On 17th October 2022, the House of Lords debated a bill to repeal the Health and Social Care Levy. The Bishop of London spoke about the importance of sustainable funding for the health and social care systems:
The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, I have some technical questions about the implications of repealing this levy, but they prompt more significant questions about the sustainability of health and social care funding, as other noble Lords have already suggested. The sustainability of health and social care is hugely important to me, not just as a former Government’s Chief Nursing Officer, but as a bishop. This is about funding a service well with a long-term view, so that those who work hard to care for us have the resources to do the job. This is about the fact that every person is of great value in God’s sight and should be treated with dignity and equity. This is about a thriving economy because, without a healthy population, we will not have an economy that grows.
When the levy was introduced, the then Financial Secretary wrote to the Treasury Select Committee to justify it, saying that
“it would not be possible to fund this from existing tax revenues, nor would it be responsible to fund it through borrowing.”
This uncertainty about the direction does not inspire confidence that the Government have a sustainable plan to fund health and social care. If repealing this levy will not affect health and social care funding, can the Minister guarantee that a detailed breakdown of how this tax cut will be funded will be set out clearly?
On 19th July 2022 the House of Lords debated the Government’s Energy Bill at its Second Reading:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, I take many of the cogent and very well-informed points that have already been made in this debate, not least the one made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, on the need for international co-operation. Even so, I welcome all three pillars of this Bill. Its stated direction could offer at least a step forward towards the goal of net-zero carbon.
I suggest in particular two rather domestic but, I hope, practical areas that could, in my view, do with further development in the Bill; namely, local renewable energy generation, as raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and carbon capture, which has been addressed by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan.
In both cases, I hope noble Lords will forgive special reference to Cumbria, where I live. It is currently engulfed in a very contentious debate about the Woodhouse Colliery near Whitehaven that is not nearly as straightforward as it might first appear. Cumbria also has the “energy coast”—originally coal, then nuclear and now, increasingly, renewables. It has the Walney Extension offshore wind farm, which has more than 20% of the UK’s wind farm generating capacity. What is more, as a county, we have more than 50% of all the potential small-scale hydropower generation in the north-west.
The Bishop of Carlisle spoke in a debate on the Schools Bill in its second day of Report Stage, on 18th July 2022, in support of amendments on home schooling and the home school register. His speech is below, followed by those of other peers:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, I speak on behalf of my right reverend friend the Bishop of St. Albans, who has two amendments in his name,
Amendments 66 and 94. His name is also listed on Amendments 65 and 66A, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas.
Amendments 65, 66 and 66A continue to take issue with the proposals for details of the means by which a child is being educated to be included on the register. Amendment 66 would replace this with a determination of suitability, and provide for visits by the local authority for determining that suitability to be recorded. However, further to communication with the Department for Education and the Minister, we understand that their interpretation of the word “means” does not relate to the educational content or methods of home educating but simply to the providers of the education, since separate rules for registration will pertain to out-of-school education. We have been informed that this framework will be set out in the future statutory guidance. This is a much more positive interpretation than had previously been supposed, but if this is the interpretation I am not sure why it could not have been contained within the primary legislation rather than prescribed at a later date. Amendment 66A, from the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, would naturally resolve that problem.
On 15th July 2022, the Climate and Ecology Bill, a Private Member’s Bill, was considered at Second Reading in the House of Lords. The Bishop of St Albans spoke in the debate – his speech is below, along with contributions from other peers:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, for this Bill. I know he has made many contributions about diversity in the past. I seem to remember that red squirrels are something we have discussed on a number of occasions, and I am glad he still works on that.
This debate is taking place at a crucial moment in our country’s battle against climate change. Despite the circumstances that have led to a change of Prime Minister, there was at least genuine confidence in the urgency and seriousness with which he was approaching the issue of climate change—he spoke out on a number of occasions. Therefore, it seems all the more extraordinary that, in the current events going on, we are hearing virtually nothing from candidates who want to be the next Prime Minister about this vital area. It is as if the only thing that matters is taxation. Taxation is important for all sorts of reasons, but where are the prophetic voices speaking about where we must be for the sake of vital future generations?
