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Volume 549: debated on Monday 3 September 2012


Monday 3 September 2012


Business, Innovation and Skills

Citroën (Car Charges)

The Humble Petition of Mr D Pickerill,


That the Petitioner bought a Citroën C4 on 6 April 2011, which the Petitioner declares was purchased from Citroën for £14,615, but had been advertised from 1 April 2011 for £12,995; further declares that the Petitioner believes that he was wilfully overcharged; and declares that despite the assistance of the Honourable Member for Birmingham Yardley, Citroën have refused to refund or properly explain the difference.

Wherefore your Petitioner prays that your Honourable House will urge the Government to ensure that fair trade remains a principle of doing business within the United Kingdom; and bring forward legislation to ensure that all transactions in the UK are equitable and that companies, such as Citroën, cannot advertise a product for one price and sell it at a higher price.

And your Petitioner, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.—[Presented by John Hemming, Official Report, 4 July 2012; Vol. 547, c. 1028.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills:

The Government note the concern of the Petitioner that there is a lack of legislation protecting consumers from alleged misleading advertising by traders.

Advertising in the UK is controlled primarily by self-regulation under which the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has responsibility ensuring compliance with the British Code of Advertising Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing. The code is the body of rules by which the industry agrees to abide. It requires all forms of advertising to be legal, decent, honest and truthful and prepared with a sense of responsibility to both consumers and society. Details of how to complain about misleading advertising can be found on the ASA’s website at:

In addition, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/1277) (CPRs) prohibit traders from engaging in unfair commercial practices against consumers (mainly marketing and selling). The Regulations apply across all business sectors and set out a framework for how businesses must deal with consumers.

The CPRs set out broad rules outlining when commercial practices are unfair. These fall into three main categories:

Misleading practices, like false or deceptive information or descriptions, or being misleading by leaving out important information.

Aggressive sales techniques that use harassment, coercion or undue influence.

Conduct below a level which may be expected towards consumers (honest market practice/good faith). This is intended to act as safety net protection for all consumers.

A commercial practice is any activity, or course of conduct, or omission, or communication (including marketing and advertising) by a trader which is directly connected with the promotion, sale or supply of a product to or from consumers before, during or after the point at which a product might have been sold.

Information given by traders to consumers about the price of goods and services must be clear and correct. The CPRs prohibit commercial practices which contain false or misleading information about the price or the existence of a specific price advantage where this would cause or be likely to cause the average consumer to make a different choice (for example, to purchase goods or services that would not otherwise have been purchased).

The CPRs carry criminal penalties and are enforced by local authority trading standards offices in the case of individual complaints and by the Office of Fair Trading in respect of practices with wider effects on consumers generally. In the first instance, consumers should seek information and advice from the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06 (

Given the information set out above, the Government have no plans to introduce more legislation on this issue.

South Bank Royal Mail Delivery Office

The Petition of residents of Redcar Constituency,

Declares that the Petitioners are opposed to the closure of the South Bank Delivery Service.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to ask Royal Mail to listen to residents and reconsider proposals to close the South Bank Delivery Office.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Ian Swales, Official Report, 10 July 2012; Vol. 548, c. 281.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, received 20 July 2012:

Thank you very much indeed for presenting the petition on the proposed closure of the South Bank delivery office. The Government recognise that any changes to local delivery offices may raise concerns about the possible impact of such changes on local postal services.

The restructuring of Royal Mail’s delivery operations, not just in Redcar and the North-East, but right across the UK, forms part of Royal Mail’s transformation programme. This programme will ensure that the company has the right delivery infrastructure in the right locations to enable it to deliver the universal postal service as effectively and efficiently as possible. Given the very real challenges facing the business, such as the falling volumes of letters, modernisation and transformation of its delivery network is essential if it is to thrive and the universal postal service is to be maintained.

Responsibility for the restructuring is an operational matter which rests with Royal Mail’s senior management team.

When planning operational changes, the company always gives consideration to how best it can continue to protect the interests of its customers and ensure it delivers a high quality mail service. Restructuring plans are agreed in line with an internal consultation process with its staff and unions, but it is not required to consult publicly on proposals. However, the company endeavours to keep all interested stakeholders informed and updated during the decision making process.

Sunday Trading (London Olympics and Paralympic Games)

The Petition of residents of Scunthorpe,

Declares that the Petitioners are opposed to the changes to Sunday trading hours brought in by the Sunday Trading (London Olympic and Paralympic Games) Act, as the Petitioners believe that the changes put unfair pressure on shop workers, who value shorter working hours on Sundays as they allow people to spend more time with their families.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to bring forward legislation to reverse the changes brought in by the Sunday Trading (London Olympic and Paralympic Games) Act and ensure that Sunday Trading Regulations are not suspended during the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Nic Dakin, Official Report, 25 June 2012; Vol. 547, c. 131.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills:

The Government note the support of the residents of Scunthorpe and their concerns regarding shop workers and Sunday trading during the suspension period of the (London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) Act 2012 (“the Act”).

This is a short Act, implementing a temporary measure designed to enable business, workers and consumers to take full advantage of benefits that the London Olympics and Paralympics can bring. The Sunday Trading (London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games) Act, contains a sunset provision, or expiry date (22 July - 9 September 2012) and normal rules will apply for Sunday trading after 9 September.

Most Shop workers already have special protection related to working on Sundays, including the right to opt out of Sunday working if they wish after giving three months notice to their employer. These protections are not reduced by this temporary suspension of the Sunday trading rules.

The Government have enhanced shop workers rights by introducing a temporary shortened opting out notice period, from the normal three months to as little as two months for the period of the suspension. The other change made by the Act is to make things easier for shop workers if they wish to opt-out only for the suspension period. They can state in their opting-out notice that they only object to Sunday working during the suspension period.

