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Session 2006 - 07
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Supplement to the House of Commons Votes and Proceedings
25 May 2007

SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

PETITION FROM COUNCILLOR ANN DE VECCHI AND OTHERS OF LIKE DISPOSITION

18th May 2007

To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.

The Humble Petition of Councillor Ann de Vecchi and others of like disposition,

Sheweth

That there is significant local concern that since 1995 retail prices for milk have stayed static while farmgate prices have dropped by a third, that the number of dairy holdings in the country has halved and that this has caused significant economic hardship for many dairy farmers in East Sussex.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House shall urge the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to introduce a tough, legally binding supermarket code effective for the whole food chain from farm to fork to ensure all supermarkets do not exploit suppliers, farmers or consumers and establish a Food Trade lnspector with powers to investigate proactively any abuse of market power.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

PETITION FROM COUNCILLOR ANN DE VECCHI AND OTHERS OF LIKE DISPOSITION

18th May 2007

To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.

The Humble Petition of Councillor Ann de Vecchi and others of like disposition,

Sheweth

That there is strong local support among local residents and businesses for the restoration of the Lewes-Uckfield railway line which was closed in 1969. That the line would provide a much-needed transport service in East Sussex and Kent, stimulate the local economy and benefit the environment by relieving road congestion.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House shall urge the Department of Transport to consider the immediate reinstatement of the double track railway line between Lewes and Uckfield.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

PETITION FROM COUNCILLOR IAN NIMMO-SMITH AND OTHERS OF LIKE DISPOSITION

18th May 2007

To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.

The Humble Petition of Councillor Ian Nimmo-Smith and others of like disposition,

Sheweth

That there is significant concern that the proposed changes to the Highway Code will force cyclists to use sometimes inadequate cycle facilities and that the proposal to require cyclists to ride on the left-hand lane on roundabouts will place cyclists in greater danger.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House shall urge the Department of Transport to reconsider the proposed revisions to the Highway Code so that cyclists are not required to use cycle facilities 'wherever possible'.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

PETITION FROM COUNCILLOR JAMES MACCLEARY AND OTHERS OF LIKE DISPOSITION

18th May 2007

To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.

The Humble Petition of Councillor James MacCleary and others of like disposition,

Sheweth

That there is significant local concern about the noise to residents from the A27 Lewes Bypass which, for those houses nearest the road, often passes the recognised limit of 68 decibels which triggers eligibility for compensation payments in new road schemes.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House shall urge the Department for Transport to ensure that sufficient funding is made available in 2008/9 to ensure that the Lewes Bypass can be resurfaced in line with the designs resulting from technical surveys due to be carried out this financial year.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

PETITION FROM COUNCILLOR JAMES MACCLEARY AND OTHERS OF LIKE DISPOSITION

18th May 2007

To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.

The Humble Petition of Councillor James MacCleary and others of like disposition,

Sheweth

That there is significant local concern that the government has failed to ban the practice of fingerprinting children in schools, that an average of 20 educational establishments in each Local Education Authority are fingerprinting pupils, that less than one-quarter of local education authorities have banned collecting fingerprints in schools and that, although encouraged to seek consent before taking biometric data, schools currently are not obliged to seek parents' permission before taking children's fingerprints.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House shall urge the Department for Education and Skills to legislate in order that parental consent is required in advance of any fingerprinting of children in schools.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

PETITION FROM COUNCILLOR JAMES MACCLEARY AND OTHERS OF LIKE DISPOSITION

18th May 2007

To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.

The Humble Petition of Councillor James MacCleary and others of like disposition,

Sheweth

That there is significant strength of feeling that the British Government should oppose attempts by the Japanese Government to gain a simple majority on the International Whaling Committee and that there is widespread concern that a majority would be used to pass measures that would compromise the conservation of whales, and potentially lead to the overturning of the international moratorium on commercial whaling.

That there is significant concern that, since the early 1990s, Japan has worked to gain control of the International Whaling Commission by offering aid packages to countries including Cambodia, the Ivory Coast, Gabon, the Republic of Guinea, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, Mongolia, the Kingdom of Morocco, the Republic of Nicaragua, Antigua & Barbuda, Benin, the Republic of Cameroon, the Commonwealth of Dominica, the Republic of Gambia, Grenada, Guatemala, the Republic of Kiribati, the Republic of Nauru, the Federation of St Christopher & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, the Republic of Senegal, the Republic of Surinam, and Tuvalu.

