On 18th August 2014, the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, received answers to five written questions on the topics of housing benefit, human trafficking and forced labour.
Housing Benefit: Social Rented Housing
The Lord Bishop of Derby: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to increase the availability of suitable housing for housing benefit claimants eligible for the under-occupancy charge who are willing but unable to move to smaller accommodation due to a lack of social housing available.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon): The 2015-18 Affordable Housing Programme encourages housing providers to build social homes of sizes that match local household needs. Of the successful bids so far, 77% have been for 1 and 2 bedroom homes. This will make more housing available for households in social housing who wish to downsize.
The Government has also taken steps to support mobility among tenants in the social rented sector. Our social housing reforms have given councils and social landlords much more flexibility in the allocation of housing. Our statutory guidance on social housing allocations encourages local authorities to prioritise under-occupying tenants wishing to move, and to consider whether there are provisions in their allocation scheme that might make it difficult for under-occupiers to move. In February, we issued a guide to help landlords facilitate mutual exchanges; the guide highlights various steps landlords can take to make mutual exchange a more attractive and viable proposition for tenants. The introduction of the national HomeSwap Direct scheme has made it easier for tenants wanting to move to find a suitable property. Since its launch in October 2011, tenants have carried out over 18 million searches of the property data held on HomeSwap Direct. The Government has also made clear its intention to introduce a Right to Move for social tenants who need to move to take up a job or be closer to work – we intend to consult soon on proposals.
In addition, many social landlords (both housing associations and councils) are helping affected tenants to move to more suitable accommodation by holding “mutual exchange fairs” (where tenants who want to downsize can meet with tenants who want a larger property), running transfer incentive schemes, and repairing properties which are being swapped through mutual exchange.
(via Parliament.uk) Continue reading
On 18th August 2014, the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, received answers to two written question on energy meters for lower income households.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the use of prepayment meters on the ability of lower income households to pay their energy bills.
Baroness Northover: Since 2010, all major suppliers have voluntarily equalised tariffs between prepayment customers and standard credit customers but the price differential between customers using pre-payment meters (PPM) and those paying by direct debit can be more than £100 for a dual-fuel customer.
Whilst paying by PPM is more common among fuel poor than non-fuel poor households, a majority of fuel poor customer pay by other payment methods.
Of households who were fuel poor in England in 2012, around 27% paid for their electricity and 22% paid for their gas through PPM. Continue reading
On 11th August 2014 the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, received an answer to a question on food security in Angola.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the government of Angola regarding food insecurity in that country; and whether they have encouraged that government to undertake an assessment of the situation.
Baroness Northover (LD): Poor seasonal rainfall early in 2014 in parts of Western Angola has affected the harvest and food availability there. However, throughout most of the country production is considered to be good and expected to be higher than normal. This has helped to maintain reasonable food prices for urban populations.
The Government has not had recent bilateral discussions with the Government of Angola regarding the food situation. The Government of Angola is leading the food assistance programme and is best placed to prepare for and lead such a response with the support of UN partners. The Government of Angola has set up an Inter-ministerial Commission to tackle the drought. The Government of Angola is also embarking on infrastructure projects, such as water supply projects, to mitigate drought impact in the future.
On 11th August 2014, the Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, received answers to four written questions on the situation in Iraq. The questions were originally tabled on 28th July 2014. Further questions regarding resettlement of vulnerable groups in the UK are expected to receive answers in due course.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the state of freedom of religion and belief in Iraq.
Lord Popat (Con): We are deeply concerned about the situation in Iraq including freedom of religion and belief. We condemn the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) threats to ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq, including Christian, Yezidi and Turkomen and the desecration of mosques and churches by ISIL. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the member for Bournemouth East ( Mr Ellwood), met Archbishop Athanasius of the Syriac Orthodox Church in London on 29 July and issued a statement strongly condemning the persecution of Christians and other minorities in Iraq. Our Ambassador in Baghdad has met religious representatives, including Chaldean Patriarch Luis Sako, and the Consul General in Erbil has met the Archbishop of Erbil and the Archbishop of Mosul to discuss the current situation, the needs of the Christian community, and UK humanitarian assistance to those displaced by fighting in Iraq. On Sunday 3 August, the British Chargé d‘Affaires attended a service at St George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad, joined by officials from our Embassy, to highlight the British Government’s continued support to Christians and other minorities affected by recent violence in Iraq. Continue reading
On 4th August 2014 the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, received an answer to a written question on the oversight of the Public Forest Estate.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they intend to bring forward legislation to establish a new public body to hold the Public Forest Estate to account.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): The Government’s policy on the future of the Public Forest Estate is set out in its Forestry and Woodlands Policy Statement of January 2013. The Government is committed to maintaining the Public Forest Estate in public ownership and to establishing a new operationally independent public body to manage the estate for the long-term benefit of people, nature and the economy.
There were many proposals competing for the limited space within the Fourth Session programme and the proposed forestry measures could not be accommodated. However, the Government stands by its commitment to establish the new public body as soon as parliamentary time allows.
Welcome to the Church of England’s weekly round-up of activity in Parliament.
In the past week, bishops in the House of Lords have spoken in debates on the Government’s Armed Forces Bill, the role of the Leader of the House of Lords, the impact on wellbeing of the built environment and on the trade and human rights situation in Colombia.
They have also put questions to the Government about the living wage, the under-occupancy charge, implementation of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act and South Sudan.
The House of Lords rose for the summer recess on Wednesday 30th July. The Commons will return in September, the Lords in October. Weekly updates will resume after recess. Continue reading