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Post Office Closures (Halifax)

9.11 pm

Mrs. Linda Riordan (Halifax) (Lab/Co-op): I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of the thousands of my constituents who are against the closure of the Holmfield post office in Halifax.

The petition states:


Parking (Halifax)

9.12 pm

Mrs. Linda Riordan (Halifax) (Lab/Co-op): I present a petition on behalf of hundreds of my constituents, headed by Philip Crossley and Kevin Benson, regarding adequate parking in the town centre.

The petition states:

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Post Office Closures (Staffordshire)

9.13 pm

Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab): I wish to present a petition from 1,400 residents of May Bank in my constituency about the closure of their post office. The petition has been collected by a Conservative councillor, Stephen Holland; there is cross-party co-operation on this matter. We are insisting that the Post Office and Postwatch look again at the decision to close the post office.

The petition reads:


Post Office Closures (Essex)

9.15 pm

Mr. David Amess (Southend, West) (Con): Like other hon. Members, I am presenting a petition against the closure of a post office. I have the honour of presenting one that has been signed by more than 1,000 residents of Southend, West. It has been organised by the Chalkwell residents association and the Westborough residents association. Given that the constituency has the greatest concentration of senior citizens in the country, if this post office were to close, it would be devastating for the local community.

The petition states:


21 July 2008 : Column 623

HMRC Workforce Change (Cornwall)

9.16 pm

Andrew George (St. Ives) (LD): I rise to present two petitions, the first of which concerns a matter that shocked the local community in west Cornwall. The community opposes the proposed closure of Penlowarth, the Penzance tax office, as it thinks the closure would be barmy, would lose more money than it would gain, would result in the loss of some of the most experienced, capable employees and would contradict the Government’s claims that they are supporting the economic regeneration of the UK’s poorest region.

The petition states:


Ankylosing Spondylitis

9.17 pm

Andrew George (St. Ives) (LD): I present my second petition on behalf of those who suffer from a relatively rare condition known as ankylosing spondylitis, which is an inflammatory arthritis that causes severe pain in joints, iritis, severe fatigue, inflammation of the digestive system, psoriasis of the skin and other debilitating conditions. A new remedy, called anti-tumour necrosis factor—anti-TNF—has recently become available, but the petitioners are concerned that it is not fully available across the country. I should declare an interest, in that I suffer from this condition.

The petition states:


Post Office Closures (Manchester)

9.19 pm

Mr. John Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): On the final day of the consultation on post office closures in Greater Manchester, I should like to submit a petition signed by more than 1,500 people against the closure of two post offices in my constituency in Ladybarn and
21 July 2008 : Column 624
East Didsbury. Local people are dismayed by the Labour Government’s plans to close 2,500 post offices, particularly those in their local communities, which will damage the viability of local shops and disproportionately impact on the elderly and disabled.

The petition of those concerned about the proposed closure of post offices in south Manchester:


Sentencing (Dangerous Driving)

9.20 pm

Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd) (Lab): My constituents, Mr. and Mrs. Coulton, asked me to present a 7,000-signature petition on Friday 11 July. I called upon them at their home at Dyserth, and it was one of the saddest occasions in my 11 years as a Member of Parliament. The Coultons have lost their only child, Amanda Coulton, at the tender age of 20 years.

The petition states:

This case, and all cases of death by dangerous driving involving illegal levels of alcohol or drugs should automatically be considered for a maximum jail sentence. I hope that the Ministry of Justice and this House will listen to the petitioners.

Following is the full text of the petition:

[The Petition of those concerned about the length of sentences given to people convicted of dangerous driving.

Declares that Amanda Coulton was killed by Daniel Storey. He was charged with causing death by dangerous driving with excess alcohol and under the influence of cocaine, driving with no licence and no insurance. The car he was driving did not belong to him. Mr Storey was sentenced to 8 years in prison after pleading guilty. The petitioners believe that he should have rec ei ved the maximum sentence of 14 years for these crimes.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Home Secretary to review the sentence given in the case of Daniel Storey, and to review sentencing policy in respect of dangerous driving.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. ]


21 July 2008 : Column 625

Brass Bands

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn. —[Mr. Alan Campbell.]

9.21 pm

Jeff Ennis (Barnsley, East and Mexborough) (Lab): I am delighted to have initiated this debate on support for brass bands and I am conscious of the fact that we have rather longer than usual, so I will be happy to take interventions.

The stimulus for tonight’s debate goes back to 12 November 2007 when the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport replied to a question that I had tabled asking how much funding the Arts Council England had provided to opera, ballet and brass bands over the last five years. The Minister wrote to me stating that in the last five years opera had had £155,914,000, ballet had had some £70,302,000, and brass bands had had £140,000.

Using my primitive maths, I have estimated that for every £1 brass bands have had in the last five years from the Arts Council, opera has had over £1,100 and ballet has had more than £500. In addition, last year, the Arts Council for England gave brass bands just six grants totalling just over £20,000. That is out of a total budget of approximately a third of £1 billion a year.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): Like my hon. Friend I represent a former mining area and brass bands are a major part of our culture. No one would suggest that opera and ballet should not receive funding—I love both of them—but would he say that the numbers of people who enjoy brass bands, or are involved with them, would be a thousandth of those who enjoy opera and ballet? I cannot believe that for a moment.

Jeff Ennis: My hon. Friend makes an extremely valid point, on which I shall be building throughout my contribution tonight.

It is important at this point that I give the House some background information on the state of brass bands in the UK and the financial plight that they suffer. Very briefly, there are roughly 600 brass bands across the whole UK with approximately 20,000 players. It costs a brass band approximately £60,000 to provide a full set of instruments. Many community brass bands draw their players, from the ages of eight to 88, from the local community. Most brass bands rehearse at least twice a week and the average fee that a brass band receives for a performance is about £150 to £200. Transport costs can vary between £175 and £750 per performance and many brass bands survive only by charging their players a weekly subscription fee of approximately £5 a week.

Of course, brass bands incur expenses in performing. For example, instruments have a realistic life expectancy of about 15 to 20 years when played in a reasonable-quality band. In top-class bands, that would probably be reduced to five to 10 years. I have already mentioned the cost of £60,000, and band uniforms, which last about 10 years, cost between £7,500 and £10,000 per set. Sheet music costs an average of between £25 and £80 per piece and insurance costs for each brass band run at approximately £1,200 a year. There are other costs, such as rehearsal and storage facilities, and tuition fees.

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