That the annotated agenda for this months meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Anchorage, Alaska, shows that Japan intends to use a simple majority on the commission to adopt secret voting, use the International Whaling Committee's powers to take action against Greenpeace for documenting Japan's whaling within the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, adopt a resolution indicating support for scientific whaling, and "normalise the International Whaling Committee". That there is considerable concern that secret voting will mean that it will no longer be possible to expose vote buying and that normalising the Committee appears to be an attempt to pave the way for a full and complete removal of the international moratorium on commercial whaling.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House shall urge the Foreign Office and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to make representations to The Japanese Government, and all of her client states on the International Whaling Committee, to refrain from removing the international moratorium on commercial whaling.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

PETITION FROM COUNCILLOR JON FREEMAN AND OTHERS OF LIKE DISPOSITION

18th May 2007

To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.

The Humble Petition of Councillor Jon Freeman and others of like disposition,

Sheweth

That there is significant local concern about the uncertain future of the Drill Hall on Broad Street, Seaford, which has been used for a variety of functions since it was built, including providing a vital meeting point for a wide variety of local community groups. That there is concern that the building is falling into disrepair due to a lack of funding from the Ministry of Defence and is now listed on the 'Buildings at Risk' register compiled by Lewes District Council.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House shall urge the Ministry of Defence to clarify their position with regards the future of the Seaford Drill Hall and to consider selling the building for local community use.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

PETITION FROM COUNCILLOR WILLIAM POWELL AND OTHERS OF LIKE DISPOSITION

18th May 2007

To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.

The Humble Petition of Councillor William Powell and others of like disposition,

Sheweth

That there is significant local concern that since the awarding of the 2012 Olympics to London, National Lottery funding has been largely redirected to related projects, that this will starve important organisations and community groups of much-needed core funding and that this threatens the very survival of much-loved grass-root community events, such as the Talgarth Festival of the Black Mountains, and similar cultural events in Wales and throughout the United Kingdom.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House shall urge the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to identify alternate sources of funding for the 2012 Olympics, so as to prevent the National Lottery from being bled exclusively for that purpose, rather than supporting the full range of good causes, equitably distributed throughout the United Kingdom.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

PETITION FROM COUNCILLOR WILLIAM POWELL AND OTHERS OF LIKE DISPOSITION

18th May 2007

To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.

The Humble Petition of Councillor William Powell and others of like disposition,

Sheweth

That there is unanimous support among local residents to keep open the community hospitals in Knighton, Builth Wells and Bronllys. That these hospitals provide excellent local healthcare for the very young to the very old and provide facilities for visiting specialists to deliver outpatient treatments and consultations. That the hospitals work well with the local general practitioners to provide an integrated healthcare service. That excellent care is provided for people suffering such illnesses as strokes at these locations which are accessible to the general public, and that local people look towards developing and expanding these centres or excellence, rather than their closure.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House shall urge the Wales Office to work with the Welsh Assembly to ensure that the community hospitals at Knighton, Builth Wells and Bronllys continue to provide a responsive and comprehensive health service for the people in their communities.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

PETITION FROM HER MAJESTY'S REVENUE AND CUSTOMS CLIENTS AND STAFF IN CORNWALL

18th May 2007

To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.

The Humble Petition of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs clients and staff in Cornwall,

Sheweth

That there is a significant local concern about Government consideration of plans to close Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs offices in Penzance, Launceston and Redruth; that the closure of these offices would lead to significant redundancies in the local area and would undermine current efforts to regenerate the region and that the loss of services provided by these centres would have a significant negative impact on local people seeking advice on financial and tax related issues.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House shall urge HM Treasury to consult fully with local communities on the impact that proposed closures of local HMRC offices will have on the county before any final decisions on restructuring are taking.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

PETITION FROM RESIDENTS, EMPLOYEES IN AND VISITORS TO THE LONDON BOROUGH OF SOUTHWARK

18th May 2007

To the House of Commons.

