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House of Commons
Session 2005 - 06
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Supplement to the House of Commons Votes and Proceedings
19 May 2006



15th May 2006

To the House of Commons.

The Petition of residents of the City of Sunderland and others,

Declares the Petitioners' serious concerns about the proposals to change the existing team at Encompass Healthcare Practice, Washington and believes any changes would not be conducive to the current success of this innovative and dynamic medical practice.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Secretary of State for Health to urge the Sunderland Teaching Primary Care Trust to recognise the current benefits of allowing the existing team to achieve full independent status and continue to provide primary medical care for the community.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.



16th May 2006

To the House of Commons.

The Petition of the Isitfair Council Tax protest campaign,

Declares that the year-on-year, inflation-busting increases in Council Tax are causing hardship to many and take no account of ability to pay; further that the proposed property revaluation and re-banding exercise will make an already flawed system even worse.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons votes to replace Council Tax with a fair and equitable tax that, without recourse to any supplementary benefit, takes into account ability to pay from disposable income. Such tax to be based on a system that is free from any geographically or politically motivated discrimination, and that clearly identifies the fiscal and managerial responsibilities of all involved parties.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


Observations by the Secretary of State for Education and Skills on the Petition [30th March] from residents of Castle Point and others for universal free provision of lip reading services for deaf people and the hard of hearing.

    The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) has a specific responsibility under the Learning and Skills Act (2000) to help young people and adults with learning difficulties and/or disabilities, which includes those who are deaf or hard of hearing. The LSC recognise the duties they have in this area and take their responsibilities for these learners seriously.

    We have been clear that continuing investment in provision for deaf and hard of hearing learners and more generally for all learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities remains a priority. In 2004/05 the LSC supported more than 641,000 learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities at a cost of nearly £1.5 billion.

    Lip reading courses remain eligible for LSC funding and the LSC have made clear in their strategic planning guidance the priority it attaches to this provision. Around 25% of those undertaking lip reading courses do not have a hearing impairment and so are therefore undertaking the course for a variety of other reasons. Lip-reading courses are also not based on the same national standards which is the case for all other Skills for Life courses.

    Full fee remission continues to be available to learners, and their dependants, receiving a means tested benefit, pensioners receiving the Pension (Guarantee) Credit; and unemployed people on Jobseekers Allowance.

    Those who do not automatically qualify for fee remission may be expected to contribute to the cost of their course but the amount they are expected to pay is currently set at around 27.5% of the basic cost of the cost. While we have announced plans to increase this assumed fee contribution, by 2007/08 fees will still only account for around 37.5% of the basic course cost.

    Providers have the discretion to waive fees where a learner is not automatically eligible for fee remission and may make use of Learner Support Funds (LSF) to provide support. LSF provide additional financial support for learners facing barriers to learning. Providers set their own criteria for allocating these funds taking into account local needs and based on guidance from the LSC. The LSC guidance makes clear that learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities must be given priority to these funds, especially where they are at risk of not taking up on continuing in further education.

    In 2004/05 we know that less than 20% of learners undertaking lip reading courses paid fees, with the rest qualifying for fee remission either as a result of being on means tested benefits or due to the discretion of the provider. Early data suggests the numbers of learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities on lip reading courses in 2005/06 is broadly the same as for 2004/05. However, we are continuing to monitor the position of these learners and officials are meeting with Hearing Concern to discuss issues regarding this provision.

12th May 2006


Observations by the Secretary of State for Transport on the Petition [2nd May] from residents of Humberstone, Leicester for additional safety measures at the junction of Scraptoft Lane and Hungarton Boulevard in Leicester.

    Responsibility for non-trunk roads rests with the local Highways Authority, in this case, Leicester City Council.

    Hungarton Boulevard was completed in 1999 and forms part of the northern section of the Leicester Outer Ring Road. This enables traffic travelling on major routes around Leicester to avoid the city centre; helping reduce city centre congestion. Hungarton Boulevard and Scaptoft Lane are within the largely residential area of Humberstone and Thurncourt, which lie to the north east of Leicester. Both roads carry significant traffic volumes, particularly during peak periods.

