Week in Westminster 12th – 16th October 2020

Parliament met this week in Westminster and online. Prayers were read at the start of each sitting day in the House of Lords by the Bishop of Oxford.

The Bishop asked Government about emp0loyment initiatives and mental health funding to respond to the problems of resurgent covid-19. He also asked when Government would bring forward reforms to deal with the working practices of Amazon. Continue reading “Week in Westminster 12th – 16th October 2020”

Bishop of Oxford – more mental health funds needed due to Covid and rise in youth unemployment

On 15th October 2020 Lord Baker of Dorking asked the Government “further to the estimate by the Office for National Statistics in Labour market overview, UK: October 2020, published on 13 October, that approximately 60 per cent of those unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are aged between 16 and 24, what action they are taking to reduce youth unemployment.” The Bishop of Oxford asked a further question:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for the compassion and passion in her answers but, as we must acknowledge, this is a very serious situation. The Resolution Foundation now forecasts that unemployment among the 18 to 29 year-olds could triple to 17% by late 2020—a level not seen since 1984. Given the well-established link between unemployment and mental health, and the risks of a mental health epidemic, will the Government undertake to fund support for additional mental health provision, in addition to the education and employment initiatives which she has unpacked, to support this very hard-pressed and vulnerable Covid generation? Continue reading “Bishop of Oxford – more mental health funds needed due to Covid and rise in youth unemployment”

Bishop of Oxford calls for employment interventions to address inequality and help levelling up

On 15th October 2020 Baroness Bull asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the report by the Social Mobility Commission The long shadow of deprivation, published on 15 September.” The Bishop of Oxford asked a further question:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I welcome this report and it is good to hear the Minister welcome it too. Deprivation is an issue that goes to the core of natural justice, and therefore our common good as a nation. Does the Minister accept in particular the report’s findings that employment interventions are as critical as educational improvement in addressing systematic inequalities and levelling up? What additional steps do the Government propose to take to improve employment opportunities, particularly when facing the current recession, in the cold spots that the report identifies across the nation? Continue reading “Bishop of Oxford calls for employment interventions to address inequality and help levelling up”

Church Commissioner Questions: covid and church attendance, baptisms, weddings and funerals, IICSA, renting of church premises, woodland holdings

On 15th October 2020 MPs put questions to Andrew Selous MP, Second Church Estates Commissioner, on covid and church attendance, baptisms, weddings and funerals, IICSA, renting of church premises, and woodland holdings. A transcript is below:

Continue reading “Church Commissioner Questions: covid and church attendance, baptisms, weddings and funerals, IICSA, renting of church premises, woodland holdings”

Bishop of Durham says social and spiritual health needs to be part of Government’s covid lockdown decisions

On 14th October 2020 the House of Lords heard the repeat of a Covid-19 update that had been given to the House of Commons by the Prime Minister. The Bishop of Durham spoke in response:

The Lord Bishop of Durham [V]: In welcoming the fact that places of worship have been allowed to continue to open—that is partly a recognition of their important place in the life of the nation—I note that the Prime Minister spoke still in the binaries of economic health and medical health that we have heard throughout the course of the pandemic. However, the nation’s health is more than this binary. The Government must surely no longer overlook the need to protect the nation’s social and spiritual health too. The Christian faith is clear that well-being is far more than being medically healthy or simply alive; rather, it involves social engagement, emotional nourishment, spiritual rest and love from good community. Will the Government acknowledge the nation’s need for social and spiritual health by including experts on social well-being in all future conversations around lockdown measures?

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con): I agree with the right reverend Prelate that that is the dilemma being faced. As he rightly says, harm to health is harm to the economy and harm to the economy is harm to health: these things are all interlinked, which is why this is a very difficult situation and why difficult decisions are having to be made about how to balance them. I can assure him that that is at the forefront of our thoughts. As part of the ongoing discussions around decisions being made about national and local levels, I know that Cabinet colleagues and the Prime Minister are talking to a huge range of people with different backgrounds to make sure that we get that right and get the country moving in the right direction.

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Bishop of St Albans asks about gambling machines on UK Army bases

On 14th October 2020 the Bishop of St Albans received a written answer to a question on gambling machines in British Army installations:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether there are gambling machines in any British Army installations in the UK; and if so, (1) which categories these machines fall into in accordance with the Gambling Act 2005, and (2) whether these machines are operated by the Ministry of Defence or external contractors. [HL8770] Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks about gambling machines on UK Army bases”

Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill – Bishop of St Albans calls for temporary increase in universal credit to be made permanent

On 13th October 2020 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill at its Second Reading. The Bishop of St Albans spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]: My Lords, I add my words of welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Field of Birkenhead, and the noble Baroness, Lady Stuart of Edgbaston, and look forward to their maiden speeches.

I welcome the Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill. Pension credits are vital for the welfare of low-income retirees and it is right that measures are taken to support them in this challenging time. However, there is certainly scope for going further.

Accusations relating to intergenerational fairness are not entirely unfounded. While I am for uprating the basic state pension, providing a guaranteed rise of 2.5% at a time when millions have lost income due to the pandemic, I realise that it will raise questions over whether this Government represent the entire country or just those who are older. Continue reading “Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill – Bishop of St Albans calls for temporary increase in universal credit to be made permanent”

Bishop of St Albans asks Government to speed up housebuilding process

On 13th October 2020 Baroness Thornhill asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the efficacy of the Housing Delivery Test.” The Bishop of St Albans asked a further question:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]: My Lords, the ambition of the White Paper Planning for the Future, to streamline planning permission and impose building targets on local authorities fails to address the existing slow build-out rate that occurs once planning permission ​has been granted. Will the Government add provisions to ensure that local authorities have adequate scope to alter centralised algorithmic targets in accordance with local supply capabilities and build-out rates? Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks Government to speed up housebuilding process”

Bishop of Oxford calls on Government to publish reforms to prevent “predatory and harmful treatment” by Amazon of consumers and third-party sellers

On 12th October 2020 Lord Leigh of Hurley asked the Government “what steps they are planning to take (1) to protect third party sellers from the dominance of Amazon, and (2) to ensure that Amazon does not benefit from passing on the costs of the Digital Services Tax to sellers.” The Bishop of Oxford asked a further question:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, the Minister will be aware that last week the United States Congress published a 449-page report, after reviewing millions ​of documents and taking testimony from hundreds of witnesses, including Amazon’s CEO. The report concluded that

“the totality of the evidence produced during this investigation demonstrates the pressing need for legislative action and reform.”

Does she agree with or dispute the findings of the report? How soon will the Government introduce their own draft reforms to stop these predatory and harmful treatments of third-party sellers and consumers? Continue reading “Bishop of Oxford calls on Government to publish reforms to prevent “predatory and harmful treatment” by Amazon of consumers and third-party sellers”

Bishop of Coventry asks about rule of law, freedom of religion in Nigeria

On 12th October 2020 the Bishop of Coventry received answers to two written questions on Nigeria, on the rule of law and freedom of religion, and the detention of Mubarak Bala:

The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Nigeria about the arrest and ongoing detention without trial of Mubarak Bala. [HL8623] Continue reading “Bishop of Coventry asks about rule of law, freedom of religion in Nigeria”