Week in Westminster 19th – 23rd 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 London.

The Bishop responded to Government statements and regulations on covid-19 and asked questions about the high cost of British citizenship for children, access to care homes, support for almshouses, and the high number of prisoners on remand. She also introduced the General Synod (Remote Meetings) (Temporary Standing Orders) Measure to the Lords, which approved it and passed it for Royal Assent. In the House of Commons the Measure was introduced by Andrew Selous MP, Second Church Estates Commissioner, and was approved by MPs.

The Lords debated the UK Internal Market Bill, and the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop of Leeds both spoke in the debate, voicing concerns about the rule of law and the consequences for peace in Northern Ireland and the UK’s overseas reputation if international law were to be broken. Bishops supported a ‘Motion to Regret’ the Bill, which was passed with a large cross-party majority.

In response to a Ministerial statement on covid-19, the Bishop of Manchester raised the need for restoration of respect and trust between Ministers and community leaders in Manchester.

Bishops voted to support amendments to the Government’s Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, including from Lord Dubs on refugee children and their families.

The Bishop of Oxford asked Government about the impact of covid-19 on the gig economy, and the Bishop of Salisbury asked a question about investment in local micro-energy generation.

The Bishop of St Albans asked questions about personal debt, the speed of housebuilding, gambling advertising and addiction, and wood pasture restoration. He also voted on amendments to the Government’s Agriculture Bill.

The Archbishop of York was reintroduced to the House, with his sponsors the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop of London.

Lords passes General Synod (Remote Meetings) (Temporary Standing Orders) Measure

On 22nd October 2020 the House of Lords considered and passed the General Synod (Remote Meetings) (Temporary Standing Orders) Measure. The Bishop of London introduced the Measure, which will now proceed for Royal Assent:

Motion to Direct

Moved by The Lord Bishop of London: That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the General Synod (Remote Meetings) (Temporary Standing Orders) Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.

The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, this Measure will enable the General Synod—the legislative body of the Church of England—to meet and conduct its business remotely. Current coronavirus restrictions mean it is not practically possible for the synod to meet in the usual way, with 500 people from across England gathering in the same place. Continue reading “Lords passes General Synod (Remote Meetings) (Temporary Standing Orders) Measure”

Bishop of Manchester calls for respect towards local Manchester leaders in covid discussions with Government

On 22nd October 2020 the House of Lords heard the repeat of a Ministerial statement to MPs on Covid-19. The BIshop of Manchester raised the need for restoration of trust between Ministers and community leaders in Manchester:

The Lord Bishop of Manchester [V]: My Lords, the Greater Manchester tier 3 proposals were the main UK news item across our broadcasting media for at least a week. However, to the best of my knowledge, at no time did senior members of Her Majesty’s Government come to Manchester to meet its people, hear its voices and seek to reach an agreement face to face with our civic leaders. Moreover, yesterday the Manchester Evening News published a story claiming that senior leaders logged into one crucial meeting only to discover that the Government side had set up controls that did not allow members to unmute themselves. It then allegedly used that facility to prevent voices being heard. Continue reading “Bishop of Manchester calls for respect towards local Manchester leaders in covid discussions with Government”

Bishop of Oxford asks Government about impact of covid-19 on the gig economy

On 22nd October the Bishop of Oxford asked a question he had tabled to Government on the impact of Covid-19 on the gig economy. The exchanges and further questions from other Members, are below:

Asked by The Lord Bishop of Oxford

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the gig economy.

Baroness Penn (Con): My Lords, the Government have stood by businesses and workers with one of the most comprehensive and generous packages of support globally. We are working intensively with employers and industry groups to understand the long-term effects of Covid-19 and specific challenges to businesses and workers, including in the gig economy. Following announcements of further measures to control the spread of Covid-19, we are continuing to monitor the impact of government support in different sectors.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford [V]: I thank the Minister very much for her Answer. While the job coaches and extra provision made may improve the CVs and present conditions of those forced into the gig economy, they will do nothing to improve the security or the working conditions of those so precariously employed and poorly protected. Therefore, will the employment Bill provide a clearer definition of what counts as an employer-employee relationship? How will it stop platform employers retaining all of the profits while socialising essential costs such as sickness pay or a basic pension in old age? Continue reading “Bishop of Oxford asks Government about impact of covid-19 on the gig economy”

Bishop of London asks about support for almshouses to upgrade their facilities to older people

On 22nd October Lord Kennedy of Southwark asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the role of alms houses in the provision of housing for the elderly.” The Bishop of London asked a further question:

The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, I declare my interests as stated in the register. The Church of England continues to provide excellent almshouses provision as a support to older people through its charities. There are over 30,000 almshouses in the UK and more than 1,000 new ones have been built in the last decade. Another 750 are in the pipeline, providing places of flourishing and support for the elderly. However, the complexities of the buildings themselves prohibit modern building standards being achieved. Will the Minister comment on whether Her Majesty’s Government will provide grants for local almshouse charities to upgrade their facilities within the complex planning frameworks associated with these buildings?

Continue reading “Bishop of London asks about support for almshouses to upgrade their facilities to older people”

Archbishop of York introduced to House of Lords

On Thursday 22nd October 2020 the Archbishop of York was reintroduced to the House of Lords. Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell had previously served as the Bishop of Chelmsford. Hansard records the event as follows:

Thursday 22 October 2020

The House met in a hybrid proceeding.

12.00 pm, Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of London.

Introduction: The Lord Archbishop of York

Continue reading “Archbishop of York introduced to House of Lords”

Bishop of St Albans asks Government about personal debt for those on low incomes due to coronavirus

On 22nd October the Bishop of St Albans received a written answer to a question of Government on personal debt as a consequence of coronavirus:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they intend to respond to reports of a low-income debt crisis emerging in the UK as a result of redundancies and income loss during the COVID-19 pandemic. [HL8988] Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks Government about personal debt for those on low incomes due to coronavirus”

Votes: Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

On 21st October 2020 three votes were held on the Government’s Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill. Members of the Lords were asked to agree with the decisions of the Commons to reject amendments they had passed to the Bill, or to propose further amendments in lieu of them. Several bishops took part:
Continue reading “Votes: Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill”

Bishop of London voices concern about high number of remand prisoners

On 21st October Lord German asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the impact on (1) prisons, (2) prisoners, and (3) those on remand, of increasing the maximum period of remand in custody by eight weeks.” The Bishop of London asked a further question:

The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, is the Minister aware that many hundreds of remand prisoners in London prisons are now held for much longer periods than before Covid while waiting for a trial date? Her Majesty’s Prison Pentonville alone has over 400 prisoners waiting for unprecedented periods—of over a year—for their cases to be heard. Can she assure your Lordships’ House that action is being taken to relieve this? If so, what action can we expect? Continue reading “Bishop of London voices concern about high number of remand prisoners”

Bishop of St Albans asks Government about action on gambling advertising and addiction

On Wednesday 21st October the Bishop of St Albans received two written answers to questions to Government on gambling advertising and gambling addiction:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the report by the Advertising Standards Agency, Trends in exposure to TV ads during COVID-19, published on 8 October; and what steps they are taking to reduce young people’s exposure to gambling adverts. [HL9068] Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks Government about action on gambling advertising and addiction”