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Volume 700: debated on Monday 6 September 2021


Monday 6 September 2021



Police presence in Kensington

The petition of residents of the constituency of Kensington,

Declares that it is imperative that a physical police presence, that being defined as a police station with a counter, continues to be located within the boundaries of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, North of Holland Park Avenue/Notting Hill Gate; further that such a presence is needed because tackling crime in the area, particularly violent crime, poses significant challenges and the Grenfell community deserve to have a police presence; and further that a guarantee of police presence should be made as soon as reasonably possible and no later than the date set for the closure of Royalty Studios (North Kensington) Police Station.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to take immediate action to ensure that a physical police presence is retained and not withdrawn from Kensington.

And the petitioners remain, etc.

—[Presented by Felicity Buchan, Official Report, 6 July 2021; Vol. 698, c. 856.]


Observations from The Minister for Crime and Policing (Kit Malthouse):

On 4 February 2021, the Government published a total police funding settlement of up to £15.8 billion in 2021-22, an increase of up to £600 million compared with the 2020-21 settlement. From that, the Metropolitan Police Service’s funding will be up to £3.1 billion in 2021-22, an increase of up to £132.4 million on the 2020-21 police funding settlement.

Decisions on how to use funding and resources are an operational matter for the Commissioner and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime who are best placed to make resourcing decisions within their communities based on their local knowledge and experience, including the management of the police estate. In doing so the Government would hope they could canvass and assess the views of the local neighbourhoods concerned.

Housing, Communities and Local Government

Planning applications in Richmond Park

The petition of the residents of the United Kingdom,

Declares that localist planning principles must be applied to the former Stag Brewery planning application, GLA references 4172, 4172a & 4172b and the Homebase, Manor Road planning application, GLA reference 4795; further that weakening the planning decisions made by local authorities at local level risks allowing unsuitable development, including architecturally displeasing development, environmentally damaging development, and development that is not primarily designed to meet the need of the local community; further that the former Stag Brewery planning application cannot be seen in isolation from the Homebase, Manor Road application, the partial closure of Hammersmith Bridge and other relevant issues; further that GLA must institute a holistic approach by assessing the former Stag Brewery application and then reviewing the Homebase, Manor Road application accordingly.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government, and in particular the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government of the United Kingdom, to meet with Sarah Olney, MP for Richmond Park, to discuss the implications of the former Stag Brewery planning application and the Homebase, Manor Road planning application.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Sarah Olney, Official Report, 22 July 2021; Vol. 699, c. 1241.]


Observations from The Minister for Housing (Christopher Pincher):

The Government are committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues and believe planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.

With regard to the former Stag Brewery planning application, GLA references 4172, 4172a & 4172b, a resolution was reached at the GLA’s representation hearing that the planning applications be refused.

In respect of the Homebase, Manor Road planning application, GLA reference 4795, this application was considered against the call-in policy which is set out in the written ministerial statement made on 26 October 2012 by Nick Boles. After carefully considering the issues raised, it was decided that the intervention of Ministers would not be justified, and the application therefore remains for determination by the Mayor of London.

The Government are concerned that all local authorities should administer the planning system with the utmost propriety. However, local authorities act independently of central Government. Ministers, even the Prime Minister, have no remit to intervene in the day-to-day affairs of local authorities, except where specific provision has been made in an Act of Parliament. Local authorities are accountable for their actions to their electorate and must act within their statutory powers. Therefore, I cannot comment on local authorities’—including the GLA—handling of this matter.

Due to the Secretary of State’s quasi-judicial role in the planning system, it would not be appropriate to meet to discuss individual planning applications, particularly in circumstances where they remain undetermined by a local planning authority, or where proposals may be revisited and returned to in the future.


Independent assessment in family courts

Petition of a resident of the United Kingdom

The petitioner Aaliyah Spence, the mother of three children who lives in England,

Declares that two of her children have bradykinin-mediated angioedema. This is a disease where the children appear to have blemishes just like bruises.

