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Session 2006 - 07
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Supplement to the House of Commons Votes and Proceedings
22 June 2007



20th June 2007

To the House of Commons.

The Petition of members of the Royal Society of St George,

Declares that there is not significant enough recognition for St George

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to implement the following actions in celebration of St George; that 23rd April be declared an English National holiday; that the Standard of St George be paraded and included at all events that include the armed forces; and that on St George's Day celebrations are encouraged.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


Observations by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the Petition [18th May] from water bill payers and others of like disposition for measures to alleviate water poverty in the South West region.

    Background to water affordability and South West water bills.

    Bills for water and sewerage services are highest in the South West of England. Since privatisation of the water industry, customers have been required to pay for the costs incurred by their water company. Price limits are set by Ofwat, the economic regulator for the water industry. Ofwat's price limits have reflected the need for capital maintenance and improvements to drinking water quality or the water environment. The combined effects of a relatively low population, long distribution network and long coastline has resulted in high water and sewerage bills in the region.

    Action on water affordability.

    The Government acknowledges that there is an issue with water affordability, particularly for those with the lowest incomes, and particularly in areas with high bills and low incomes such as the South West.

    The Government has already taken action, through legislation, where there might be a risk to household health and has legislated to stop household water disconnection because of inability to pay. The Government has also set up protection for vulnerable groups on meters who might otherwise cut back on water that they could not afford.

    In 2004 a cross-Government steering group reviewed the way in which lower income households are helped with their water and sewerage charges. A wide range of stakeholders were involved in discussions with the steering group and the Government published its report on the review in 2005.

    Since then Defra has been working with Ofwat, HM Treasury and water companies and the Consumer Council for Water to take forward the recommendations of that report. This includes measures looking into alternative tariff and charging options and a pilot study providing benefit entitlement checks coupled with water efficiency measures in the South West. In addition Defra and HM Treasury have received delegations of local MPs to discuss this issue, and will be holding a further joint meeting following the findings of the pilot study.

    The Government hopes that this work provides some real positive ways forward, but is not closing the door to new ideas. The new Defra Water Strategy is the first wide scale review of water policy since 2002. It will set out a coherent policy framework to underpin our commitments for water availability and quality. It will outline Government's evolving priorities, and focus water policy through a climate change lens. The aim is to improve standards of service and quality, while balancing environmental impacts, water quality, supply and demand, and social and economic effects. Affordability concerns will be taken into account, particularly for vulnerable groups and those on low incomes. Stakeholders are fully engaged in developing the strategy.

    Defra, Ofwat and HM Treasury are actively engaged and will continue to work on this issue. It is hoped that some of this current work will assist with the particular problems in the South West.

15th June 2007


Observations by the Secretary of State for Transport on the Petition [6th June] from the residents of Kingskerswell, Aller and Edginswell, Devon against the proposed construction of a bypass around Kingskerswell and through the Aller valley.

    It is for the local highway authority to determine priorities for local transport investment and to make bids for funding through the Local Transport Plan process, provided it has been identified by the region as a priority within its Regional Funding Allocation (RFA) for major transport schemes i.e. the regional statement of priorities for transport investment. It is again for the relevant local highway authority, through appropriate consultation and appraisal processes, to identify the preferred route for any scheme it wishes to promote and to ensure that this can be justified against alternative options.

    The proposed Kingkerswell Bypass (sometimes referred to as the A380 South Devon Link Road), which is being jointly promoted by Devon County Council and Torbay Council, has been identified as a priority for funding within the South West's RFA. The scheme is designed to ease congestion on the A380 by construction of a 5km dual carriageway between Penn Inn near Newton Abbot and the Torbay Ring Road at Kerswell Gardens in Torquay.

    Devon and Torbay are expected to submit a formal Major Scheme Business Case for the scheme to the Department for Transport later this year. Before Ministers are in a position to decide whether to grant a scheme initial Government approval, the Business Case will be subject to a full assessment, taking into account our current value for money and appraisal criteria. This criteria provides a robust and transparent framework for judging the performance of alternative options, including the environmental impacts. In addition, the Department also liaises closely with Defra, the Statutory Environmental Bodies and the environmental non-governmental organisations (including Transport 2000 and the CPRE) on any new major scheme proposal.

