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14 July 2014 : Column 5P


Monday 14 July 2014

Petition presented to the House but not read on the Floor

Presented Petition

Child Protection Law

The Petition of Monte Arora, a chartered accountant living in London,

Declares that she reported her partner to the police for his drinking in 2006. As a consequence of this she was referred to the local authority children’s services. Over a period of seven years there have been numerous hearings in the family division and her children have been removed from her and put up for adoption. She was unable to get legal aid for the appeal and had to pay around £220,000 to Hughmans Solicitors. Additionally she has had to pay the bridging costs of finance and various medical costs adding up to an additional £200,000. However, the system has refused to return her children to her. It is important to note about this case that according to the court judgments at no stage have the children suffered “significant harm” and that they have been put up for adoption on the basis that they are at the risk of “likely emotional abuse” as a consequence of the mother’s relationship with their father. Their father died in 2013, but the children are still being kept away from their mother. The local authority’s view is that she was dependent upon alcohol. She accepts that she consumed perhaps one or two glasses of wine up to three times a week. She has medical reports from 2013 by Dr Mike McPhillips who stated that he was unaware of any

“current psychiatric reason why she should, not be judged fit to parent her children”;

Sheron Green who stated

“I have no reason to believe that Ms. Arora has misused either Antabuse or alcohol during her appointments with me or outside of the therapy”

and Dr Neil Boast who stated

“I agree with Dr McPhillips that Mr Ball’s (unfortunate early) death improves the prognosis”.

However, the court still refused to accept that she should be reunited with her children. The court has relied upon the opinion of the local authority and its agents which is contrary to Lashin v Russia (Application no. 33117/02) that requires a truly independent assessment for any material decision. The Petitioner believes that the government pressure to increase adoption numbers has destroyed her family. The Petitioner now regrets having asked the system for help as it has destroyed her and her children’s lives.

The Petitioner therefore requests that the House of Commons Justice Select Committee reviews child protection law to ensure that parents get a fair hearing with independent evidence; the House of Commons instructs the Government to stop pressing for ever increasing adoption numbers; and an investigation is started by the Education Select Committee into how public policy should change to fulfil the needs of the large numbers of children wrongly removed from their families.

And the Petitioner remains, etc.—[Presented by John Hemming .]


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Communities and Local Government

Local Planning in Hampshire

The Humble Petition of Michael Morris, Jonathan Glen and Brian Burchfield on behalf of the residents of Hook and Rotherwick,


That the current planning system is preventing our District Council from properly controlling development in our area.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House strengthens the position of District Councils by enabling them to refuse planning permission on the grounds of prematurity, while a local plan is being devised.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.—[Presented by Mr James Arbuthnot , Official Report, 12 May 2014; Vol. 580, c. 544.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, received 11 July 2014:

Through our reforms in the Localism Act and National Planning Policy Framework the Government have ensured that Local Plans set the structure in which decisions on particular applications are taken locally. We have encouraged local authorities to get up-to-date Plans in place as soon as possible as this is the most effective way of managing development within a local area. Local Plans will guard against “speculative” or unwanted development by setting the framework in which decisions on particular proposals are taken (whether that decision is taken locally or by the Planning Inspectorate at appeal).

The Government are supporting authorities with advice through the Planning Advisory Service and the Planning Inspectorate. Some 54% of all local authorities have an adopted Local Plan and 77% have published a Local Plan, but ultimately taking forward a Local Plan is for the local authority concerned.

Before a Plan can be found sound, local authorities have to demonstrate at a public examination how they have complied with the legal duty to cooperate. The independent Inspector examining the Hart Local Plan Core Strategy concluded that the council had not complied with this requirement, and the plan was subsequently withdrawn by the council in September 2013. It is understood that Hart District Council are working on a replacement plan but this is not anticipated for publication until October 2015.

Local authorities must continue to make decisions on planning applications alongside preparing plans to guide future development. In determining planning applications, local authorities must have regard to the existing local plan, national planning policy and any other consideration. The National Planning Policy Framework is clear that plans may gain weight in planning decisions before they are formally adopted. New planning guidance published on 6 March 2014 set out where circumstances may justify the refusal of planning permission on grounds that an application would be premature in relation to the emerging local or neighbourhood plan.