Further declares that this was first noticed when she took one of her children for medical attention. Further declares that much like the case of Sabrina Dietsch and Yoan Bombarde in France her children were then taken into care. Notes, however, that whereas in France the children were returned to their parents, in England, it is very difficult to obtain independent assessment that enables the review of her case and therefore her children remain in care. Further declares that, even though the blemishes that were thought to be bruises continued to appear whilst the children are in foster care, the local authority continues to be set on keeping control of the children. Notes that this is not in the long term interests of the children.

The petitioner therefore requests that the House of Commons refers the issue of the lack of independent assessment of expert reports in the family courts to the Justice and Education select committees for review.

And the petitioner remains, etc.[Official Report, 27 May 2021; Vol. 696, c. 5P.]


Observations from The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, QC):

There is already detailed legislation in this area which emphasises the independence of experts and the key role of judicial discretion in determining when and what area(s) of expert evidence should be put before the court.

Section 13 of the Children and Families Act 2014 makes detailed provision in relation to the control of expert evidence, and of assessments in “children proceedings” (which term includes care proceedings). Points of particular relevance to this petition are:

the court controls who is given permission to instruct an expert to provide evidence;

the court may only give that permission if “it is of the opinion that the expert evidence is necessary to enable the court to resolve the proceedings justly”; and

there are a list of factors to which the court must have particular regard, including the impact which giving permission would be likely to have on the welfare of the child, the issues to which the evidence would relate, the questions which the court would require the expert to answer and the cost of the expert evidence.

Section 13 of the Children and Families Act 2014 is underpinned by detailed rules of court practice and procedure set out in the Family Procedure Rules 2010 and the supporting Practice Directions. These rules and practice directions are developed by the Family Procedure Rule Committee, working in close conjunction with Government officials. The Committee is made up of judges and legal and lay practitioners, all of whom are experts in family law.

The Family Procedure Rules 2010 and the supporting practice directions set out a comprehensive framework. New provision in relation to experts was put in place in 2014 to support the coming into force of section 13 of the 2014 Act. Part 25 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010 provides direction regarding the use of experts and assessors in family courts.

Rule 25.3 sets out that the duty of an expert is “to help the court on matters within their expertise”, and that this “overrides any obligation” to the person instructing or paying the expert. Particular duties of an expert are set out in Practice Direction 25B (The Duties of an Expert, the Expert's Report and Arrangements for an Expert to Attend Court). It follows that any person giving expert evidence in family proceedings must be independent and must be in no way obliged to support a given party’s case.

The president of the family division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, established a working group to identify the scale of the problem of medical expert witness shortages in the family courts, to look at the causes and to identify possible solutions; the final report was published in October 2020. The report concluded with recommendations which suggest a number of improvements in relation to payment, court process, treatment of experts, training required and how these changes could be sustained.

Recently, the Family Justice Council co-ordinated an event aimed at medical and allied health professions, family lawyers and judiciary to encourage such experts to offer their services in family justice system.

It is evident, then, that the Government, the Family Justice Council and the Family Procedure Rule Committee continue to consider the role of the experts and independent assessors in the family court.

Sandbach Cemetery

The petition of the residents of the United Kingdom,

Declares that Sandbach cemetery is nearly full so future burials would take place several miles out of town; notes that a local petition calling for an extension to the cemetery land has received over 4,400 signatures.

The petitioners therefore urge the House of Commons to request Cheshire East Council to reconsider their decision not to extend burial provision in Sandbach.

And the petitioners remain etc.—[Presented by Fiona Bruce, Official Report, 14 July 2021; Vol. 699, c. 486 .]


Observations from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, QC):

Burial provision is a matter for local government to determine in the context of local circumstances and priorities, and within the relevant statutory and regulatory framework. It would therefore be inappropriate for central Government to comment on, or seek to intervene in, decisions made by individual local authorities in this regard.

