Bishop of Exeter asks about broadband supply to rural and unconnected areas

The Bishop of Exeter received the following written answers on 24th March 2023:

The Lord Bishop of Exeter asked His Majesty’s Government what plans they have to ensure that the 500,000 properties currently unable to access a broadband service running at a minimum of 10Mbps via a fixed line will be able to access broadband.

Viscount Camrose (Con): The Government has set out its plan to deliver Project Gigabit, our £5 billion mission to deliver fast, reliable broadband across the UK, and we are making good progress. Our target is for 85% of UK premises to have access to gigabit-capable broadband by 2025, and over 99% by 2030. This will include some premises currently unable to access more than 10Mbps.

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Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill: Bishop of Manchester supports amendments on worker protection and parliamentary scrutiny of legislation

On 23rd March 2023, the House of Lords debated the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill in its second day of committee. The Bishop of Manchester spoke in the debate, in support of numerous amendments:

  • Amendments 20 & 40, that would require reviews of how the legislation would affect recruitment and of the meaning of minimum service levels
  • Amendment 21, which would seek to ensure that work notices are only issued where all options to avert a strike are exhausted
  • Amendment 41, which would preserve existing protections from unfair dismissal, including for an employee who participates in a strike contrary to a work notice under the bill
  • Amendments 37 & 43, which would allow for parliamentary scrutiny of sections of the bill, and remove the ability for the Secretary of State to make regulations that repeal primary legislation and would make all regulations made under this section subject to the affirmative procedure

Amendments 20 & 40:

The Lord Bishop of Manchester: My Lords, I am sorry to come into the debate quite late; I had not realised we were getting so close to the end. I support Amendment 20 from the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and Amendment 40 from the noble Lord, Lord Fox. I regret that I have been unable to be in my seat at earlier stages, but I am grateful that my right reverend friends the Bishops of London and St Edmundsbury and Ipswich have passed on my concerns. Amendments 20 and 40 are absolutely invaluable. If this Bill is—regrettably, in my view—to become law, it must have all necessary consultation and evidence gathering before it.

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Bishop of Manchester asks about problems with Avanti West Coast train services

The Bishop of Manchester asked a question on issues with services on Avanti West Coast trains, during a debate on ongoing problems with the train service in the region on 23rd March 2023:

The Lord Bishop of Manchester: My Lords, as a fellow traveller on Avanti, often in the same coach as the noble Lord, Lord Goddard, I agree entirely with his comments. It is not only that trains are delayed or cancelled; sometimes the services on those trains are not provided, particularly food. These are long journeys and often at the very last moment, when you are sitting on the train and have been told that there will be food, you are then told, “We haven’t been able to load the food; there are no refreshments on the journey”. Can we please bear in mind that it is a whole service? The staff are wonderful, but they are labouring against impossible circumstances at the moment.

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Church Commissioners Written Questions: Religious Freedom

On 23rd March 2023, Andrew Selous MP, representing the Church Commissioners, gave the following written answer to a question from an MP:

Jim Shannon MP (DUP): To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what assessment the Church has made of freedom of religion and belief (a) globally and (b) in China and Hong Kong.

Andrew Selous MP (Con): I refer the Hon. Member to the answer given (129832(opens in a new tab)) on 31st January 2023.

Hansard

Bishop of Durham asks about universal credit and free school meals

The Bishop of Durham received the following written answers on 23rd March 2023:

The Lord Bishop of Durham asked His Majesty’s Government, further to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Trussell Trust report An Essentials Guarantee: Reforming Universal Credit to ensure we can all afford the essentials in hard times, published on 27 February, what assessment they made of the recommendation contained in that report to “introduce an Essentials Guarantee” to ensure those on Universal Credit are not going without essential items.

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Bishop of St Albans asks about funding for the BBC World Service

The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answer on 23rd March 2023:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government how much funding they provided for the BBC World Service in (1) 2019, (2) 2020, (3) 2021, and (4) 2022.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con): Since 2016, the FCDO has provided over £468 million to the World Service through the World2020 programme, funding 12 language services and enhancements to services in Arabic, Russian, Thai and English, to enable digital transformation and counter disinformation.

