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Session 2005 - 06
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Supplement to the House of Commons Votes and Proceedings
14 July 2006

SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

PETITION FROM CITIZENS OF THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND

6th July 2006

To the House of Commons.

The Petition of we the undersigned, citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,

Declares that the proposals for radical educational change in Northern Ireland embodied in the Draft Education (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 should be revoked.

Further declares that there has been no infrastructural audit or costing by Government relevant to the changes that are to be proposed.

Further declares that the inevitable conversion of existing grammar schools into comprehensives would subvert and undermine one of the strongest elements of the Northern Ireland educational system without benefit to the weaker elements.

Further declares that such a change would prejudice Northern Ireland's enviable record (the best in any part of the UK) of enabling children from less privileged backgrounds to progress to university.

Further declares that successive tests of opinion (including Government consultative exercises and media-conducted polls) have shown, consistently, a large majority of respondents supportive of academic selection by means other than the current 11-plus method.

Further declares that the majority of those elected by the people of Northern Ireland both to Parliament and to the Northern Ireland Assembly echo the views of their constituents in supporting grammar schools and the retention of some form of academic selection.

Further declares that it is undeniable that, were the Northern Ireland Assembly to reconvene, legislative proposals on the lines of the Draft Order would not command majority support, let alone the cross-community support required for controversial measures under the Belfast Agreement of 1998.

Further declares that the decision to bring the Draft Order before Parliament rests with a governing party unwilling to seek the franchise of a single voter in Northern Ireland.

Further declares that while efforts to restore the Assembly continue, it would be an extraordinary step to pre-empt that happening by effecting this fundamental change within an area of devolved responsibility.

Further declares that this major and radical legislation, brought before Parliament under Order in Council procedures, could not be amended and was subject to a very limited democratic process.

Further declares that we citizens residing in Northern Ireland wish to be governed with the same respect as citizens residing in Great Britain, and are unable to reconcile the proposals herein referred to with the Prime Minister's recent decision to avoid any confrontation with areas in England choosing to retain their grammar schools.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons revoke the proposals for radical educational change in Northern Ireland embodied in the Draft Education (Northern Ireland) Order 2006.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

PETITION FROM RESIDENTS OF BENFLEET, ESSEX, AND OTHERS

10th July 2006

To the House of Commons.

The Petition of residents of Benfleet, Essex, and others,

Declares that the Petitioners oppose the proposed development of a military style 'assault course' near Rivenhall, and in the Thundersley green belt, which would be up to five metres high and would cause undue and inappropriate alterations to the green belt. In addition, this development would cause extra traffic, noise and loss of privacy and would be detrimental to local residents' enjoyment of their homes.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons call upon the Government to refer the matter to Castle Point Borough Council and urge the Council to reject the application.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

PETITION FROM RESIDENTS OF WILLALLA HOUSE, CANVEY ISLAND, ESSEX

10th July 2006

To the House of Commons.

The Petition of residents of Willalla House, Canvey Island, Essex,

Declares that the failure of Castle Point borough council to appoint a warden to Willalla House is unacceptable given the levy imposed on residents for this purpose and the duty of care owed to the residents by the council. Furthermore, the residents of Amelia Blackwell, Sweet Briar Lodge and Beatrice Littlewood residential homes are further neglected under the current system of rotating wardens of the aforementioned residential homes in order to attend part time to Willalla House.

The Petitioners therefore implore the House of Commons to call upon the Government to do all within their power to ensure that Castle Point borough council provides a permanent, full time warden to Willalla House in the interests of the welfare of the residents.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

PETITION FROM RESIDENTS OF THUNDERSLEY AND BENFLEET

11th July 2006

To the House of Commons.

The Petition of residents of Thundersley and Benfleet,

Declares that the proposal for a further change to the use of the Manor Trading Estate to allow the storage of hazardous asbestos waste would introduce unacceptable risk and increased pressure of use of local roads and is particularly inappropriate in view of the immediate proximity of residential homes and a primary school, the Petitioners further believe there are much more appropriate sites for this activity in the local area.

The Petitioners therefore implore the House of Commons to call upon the Government to do all within its power to ensure that Essex County Council reject the application as requested by the Member of Parliament for Castle Point.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

Observations by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on the Petition [10th January] from R. McQuillan and others in support of the establishment of an independent agency and other measures to ensure that public health laws are enforced.

    Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004 replaces the housing fitness regime set out in the Housing Act 1985. From 6th April 2006, the housing fitness standard has been replaced by a risk assessment procedure—the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS). Local housing authorities will now base enforcement decisions in respect of the condition of residential premises on assessments under HHSRS. The system is designed to enable authorities to address more effectively the hazards to health and safety present in the home.

    HHSRS provides for the assessment of up to twenty nine housing hazards, including factors which were not covered, or were covered inadequately by the housing fitness standard. The hazards that can be assessed include those associated with pollutants such as asbestos, manufactured mineral fibres and carbon monoxide, as well as damp, cold, poor hygiene, unsafe electricity, fire, and structural instability.

    Local authorities can inspect any residential premises to determine whether a hazard to health or safety exists. Authorities have wide powers to act, and in the case of serious hazards they must take the most appropriate action in the circumstances. The courses of action available include the service of an improvement notice requiring the owner or landlord to carry out remedial works; and they can make an order to prohibit the occupation of all or part of a dwelling.

    The Housing Act 2004 puts local housing authorities under a duty to keep housing conditions in their area under review to identify any action that needs to be taken in relation to housing conditions. As well as taking a strategic approach to housing, authorities should follow up complaints. In the case of an official complaint, that is one made by a Justice of the Peace or a parish or community council, they must arrange for an inspection to be carried out. Aside from this, statutory guidance to authorities advises them to carry out inspections to assess hazards in cases where it appears appropriate to do so.

    Sunderland City Council transferred its housing stock to Sunderland Housing Group in March 2001. The housing authority can therefore investigate complaints and take necessary enforcement action in the same way as it can in respect of any other property owner or landlord. The guidance advises that formal action is taken as a last resort, and where possible the authority should discuss problems of stock condition with a landlord, particularly where the landlord has a refurbishment programme to make homes decent under the targets set by the Government for the social housing sector.

6th July 2006


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

Observations by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on the Petition [21st June] from residents of Benfleet, Essex and others against a proposed development of a new domestic dwelling in Benfleet.

    The application to Castle Point Borough Council, reference CPT/337/06/FUL, is in respect of the proposed development of a detached dwelling with parking area on land adjoining 4 Felstead Close, Benfleet, Essex.

    The application was received by Castle Point Borough Council on 17th May 2006 and is currently under consideration. A decision is due by 12th July 2006.

    Parliament has entrusted local authorities with responsibility for development control in their areas. It is for them to decide, with particular regard to the provisions of the County Structure and Local Plans, any relevant views expressed by neighbouring occupiers, local residents and other third parties (although they are not bound to accept those views) and any other relevant material considerations which fairly and reasonably relate to the application concerned, to decide whether or not a proposal should be given planning permission. The Secretary of State intervenes in this responsibility only in the most exceptional circumstances and then only when issues of national or regional importance are involved. To do so more often would undermine the responsibility given to local planning authorities.

    If the application was to be refused, the applicant would have the right to appeal to the Secretary of State and it would therefore not be appropriate for the Secretary of State to comment on proposals that may come before her.

11th July 2006


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

Observations by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the Petition [27th June] from pensioners affected by the freezing of their pensions for fully uprated pensions for all state pensioners.

    UK State Pensions have been payable in certain countries outside the UK since 1929—initially in HM Dominions and then, between 1948 and 1955, in a small number of European countries. In 1955, retirement pensions and widows' benefits became payable worldwide. Upratings were less frequent than now and were only payable abroad where we had reciprocal agreements to allow for uprating.

    Over time, the UK has concluded agreements with a number of countries. Although most provide for payment of upratings, that is not the primary purpose of reciprocal social security agreements. They are intended mainly to provide a measure of co-ordination between social security schemes for people moving between the UK and the other country during their working lives.

    A major consideration in deciding whether to enter into an agreement is the extent to which the advantages to be gained outweigh the cost of negotiating and administering the agreement. Most of the UK's reciprocal social security agreements are over 25 years old. The last to come into force which provided for upratings was in 1992 (with Barbados) and fulfilled a commitment given in the 1970s.

    There are around 990,000 State Pensions being paid to pensioners living overseas. Around 520,000 of these are in frozen rate countries. In 2005/06 the UK will spend an estimated 1.9 billion on State Pensions paid overseas. Around 790 million of this will be paid to those in frozen rate countries.

    Ms Carson along with 12 others (8 Canadians; 4 Australians) has made an application to the European Court of Human Rights alleging discrimination which the Court is currently considering.

    This application follows on from Ms Carson's unsuccessful attempts in the domestic courts to have her State Pension uprated.

    The Government up-rates State Pensions paid to those living abroad where there is a legal requirement to do so or where there is a reciprocal agreement in place.

    We continue to take our obligations under the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights seriously and we are satisfied that we are complying.

11th July 2006


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

Observations by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on the Petition [21st June] from George Henry Hamilton for legislation requiring a former employer to provide an accurate, balanced and fair reference.

    In general, whether employers provide references for ex-employees is an internal company matter, and the Government does not think it would be right to intervene to require them to do so. However, employers who do provide references are under a duty both to the employee and to prospective employers to take reasonable care in doing so. If evidence did come to light about misleading or inaccurate information—not merely unfavourable or critical of someone's performance in a previous job—the prospective employee would have the option of taking legal action in the civil courts against the source of that information. Employees can take action in the employment tribunals if they consider that a reference discriminates against them unlawfully, for instance on grounds of sex.

12th July 2006



 
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Revised 14 July 2006