The Petition of residents, employees in and visitors to the London Borough of Southwark,

Declares the Petitioners' serious concerns about the decision of the Post Office to review the future of the Borough High Street Crown Post Office at 239, Borough High Street, London, SE1.

The Petitioners declare the importance of this Crown Office to thousands of people living, working in and visiting the Borough and surrounding areas, including the more elderly and disabled; recalls the successful opposition to earlier proposals to close this office; and reminds Members of Parliament of the number of closures of local sub-post offices in the London Borough of Southwark over recent years.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons makes clear to the Post Office the importance of this office continuing as a Crown Post Office and the benefit of withdrawing as soon as possible any proposals which put at risk any of the existing services provided from this office.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

PETITION FROM RESIDENTS OF THE LONDON BOROUGHS OF SOUTHWARK, LAMBETH, CROYDON, LEWISHAM AND OTHERS

18th May 2007

To the House of Commons.

The Petition of residents of the London Boroughs of Southwark, Lambeth, Croydon, Lewisham and others,

Declares that declares the Petitioners' serious concerns about the decision to close the 24 hour emergency mental health clinic at the Maudsley Hospital, Denmark Hill in Camberwell.

The Petitioners further declare their anxiety that new replacement facilities at King's College Hospital will not be ready for a further 18 months and that even then they may not constitute an adequate replacement.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Secretary of State for Health to postpone the closure of the 24 hour emergency mental health clinic until the incoming Prime Minister and health ministers have an opportunity to review the situation.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

PETITION FROM RESIDENTS OF THE LONDON BOROUGH OF SUTTON AND OTHERS OF LIKE DISPOSITION

18th May 2007

To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.

The Humble Petition of residents of the London Borough of Sutton and others of like disposition,

Sheweth

That there is strong local support among local residents for the continuation of a Hospital at St Helier. That the full range of healthcare facilities currently available within the London Borough of Sutton are crucial to serving the health needs of the local population and that such facilities must continue to be provided within the borough if these needs are to continue to be adequately met.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House shall urge the Secretary of State for Health to guarantee that the full range of existing healthcare services used by people in Sutton will continue to be provided within the Borough and that St Helier Hospital is able to continue to offer the full range of services available for Accident and Emergency.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

PETITION FROM WATER BILL PAYERS AND OTHERS OF LIKE DISPOSITION

18th May 2007

To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.

The Humble Petition of water bill payers and others of like disposition,

Sheweth

That there is significant local concern about high water bills in the South-West region which are higher than anywhere else in the country, that the average un-metered water bill in the South West is projected to reach 675 per annum by 2009 and that many pensioners in the region are already being forced to spend around 10% of their income on water bills.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House shall urge the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and HM Treasury to work with OFWAT and make the necessary regulatory reforms to alleviate water poverty in the region.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

PETITION FROM USERS OF POST OFFICES IN WEST BERKSHIRE

21st May 2007

To the House of Commons.

The Petition of users of Post Offices in West Berkshire,

Declares that the future of Post Offices in West Berkshire is under threat through proposals announced by the Government to close around 2,500 post offices across the Country.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons make the Government aware of the strong support for the remaining post offices.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

PETITION FROM RESIDENTS OF NORTH WEST LEICESTERSHIRE AND SURROUNDING AREAS

22nd May 2007

To the House of Commons.

The Petition of 3121 residents of North West Leicestershire and surrounding areas,

Declares that the hospice movement deserves the wide-spread admiration, endorsement and devoted support it receives for its work with people who face the end of their lives and for meeting the needs of their families and friends, ensuring that those in their care are accorded respect, privacy and dignity and are valued and responded to with empathy.

Further declares that following the closure in 2002 of the Sue Ryder Hospice at Staunton Harold, the local area has waited too long for a successor facility to provide day, respite and terminal care and that patients in North West Leicestershire with a palliative illness are being denied choices because of the lack of access to their own hospice and associated support centre.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Secretary of State for Health to ensure that the NHS through the Leicestershire County and Rutland Primary Care Trust and the East Midlands Strategic Health Authority respond and act to meet the growing and pressing needs of many patients and their loved ones for a hospice in our area.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

PETITION FROM RESIDENTS OF ORCHARD PARK HOUSING ESTATE, KINGSTON UPON HULL

23rd May 2007

To the House of Commons.

