This week bishops in the House of Lords sponsored, spoke to and voted on amendments to the Government’s Immigration Bill and Housing and Planning Bill. Bishops also spoke in debates on the 2016 Budget and asked questions on rural transport, the case of Asia Bibi and Disability Living Allowance appeals. The Lords rose on Wednesday for the Easter recess.
On 23rd March 2016 the House of Lords debated the 2016 Budget statement. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, in contributing to this debate and responding to the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Budget Statement last week, to the subsequent events and to the debate in the other place, I welcome some proposals, express some surprise, and register disappointment—indeed, shock—at some of the measures announced. First, it is good to congratulate the Chancellor and Government on the intention to raise the tax free personal allowance to £11,500 this time next year. Lifting about 1.3 million people out of income tax is, of itself, welcome, although there are some potential drawbacks to which I will return a little later.
On 23rd March, the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, supported an amendment at Committee Stage of the Government’s Housing and Planning Bill. The amendment, tabled by Baroness Royall, sought to protect the right of local authorities to impose section 106 requirements on smaller developments. It was withdrawn after the debate. Baroness Williams of Trafford responded on behalf of the government.
On 22nd March 2016 Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty’s Government “what assessment they have made of the levels of service provision and council tax following local authority budget decisions for 2016–17.” The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a follow up question about rural bus services.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, recently the Campaign for Better Transport has estimated that local authority subsidies for rural bus services are likely to be cut this year alone by £27 million. In Hertfordshire, where I live and work, there have been cuts since 2010 of 62%. Forty rural bus services have seen radical declines and 14 have gone altogether. While I recognise some of the things the Government are doing, not least the serious increase in the rural services delivery grant, will the Minister tell your Lordships’ House the long-term plans of Her Majesty’s Government to engage with local authorities to ensure that we have proper rural transport as one of the essential elements of rural sustainability?
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many individuals who previously claimed a motability allowance under the Disability Living Allowance have (1) lost that allowance after being reassessed for Personal Independence Payments, and (2) kept that allowance after being reassessed for Personal Independence Payments. [HL6794]
On 21st March the House of Lords considered the Government’s Immigration Bill at Report Stage. The Bishop of Norwich, Rt Revd Graham James co-sponsored and spoke in support of a series of amendments on care leaving support for young people in the immigration system. Introducing the amendments the Earl of Listowel said:
“These amendments ensure that young people leaving care are able to continue to access leaving-care support from their local authorities in circumstances where their departure from the UK is not envisaged. This includes young people with pending applications to remain in the UK whose long-term future may be in the UK, and young people who cannot leave the UK because there is a genuine obstacle to their removal.”
The amendments were not put to a vote. The Bishops’ speech and the Minister’s response are below.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, the situation of most young adults in this country reveals why this group of amendments is needed. I am glad to add my name to it and pay tribute to the noble Earl for his introduction. In 2015, half of all young people aged 21 in this country and 40% of all 24 year-olds were still living with their parents. As many Members of your Lordships’ House will know from personal experience, even adult children who have left home often return when need arises. Indeed, my own personal experience of adult children is that territorial control of bedrooms continues even when they have got married or have their flats elsewhere—I am thinking of introducing a bedroom tax in Bishop’s House in Norwich.
On 21st March the House of Lords considered the Government’s Immigration Bill at Report Stage. A number of votes were held on amendments, in which several bishops took part: