Tuesday 21 February 2012
Business, Innovation and Skills
Potential Closure of Peacocks Stores
The Petition of residents of Ogmore
Declares that the Petitioners are concerned about the potential closure of Peacocks stores.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to take all possible steps to prevent the closure of Peacocks stores.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Huw Irranca-Davies, Official Report, 1 February 2012; Vol. 539, c. 954.]
Observations from the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, received 20 February 2012:
The Government recognise that the administration of Peacock’s Stores is a matter of concern for its staff, creditors and customers.
Administration is the UK’s main business rescue procedure, with thousands of businesses and jobs having been saved since it was first introduced a quarter of a century ago. An administrator’s primary objective in law is to rescue the company. If that is not possible, the administrator must seek to achieve a better result for the company's creditors than if it were put into liquidation, which can often involve selling on the underlying business (or part of it) to a new owner. The administrator must also act in the best interests of creditors as a whole.
I note from press releases issued by the administrators that they are engaging with potential purchasers of the business.
The Government have no power to interfere in the operation of individual insolvencies—or wish to do so—as these are matters for the office-holders appointed. Administrators are licensed and regulated professionals, highly trained in their field, with very clear statutory objectives to seek to rescue the company or underlying business, where this is possible and appropriate.
Swindon Town Centre
The Humble Petition of Swindon residents and visitors,
Sheweth that there is support for the street traders of Swindon town centre; that street traders add to the vibrancy of Swindon town centre; and that the future of street trading must be placed on a secure footing.
Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House urges the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to request that Swindon Borough Council review its policy on street trading in Swindon town centre
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.—[Presented by Mr Robert Buckland, Official Report, 10 October 2011; Vol. 533, c. 153.]
Observations from the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills:
The Government note the support for the street traders of Swindon town centre, and the concerns that the future of street trading must be placed on a secure footing.
A decision by a Council to designate a street as a street where street trading is prohibited is a local matter for the Council. Concerns about such a decision should be resolved locally.
As the Department with policy responsibility for the national street trading legislation (Schedule 4 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 (LG(MP)A), BIS will be consulting in due course on draft regulations to amend the legislation to ensure compliance with the European Services Directive.
We are also giving consideration to extending Schedule 4 of the LG(MP)A to the supply of services in the street for gain or reward.
Bradford-on-Avon Station Ticket Office
The Petition of users of Bradford-on-Avon station,
Declares that the Petitioners regard the Bradford-on-Avon station booking office as an essential service and an essential part of the town, further declares that the Petitioners believe that it is used frequently and in preference to the ticket machine, particularly by older customers, and that it is widely valued for the information provided and for the services of the booking office staff in opening and closing the wonderfully refurbished waiting rooms.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to take all possible steps to ensure that the Bradford-on-Avon station booking office remains open.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Duncan Hames, Official Report, 9 November 2011; Vol. 535, c. 409.]
Observations from the Secretary of State for Transport:
The proposal for the removal of ticket offices at Category E stations was the recommendation of an independent study by Sir Roy McNulty on the value for money of the railways.
The aim of the study was to examine the overall cost structure of all elements of the rail sector to identify the options for improving value for money to both passengers and to the taxpayer, while continuing to expand capacity as necessary and drive up passenger satisfaction with the railway.
My Department is currently considering the findings of this independent report but no decisions have yet been made. In deciding which recommendations to accept, we will give careful consideration to the interests of passengers.
First Great Western has said it has no current plans to close any booking offices.
Bus Services in Sedgefield
The Petition of residents of Bishop Middleham and Fishburn,
Declares that the Petitioners believe that in order to maintain a reliable rural transport network in County Durham additional funding needs to be provided for rural bus services.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to ensure that there is funding in place to maintain the provision of reliable rural bus services in County Durham.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Phil Wilson, Official Report, 25 January 2012; Vol. 539, c. 270.]
Observations from the Secretary of State for Transport:
The Government continue to provide significant funds for local bus services in County Durham and elsewhere through bus subsidy for operators and via the national concessionary travel entitlement, which was protected in the budget.
In many rural areas, community transport can play a valuable role in preventing isolation. I therefore strongly encourage local councils to work in partnership with operators and local communities to examine how more flexible services might be provided.
To facilitate this, my Department recently announced a further £10 million fund for community transport in rural areas. This is in addition to the £10 million allocated in March 2011, of which Durham County Council received a £182,191 share.
I recognise that local councils are making difficult decisions in the light of reductions in revenue support from the Department of Communities and Local Government, but they do have almost total discretion about which services to value when budgeting for the future. These are decisions which must be made locally, in consultation with the public.