As there has not been consistent evidence to suggest that pressure on burial space is an issue nationally, central Government have not wanted to impose national measures where local initiatives and management can best address local issues.

The Law Commission, as part of its programme of law reform, will be considering the modernising and streamlining the law governing the disposal of human remains, with a view to putting forward a legal framework for the future. Further information on the project can be found at


Proposals for higher taxes on the super-rich

The petition of residents of the United Kingdom,

Declares that proposals to introduce higher taxes on the super-rich as a step to tackling the widespread poverty and inequality that scar our society should be considered; further that the covid-19 pandemic has not only shone a spotlight on the huge inequalities in our society—it has deepened them; notes that in May the Sunday Times rich list revealed that Britain's billionaires have increased their wealth by £106 billion during the pandemic—that's £290 million per day; notes that, in contrast, a record 2.5 million food bank parcels were given to people in crisis in the past year; declares that as we come out of this pandemic, if we are to learn the lessons and build a more equal and more inclusive society, then we need to acknowledge that trickle-down economics is flawed and decades of failing tax policy must be tackled.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to take into account the concerns of the petitioners and review proposals to introduce a wealth tax intended to raise tens of billions from the wealthiest in our society, a windfall tax on corporations that made super-profits during the pandemic and a more progressive income tax system including a new 55% income tax rate on all income over £200,000 per year, a 50% income tax rate for those on over £123,000 and 45% rate for income over £80,000.

And the petitioners remain, etc.

—[Presented by Richard Burgon, Official Report, 21 July 2021; Vol. 699, c. 1100.]


Observations from The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Jesse Norman):

The Government thank the hon. Member for Leeds East (Richard Burgon) for submitting the petition on behalf of his constituents about the tax system.

The Government are aware that the Wealth Tax Commission, which has no connection to the Government, considered the case for a wealth tax in the UK. The Wealth Tax Commission rejected the idea of an annual wealth tax for the UK, and instead proposed a one-off tax. However, it acknowledged that levying even a one-off tax would be a hugely complex undertaking, and that the amount of revenue raised would be highly dependent on the final design of the tax. The Wealth Tax Commission notes that in considering Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax, Stamp Duty and Stamp Duty Land Tax, the Wealth Tax Commission found the UK is among the top G7 countries for wealth taxes as a percentage of total wealth.

The UK system is designed to ensure among other things that the richest in our society pay their fair share on their wealth and assets, with the tax system taxing wealth across many different economic activities, including acquisition, holding, transfer and disposal of assets and income derived from assets.

These tax levers generate substantial revenue, including Inheritance Tax revenues of £6 billion, Capital Cains Tax revenues of £8.7 billion and property transaction taxes of £12.3 billion (Budget 2021 forecasts for 2021-22).

The Government have also taken steps to ensure that the most well-off continue to make a fair contribution, reforming the taxation of dividends, pensions and business disposals to make the tax system fairer and more sustainable. At Budget 2021, the Government also announced it would maintain the Inheritance Tax nil-rate band, the annual exempt amount for Capital Gains Tax, and the pensions Lifetime Allowance at their 2020-21 levels until April 2026.

The Government also believe that it is right that businesses should share in the burden of restoring the public finances to a sustainable footing. That is why the Government announced an increase in the rate of Corporation Tax at Budget. The rate increase will not come into force until April 2023, by which time GDP is forecast to have recovered to its pre-pandemic level. The approach the Government have announced will help to protect the smallest businesses while raising over £45 billion over the next 5 years from a main rate at 25 per cent that is still the most competitive in the G7.

Companies with small profits, that is, those companies with profits of £50,000 or less, will continue to pay 19 per cent. That means that around 70 per cent of actively trading companies will be protected from a rate increase, that is around 1.4 million businesses. That compares to a rate of 21 per cent they were paying when the previous Government was elected in 2010. Companies with profits below £250,000 will pay less than the main rate. That means approximately 90 per cent of actively trading companies will not pay the full rate, around 1.8 million businesses.

