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That the draft Part 7 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (Extension to Animal Pathogens) Order 2007, which was laid before this House on 24th January, be approved.
That the draft Schedule 5 to the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (Modification) Order 2007, which was laid before this House on 24th January, be approved.
That the draft Smoke-free (Exemptions and Vehicles) Regulations 2007, which were laid before this House on 31st January, be approved.
That the draft Smoke-free (Penalties and Discounted Amounts) Regulations 2007, which were laid before this House on 31st January, be approved.
That the draft Children and Young Persons (Sale of Tobacco etc) Order 2007, which was laid before this House on 1st February, be approved. [Huw Irranca-Davies.]
That this House takes note of an unnumbered explanatory memorandum from HM Treasury dated 28th November 2006, European Court of Auditors 2005 Annual Report, European Union Documents No. 11399/06, Commission Communication: Report on the progress at 31st March 2006 on modernising the Commissions accounting system, No. 11660/06 and Addenda 1-2, Protection of the Communities financial interests: Fight against fraud: Annual report 2005, unnumbered explanatory memorandum from HM Treasury dated 10th October, European Anti-Fraud Office: sixth activity report for the period 1st July 2004 to 31st December 2005, No. 14431/06 and Addendum 1, Commission Report to the European Parliament on the follow-up to 2004 Discharge Decisions (Summary)European Parliament Resolutions, No. 14630/06 and Addendum 1, Commission Report to the Council on the follow-up to 2004 Discharge Decisions (Summary)Council recommendations; and supports the Governments promotion of measures to improve the level of assurance given on the Community budget. [Huw Irranca-Davies.]
That this House, at its rising on Thursday 29th March 2007, do adjourn till Monday 16th April 2007. [Huw Irranca-Davies.]
That, at the sitting on Wednesday 7th March, the Speaker shall put the Questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the Motions in the name of Mr Jack Straw relating to House of Lords reform not later than half-past Five oclock; such Questions shall include the Questions on any Amendments selected by the Speaker which may then be moved; the Questions on later Motions may be put notwithstanding any decision of the House on earlier Motions; the Questions may be put after the
moment of interruption; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply. [Huw Irranca-Davies.]
That the Assisted Areas Order 2007 (S.I., 2007, No. 107), dated 22nd January 2007, be referred to a Delegated Legislation Committee. [Huw Irranca-Davies.]
The Petition of the users of post offices in the constituency of Mid-Dorset and North Poole [Interruption.]
Declares that post offices are a vital part of the social fabric of the local community and must be preserved. The Petitioners rely on the important services provided by their local post office.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to support local post offices and not to close them.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.
Mr. John Denham (Southampton, Itchen) (Lab): I present a petition of more than 5,000 signatures collected by members of the Southampton and district Alzheimers Society, many of whose members are carers for husbands, wives and other relatives suffering from that condition.
The Petition of members of the Southampton and District Alzheimers Society,
Declares that we are outraged by the decision of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence to restrict NHS prescriptions for Alzheimers drugs. These treatments are proven to provide real benefits to thousands of people at all stages of Alzheimers disease and cost just £2.50 per person per day.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Secretary of State for Health to ensure that doctors continue to be able to prescribe Alzheimers drug treatments to patients who can benefit from them.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.
David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): Last Sunday morning, at the Baptist church in my home town of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, I was privileged to be present at the launch of an important campaign organised by the local Christian Aid group. As ever, in my experience, faith communities, especially Christian Churches, are at the forefront of pressure for the necessary changes in our land and in our world. The group told me clearly that tackling climate change is a moral imperative. Climate change is as much an injustice between nations as between generations, and the poorest people on the planet will suffer the worst. The petition has been signed by Sue Richardson of Christian Aid, who is working hard to organise this campaign, and by me, as the local Member of Parliament.
To the House of Commons,
The Petition of 100 residents of Ashby-de-la-Zouch and nearby areas
Declares that climate change is the most significant single threat to development and could undo decades of progress in fighting poverty as it is vulnerable people in poor countries who are affected first and most seriously.
