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Wednesday 7 April 2010


Petition presented to the House but not read on the Floor

Black Taxis (East Croydon Station)

The Petition of the people of Croydon,

Declares that the arrangements for black taxis at East Croydon station are inadequate such that at times taxis take a long time to leave the NLA junction, inconveniencing passengers and reducing black taxi trade.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to press Croydon Council to secure an improvement in the ease of egress of black taxis from East Croydon station.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. -[Presented by Mr. Andrew Pelling .]


Croydon FC

The Petition of the supporters of Croydon FC,

Declares that there have been talks with Croydon Council for many years about providing security of tenure for Croydon FC at the Arena, South Norwood, as well as talks about the destruction of the playing fields to the south of the Arena as a result of their use as a place to dump spill from the construction of Croydon Tramlink, and that no progress has been made with these talks.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to ask Croydon Council to bring the discussions with Croydon FC to a positive conclusion for both parties and for the South Norwood community.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. -[Presented by Mr. Andrew Pelling .]


Mr Mohammed El Sharkawi

The Petition of the people of Croydon,

Declares that Mohammed El Sharkawi has been imprisoned in Eygpt without trial for 15 years despite sixteen court orders issued supporting his release, and the UN Working Group on Arbitary Detention deeming his incarceration unlawful.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to hold talks with the Egyptian administration to ensure Mr. Mohammed El Sharkawi is at last brought to a fair and just trial.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. -[Presented by Mr. Andrew Pelling .]


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Proposed Expansion (St Peter's School, Croydon)

The Petition of the people of Croydon,

Declares that the proposed expansion of St. Peter's Primary School, South Croydon for a "bulge class" in September 2010 and future expansion to 2FE (2 Form Entry) from 1FE will damage the ethos of the school when other suitable schools are currently undersubscribed and notes the massive disruption that will be caused to children at the school.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to ask Croydon Council to look at alternative arrangements for accommodating increased demand for school places.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. -[Presented by Mr. Andrew Pelling .]



Communities and Local Government

Business Rates

The Petition of persons concerned by the increase in business rates,

Declares that with small businesses and entrepreneurs already struggling to survive in the current economic climate, a rise in business rates will have a severe impact. Notes that business rates set for April 2010 have been subject to a revaluation process based upon inflated rental values in 2008 and further notes that Northern Ireland has deferred business rate changes this year.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons calls upon the Government to stop these damaging business rate increases.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. -[Presented by Mr. David Burrowes , Official Report, 23 March 2010; Vol. 508, c. 9P. ]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government:

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government notes that the five-yearly revaluations for business rates are intended to guarantee that each one pays its fair contribution and no more. This is done by making sure that the share of the national rates bill paid by any one business reflects the changes over time in the value of their property relative to others. Overall, the amount of rates paid by businesses nationally does not increase as a result of five-yearly revaluations.

If demand rises in an area, rental values tend to increase relative to the national average and, if demand falls in an area, rental values tend to decrease relative to the national average. As these rental values form the basis of rateable values, revaluation allows each business to contribute according to the most recent information available.

The high property values in April 2008, upon which the 2010 revaluation was based, does not, thanks to the way business rates are calculated, automatically translate into higher bills. The multiplier has been reduced by 15 per cent.-taking it to its lowest level for 17 years. As
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a result, although some people will see their rates bill fall and others will see them rise, the system is designed to ensure the Government do not collect an extra penny from revaluation.

The postponement of revaluation in Northern Ireland is a devolved decision based on very different local circumstances made by the Northern Ireland Assembly and as such it is a matter for them. Postponing revaluation would hit hard those businesses that most need our help, such as businesses in the Midlands and industry whose relative property value has fallen since the last revaluation and therefore should pay less in rates.

In fact, over a million properties-six out of every 10 business properties-will see their business rate liability fall as a result of this revaluation. For the minority of properties whose bills increase the Government have established a £2 billion transitional relief scheme to limit the impact of these rises. This means that no business property will see its rates rise by more than 11 per cent. as a result of revaluation in 2010-11, with increases capped at no more than 3.5 per cent. for small businesses.

The transitional relief scheme is in addition to the wider support available, like discounted rates bills for small firms and deferred tax payments for others, to help businesses deal with the current economic pressures. In addition, on 24 March, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in the Budget that the Government will increase for one year the level of small business rate relief. This means that eligible ratepayers will pay no rates on properties with rateable values up to £6,000, with a tapered relief of between 100 per cent. and 0 per cent. for properties with rateable values between £6,001 and £12,000. The new levels of relief will be available for 12 months from 1 October 2010 to 30 September 2011.