Those companies that have made profits during the pandemic have continued to pay Corporation Tax on those profits as normal. Corporation Tax is charged in line with the level of a company’s profits so more profitable companies will have contributed more.

For similar reasons of fairness, the UK Income Tax system consists of three progressive rates of tax, which sit above an internationally high personal allowance. The top 1 per cent of income taxpayers are projected to pay 28 per cent of all Income Tax and the top 5 per cent over 48 per cent of all Income Tax in 2021-22. In April 2021, the Government increased the personal allowance to £12,570. The Government has raised the personal allowance by over 90 per cent since 2010-11, ensuring more of the lowest earners do not pay Income Tax at all.

Whilst raising the highest (Additional, currently 45p) rate of Income Tax may look attractive, HMRC’s report “Exchequer effect of the 50p rate” (March 2012) concluded that, although there is uncertainty around these estimates, the yield from the previous Additional Rate at 50p was much lower than originally forecast. HMRC estimated the 50p rate yielded less than originally forecast (yielding around £1 billion or less), and that the yield could be negative.

The Government keep all aspects of the tax system under review, and any decisions on future changes will be taken as part of the annual Budget process in the context of the wider public finances.

Santander Bath Road branch

The petition of residents of Feltham and Heston,

Declares that the Santander branch on Hounslow Bath Road should not be closed; further that access to in-person banking services is crucial to many residents in the local area; and further that residents feel that they will not have access to a comparable banking service over the phone or online and will struggle financially as a result.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to ask that Santander does not close the Bath Road branch.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Seema Malhotra, Official Report, 14 July 2021; Vol. 699, c. 486.]


Observations from The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Glen):

The Government thank the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra) for submitting the petition on behalf of her constituents regarding the closure of the Santander Bath Road branch.

The Government are sorry to hear of her constituents’ disappointment at the planned closure of the branch. The way consumers interact with their banking is changing. In 2020, 83% of UK adults used contactless payments, 72% used online banking and 54% used mobile banking, according to UK Finance. The Government cannot reverse the changes in the market and in customer behaviour; nor can they determine firms’ commercial strategies in response to those changes. Having the flexibility to respond to changes in the market is what makes the UK’s financial services sector one of the most competitive and productive in the world, and the Government want to protect that.

As with other banking service providers, Santander will need to balance customer interests, market competition, and other commercial factors when considering its strategy. Although the Government can understand the constituents’ dissatisfaction, decisions on opening and closing branches are taken by the management team of each bank on a commercial basis. The Government hope that the hon. Member can appreciate that it would be inappropriate for the Government to intervene in these decisions.

However, the Government firmly believe that the impact of branch closures should be understood, considered, and mitigated where possible so that all customers, wherever they live, continue to have access to over the counter banking services.

As the hon. Member may know, the major high street banks signed up to the Access to Banking Standard in May 2017, which commits them to ensure customers are well informed about branch closures, the bank’s reasons for closure and options for continued access to banking services. I note that in the customer information pack that Santander has published for the Bath Road closure, customers are pointed to the nearby cash machines in the Barclays branch and Maham Superstore, as well as alternative Santander branches in Hounslow (1.3 miles away) and Southall (3.4 miles away).

Alternatively, Santander customers can carry out their everyday banking at the nearby Post Office. The Post Office Banking Framework allows 95% of business and 99% of personal banking customers to carry out their everyday banking at 11,500 post office branches in the UK.

In September 2020, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published guidance setting out its expectation of firms when they are deciding to reduce the number of physical branches or the number of free-to-use ATMs. Firms are expected to carefully consider the impact of a planned closure on their customers’ everyday banking and cash access needs and consider possible alternative access arrangements. This will ensure the implementation of closure decisions is done in a way that treats customers fairly.