Further declares that analysis of environmental research data demonstrates that the United Kingdombecause of its extensive and global economic reachhas a far greater impact on global carbon emissions than the 2 per cent. the government declares and should thus bear a far greater responsibility for reducing the worlds CO2 emissions.
The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer to ensure that, as an example to other nations engaging in action on the very pressing topic of climate change, included in the Climate Change Bill to be presented to Parliament this session, will be a requirement that companies registered in the UK should calculate and declare their carbon emissions (including those of their international activities) to a nationally agreed and mandatory standard.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.
Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East) (Lab): The Sonae chipboard factory in Kirkby in my constituency has been a source of controversy and concern since it first opened in January 2000. There have been four fires in the past 12 months. The most recent fire, which occurred last week, is the latest in a growing catalogue of incidents that have left many people understandably concerned about the safety of both the work force and the residents who live close to the factory.
Later in my speech I shall list the various prosecutions that have taken place, on behalf of Knowsley council, which is responsible for regulating the process under pollution control legislation, the Health and Safety Executive, which exercises responsibility for the health and safety of the work force, and the Environment Agency. First, however, it is important to highlight the concerns of local residents about Sonae. The skyline of Kirkby is dominated by an 85 metre high chimney stack, which, when the factory is operating, belches out a long plume of smokeor as Sonae would have it, steam. The chimney stack is a navigational landmark for miles around, and I am told that pilots use it as a reference point on the flight path to Liverpool John Lennon airport.
Kirkby has a long and unhappy history of health problems, most particularly of cancer. A debate is currently under way locally about the causes of the high rates of certain kinds of cancer. I have recently been responsible, along with others, for the establishment of a monitoring group to consider what action is being taken and to monitor the research that is under way. However, there is a widespread belief in Kirkby that industrial pollution is at least part of the problem, and the name most often mentioned is, sad to say, Sonae. Time prevents me from going into the various theories on the causes of the abnormally high rates of cancer in Kirkby, but, at the risk of understating the case, I simply say that many local people are deeply suspicious of the effect that Sonae has on the towns health. Councillor Terry Garland, one of the Northwood councillors, spoke for many earlier this week when he said:
as far as the people of Northwood are concerned, Sonae should be closed down and the sooner this happens the better. Since Sonae has been in Kirkby, it has been perceived as a potential source of danger to peoples health and a continual nuisance. This latest incident, serves to reinforce peoples feelings towards Sonaefrankly, theyve had enough.
It can be said with confidence that until modifications to the plant were carried out in 2005, which included the increase of the chimney stack height to 85 metres, there was a serious odour problem, which caused great nuisance and distress to many residents. There was also a problem with dust settling on vehicles and residents homes. To be fair, since the improvements at the plant, those problems have been reduced. Part of the reason for that, as far as I am aware, is the fact that emissions from the extended stack dissipate higher into the atmosphere and are less likely to ground locally.
Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) (Lab): I support my right hon. Friend, as the Sonae factory is a cause of great concern and nuisance, and is a threat to the health and safety of my constituents. As he has said, the higher the stack, the further the pollution is spread over west Lancashire, affecting many people around the site. My constituents in Simonswood fear for their safety, so I absolutely support his plea to ensure that the plant is made safe.
Mr. Howarth: I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention. The theory is that with the extended stack, the plume will disperse and therefore ought not to ground, although I am not scientifically well trained enough to support that theory or otherwise. However, my hon. Friend is right that the people of Simonswood have been concerned about the problem for many years. Indeed, some of them have worked closely with me and with her predecessor on the issue.
Mr. Edward O'Hara (Knowsley, South) (Lab): The effect depends on prevailing winds. My constituents are similarly exposed, and I too am concerned that the higher the chimney stack, the further afield the residue will settle. Does my right hon. Friend agree that not just internal diseases but ophthalmic disorders are attributed to the Sonae factory?
