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Volume 563: debated on Monday 3 June 2013


Monday 3 June 2013


Business, Innovation and Skills

Closure of Rhyl Crown Post Office

The Petition of those concerned about the proposed closure of Rhyl Crown Post Office,

Declares that Rhyl Crown Post Office should remain within the Crown Network and not become a franchise. The Petitioners believe that the proposal for a franchise will severely damage the provision of services in Rhyl.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Minister of State for Business and Enterprise to protect much-loved public services.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Chris Ruane, Official Report, 21 May 2013; Vol. 563, c. 1200.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, received on 29 May 2013.

The Government note the views of customers who access Post Office services at Rhyl Post Office branch, which is currently directly operated by Post Office Ltd, and is known as a Crown branch.

The Government note that the implementation of the Crown Transformation Programme is an operational matter which is the responsibility of senior management at Post Office Ltd. The Government, as shareholder, do not play any role in decisions relating to individual post office branches. In considering the future provision of Post Office services in Rhyl, it is important to note the wider context of Post Office Ltd’s proposals to franchise 70 Crown post offices and to merge or relocate a small number of other Crown branches.

The Government note that the 2010 Spending Review contained a clear commitment to modernising the post office network and safeguarding its future, and allocated a £1.34 billion funding package to provide for significant investment across the post office network. A condition of this funding package requires Post Office Ltd to continue to maintain a network of at least 11,500 branches, to comply fully with the access criteria, and with no programme of branch closures.

The Government note that the 373 branches of the Crown network have incurred heavy and historic losses, totalling £46 million in 2011-12. Eliminating these Crown losses is a key element of Post Office Ltd’s strategy to provide for the long-term sustainable future of the network, and the Government support the business in delivering that strategy.

The Government note that the current losses incurred by the Crown network contribute to a third of the losses sustained by the network as a whole and this is not sustainable. No business, including the Post Office, can continue with a situation where some of its high street branches cost substantially more to run than they generate in revenues. In the case of the Rhyl Crown branch, it costs £1.61 to generate every £1 of income.

The Government note that within its broader strategy for eliminating these unsustainable losses and achieving break even for the Crown network by 2015, Post Office Ltd has identified a group of branches where it sees no prospect of eliminating the losses at a local level under the current operating and cost structure. The precise reasons will vary from location to location but commonly include factors such as high property costs and sub-optimal location to attract the necessary increase in custom and business to make them profitable.

The Government note that Post Office Ltd has however made clear that, under each franchise proposal, the full range of post office services would continue to be available in close proximity to the existing Crown branch; and, in the event that a suitable new retail partner cannot be found. Post Office Ltd has given a commitment that a post office service will be retained within the area. Furthermore, before any changes are made to the existing service provision in Rhyl, there will be a six-week local public consultation under the terms of a Code of Practice agreed between the Post Office Ltd and Consumer Focus. The public consultation focuses on specific and detailed proposals for relocating the service provision, including such matters as ease of access, and responses are carefully considered by Post Office Ltd before a final decision is reached.


Decision of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service

The Petition of the patients and community of Northallerton,

Declares that the Petitioners are outraged by the decision made by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service to ban Doctor Derek Keilloh from practising medicine; further that Doctor Keilloh is a much admired, respected and caring professional and has served the Community of Northallerton for almost 10 years with dedication, humility and humanity.

As new statutory rules governing the MPTS procedures are expected to be approved by Parliament in 2013, we call into question the MPTS (GMC) policy of being able to erase a Doctor on probability and supposed public interest rather than any clinical failing, and suggest the support this Petition has received shows otherwise. The Petition was originally addressed to the Medical Practitioners Tribunal and achieved 1034 signatures and we trust that this shows enough public opinion to interest the House.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons acknowledge and investigate a sanction which they believe was too harsh.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented on 21 May 2013; Official Report, Vol. 563, c. P5-P6.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Health:

The General Medical Council is an independent statutory body, directly accountable to Parliament. The Department or its Ministers cannot become involved in individual cases. Doctors have a right of appeal to the High Court (Court of Session in Scotland) against any decision by a panel to restrict or remove their registration.

The General Medical Council is seeking to improve and modernise its fitness to practise adjudication processes, to enhance independence of adjudication whilst continuing to protect patients and the public. This includes the establishment of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, to run the CMC’s fitness to practise hearings.

The Department is developing the legislation to formally set up the MPTS in co-production with the GMC. The legislation will make the necessary changes to the Medical Act 1983, through an Order under s60 of the Health Act 1999. This will be debated in both the Commons and the Lords.

Work and Pensions

Bedroom Tax

The Petition of residents of the UK,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that the spare room subsidy or 'bedroom tax' is an unjust and immoral tax on the most vulnerable in society.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to abolish this tax.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Nic Dakin, Official Report, 20 May 2013; Vol. 563, c. 1022.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions:

The Government believe that those on Housing Benefit in the social rented sector should face the same choices about where to live as those living in the private rented sector. That is why we have removed the spare room subsidy in the social rented sector by restricting the amount of Housing Benefit paid to working age social sector tenants who live in a property that is too large for their needs. This is not a tax on bedrooms, but rather a reduction in the level of state support for housing costs for those who under occupy.

The Housing Benefit bill must be brought under control. It has increased by around 50% in real terms over the last decade and in 2012-13 expenditure was estimated at around £24 billion. The Government cannot expect taxpayers to continue to underwrite people’s housing costs regardless of the size of their accommodation. People receiving Housing Benefit who wish to remain in accommodation that is larger than their household requires need to fund part of the cost themselves.

The Government believe that it is neither affordable nor fair that there are approaching 1 million extra rooms being paid for by working age Housing Benefit at a time when almost quarter of a million people are living in overcrowded accommodation and there are approaching 2 million on social housing waiting lists in England alone. Over time the removal of the spare room subsidy will encourage more effective use of social housing stock and a more strategic approach in both the allocation of property and, in the longer term, building programmes, ensuring more appropriately sized accommodation for demand. It is in the interests of both social landlords and tenants to ensure a better match between housing need and the size of accommodation provided.

The Government have already trebled funding for Discretionary Housing Payments and from 2013-14 has added a further £25 million specifically aimed at disabled people under-occupying significantly adapted accommodation in the social rented sector. We believe this to be a more flexible and cost-effective approach which will enable local authorities to provide additional support, such as allowing extra time for vulnerable people to find suitable alternative accommodation as well as providing longer term support for those living in significantly adapted accommodation.

The Government have no plans to change the removal of the spare room subsidy.