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Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill: Bishop of Manchester supports housing needs assessments for older people

On 22nd March 2023, the House of Lords debated amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. The Bishop of Manchester, on behalf of the Bishop of Chelmsford, spoke in support of an amendment to the bill that would require local authorities to being forward an assessment of the local need for housing for older people as part of their housing plans:

The Lord Bishop of Manchester: My Lords, I support Amendment 221 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Best, to which, as he indicated, my right reverend friend the Bishop of Chelmsford added her name. She apologises for being unable to be in her place today; in my own brief remarks, I will make a number of points that she would have contributed had she been here. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, who, like the noble Lord, Lord Best, has a long and honourable history of leading the thinking on housing matters in this land.

I declare my interest in housing for older people: as set out in the register, I am a board member of the Wythenshawe Community Housing Group. In fact, it is more than an interest; it is a passion. In my time as chair of the association, we have opened a flagship development of 135 apartments for older people with mixed rental, shared ownership and outright purchase. Developments such as this enable local people to live in dignity in old age. They provide social space as well as private dwellings. In many cases, they allow residents to remain close to their family networks and former neighbours—the support networks that they need in later life. We can do well for older people but that should not have to rely on episcopal passion or potluck. It needs to be part of how we plan housing provision at a strategic level.

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Rent Officers (Housing Benefit and Universal Credit Functions) (Modification) Order 2023: Bishop of Manchester supports motion to regret

The Bishop of Manchester spoke in support of a motion to regret moved by Lord Shipley (on behalf of Baroness Thornhill) on 22nd March 2023:

‘That this House regrets that the Rent Officers (Housing Benefit and Universal Credit Functions) (Modification) Order 2023 will freeze Local Housing Allowance (LHA) at the levels applied in April 2020 and therefore fails to account for inflationary increases in rent, resulting in vulnerable claimants spending a greater proportion of income on rent; further recognises that His Majesty’s Government’s inability to control inflation has resulted in unaffordable rents and contributed to housing insecurity for all tenants; and calls on His Majesty’s Government to align LHA with local housing rates.’

The Lord Bishop of Manchester: My Lords, I am very pleased to take part in this short debate. I would like to add my support to the Motion proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, and along with others wish her a speedy recovery. I am grateful for the impressive way in which the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, took this on at very short notice.

I declare my interest as set out in the register, I am the owner of one apartment, in Birmingham, currently privately let. I echo the concerns of other noble Lords. I had intended to add further statistics—I am a mathematician by background—but I think noble Lords have had enough numbers in this short debate already.

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Archbishop of York asks about social care reform

During a debate on the government’s social care strategy on 22nd March 2023, the Archbishop of York asked a question on reforming the social care workforce, emphasising the need to value care workers:

The Lord Archbishop of York: My Lords, the report by the Archbishops’ Commission on Reimagining Care was published in January. I am sure that the Minister is aware of this: in fact, I know that he is having a meeting later today with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle, who co-chaired that commission. We argue for a very bold approach to social care, which puts at its heart the concept of a care covenant, with clear expectations on each of us of what we should give and expect in return, recognising that each of us is a carer and that most of us will need care one day.

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Bishop of Derby asks about sport opportunities for women in prison

The Bishop of Derby received the following written answer on 22nd March 2023:

The Lord Bishop of Derby asked His Majesty’s Government:

  • what steps they have taken to improve the opportunities for sport and physical activity for women and girls in the criminal justice system.
  • what progress they have made in improving the availability of sport and physical activity for women and girls in the criminal justice system; and what plans they have to expand provision.

Lord Bellamy (Con): Encouraging engagement in sport and exercise amongst women and girls in contact with the criminal justice system can have a significant impact on reducing reoffending through both early intervention and diversionary activities, as well as rehabilitation for those sentenced.

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