Welcome to the Church of England’s weekly round-up of activity in Parliament.
This week bishops in the House of Lords spoke and voted on amendments to the Government’s Housing and Planning Bill and Energy Bill. They also supported an amendment to the Immigration Bill on lone child refugees. Bishops spoke in response to the Government’s statement on Hillsborough and in a debate on the rural economy. A bishop tabled and asked a question about the impact on rural areas of small schools becoming academies, whilst others asked questions on prisoners at risk of suicide, Iraq, Daesh, drones, and the future of Bradford’s National Media Museum. Continue reading
On 28th April 2016 the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked an oral question in the House of Lords on the challenges facing rural schools in conversion to academy status. The transcript of the answer, his follow-up question and those of other members is below.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the challenges to be faced by small rural schools in the conversion to academy status.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education (Lord Nash) (Con): My Lords, we fully recognise the challenges faced by small rural schools and are committed to supporting them; for instance, they will each have a named adviser in the conversion process. Many rural schools have been underfunded through an unfair system. Our new national funding formula will match funding to need and reflect their unique circumstances, ensuring that they remain at the heart of their communities.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: I thank the Minister for his response and for those details. However, does he recognise that this is about not just the viability of rural schools but the viability and sustainability of whole rural communities, given the important role that schools play in attracting and retaining workers in rural areas? Many people are concerned that, if rural schools are put into multi-academy trusts, those trusts will not have the same obligation to take into account the wider issues of rural sustainability; indeed, there may be huge pressure for mergers and closures based simply on finance and nothing else. In the light of that, can the Minister tell us what the Government intend to do to prevent that happening? Continue reading
On the 27th April 2016, Baroness McItosh of Pickering led a Lords debate “to ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the state of the rural economy.” The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, highlighted the need for more affordable housing, business innovation and greater access to broadband and mobile coverage.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, my thanks go to the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, for securing the debate. I will focus on three areas that I believe are crucial to creating a strong, dynamic rural economy.
First, I underline the importance of affordable housing in creating sustainable rural communities at a time when rural house prices continue to be pushed well beyond the reach of many local residents. A failure to provide for local people and local families to live and work in rural areas leaves the rural economy seriously inhibited. An affordable housing supply, available to local workers on low and middle incomes, is an essential feature of the rural economy, providing homes, and, in many cases, workplaces for those who would work in rural areas. Continue reading
On 27th April 2016, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon repeated a statement on the inquest into the Hillsborough disaster made by the Home Secretary in the House of Commons. The Bishop of Leeds, Rt Revd Nick Baines, asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, I declare an interest because I come from Liverpool and most of my family still live there. My grandmother lived on Anfield Road at the time of the tragedy—no one in Liverpool was so remote that they did not know someone who was affected by it. People who have not been recognised in the comments so far are those such as Steven Gerrard and Rafa Benitez, who gave huge amounts of money to support families and did so without expectation of gratitude or publicity. Continue reading
On 27th April 2016 votes took place on amendments to the Government’s Housing and Planning Bill at its Third Reading. The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, took part: Continue reading
On 27th April 2016 the Bishop of Leeds, Rt Revd Nick Baines, received a written answer to a question about whether the Iraqi government will ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 5 April (HL7331), what is their assessment of the prospect of the government of Iraq acceding to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court [HL7709] Continue reading
On 27th April 2016 the Bishop of Bristol, Rt Revd Michael Hill, received a written answer to a question on whether the Government will regulate the private drone market in the UK.
The Lord Bishop of Bristol: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the need to regulate or license the private drone market in the UK. [HL7729] Continue reading