Mayday Hospital A and E (Croydon)

The Petition of the people of Croydon,

Declares that Accident & Emergency at Mayday University Hospital should be protected and that the hospital's status should not be downgraded.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to encourage the South West London Strategic Health Authority to maintain Mayday's status and A&E unit.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. -[Presented by Mr. Andrew Pelling , Official Report, 29 March 2010; Vol. 508, c. 606.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Health:

As part of the South West London sector review, clinicians are at the heart of the development of plans working with patients and partner organisations to develop a local strategy to deliver Healthcare for London, and any proposals recommended by clinicians will be assessed, tested and refined with key stakeholders. Health services need to change if they are to meet the needs of everyone in Croydon in the future. Mayday Healthcare NHS Trust will continue to provide modern, accessible and appropriate healthcare and changes to services at
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Mayday will only be considered if they support the best quality and safest outcomes for local people. NHS Croydon has kept stakeholders updated and they have been reassured that Mayday Hospital has a strong future in Croydon.

The review is at a very early stage, with no firm proposals having been put forward. It must be emphasised that any changes will be subject to a full and public consultation, which is not expected to begin before autumn 2010.

Although the Department of Health provides strategic leadership to the NHS and social care organisations in England, it is for local NHS organisations to plan, develop and improve services for local people. Therefore, any proposals for improvements to services are matters to be decided locally and it would be therefore wrong for the Secretary of State or Ministers to intervene.


Equitable Life (Tiverton and Honiton)

The Petition of residents of the constituency of Tiverton and Honiton in the Devon region of England regarding the Government's response to the Parliamentary Ombudsman's reports on Equitable Life,

Declares that the petitioners either are or they represent or support members, former members or personal representatives of deceased members of the Equitable Life Assurance Society who have suffered maladministration leading to injustice, as found by the Parliamentary Ombudsman in her report upon Equitable Life, ordered by the House of Commons to be printed on 16 July 2008 and bearing reference number HC 815; and further declares that the petitioners or those whom they represent or support have suffered regulatory failure on the part of the public bodies responsible from the year 1992 onwards, but have not received compensation for the resulting losses and outrage.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to uphold the constitutional standing of the Parliamentary Ombudsman by complying with the findings and recommendations of her Report upon Equitable Life.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. -[Presented by Angela Browning , Official Report, 11 November 2009; Vol. 499, c. 321.]


Petitions in same terms were also presented by the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker) [P000415]; the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) [P000454]; and the hon. Member for Reading, East (Mr. Wilson) [P000629].

Petitions in the same terms were also presented from persons resident in the following constituencies: Woodspring [P000687]; and Chipping Barnet [P000640].

Observations from the Chancellor of the Exchequer:

The Government responded to the Parliamentary Ombudsman's report into the prudential regulation of Equitable Life on 15 January 2009. The Government have the greatest respect for the Office of the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman's important role in the maintenance of standards of public service is unquestioned.

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The Government are permitted, in certain circumstances, to reject the Ombudsman's findings and/or her recommendations for remedy. In this instance, where the Government departed from findings in her report, and her compensation recommendation, it did so only after very careful consideration.

The recent judgment in the judicial review of our response confirmed the legality of the Government's decision to reject the Ombudsman's compensation recommendation. With regard to her findings, the Court found in three instances that the Government had focused too narrowly on the issue of regulatory compliance, and we have accepted those findings.

The Government must act in a way that balances the legitimate interests of the taxpayer with those of policyholders affected by events at Equitable Life. The Ombudsman herself recognised in her report that the public interest is a relevant consideration. What this means is that it is appropriate to consider the impact on the general taxpayer of any payments.

A further issue is that the Ombudsman was only able within her remit to consider the role of the regulator and not the role and responsibility of Equitable Life and other parties. The Government do not believe that
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the taxpayer should fund payments for any losses attributable to other factors, such as market conditions or the actions of Equitable Life itself.

The Government also explained in their response that they do not believe that it is generally appropriate to pay compensation where there is regulatory failure. The responsibility to minimise risks and to prevent problems occurring in a particular financial institution lies, first and foremost, with the people who own and run that institution.

Nevertheless, the Government recognise that some policyholders have been disproportionately affected by the events at Equitable Life. There are strong reasons to act quickly to help those hardest hit. We remain firmly committed to introducing a fair ex gratia payment scheme as soon as possible. The ex gratia payment scheme will be developed based upon consideration of Sir John Chadwick's advice and to take into account other relevant considerations such as the position of the public finances. Our goal is to introduce a scheme that is administratively quicker and simpler to deliver than that envisaged by the Ombudsman.

The Government expect Sir John to submit his final report in May 2010 and have undertaken to provide a response within 14 days of its publication.

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