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Session 2006 - 07
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Supplement to the House of Commons Votes and Proceedings
16 March 2007



8th March 2007

To the House of Commons.

The Petition of residents of Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire and others,

Declares that Higham Ferrers is a fast expanding town and is developing even further as part of the Government's Milton Keynes and South Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy. Yet the last bank in the area is proposed to be closed soon, which will be a significant loss of amenity, especially for the vulnerable, disabled and the elderly.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to investigate the circumstances surrounding the proposed closure of the bank with a view to either:—1. keeping the existing bank open; or 2. providing alternative banking provision.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.



12th March 2007

To the House of Commons.

The Petition of supporters of the Knives or Lives? Campaign, run by Essex FM, the Essex Enquirer and Essex Police in honour of Westley Odger, Tommy Jones, Andrew Griffiths and Kashif Mahmood,

Declares that clearer, more robust sentencing guidelines are needed for violent crime and particularly for those who carry out premeditated acts of violence with blades.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to implement a policy whereby individuals convicted of violent crime, who knowingly carried the weapon to the scene, be awarded harsher sentences to reflect the element of premeditation in carrying the weapon. The Petitioners also beseech this House to advocate the introduction of a mandatory minimum sentence for knife associated crime, including the carrying of a knife without good reason.

And the Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.



13th March 2007

To the House of Commons.

The Petition of constituents from the Isle of Arran opposed to replacement of Trident nuclear weapons,

Declares that the Petitioners being aware of the imminent debate on the future of Britain's nuclear deterrent and the Parliamentary vote on this issue on Wednesday 14th March.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to scrap the Trident nuclear missile system and abandon plans for update or replacement.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.



14th March 2007

To the House of Commons.

The Petition of young PCS members working in the civil service,

Declares that the Petitioners have grave concerns about the discrimination against young workers over pay; and express their wish for the abolition for differentials in the National Minimum Wage.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to raise the rate of the National Minimum Wage for young workers to that for workers aged 22 and over.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


Observations by the Home Secretary on the Petition [16th January] from residents of Werrington, Peterborough and others for a more visible police presence in the Werrington Centre, Peterborough.

    Operational matters such as the day to day deployment of police resources are a matter for the Chief Constable. The Home Office is responsible for allocating funding to police areas as a whole but it is only right that local decisions are made locally. The Police Authority will determine the local policing plan which sets out the priorities for the force area. These are derived partly from national priorities identified by the Government, but also from local priorities which emerge from consultation with the local community. The Chief Officer is responsible for determining staffing requirements and deploying the resources available in accordance with both the local plan and day to day operational demands, in the interests of the local community.

    Government grant and central spending on services for the police will have increased from 6.2 billion in 1997/98 to 11.0 billion in 2007/08, an increase in real terms of over 39%. There are now record numbers of police officers; at the end of September 2006 there were 140,005 police officers in England and Wales. This is 14,236 more than in March 1997.

    In September 2006 Cambridgeshire Constabulary had 1,424 police officers, 122 more than in March 1997; 942 police staff, 335 more than March 1997, and 125 Police Community Support Officers. The Northern Area Basic Command Unit (includes Werrington) had 317 police officers at the end of March 2006. At the end of June 2006 the BCU had 36 PCSOs. Within these allocated resources, it is for the Chief Officer to decide how he is to meet his agreed policing priorities with the resources at his disposal.

    The Government is working with the police and partners at a national and local level ensuring every community in England and Wales has a Neighbourhood Policing Team by April 2008-led by police officers and including Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and Special Constables and, depending on the needs and priorities of the neighbourhood, wardens, neighbourhood managers, housing managers, youth workers and voluntary and community organisations.

    In support of this the Government is committed to continued funding for 16,000 PCSOs in 2007/2008. Neighbourhood Policing Teams will work closely with local communities to tackle those particular issues of concern to that community.

9th March 2007


Observations by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the Petition [30th January] from members of the Women's Institute for a full scale investigation into the practices of the dairy sector and the effects those practices have on dairy farmers.

