On 28th and 29th January 2014, the Bishop of St Albans took part in two votes on the Government’s Children and Families Bill, during its Report Stage.
The Rt Revd Alan Smith, Lord Bishop of St Albans asked a supplementary question relating to the underoccupancy charge and its impact on tenants. The Bishop asked about tenants in the North of England and Wales who believed they would be unable to pay their rent in full due to the introduction of the new charge for an empty bedroom. Lord Freud responded to say during the transition the Government were making available adequate funds for discretionary housing payments.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham asked Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the effect of the underoccupancy charge on tenants.
Second Church Estates Commissioner, Rt Hon Sir Tony Baldry MP, answered three written questions from Tessa Munt MP on the Church Commissioners plans for the Palace at Wells.
Tessa Munt: To ask the right hon. Member for Banbury, representing the Church Commissioners, pursuant to the answer of 23 January 2014, Official report, column 317W on Bishop of Bath and Wells, in relation to the Bishop’s living accommodation, what repairs or maintenance were identified in the Church Commissioners Quinquennial Review dated 2013.
Sir Tony Baldry: The reason for moving the Bishop’s accommodation is to give the Bishop more privacy and not to do with the cost of repairs and restoration to the flat. Continue reading “Bishop’s Palace in Wells: Church Commissioners’ Written Answers”
Baroness Quin asked Her Majesty’s Government what recent discussions they have had with local authorities about the costs associated with implementing the underoccupancy charge.
The Bishop of St Albans asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, as affordable rental properties in rural areas are in such shortage, will the Government extend the scheme, which currently applies only to the 21 most sparsely populated districts, and allow more local authorities to use discretionary housing payments to help retain more couples and families in their homes?
Lord Freud: My Lords, that is exactly what the discretionary housing payment is for. It is for local authorities to take decisions, based on their local knowledge, so that they get the funds to the right people. The emerging signs are that we will not spend all the discretionary housing payments this year. I am, however, making sure that a substantial amount of discretionary housing payment goes out next year, for which the total figure will be £165 million.
The Bishop of Leicester spoke in the debate on the Report Stage of the Children & Families Bill. He spoke in favour of Amendment 53, on behalf of the Bishop of Oxford, who co-sponsored the amendment. The amendment called for guidance on sex and relationship education to be updated in light of technological changes. He spoke of the need for holistic education of children, and reflected on the conclusions of the ‘Good Childhood’ commission that children themselves are keen to develop strong and healthy relationships. The amendment was not pressed to a vote.
The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, I support Amendment 53 and speak in place of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, who has lent his name to it but cannot be in his place today. Personally, I find myself on the side of those who want PSHE to be a formal part of the curriculum and Amendment 53 goes some way in that direction.
I have three brief points to make. First, we on these Benches see social, emotional and spiritual intelligence as a vital part of a child’s development. We are not just interested in raising children who can pass exams, but in creating opportunities for young people to take control of their lives and values. Secondly, it is clear that there is a strong and growing coalition of organisations involved in this work, which have some knowledge in this area, and which support this proposal, including the Children’s Society the Mothers Union and many others.
Thirdly, I speak as a former chair of the Children’s Society and as a member of the Good Childhood commission, which reported four years or so ago, and which took evidence from more than 5,000 children. It was not evidence on this specific point, but it was evidence on the general point of what children understand makes for their well-being. Over and over again, children said that one of their top priorities was their friendships. They were trying to find their way through a complex, labyrinthine world in which friendships, intimacy and relationships had to be understood in this technological age, which has been so vividly described by previous speakers, where it was children who were asking for help in this area.
That is the most telling contribution I want to make to this debate. We do not have children in this House; we do not have the voice of children here. If we listen carefully to what they are saying to us through the Good Childhood Report and in other ways, we will find that they want our generation to help them to understand who they are and who they are with others in this completely new world, which has not shaped the relationships or outlooks of any Members of your Lordships’ House. For that reason, I strongly support Amendment 53.
Baroness Lister of Burtersett asked Her Majesty’s Government what arrangements will be made from April 2015 for the payment to local authorities of the moneys devolved from the Social Fund.
The Bishop of Leicester asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, in view of what the Minister has said, will she assure the House that there will be a proper assessment of the take-up of government funds by local authorities in 2013-14 to inform future consideration of the success or otherwise of these changes? How will the Government ensure that future consideration is linked to the wider impact of the Government’s welfare reforms?
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The Department for Work and Pensions is committed to reviewing how local authorities have been providing this support until now, and it will continue to do so during the course of 2014. What I hope we will see from that is that the very best practice which is being carried out in some local authorities will be used to inform other local authorities, and that the best practice is spread widely.
On 28th January 2014, a number of bishops took part in two divisions on the Government’s Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, during ‘ping pong’.