On 17th June 2021 MPs put questions to Andrew Selous MP, Second Church Estates Commissioner. Text of the oral and written answers is below.
Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): Whether the Church of England plans to support online and in-person communal worship as covid-19 restrictions are lifted. (901321)
The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous): The Church of England is strongly encouraging churches to support both in-person and online communal worship, and training has been given to thousands of clergy to enable this. It is up to local churches to decide how best to do this.
On 15th June 2021 the House of Lords heard a repeat of a Government statement on covid-19 rules.
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, regardless of matters of hindsight, does the Minister agree that prolonging the restrictions might be justified for certain reasons? I do not demur from that, but the prolonging of inconsistencies is a serious impediment to public adherence to the rules. You do not have to look very far to see where the discipline broke down a long time ago. For example—this is not special pleading; it is just at the forefront of my mind—you can sing in a pub but not in a church. This is what brings the rules into disrepute, and therefore people do not agree with them.
Secondly, can the Minister say something in response to Michael Gove’s reported comments about acceptable death rates? We have learned to live with acceptable death rates from flu and other seasonal diseases. Will the Government do some work on what might be an acceptable death rate from Covid in future and be up-front with the country as to what that might be? I think we can take it.
On 7th June 2021 the Bishop of Salisbury, Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, made his final speech in the House of Lords before retirement, in the Second Reading debate on the Government’s Environment Bill:
The Lord Bishop of Salisbury (Valedictory Speech): My Lords, I have not been in the House in person since the first week of February. Sitting on the Front Bench earlier with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln, I found myself wondering whether both of us had misjudged the timing of our retirements. I have led on the environment for the Church of England for seven years and have been a Member of the House for six. It has been a privilege as well as a responsibility and I am grateful to noble Lords who have spoken kindly of what has been achieved; of course, it could never be enough.
With an eye towards retirement, I had thought that last year, 2020, would have provided a good conclusion, with the Lambeth Conference of Bishops from the Anglican Communion, COP 26 and this Environment Bill. All were postponed, so I find myself standing for the last time in this House without the prospect of being able to engage in the detailed scrutiny and revision that will make what is, in many ways, a good Bill better. Of course, my colleagues will contribute, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford has already. I thank the Minister for meeting the Bishops in preparation for this debate.
On 27th May 2021 the House of Lords debated the Government’s Immigration Rules and Statements of Changes to them. A Motion to Regret the Statements was moved by Lord Green of Deddington, though not put to a vote. His Motion read:
“That this House regrets that the Statements of changes to the Immigration Rules (HC813, HC1043 and HC1248), published respectively on 22 October 2020, 10 December 2020 and 4 March, do not provide clear and comprehensible descriptions of the changes proposed, nor of their likely effect. Special attention drawn by the Secondary Legislation Committee, 33rd and 40th Reports, Session 2019–21.”
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, for securing this important debate on his Motion to Regret. Last year, several Members of your Lordships’ House cautioned against the major extension of the Government’s capacity to make law with minimal recourse to Parliament in the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act. Today, at the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, and not of Her Majesty’s Government, we have 90 minutes to examine three statutory instruments relating to the Immigration Rules, one of which runs to 507 pages. All three were subject to the negative resolution, which involved little or no scrutiny of such important areas of life. Your Lordships’ House last defeated Her Majesty’s Government by praying against a negative resolution 21 years ago. Is the Minister satisfied with the level of scrutiny that these statutory instruments have received? Would she agree with me that it would have been better to publish them first in draft and to seek the views of both Houses in a debate?
On 27th May 2021 the Bishop of Leeds asked a question about holding Azerbaijan to account for its actions in the border region with Armenia.
The Lord Bishop of Leeds [V]: My Lords, just to add to the catalogue, on 12 May this year Azerbaijani armed forces also invaded the border area of the Syunik region of the Republic of Armenia. On the ground, the constant incursions and the violations of human rights are perceived with impunity. Does the Minister believe that Minsk is working and is ultimately viable, and what more can the UK and its allies do to hold Azerbaijan to account?
On 27th May 2021 the Bishop of Blackburn asked a question he had tabled on the link between covid-19 rates and high levels of poverty.
Question Asked by The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made as to whether there is a correlation between areas with high COVID-19 infection rates and high levels of poverty; and if there is such a correlation, what steps they intend to take to address this as part of their levelling up agenda.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Bethell) (Con): My Lords, the facts are heartbreaking. Covid, like many diseases, has hit hardest those who are most vulnerable: the poorest, the most disabled and those who work in some of the most difficult jobs. The vaccine rollout and community testing programmes have shown what the country can do, but there is much more to be done. That is why we are publishing a levelling-up White Paper, and health inequalities will be central to that.
The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his reply and the work that he and colleagues are doing in a fast-changing scene. We know that it is not easy. Does he agree that care for the poorest, most disadvantaged and most vulnerable in the community is one of the signs of a healthy society? Can he be more specific about how equality of opportunity in the levelling-up agenda will be rolled out?
Asked by The Lord Bishop of Southwark: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the statement by the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches of Jerusalem on 11 May that the violence in Jerusalem “violates the sanctity of the people of Jerusalem and of Jerusalem as the City of Peace”; and what plans they have to call on relevant parties (1) to halt further violence, and (2) to ensure the safety of worshippers. [HL192]
On Wednesday 26th May the House of Lords questioned Government on the local travel arrangement plans and the lack of consultation that had caused some confusion. The Bishop of Blackburn spoke from the experience of this in his diocese.
On 25th May 2021 the Bishop of Blackburn asked a question about finding energy saving solutions for historic and educational buildings.
The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: My Lords, I am grateful for the Question and the Minister’s response. My question is about the outcome for the many heritage buildings and schools in this country, where the challenge is often the greatest. Will the Government do anything to make them part of the solution rather than the problem?
On 25th May 2021 the former Archbishop of York, Rt Revd John Sentamu was introduced to the House of Lords to sit as an independent Crossbench Peer. He will sit under the title Lord Sentamu of Lindisfarne in the County of Northumberland and of Masooli in the Republic of Uganda.
12.08pm The right reverend and the right honourable John Tucker Mugabi Sentamu, having been created Baron Sentamu, of Lindisfarne in the County of Northumberland and of Masooli in the Republic of Uganda, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Baroness Hale of Richmond and Lord Popat, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.