15th June 2007


Observations by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the Petition [18th May] from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs clients and staff in Cornwall against proposals for the closure of HMRC offices in Cornwall.


    The Government notes that the reviews of the HMRC offices in Cornwall, including those in Penzance, Launceston and Redruth, are planned to begin later this year and continue into next year. When proposals are put forward on the future of these offices they will be the subject of consultation with internal and external stakeholders including local MPs and local authorities.

    HMRC will continue to provide a local face-to-face advice service by retaining Enquiry Centres in all their current localities to minimise the impact on local communities. HMRC's aim is to avoid compulsory redundancies if at all possible.

    15th June 2007


Observations by the Secretary of State for Health on the Petition [19th April] from Plymouth Alzheimer's Society for the continued prescription of Alzheimer's drug treatments to patients who can benefit from them.

    The Government is committed to improving services for people with dementia, including Alzheimer's disease and other such conditions, through the mental health standard of the National Service Framework for Older People. The Department of Health has invested 20million in the new national Dementias and Neurodegenerative Disease Research Network, which will co-ordinate NHS staff and resources to expand the number and range of clinical trials and treatment in this very important area.

    On 22nd November 2006, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) published a clinical guideline on the care and treatment of people with dementia, alongside NICE's technology appraisal on drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer's Disease.

    NICE's technology appraisal updates guidance originally published in 2001 and recommends three drugs - Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl - as an option for use in the treatment of moderate stage Alzheimer's disease only. A further drug, memantine (Ebixa), for moderately severe to severe Alzheimer's disease, is not recommended as an option unless it is being used as part of well designed clinical studies.

    The drug company Eisai and the Alzheimer's Society have sought a judicial review of NICE's recommendations which will be heard between 25th and 28th June.

18th June 2007


Observations by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the Petition [18th May] from Councillor James MacCleary and others of like disposition against the removal of the international moratorium on commercial whaling.

    The UK has been, and remains at the forefront of the fight to ensure that the pro-whaling countries attempts to restart commercial whaling and to remove protection for cetacean's species around the world do not succeed.

    The UK was, again, one of the only countries with ministerial level representation at last month's International Whaling Commission (IWC59) meeting in Anchorage, Alaska. Minister for Biodiversity (Barry Gardiner) attended this meeting during which time the UK resisted any attempts to end the moratorium on commercial whaling and resist threats to weaken or remove the conservation agenda of the IWC.

    We again urged the Japanese Government to abandon their scientific whaling programme which we believe is commercial whaling masquerading as scientific research. The UK made it clear to Japan that we believe their operations to be unnecessary, deeply flawed and of questionable scientific value.

    We believe that whaling involves unacceptable cruelty, and that regulated whale watching is the only truly sustainable use of whales and other cetaceans. All cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) are fully protected in UK and European Union (EU) waters. The Prime Minister emphasised the UK's strong commitment to the issue this year, in a statement read by Barry Gardiner at the annual meeting, he made clear the importance the UK attaches to whale conservation and the need to stop the wide-scale slaughter of these animals.

    This year the UK also secured overwhelming support for its resolution affirming that the moratorium on commercial whaling remains in place and the reasons for the moratorium are still relevant. It also aimed to head off moves to relax international trade in whale products currently being achieved under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

    Despite more countries joining the IWC in favour of Japans pro-whaling position in recent years 37 nations voted for the UK's resolution, with only four voting against and four abstentions.

    The UK has led the Like-minded efforts to recruitment more countries to the IWC with a conservation agenda through our publication 'Protecting Whales-A Global Responsibility' (endorsed by the Prime Minister and Sir David Attenborough). This publication has been sent to 57 countries urging nations to protect these species worldwide and followed up by a joint letter from the Secretary of State and the Foreign Secretary to a dozen EU and Accession States.

    Croatia, Cyprus, Ecuador, Greece and Slovenia joined in time for this years meeting. Peru and Costa Rica regained voting rights, and several more EU states indicating their intention to join in time for next years meeting.

    Defra officials also ensure that Foreign and Commonwealth Office posts in the relevant capitals are briefed, and engage in discussion with their counterparts on whaling at every appropriate opportunity. This ensures that Japan and those countries that support their position are in no doubt of the importance that the UK attaches to whale conservation.

19th June 2007

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