    Since the junction was completed there have been a number of accidents in the area, including the death of two pensioners in January 2006. As a result the City Council has already allocated funds of £250,000 for this financial year to alter the existing junction layout. The design work for this is already underway and a Public Consultation on the revised layout is scheduled to take place during June with work on the new junction scheduled to be competed by the end of the year. The City Council has received a similar petition which will go before their Scrutiny Committee in June.

    The City Council broadly support the view of the local residents and is taking the redesign of this junction as a priority issue for this year. In the meantime, speed enforcement measures have already been put in place around the Hungarton Boulevard area through the use of mobile cameras-as an ongoing part of the Leicestershire Police Area Safety Camera Scheme. This enforcement is likely to continue after the changes made to the junction have been completed.

12th May 2006


Observations by the Secretary of State for Health on the Petition [30th March] from UK residents for better support for children's hospices.

    It is clear that the care given by Children's Hospices makes a great difference to many families who have a child with a life limiting or life threatening condition. However, children's hospices are just one part of the mix of palliative care services needed by children and young people.

    It is important to highlight that the palliative care needed by children and young people is very different from that required by adult patients. Palliative care for children and young people is not just about end of life care. It begins immediately following the diagnosis that a child or young person has a life threatening or life-limiting illness. Therefore, the provision of palliative care for children and young people involves a wide range of services provided in a variety of settings (home, school, hospital and hospice). Many children and families aspire to live as normal a life as possible for as long as they are able. A combination of care is therefore required encompassing ongoing general and specialist palliation, specialist respite care, education, social care support-right up to, end of life care and bereavement support.

    The Children's National Service Framework (published September 2004) has set standards for local authorities, Primary Care Trusts and NHS Trusts to ensure that children's palliative care services provide high quality, sensitive support. Standard Eight clearly sets out that it expects palliative care for children and young people to be:

???????????Co-ordinated by a network of agencies including the NHS, children's hospices, the voluntary sector, social care and education;

???????????PCTs, NHS Trusts and local authorities are required to ensure provision takes account of the child or young person's and their family's physical, emotional, cultural and practical needs in a way that promotes choice, independence, creativity and quality of life.

    In our White Paper, Your Health, Your Care, Your Say, we include commitments to:

???????????Improve support to carers by establishing and information service/helpline to ensure short term, home based respite support is available;

???????????Re-affirm the manifesto commitment to double investment in palliative care;

???????????Establish End of Life Care Networks will be established to improve service co-ordination and help identify patients in need; and

???????????Ensure that PCTs develop the right model of service by undertaking a review of capacity.

    Primary Care Trust's working with local authority partners and stakeholders, remain best placed to decide the level and range of palliative care needed by the children and young people in their locality and are able to respond directly to their needs.

    Our manifesto commitment to double funding for end of life care will increase choice about where to receive palliative care for children and young people with life-limiting conditions. I will make an announcement about the manifesto commitment as soon as I can.

16th May 2006


Observations by the Secretary of State for Health on the Petition [15th February] from the Health Service Journal and staff and managers in NHS organisations against any weakening of a comprehensive ban on smoking in enclosed public places.

    On the 27th October we introduced into parliament the Health Bill with provisions to end smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces.

    The measures in this Bill will make smoke-free places the norm and deliver real benefits as part of the Government's commitment to reduce smoking and to cut the number of smoking related deaths.

    Following the introduction of the Bill, we listened to many different views inside and outside Parliament on restricting smoking in public places, especially in relation to pubs and membership clubs. As a result of taking into account peoples views, we put forward revised proposals amending the Bill to a free vote of the House of Commons on 14th February. The Commons agreed by a very large majority to end smoking in virtually all enclosed public places and workplaces.

    This means every pub, club, café, restaurant, shopping centre, council office; hospital, factory and more will be smoke-free from the summer of 2007.

    This will protect millions of workers and consumers, shoppers and travellers from other people's second-hand smoke.

    This Bill is a huge step forward for public health and will help reduce deaths from cancer, heart disease and other smoking related diseases Not only will we be protecting non-smokers but we will also provide smokers with an environment where it is easier to give up.

    By bringing forward the implementation of the ban to 2007, we are ensuring that benefits will reach the public sooner.

    The impact will be monitored from the outset, with a full review completed at the end of three years. I hope the Bill will be recognised as a major step forward in protecting people from second-hand smoke and improving the health of the nation.

17th May 2006

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