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The National Planning Policy Framework is clear that, even in the absence of an up-to-date Local plan, applications should not be approved if the adverse impacts would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits; or if specific policies in the Framework indicate that development should be restricted. This ensures that important safeguards are respected.

Removal of Trees from Thirsk Market Place

The Petition of residents of Thirsk and Malton,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that Hambleton District Council has not explained in detail how it came to its decision to remove five healthy birch trees from Thirsk Market Place; further that the trees were located in a conservation area; and further that the Petitioners believe that no public consultation was undertaken in relation to the removal of these trees.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to encourage Hambleton District Council to replace the five trees which were removed and further requests that the House urges the Government to call Hambleton District Council to account for its actions.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Miss Anne McIntosh , Official Report, 16 June 2014; Vol. 582, c. 928.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, received 11 July 2014:

Local councils are responsible for managing trees on land under their control.

The Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation) (England) Regulations 2012 exempt local planning authorities from the requirement to give notice before trees in a conservation area are felled by them or on their behalf. The landowner has a duty to replace such trees if they are dead or present an immediate risk of serious harm. Authorities have powers to waive this duty. There is no statutory requirement for authorities to consult the public before felling or replacing trees on land under their control.

In addition, in exercising their planning functions, local planning authorities are required to pay special attention to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of conservation areas.

Local councils are accountable to their electorates and the Secretary of State expects that Hambleton District Council will take note of the views of local people in respect of this matter.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Kidnapped Nigerian School Girls

The Petition of residents of Sedgefield,

Declares that 200 Nigerian school girls have been kidnapped by Boko Haram and further that the Petitioners believe that more could be done internationally to ensure their safe release.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the UK Government to do all in their power to ensure that the 200 kidnapped school girls are released and returned to their families.

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And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Phil Wilson , Official Report, 5 June 2014; Vol. 582, c. 235.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Office, received 10 July 2014:

I understand the concerns expressed by those who have signed this petition. The abduction of over 250 schoolgirls in Chibok was a despicable crime and a cruel attempt to deny young Nigerians the freedom to learn and make their own choices in life. The Prime Minister, the Minister for Africa the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness (Mark Simmonds) and I have condemned this appalling act. I am deeply concerned that despite best efforts 219 of the schoolgirls remain missing. We continue to strive to find them.

To prevent similar abductions in future we must combat Boko Haram. This is why we and the international community are supporting the Nigerian authorities in tackling the scourge of terrorism. Through this, I hope we can start to bring peace and prosperity to northern Nigeria.

The British Government have played a leading role in the international response to the abduction of the Chibok school girls and the threat posed by Boko Haram. We have taken the following action:

On 18 April the Prime Minister and I offered support to our Nigerian counterparts. On 8 May the offer was accepted and a team of UK expert advisers visited Abuja.

On 14 May Minister for Africa Mark Simmonds agreed with President Jonathan our support would comprise a surveillance aircraft and a military team to work with the Nigerian, US and French military experts to analyse information on the girls’ location. The UK also pledged £1 million to the UN’s Safe Schools Initiative.

On 17 May I attended a meeting in Paris, also attended by Nigeria, its neighbours and international partners. This meeting agreed measures to strengthen regional counter-terrorism co-ordination.

On 12 June I hosted a follow up to the Paris meeting, in the margins of the Global Summit on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict. The conclusions included increased levels of co-ordinated border patrols by Nigeria and its neighbours, continued work to place sanctions on Boko Haram and Ansaru and continued close co-operation to look for the abducted girls. The full conclusions are at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/foreign-secretary-announces-uk-support-following-ministerial-on-boko-haram.

The UK also announced a new package of support agreed with the US and France which included expanded military training and direct tactical assistance to the Nigerian Armed Forces and further assistance for regional security and intelligence co-operation; and

In the wake of the abductions the UK Mission at the UN in New York worked closely with international partners to have Boko Haram placed on the UN al-Qaeda sanctions list. This sent a powerful message of intent from the international community.

I do hope that this reply demonstrates the sincere efforts being made by members of the international community to respond to the abductions and to combat Boko Haram. Please be assured that the UK will remain committed to continuing this important work.