available at both sites as is currently the case and children’s out-patient services would also continue to be available at both sites. I understand public consultation began on 9 December 2010 and concluded on 14 March 2011. Issues identified as part of that consultation needing further work will be addressed as part of the next phase of this process.

Education

Child Protection

The Petition of Jackie Goddard,

Declares that the Petitioner’s daughter T was removed from her care because of a burn and a number of incidents where her skin was inflamed. Initially the Petitioner could not explain the cause of these. However, it is now known that the burn was caused by the control panel on a heater which is now accepted by the manufacturers as being faulty. The Petitioner also received a new suite just before the inflammations were recognized. The lesions are also similar to those caused by Di-Methyl Fumerate, however, no test has been allowed to identify whether T exhibits such an allergic reaction.

When the Petitioner’s daughter was removed she was told her daughter would be going into foster care. Her father raised concerns that given that he was a justice of the peace and a registered child minder it would be surprising if he was rejected as a carer. The Petitioner also believes that the reason they took her younger daughter into care and left her older daughter was because the older daughter was of a darker colour and the objective was to satisfy adoption targets rather than protect her younger daughter. The younger daughter was, therefore, more “adoptable”.

The family believe that the medical evidence in this case should be reviewed as the courts decisions rely on information that has now been shown to be unreliable. The family also believes that this case demonstrates that Manchester Children’s Services have acted with a priority of achieving an adoption rather than a priority of protecting children.

The Petitioner therefore requests that the House of Commons urges the Government to take steps to reprioritise the child protection system to concentrate on protecting children and that the House of Commons institute a parliamentary inquiry into this case and the failure of the checks and balances involved.

And the Petitioner remains, etc.—[Presented by Chris Ruane, Official Report, 9 March 2011; Vol. 525, c. 5P.]

[P000899]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Education:

The Secretary of State for Education announced on 10 June 2010 an independent review of child protection in England. The review is being carried out by Professor Eileen Munro who is due to submit her final report at the end of this month.

The immense dedication and hard work of front-line professionals is an inspiration. But the system of child protection in our country is not working as well as it should be and needs to be reformed. We want social workers to be clear about their responsibilities and to be accountable in the way they protect children. They need to be in a position to make well-informed judgments, based on up-to-date evidence, in the best interests of children.

The Family Justice Review, which is sponsored jointly by the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Education and the Welsh Assembly Government and was established in March 2010, has been asked to consider radical reform of the current systems including the processes when local authorities apply to the courts to take children into care. Its Interim Report, issued on 31 March 2011, will form the basis for a wide-ranging public consultation lasting until late June. Its final recommendations are due to be put to Ministers in the autumn.

The Government are aware that there are a small number of contentious adoption cases, and is considering this matter. It has already strengthened the role of the Independent Reviewing Officer in relation to care planning and placement decisions including adoption.

The law is clear that local authorities cannot remove children from their parents’ care, unless this is with the parents’ consent, without first referring the matter to a court. They cannot place a child for adoption with prospective adopters without the birth parents’ consent, unless they have first obtained a placement order made by a court.

It would be for the House itself, rather than the Government, to initiate any inquiry of the kind proposed, subject to the House’s restrictions on debating matters which are the subject of active court proceedings.

Education Maintenance Allowance

The Humble Petition of Stephen Yemm, citizen of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, and others, including 420 other students of West Nottinghamshire College and Queen Elizabeth School, both based in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire,

Sheweth, that they are opposed to the axing of the Education Maintenance Allowance which currently helps thousands of young people reach their full potential.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House calls upon the Government not to axe the EMA, but instead to continue with it supporting adult learners through this adult learning grant.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.—[Presented by Mr Alan Meale, Official Report, Tuesday 8 February 2011; Vol. 523, c. 270.]

[P000885]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Education:

We announced in October 2010 our intention to end the Education Maintenance Allowance scheme because it was a very expensive way of supporting young people to continue in education or training and was not well targeted on those who are facing the greatest financial barriers to participation.

On 28 March 2011 we announced a new £180 million 16-19 bursary fund. From September 2011, schools, colleges and training organisations will be able to target support towards those young people who most need support to enable them to continue their education and training post-16. We also announced proposed transitional arrangements to help the majority of young people who are presently in receipt of Education Maintenance Allowance.

We are currently consulting on the proposed arrangements. Further details of the proposals and the consultation can be found at http://www.education.gov. uk/consultations/ . The consultation ends on 20 May 2011.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) remains committed to supporting adult students in further education. BIS published the “Investing in Skills for Sustainable Growth” strategy in November 2010. Within it the intention to change the current arrangements for adult learner support from the 2011-12 academic year was outlined. Streamlining some of the current learner support funds into one discretionary fund is in response to the sector, who indicated they would welcome a more coherent and simplified approach to student support. In doing this, BIS is not reducing the amount of support available, but simplifying the way in which it is administered and awarded.

Existing ALG recipients will be able to apply for continuing funding until the end of their course. By merging the remaining budget allocated to ALG into a discretionary fund, BIS is enabling colleges and other training providers to be able to make sure those students who need support most will receive it.

The Petition of residents of Leicester and the surrounding areas,

Declares that the Petitioners oppose the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance; notes that a substantial number of young people are in receipt of the Education Maintenance Allowance in Leicester; and further notes that education can provide a better future for young people.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government not to abolish the Education Maintenance Allowance.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Keith Vaz, Official Report, 9 March 2011; Vol. 524, c. 1030.]

[P000897]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Education:

We announced in October 2010 our intention to end the Education Maintenance Allowance scheme because it was a very expensive way of supporting young people to continue in education or training and was not well targeted on those who are facing the greatest financial barriers to participation.

On 28 March 2011 we announced a new £180 million 16-19 bursary fund. From September 2011, schools, colleges and training organisations will be able to target support towards those young people who most need support to enable them to continue their education and training post-16. We also announced proposed transitional arrangements to help the majority of young people who are presently in receipt of Education Maintenance Allowance.

We are currently consulting on the proposed arrangements. Further details of the proposals and the consultation can be found at http://www.education.gov. uk/consultations/. The consultation ends on 20 May 2011.

The Petition of residents of Leicester and the surrounding area,

Declares that the Petitioners oppose the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance; notes that a substantial number of young people are in receipt of the Education Maintenance Allowance in Leicester; and further notes that education can provide a better future for young people.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government not to abolish the Education Maintenance Allowance.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Liz Kendall, Official Report, 16 March 2011; Vol. 525, c. 3P.]

[P000900]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Education:

We announced in October 2010 our intention to end the Education Maintenance Allowance scheme because it was a very expensive way of supporting young people to continue in education or training and was not well targeted on those who are facing the greatest financial barriers to participation.

On 28 March 2011 we announced a new £180 million 16-19 bursary fund. From September 2011, schools, colleges and training organisations will be able to target support towards those young people who most need support to enable them to continue their education and training post-16. We also announced proposed transitional arrangements to help the majority of young people who are presently in receipt of Education Maintenance Allowance.

We are currently consulting on the proposed arrangements. Further details of the proposals and the consultation can be found at: http://www.education.gov. uk/consultations/. The consultation ends on 20 May 2011.