The Petition of residents of Orchard Park Housing Estate, Kingston upon Hull,

Declares that the Orchard Park Shopping Centre is in need of redevelopment.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to ensure that a redevelopment or refurbishment of the Centre takes place.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

PETITION FROM THE INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR ANIMAL WELFARE

23rd May 2007

To the House of Commons.

The Petition of the International Fund for Animal Welfare and concerned members of the public,

Declares that the commercial seal hunt in Canada is unacceptably cruel and notes that all veterinary reports document this. The Petitioners are concerned that over 1 million seals were killed in Canada alone between 2003 and 2005; and are further concerned that the UK provides a market for unnecessary seal products.

The Petitioners therefore request the House of Commons pass legislation to ban the trade in all harp and hooded seal products in the UK as a matter of urgency.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

Observations by the Secretary of State for Health on the Petition [1st May] from Eddie Stacey, residents of Canvey Island, Benfleet and others for full public consultation on proposals for the reorganisation of health care on Canvey Island.

    The issues raised in the Petition are local matters for South East Essex PCT and my Department will bring these to the attention of the Strategic Health Authority, NHS East of England.

    The SHA has advised that the former Castle Point and Rochford PCT formally consulted with the patients and public of Canvey Island and wider area of Castle Point during the period 9th May to 1st August 2005. The consultation was entitled "Two Primary Care Centres for Canvey Island".

    The SHA has further advised that in excess of 20,000 copies of the consultation document were distributed during the consultation period, including a copy posted through every door of every home and business on Canvey Island. The formal consultation was preceded by two years of informal consultation with the residents of Canvey Island.

    TheBoard of the then Castle Point and Rochford PCT considered the formal report of the consultation and its findings at its September 2005 Board meeting. The report was also submitted to the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee of Essex County Council, who approved the consultation as having demonstrated effective and meaningful consultation with the public and patients of Canvey Island.

17th May 2007


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

Observations by the Secretary of State for Transport on the Petition [30th April] from Lisa Gilliham, Benfleet commuters and others for the installation of security measures at Benfleet rail station.

    Benfleet Station has an annual average footfall approaching 2,500,000 passengers and is a popular station for commuters, with links to London Fenchurch Street, Shoeburyness, a mainline link to Canvey Island and a main bus interchange. c2c Rail Limited, owned by National Express, is the Station Facility Owner and as such is responsible for station facilities, including cycle parking within the station boundary. The majority of cyclists come from Canvey Island and the cycle ride takes less than 5 minutes along fairly flat terrain.

    There are three designated cycle parking areas within the station boundary providing 52 cycle parking spaces. Essex County Council provide a further 96 spaces on land at the bottom of the car park. None of these areas are covered by CCTV. One of the c2c areas and the County Council area are secluded and well away from the station ticket office. These areas are usually only 75% full per day, giving a total utilisation for the four areas of 40%.

    Although 60% of spaces provided are not used, some cyclists prefer to chain their cycles to the barrier/fence along Ferry Road, adjacent to spaces provided by the station. Over thirty bikes each weekday are chained to the barrier/fence. There are ample spaces in the designated areas for these bikes and it is likely that their owners think their cycles are less likely to be vandalised or stolen if they chain them in a very public place. Quick access to them or parking nearer the platforms may be another attraction. Reported thefts have remained steady at three thefts per year from c2c designated areas whilst one theft per week is being reported from the County Council area.

    The council and c2c are aware of the security situation of cycle parking at Benfleet Station. Installation of a CCTV camera covering the cycle facilities located adjacent to the London bound platform is due to be completed by 17th May 2007.

    The Local Transport Plan (LTP) provides a 10k investment in 2007-8 specifically for crime and fear of crime related issues, some or all of which could be used in the provision of CCTV at Benfleet Station. There is a further allocation of 15k-20k LTP funding for 2007-8 at Benfleet Station. No fixed plans have been developed at present.