On 15th July 2022, the house debated the Healthy Homes Bill at its second reading. The Bishop of Ely spoke in the debate on this Private Member’s Bill. His speech is below, along with contributions from other peers:
The Lord Bishop of Ely: My Lords, it is a pleasure to speak in the Second Reading of this very important Bill. The lead Bishop on housing, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford, is sadly unable to be with us. However, she has asked me also to pass on her gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, for his work in bringing the Healthy Homes Bill forward.
In his book Reimagining Britain, the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote that we need to reimagine housing. He said:
“Reimagined core values and practices in any housing development will be linked to health in many forms. Good communities build financial, physical, mental, spiritual and relational health.”
As the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, said, this is about linking not just housing and health but education. In my time as Bishop of Ely, when we have built church schools on crowded new housing estates I have always insisted on having space in front of the schools so that, rather than doubling the cramp that people feel, we have pram plazas rather than pram wars.
The House of Lords considered the Government’s Schools Bill at Report Stage on 12th July 2022. The Bishop of Durham spoke in the debate on numerous amendments, several of which were put to a vote. His speeches and contributions from other peers are below:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Storey, that there are many maintained and voluntary-aided stand-alone schools that have turned themselves around incredibly well through good leadership and high-quality teaching, so academisation is not the simple answer. Local leadership and governance undoubtedly need to be got right. I declare my interest as chair of the National Society and would like to highlight the importance here, in the church sector, of the diocesan boards of education as key local engagers. We will come to that in a later group.
Local knowledge of schools is crucial in ensuring that their flourishing is provided for. However, I am going to disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Storey, because I find the amendment overly mandatory and restrictive, giving too much power to a local body to trigger a school leaving an academy trust; I am not sure that that is right. The principle of local governance needs to be got right. I am not convinced that this amendment as proposed is quite the right way to do it. As was said in Committee, it is important to have proper local engagement, but it must not be too detailed in how it is mandated.
On 8th July 2022 the Bishop of Durham brought forward his Universal Credit (Removal of Two Child Limit) Bill, to be debated in the House of Lords. His speech introducing this Second Reading debate is below, followed by those of other Peers and the Government Minister responding:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I am glad to bring before you this Bill, which would abolish the two-child limit to universal credit. In doing so, I declare my interest as patron of the North East Child Poverty Commission.
When this policy was originally debated, I made it clear that we would seek to hold the Government to account for its impact. Working with others, including the Child Poverty Action Group, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and many others, I have sought to do this. Before the policy was rolled out, its impacts were predicted—notably, that many children would pay the price. They are, with more families affected every year.
On 8th July 2022, the House of Lords debated the Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill in its second reading. The Bishop of Durham spoke in the debate on this Private Member’s Bill- his speech and contributions from other peers are below:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I am pleased to speak today in support of this Bill. In doing so, I declare my interests as a member of the Refugee, Asylum and Migration Policy—RAMP—project and as a trustee of Reset.
The Bill proposes sensible provisions to consider the wider notion of family when enabling refugee families to come back together. Family reunification is often a neglected safe and legal route. The simple principle is that those who have been forced apart from family members due to persecution, war and other factors should be able to rebuild their lives with their loved ones when they have been granted protection as a refugee. In recent years, the largest safe route to the UK has been via family reunion, with 90% of those travelling this way being women and children.
It is on children that I would like to focus, namely the right of a child to reunite with their family, particularly their parents, when rebuilding a life here in the UK. Currently, we have the situation where we decide to layer more trauma on a child by expecting them to grow up separated from their parents and be placed in state care. Across Europe, the UK is simply an outlier in this regard.
On 8th July 2022, the House of Lords debated the Front-Loaded Child Benefit Bill at its second reading. The Bishop of Durham spoke in the debate on this Private Member’s Bill and his speech and contributions from other peers are below:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I rise to speak to this Bill with a degree of curiosity. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, for introducing it.
Children, and the family who cares for them, should be particularly supported in their early years. This is when their most important development happens, so we must want them to thrive. These early years are still too often overlooked in the impact they have on both the leading of a happy and healthy life or the long-term harm of adverse childhood experiences. The Bill is an interesting one, as I can see some of the arguments for front-loading child benefit. However, I also have some quite deep concerns. I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, has intentionally kept his briefing for the Bill minimal to accommodate the policy-making that would have to accompany it, but there are some key details to learn, or note.