During the passage of the Bill, a number of meetings were held with large retailers who were considering taking advantage of the temporary suspension to ensure that they were aware of the need to treat their employees fairly during the suspension period. A meeting was also held in the run up to the start of the temporary period suspension, with representatives from unions and retail to ensure that shop workers are being treated fairly.

The BIS website contains information on the suspension and guidance for employers and employees.

There are no plans to permanently relax these restrictions. If Government should ever decide to look at a permanent relaxation of these restrictions then a consultation and a full impact assessment would be carried out.


VAT on static caravans

The Petition of residents of Beverley and Holderness Constituency,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that levying VAT on static holiday caravans would cost thousands of jobs in caravan manufacturing, from their suppliers, and in the wider UK holiday industry; and notes that the Petitioners believe that such a levy would lose revenue for the Government.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to reverse its decision to levy VAT on static caravans.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr Graham Stuart, Official Report, 22 May 2012; Vol. 545, c. 1097.]


Petitions in the same terms were presented by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith) [P001095] and [P001028]; the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke) [P001057]; the hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) [P001059]; the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Miss McIntosh) [P001094]; the hon. Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) [P001029]; the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) [P001030]; the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) [P001031]; the hon. Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous) [P001032]; the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson) [P001033]; the hon. Member for South Thanet (Laura Sandys) [P001034]; the hon. Member for Gower (Martin Caton) [P001035]; the hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Mark Garnier) [P001036]; the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) [P001037]; the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale) [P001038]; the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) [P001039]; the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) [P001040]; the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Simon Reevell) [P001041]; the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner) [P001042]; the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr Reid) [P001043]; the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) [P001044]; the hon. Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Sandra Osborne) [P001045]; the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Turner) [P001047]; the hon. Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley) [P001048]; the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr Knight) [P001049]; the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey) [P001050]; the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr Williams) [P001051]; the hon. Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart) [P001052]; [P001053] and [P001054]; the hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd) [P001055]; the hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) [P001056]; the hon. Member for St Ives (Andrew George) [P001058]; the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart) [P001060]; [P001061]; [P001062]; [P001063]; [P001064]; [P001065]; [P001066]; [P001067]; [P001068]; [P001069]; [P001070]; [P001071]; [P001072]; [P001073]; [P001074]; [P001075]; [P001076]; [P001077]; [P001078]; [P001079]; [P001080]; [P001081]; [P001082]; [P001083]; [P001084]; [P001085]; [P001086]; [P001087]; [P001088]; [P001090]; [P001091]; [P001092]; [P001093]; and the hon. Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) [P001089].

Observations from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Treasury:

The Government thank the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart) and all other MPs who submitted petitions on the Government proposal to levy VAT at the standard rate on static caravans.

On Budget day we published a consultation on application of the standard rate of VAT to static caravans, with a view to correcting anomalies in the VAT system. The consultation closed on 18 May.

Having listened to responses to the consultation we propose to tackle the inconsistent treatment of caravans in a different way.

As a pragmatic response, rather than have a single dividing line between a zero rate of VAT on permanent residences and 20% on static holiday caravans, we announced that the Government will introduce VAT on static holiday caravans and large touring caravans at the reduced rate of 5%. Static residential caravans (those that meet the BS3632 standard) will remain zero rated as per the Budget proposal. This pragmatic approach was added to the Finance Bill at Report Stage on 3 July.

Work and Pensions

Housing Benefit (York)

The Petition of residents of York,

Declares that York is facing a housing crisis, with homelessness in York in 2010/11 40% up on the previous year; further declares that the Government’s reforms to Housing Benefits mean that of 6,299 private rented properties previously affordable in the city, 3,700 will be lost, a reduction of almost 50%; declares that this is effectively driving people out of York and away from their jobs, families and friends; and declares that York’s Broad Market Rental Area, which determines the level of Housing Benefit currently available, should be based on the York Unitary Authority area and not on neighbouring towns including, Tadcaster, Selby, and Pocklington, all of which. have lower rents than York, in order to reduce the pressure on people to move away from the city which is their home.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to make changes to the boundary of the York Broad Market Rental Area to include only the York Unitary Authority area.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Hugh Bayley, Official Report, 26 June 2012; Vol. 547, c. 276.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, received 31 August 2012:

The Government believe it is important that people claiming housing benefit should face the same choices about where to live as people not claiming housing benefit. That is why the Local Housing Allowance for people in private rented sector accommodation is set at the 30 percentile of market rents in a given Broad Rental Market Area. This means that around a third of the properties in the area are affordable within Local Housing Allowance rates, but they are not intended to meet rents in all areas.

Broad Rental Market Areas define a geographical area used to determine the LHA rate. It is an area where a person could reasonably be expected to live taking into account access to facilities and services for the purposes of health, education, recreation, personal banking and shopping.

The Government recognise that within any Broad Rental Market Area, some localities will be more affordable to people claiming housing benefit than others. This is because these areas, including the City of York, are highly desirable places to live. But it is not right for the taxpayer to foot the bill for benefit claimants to live in areas that many low income people not claiming benefits could not afford.

When determining a Broad Rental Market Area the Rent Officer takes account of the distance of travel, by public and private transport, to and from these facilities and services. Rent Officers consult with local authorities when they determine and review the boundaries, which do not have to match the boundaries of a local authority and will often fall across more than one local authority area.

We are confident that the area boundaries are compliant with legislation. The Broad Rental Market Area in York was reviewed in January 2009, and amended accordingly to reflect access to facilities in line.

The vast majority of journeys from the outskirts of the Broad Rental Market Area into the centre of York take around an hour or less by bus, and therefore the main facilities, services and employment opportunities should be accessible to most people.

Government have no plans to change the way Broad Rental Market Areas are determined.