    DfT does not have direct influence over how councils spend their LTP funding with regard to their investment programmes, although we do encourage councils to develop a local cycle strategy which could include adequate, secure cycle parking at transport interchanges. DfT Cycle Policy advises that cycle parking should be accessible and convenient for passengers to use and should offer the appropriate level of security to make the facilities attractive to cyclists. c2c and Essex County Council are aware of the issues and are taking steps to improve the security of cycles parked at Benfleet Station.

17th May 2007


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

Observations by the Secretary of State for Defence on the Petition [29th March] from David Cain, residents of Essex, Dorset and others for free postage for items sent by friends and families to members of HM Armed Forces stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The Government remains committed to providing the highest level of welfare support to our Service personnel on operations overseas. The operational welfare budget for Financial Year 2006-07 was some 42 million. Additional funding will be made available this year.

    The Ministry of Defence does not charge to carry postal Packets up to 2kgs through the British Forces Post Office system to personnel serving on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The cost payable is that charged by Royal Mail Group (made up of Parcelforce and Royal Mail) to carry the post from local post offices to the British Forces Post Office Depot at Mill Hill, London.

    The most suitable and cost-effective product for the British Forces Post Office to use is the Royal Mail Packet product for Iraq and Afghanistan, as, for operational reasons, only an airmail Packet service (maximum weight of 2kgs) can be provided. This currently costs 6.50 for a 2kg packet, the same cost to send a First Class Packet within the UK, and which represents only 32% of the Royal Mail airmail rate for Iraq and Afghanistan of 20.72. For all other overseas personnel the Parcelforce surface mail product is available, which is charged at the UK inland rate for Parcels (currently 5.31 for 2kgs). Royal Mail does operate an airmail Parcel service, but it is presently not suitable for Iraq and Afghanistan as the permissible weight and volume of a Parcel exceeds 2kg and 0.13 cubic metres. This would result in fewer mail items being carried and the creation of a backlog as aircraft tend to become full before their weight limits are reached.

    Although Parcelforce and Royal Mail are both subsidiaries of Royal Mail Group their products are sold separately and are not interchangeable. The prices charged by Royal Mail Group and the structure of their products are commercial decisions for that organization. The British Forces Post Office remains in close contact with Royal Mail Group to ensure that the best service possible is available for our Service personnel.

    A scheme whereby the Government paid Royal Mail Group's charges was introduced on 17th April 2003, as a temporary measure unique to Iraq, at a time when Service personnel did not have access to the welfare facilities that are now available in theatre. When the provision of goods and services for our Service personnel in Iraq reached the required standard, the decision was taken to end the scheme on 8th April 2004. It was later re-introduced for a period of one month before Christmas 2004, and subsequently confirmed prior to Christmas 2005, that the Government payment of Royal Mail Group charges in the pre-Christmas period was to become a standard element of the Operational Welfare Package. The centrally funded posting dates for Christmas 2006 were 10th November to 8th December inclusive, for which Royal Mail Group charged the Government 577,000; this sum does not include the costs for additional air transport and onward distribution that were also paid for by the Government.

    It is important that the services provided by the British Forces Post Office to Service personnel on operations overseas are viewed in the context of their part in the wider Ministry of Defence Operational Welfare Package. This is an extensive and integrated programme of welfare provision that includes:

    • Welfare telephones, including satellite telephones in forward locations (30 minutes free calls per person per week to anywhere in the world).

    • Unlimited free Forces Aerogramme letter post, Electronic Aerogrammes (where available) and a subsidised postal packet service (fully funded at Christmas).

    • Free e-mail & internet access, including TEXTLINK e-mail and SMS text messaging in forward locations.

    • Provision of TVs, radios, DVD players and gaming machines.

    • Provision of DVDs and video games.

    • A Combined Services Entertainment live show and a celebrity visit every 6 months.

    • Newspapers, magazines, books and board games.

    • Fitness equipment.

    • Rest and Recuperation (R&R), (up to 14 days for a 6 month deployment).

    • Provision of showers and a laundry.

    • Shop facilities provided by the Expeditionary Forces Institute or the Naval Canteen Service.

    • Financial assistance for home unit welfare provision such as advice centres and internet access.