    The Government notes that the dairy sector is going through a challenging time, particularly at farm level. Farmgate prices are lower than they have been historically. However, the Government does not agree that farmgate prices are being held artificially low. In fact, the Government argues that the Milk Marketing Boards kept milk prices artificially high (a concern that customers of the Milk Marketing Boards expressed at the time). Following the abolition of the Milk Marketing Boards in 1994, average farmgate milk prices have been lower, but based on returns from the market. Prices are for the market to determine - Government should not get involved provided competition law is respected.

    The Government accepts that low farmgate prices have had an impact on profitability of dairy farmers, but notes that the cost of production and efficiency is also important (and not just for dairy farmers, but also throughout the supply chain). It is also true that the dairy sector has seen considerable restructuring, with the number of farms declining. However, this has been a long term trend (and was taking place even during the days of the Milk Marketing Boards). The trend is not confined to the UK or to Europe. It is also worth noting that according to the Milk Development Council's Dairy Supply Chain Margins 2005-06, the rate of farmers leaving the industry has hardly changed in the past five years and is around 6-6.5%.

    The Government does not believe that a full scale investigation into the practices of the dairy sector is necessary or appropriate at this time. The impact of supermarket buyer power is already being looked at as part of the Competition Commission's investigation into the groceries market. In its report setting out its emerging thinking the Competition Commission noted that the number of dairy farmers has declined in recent years indicating significant difficulties in the sector. It also noted that supermarkets are retaining an increasing share of the retail price for milk. The Commission has said that they will look at this further (as well as other primary produce sectors). The Government welcomes this.

    There have been a number of calls for an ombudsman or regulator over the years. The Government supported the finding of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee's inquiry into milk pricing in June 2004, which concluded that there was no compelling evidence for setting up such a body. It is difficult to see how a regulator could determine a fair price other than by reference to a market price. A price regulator would almost certainly be incompatible with EU competition law, or with the common organisation of the market in milk and milk products. Were the Competition Commission to make a recommendation to Government concerning the establishment of a regulator, the Government would consider it carefully.

    The Government believes that it is in supermarkets' and processors' own long term interest to establish fair and sustainable arrangements for dealing with their suppliers. A number of retailers have initiatives to encourage closer working relationships with identified suppliers, some of which attract a price premium. There have also been some positive developments in the contractual arrangements between processors and producers. These relationships which should help develop greater transparency and trust, are to be encouraged (as the Government has done through the Dairy Supply Chain Forum).

    The Government believes that farming is fundamentally important to the wellbeing of the nation. Its influence on society is perhaps the widest of any industry, stretching from food to health, from landscape to animal welfare, from water to waste, from climate change to energy. There are significant challenges facing farming, but they are not to be solved by investigations or emergency measures. Government will work with the industry to develop active programmes that will support the industry develop its potential - as a world class industry, profitable in the marketplace, making a positive contribution to the environment and being rewarded for the sensitive management of the countryside, the wildlife and natural resources that make it so valuable.

    The security of our food supply is clearly of interest to all. The Government believes that food security should not be confused with self-sufficiency. It is about ensuring consumers have access to a stable and adequate supply of food and managing and minimising risks to those supplies. We want our domestic agriculture industry to make an important contribution to the continuity of food supply by improving its ability to produce what the market requires. The UK has long been a net importer of food and the Government believes that an important element in facilitating national and international food security is improved trading relationships based on more open international markets and reductions in trade distorting subsidies.

    Some have speculated on the likelihood of imports of liquid milk. With the farmgate price in the UK one of the lowest in the EU, and the cost and logistical barriers that exist to importing liquid milk this seems unlikely in the current context.

    The Government accepts it is not easy to move from an industry structure where producers are in price competition with processors and processors with retailers to one of more integrated supply chains where retailers work with processors and producers to deliver the product the consumer wants. However this is what is needed if the dairy sector is to have a sustainable future.

9th March 2007

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Revised 16 March 2007