Mr. Howarth: Before the stack height was extended, there were a number of incidents of the smoke plume groundingon one occasion, in a school playground. As a result, people got runny noses, sore eyes and sore throats. My hon. Friend is right; such incidents, which have been recorded, are very unpleasant indeed.
I should at this point say a word or two about Knowsley council. Its environmental health team has been heavily involved in monitoring the plant for many years, and any improvements that have been carried out have to a great extent been at the councils instigation. There is, however, a burden on the council because of Sonae. A disproportionate amount of its environmental health resources have to be allocated to work associated with the plant. Inevitably, that is at the expense of other problems that need attention.
This Council notes with grave concern yesterdays fire at the Sonae plant in Kirkby and calls upon the Health and Safety Executive to carry out a full and thorough investigation into this event, particularly in view of this Councils concern for the safety of the employees of the plant and the welfare of the surrounding community.
Similarly, I pay tribute to the work force at Sonae and their trade union representatives, who are deeply involved in efforts to bring about improvements to health and safety procedures and practices at the plant. Nevertheless, last weeks fire has yet again highlighted peoples worries about the instability of the process, and heightened residents concerns about their own safety and well-being. That is hardly surprising, given the history of problems at the plant. According to Merseysides chief fire officer, Mr. Tony McGuirk,
there have been four fires in the past 12 months, the most recent, which I have already referred to, being the most serious. Since April 2004 the fire and rescue service has been called to the premises on 33 separate occasions.
Sonae has been successfully prosecuted on six occasions by the Health and Safety Executive, Knowsley council or the Environment Agency. Let us consider the initial incidents. On 23 July 2000, a fire in the gas generator area developed. On 1 September 2001, an explosion and a fire in a fuel store occurred. On 17 December 2001, a fire occurred in a dust filter adjacent to the woodchip dryer. The HSE has prosecuted Sonae on four occasions since the factory first opened. Three of those incidents involved injuries to employees. In March 2000, an employee was trapped in a machine, and the company was prosecuted and fined £35,000. In April 2000, another employee was trapped in a different machine, and the company was fined £15,000. In June 2002, an employee was hit by a fork-lift truck, and the company was fined £12,000.
On 1 June 2002, a more serious explosion resulted in significant damage to the plant and serious injuries to a Sonae employee. It is understood that the HSE issued a number of prohibition and improvement notices and prosecuted Sonae as a result of that incident, for which it was fined £70,000, with a similar sum being awarded in costs. After that explosion, a major fire started in the external stockpiles of woodchips. The fire followed significant overstocking of the factory yards; supplies continued to be taken, despite the fact that the factory had closed down following the explosion. Fires continued to burn and emit smoke and fumes that affected residents over a wide area, until they were finally extinguished more than six months later in January 2003.
The Environment Agency prosecuted Sonae in connection with a series of pollution incidents affecting watercourses following that explosion and the subsequent fires in the stockpiles. The cases were heard on 2 October 2003, the company pleaded guilty to five charges and was fined £37,500.
On 11 March 2004, a leak in the thermal oil heat exchanger inside the hot gas generatorin effect, the wood burning furnaceled to the ignition of oil in the furnace. That caused the main safety vent to open and resulted in unabated emissions. On 4 May 2005, there was a fire in the area where woodchips are separated into size fractions before entry into the pressing area.
As I have said, the most recent incident took place on 20 February 2007, when a fire started as the result of an oil leak from pipework in a room occupied by pumps that circulate the hot oil used to power the chipboard press and the adjoining press hall. The fire spread to the main plant control room above the oil pump and the computer pump which controls the operation of the plant was destroyed.
Since the factory opened in 2000, Knowsley council has served many statutory notices on Sonae, including two prohibition notices, 10 enforcement notices, five variation notices and one notice requiring information, with which Sonae did not comply. In December 2005 Sonae pleaded guilty to three charges brought by Knowsley council under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and was fined £13,000.
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