    • Concessionary travel allowances for families to enable them to keep in touch with immediate relatives.

    • Post Operational Leave (20 working days for a 6 month deployment).

    A number of studies have been made into extending the Government payment of Royal Mail Group charges to become a permanent feature for all operational theatres where UK service personnel are deployed. It has been calculated, however, that this would cost some 5 million per annum dependent on uptake and, in order to fund it, savings would have to be made in more essential elements of the Operational Welfare Package-such as free phone calls and Internet access. The option was again examined in September 2006 as part of the review of operational welfare and allowances, as a result of which an additional 60 million was made available for the new Operational Allowance (worth 2,240 per person, tax free, for a tour of 6 months). During the review of welfare provision, personnel on operations were asked in which areas they wanted improvements to be made. The response was overwhelmingly for better welfare telephone and internet provision, and not for an extension of Government funding for the postal packet service. The Government therefore announced on 10th October that the welfare telephone allowance would increase from 20 to 30 minutes, and that improvements would be made to internet connectivity. These improvements cost 2.8 million per year. A programme of further improvements to electronic communications is also about to start which will see a significant increase in the number of telephones and internet terminals available to deployed UK personnel. The cost of this has yet to finalised but will be in the region of an additional 1.6 million per year.

    If a significant element of operational welfare service delivery was to fail, or could not be implemented for geographic, logistic or operational reasons, the deficiency would be offset through increased provision of other elements of operational welfare. This is what occurred in Iraq between April 2003 and April 2004. However, it is currently the assessment of the Government and commanders from the Permanent Joint Head Quarters and the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force that a fully funded postal packet scheme is not a priority given the competing demands of military operations and the ongoing success of operational welfare provision in the round. Nonetheless, we continue to monitor the situation closely.

18th May 2007


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

Observations by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on the Petition fist May] from members of the 5 Parishes Opposition Group and others against the expansion of the Kent Science Park.

    The Kent Science Park (KSP) is situated in 116 acres of landscaped parkland. It is privately owned and operated. There are around 85 businesses on-site (largely in science based industries) occupying 413,000ft and employing over 1,000 people. KSP is recognised as a centre for knowledge based industries in the South East, and has been designated by SEEDA as an innovation hub.

    Swale Forward (a local regeneration partnership), has commissioned work to explore alternative options for the expansion of the Kent Science Park which could be taken forward in the future. This includes development on green field land.

    Swale Borough Council supports the expansion of the Science Park in principle but not as proposed by Tamesis (a body working for the Kent Science Park).

    A considerable amount of discussion regarding this scheme has taken place at the Examination In Public (EIP) into the South East Regional Spatial Strategy which closed 30th March 2007.

    At present there is no application for planning permission for expansion. Should any application be made to the local planning authority the Secretary of State will consider whether or not the issues raised are such that she would wish to intervene and call in the application for her own determination. However, the Secretary of State will usually only intervene in exceptional circumstances and then only when issues of national or regional importance are involved.

22nd May 2007


SUPPLEMENT TO THE VOTES AND PROCEEDINGS

Observations by the Secretary of State for Health on the Petition [1st May] from Respect the Unity Coalition against the privatisation of healthcare and for increased resources for the NHS.

    Since coming to office, this Government has almost tripled investment in the National Health Service, with the total spent on the NHS in England increasing from 35 billion in 1997-98 to over 90 billion in 2007-08.

    This record investment has helped save over 100,000 lives from cancer and coronary heart disease, delivered the lowest waiting times since records began, seen more hospitals built and repaired than ever before and, with the introduction of innovations such as NHS Walk-in Centres, NHS Foundation Trusts and independent sector treatment centres, enabled the provision of greater choice for patients.

    As part of the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007, we will continue to seek to realise maximum value for money from the very considerable public investment we have already made in health and social care.

    There are categorically no plans to privatise the NHS. We are fully committed to the founding values of the NHS - care delivered according to clinical need, delivered free to patients, and funded by general taxation. Where appropriate, this will include the continuation and encouragement of innovation and reform through the use of the independent and voluntary sector to add capacity to, and drive contestability within, the NHS.

23rd May 2007



 
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