Vaccines for developing world, poverty in the pandemic, devolution and Ethiopia  

In the House of Lords on 14th January 2021 the Bishop of St Albans received written answers to questions on vaccines for developing countries and the situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia while the Bishop of Durham received answers to questions on the recent updated report by the Child Poverty Action Group and the Church of England on Poverty in the pandemic.
Meanwhile in the Chamber, the Bishop of Birmingham raised the issue of devolution in England with the Government during Lord Young’s Oral question about the formation of a Constitution, Democracy and Human Rights Commission. Text below:

 

Vaccines

Asked by the Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the communique from the Primates of the Anglican Communion on 12 November about equitable COVID19 vaccine access, what measures they have put in place to ensure that people living in the least economically developed countries have access to any such vaccine. [HL11697]

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The UK is committed to rapid equitable access to safe and effective vaccines, and has committed up to £548 million to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), which is the international initiative to support global equitable access to vaccines. This makes the UK among the COVAX AMC’s largest bilateral donors. Our commitment will support access to COVID-19 vaccines for up to 92 developing countries by contributing to the supply of 1 billion doses in 2021, and vaccinations for up to 500 million people. Asked by The

Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the communique from the Primates of the Anglican Communion on 12 November about equitable COVID19 vaccine access, what plans they have to use faith communities globally to encourage the distribution and uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine. [HL11698]

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The UK is committed to rapid, equitable access to safe and effective vaccines, treatments, and tests globally. We have committed up to £548 million for the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), which is the international initiative administered by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance to support global equitable access to vaccines. Our commitment will support access to COVID-19 vaccines for up to 92 developing countries by contributing to the supply of 1 billion doses in 2021, and vaccinations for up to 500 million people. Gavi and its partners plan to partner with faith-based organisations, including working with religious leaders, to provide accurate and transparent information on COVID19 vaccines, and encourage the distribution and uptake of the vaccine when rolled-out.


Ethiopa

Asked by The Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that humanitarian agencies are being denied access to people in need of support in Tigray by the government of Ethiopia. [HL11699]

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The UK has been at the forefront, liaising closely with the UN and partners, in calling for sustained, free and unfettered humanitarian access across Tigray, in line with the guiding principles laid down by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Two joint UN and Government of Ethiopia assessment missions to Tigray have taken place with assessment reports expected soon. We continue to press for the supply of humanitarian assistance to all those who need it. UK supported live-saving assistance including, health, nutrition, non food items (such as blankets, shelter and cooking equipment), in addition to water and sanitation have reached some of the conflict affected areas. We continue to work with the UN to promote and monitor access and the delivery of humanitarian support to all those who need it, including to civilians in contested areas.

Asked by the Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Ethiopia about any difficulties humanitarian agencies have had in accessing Tigray. [HL11700]

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The UK has been at the forefront, liaising closely with the UN and partners, in calling for sustained, free and unfettered humanitarian access across Tigray, in line with the guiding principles laid down by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. We continue to press for the supply of humanitarian assistance to all those who need it, including in the recent December visit by the Special Envoy for Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Affairs. We continue to work with the UN to monitor access and the delivery of humanitarian support to all those who need it including to civilians in contested areas.
Low Incomes: Coronavirus


Poverty in the UK

Asked by the Bishop of Durham: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the report by the Child Poverty Action Group and the Church of England Poverty in the pandemic: An update on the impact of coronavirus on low-income families and children, published on 14 December, what new measures they are putting in place to respond to the needs of low-income families, and in particular, the children of such families. [HL11653]

Baroness Stedman-Scott: Throughout the pandemic, the Government has delivered an unprecedented package of support to protect jobs and businesses and, for those in most need, injected billions into the welfare system. From 6 April 2020 the Government temporarily increased the standard allowance in Universal Credit by £20 per week on top of planned annual uprating, for new and existing Universal Credit claimants. This measure remains in place until March 2021. The new Covid Winter Grant Scheme builds on that support with an additional £170 million for local authorities in England. The grant will carry conditions and reporting requirements to ensure the scheme is focussed on providing support with food and utility costs to vulnerable families with children. At least 80 per cent is to be spent on families with children, providing some flexibility for councils to help other vulnerable people. Councils will also be required to spend at least 80 per cent on food and key utilities for heating and power, again, with some flexibility for other essentials. It is also increasing the value of Healthy Start vouchers by more than a third to help low income families. From April the value of vouchers will rise from £3.10 to £4.25.

Asked by the Bishop of Durham: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the report by the Child Poverty Action Group and the Church of England Poverty in the pandemic: An update on the impact of coronavirus on low-income families and children, published on 14 December, what assessment they have made of the mental health issues of (1) parents, and (2) children, of low-income families. [HL11654]

Lord Bethell: We recognise how important it is that everyone, including those in low-income families, get the support they need with their mental health and we are working to ensure that mental health services are there for everyone who needs them during the pandemic. We have released guidance through the ‘Every Mind Matters’ website where people can get advice to support their mental health and wellbeing, which includes dealing with money worries and job uncertainty during the pandemic.


Devolution

Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I welcome the request from the noble Lord, Lord Young, and the call from the noble Baroness, Lady Quin, for a cross-party, independent approach to this. Were the commission to make a primary objective strengthening the union and a Parliament working for the whole United Kingdom, does the Minister agree that it should give serious consideration to the devolution of power in England away from Westminster, whether to regional mayors, assemblies or even an English assembly?

Lord True: My Lords, those concepts are obviously extremely important and are no doubt the subject of continuing discussion in and across all parties. As the right reverend Prelate will know, regional assemblies were proposed by a previous Government and rejected by the electorate.