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22 July 2008 : Column 23P

Petitions

Tuesday 22 July 2008

Presented Petititions

Petition s presented to the House but not read on the Floor

Hospital Closures (Cornwall)

The Petition of the People of West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly

Declares that our support for the cross-party (and non-party political) campaign to:

oppose any plans to reduce or close hospital services at St Michael’s or Penzance; express our dismay that NHS money is being used to build up and support private hospitals while the Trust is contemplating the closure of the excellent St Michael’s Hospital; object to the waste of money on administrative gimmicks rather than frontline public services; demand an Independent Review of hospital services and for fair funding; support an increase in emergency as well as acute and diagnostic services in the West of Cornwall.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Health to ensure the maintenance of hospital services at St Michael’s or Penzance, two of west Cornwall’s most crucial public services.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. —[Presented by Andrew George .]

[P000250]

Post Office Closures (Buckinghamshire)

The Petition of those concerned about the proposed closure of Hazelmere Post Office,

Declares the importance of this Post Office to the local community

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to instruct Post Office Ltd. to keep Hazelmere Post Office open.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. —[Presented by Mrs. Cheryl Gillan .]

[P000262]

The Petition of those concerned about the proposed closure of Waterside Post Office,

Declares the importance of this Post Office to the local community.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to instruct Post Office Ltd. to keep Waterside Post Office open.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. —[Presented by Mrs. Cheryl Gillan .]

[P000263]


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The Petition of those concerned about the proposed closure of Botley Stores Post Office,

Declares the importance of this Post Office to the local community

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to instruct Post Office Ltd. to keep Botley Stores Post Office open

And the Petitioners remain, etc. —[Presented by Mrs. Cheryl Gillan .]

[P000264]

The Petition of those concerned about the proposed closure of Chalfont Common Post Office,

Declares the importance of this Post Office to the local community

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to instruct Post Office Ltd. to keep Chalfont Common Post Office open.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. —[Presented by Mrs. Cheryl Gillan .]

[P000265]

The Petition of those concerned about the proposed closure of Old Amersham Post Office,

Declares the importance of this Post Office to the local community.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to instruct Post Office Ltd. to keep Old Amersham Post Office open

And the Petitioners remain, etc. —[Presented by Mrs. Cheryl Gillan .]

[P000261]

Post Office Closures (Merseyside)

The Petition of Birkenhead consitituents opposed to Post Office closure,

Declares that Holt Hill Post Office should remain open.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Business and Enterprise to keep Holt Hill Post Office open, as losing a local Post Office will be a detrimental loss when no other alternative is presented.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. —[Presented by Mr. Frank Field .]

[P000266]

Queen Elizabeth Resource Centre (Dartford)

The Petition of the Bridge Court Action Group at the Queen Elizabeth Foundation Resource Centre in Dartford

Declares that the Queen Elizabeth Resource Centre in Dartford gives disabled people a chance to develop their skills for IT, Health and Fitness, Sports, Sign Language plus other skills, to aid disabled people get back to independent living.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Secretary of State for Health to support the Bridge Court Action Group in its efforts to keep the resource centre open.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. —[Presented by Dr. Howard Stoate .]

[P000260]


22 July 2008 : Column 25P

Driving Test Centre (Spalding)

The Petition of the people of South Holland and the Deepings and others,

Declares that due to the closure of Spalding Driving test Centre the cost of learning to drive will increase for the residents of South Holland, as they will be forced to travel to Peterborough. This will further increase the CO2 emissions and the carbon footprint as a result of the extra miles travelled.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Secretary of State for Transport to reverse the closure of Spalding Driving Test Centre.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. —[Presented by Mr. John Hayes .][P000259]

Observations

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

Post Office Closures (Oxfordshire)

The Petition of the residents of Neithrop,

Declares that the Petitioners are extremely concerned about the threat to close Orchard Way sub-Post Office.

Further declares that this Post Office is at the heart of this community. It offers a vital service to some of the most vulnerable people, including those on low wages, unemployed and the elderly.

Further declares that the Government has persistently undermined our Post Office network over a number of years. Ministers have prevented the Post Office competing in the market by penalising them and instead playing to the High Street bank network, by seeking to withdraw the Post Office Card Account, and by preventing Post Offices selling TV Licences and other products to keep them competitive.

Further declares that the Federation of Small Business has said that small business will also be adversely affected by Post Office closures and that the Federation of Sub-Post Masters and Mistresses, which presented the largest ever petition in support of Post Offices, has said the closures will devastate communities.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to stop action which will lead to the immediate closures of Post Offices and urgently review funding for Post Offices and the services offered by them to enable Post Offices to continue to serve as a cornerstone of the community for individuals, business and the most vulnerable in society.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. —[Presented by Tony Baldry , Official Report, 4 March 2008; Vol. 472, c. 1716 .] [P000128]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform:

The Government fully recognises the important social and economic role of post offices, particularly in rural and deprived urban communities. That is why it is determined to maintain a national post office network, allowing people to have reasonable access across the whole country, and why it has put in place a new policy
22 July 2008 : Column 26P
and financial framework to achieve this. The Government has been investing substantial sums in the post office network, totalling £2 billion since 1999. That has, for example, paid for a computer link-up for every post office, as well as support for non-commercial branches since 2003.

In its response to the consultation on the Post Office network, the Government announced, in May 2007, confirmation of its decision to extend funding of up to £1.7 billion to 2011, including provision of a £150 million Social Network Payment to support the post office network up to this time. The Government strategy includes provision for 2,500 compensated closures and 500 new Outreach services.

The 500 new and innovative Outreach locations, operated in partnership with other local services (such as pubs, village halls, churches and mobile post offices), will mitigate closures, primarily in smaller and more remote communities. Post Office Limited (POL) announced on 9 April that it will extend Outreach trials into urban areas which, if successful, could mean additional Outreach branches over and above the 500 originally planned. Nevertheless, there will need to be up to 2,500 compensated post office closures within the defined access criteria.

POL is responsible for implementing the network change programme at a local level. It is developing a rolling programme of some 50 local consultations on detailed area plans, based on groups of Parliamentary constituencies. The first area plans went out to local consultation on 2 October last year, and these plans will continue to be rolled out at regular intervals until August, with the whole programme scheduled to take around 15 months to complete. As you may be aware, the consultation period for Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire finished on 17 March and POL have decided to close the Orchard Way Post Office Branch. Details of the closures and any further reviews will be available on the POL website at: www.postoffice.co.uk/networkchange

POL develops its proposals with the participation of sub-postmasters, local authorities and the consumer watchdog, Postwatch. It takes into account the numeric access criteria set out by Government, as well as local factors affecting ease of access (such as local geography), when drawing up its implementation plans. POL is also required to consider the availability of public transport and alternative access to key post office services, local demographics and the impact on the local economy. Local consultations provide the opportunity to raise any specific concerns over particular proposals.

The Government does not have a role in proposals or decisions for individual post offices. No decisions on individual Post Offices are taken until after local consultations. Those decisions are made by POL, in light of the responses to the consultation, while subject to a four-stage appeals process involving Postwatch. After the public consultation process, the review process will apply if Postwatch shows that;

The aim of the further review process is for POL and Postwatch to reach an agreed way forward by bilateral review, with 3 stages available at increasing levels of seniority. An addition to the review process last November
22 July 2008 : Column 27P
provides for very difficult cases which remain unresolved after stage 3. At this final stage, the Chairman of the Royal Mail Group will review the issues and reach a final decision.

The Petition of residents of Grimsbury,

Declares that the Petitioners are extremely concerned about the threat to close Grimsbury sub-Post Office.

Further declares that this Post Office is at the heart of this community. It offers a vital service to some of the most vulnerable people, including those on low wages, unemployed and the elderly.

Further declares that the Government has persistently undermined our Post Office network over a number of years. Ministers have prevented the Post Office competing in the market by penalising them and instead playing to the High Street bank network, by seeking to withdraw the Post Office Card Account, and by preventing Post Offices selling TV Licences and other products to keep them competitive.

Further declares that the Federation of Small Business has said that small business will also be adversely affected by Post Office closures and that the Federation of Sub-Post Masters and Mistresses, which presented the largest ever petition in support of Post Offices, has said the closures will devastate communities.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to stop action which will lead to the immediate closures of Post Offices and urgently review funding for Post Offices and the services offered by them to enable Post Offices to continue to serve as a cornerstone of the community for individuals, business and the most vulnerable in society.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. —[Presented by Tony Baldry , Official Report, 3 March 2008; Vol. 472, c. 1562.] [P000129]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform:

The Government fully recognises the important social and economic role of post offices, particularly in rural and deprived urban communities. That is why it is determined to maintain a national post office network, allowing people to have reasonable access across the whole country, and why it has put in place a new policy and financial framework to achieve this. The Government has been investing substantial sums in the post office network, totalling £2 billion since 1999. That has, for example, paid for a computer link-up for every post office, as well as support for non-commercial branches since 2003.

In its response to the consultation on the Post Office network, the Government announced, in May 2007, confirmation of its decision to extend funding of up to £1.7 billion to 2011, including provision of a £150 million Social Network Payment to support the post office network up to this time. The Government strategy includes provision for 2,500 compensated closures and 500 new Outreach services.


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