Week in Westminster, 20th-24th July 2020

Parliament met this week, in Westminster and online, with the Bishops of Chichester and Southwark beginning each sitting day in the House of Lords with prayers.

The Bishops of Southwark and Bristol spoke in a debate on the Government’s Immigration Bill, raising issues of modern slavery, EU citizens, the right to work, visa costs and eligibility.  The Bishop of Southwark also asked Government to take action on reports of human rights abuses in China. The Bishop of Chichester asked a question about the impact of student loans on recruitment and retention in public services, and also about support for children who are victims of domestic abuse.

The Bishop of St Albans asked Government about action against rising levels of knife crime. He also asked a question about guidance on singing and compulsory wearing of face masks in places of worship. The Bishop also spoke to amendments on maintaining food security during debates on the Government’s Agriculture Bill, and voted on two amendments to the Government’s Business and Planning Bill.

The Bishop of Winchester asked Government about student eligibility for free college meal vouchers and the Bishop of Durham asked Government about training and apprenticeship funding for disadvantaged students.

The Bishop of Salisbury received written answers to questions on the Russia Report and the Green Home Grants Scheme. Continue reading “Week in Westminster, 20th-24th July 2020”

Bishop of Chichester asks about impact of student loans on recruitment and retention in key public services

On 23rd July 2020 Lord Bassam of Brighton asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the presentation of debt by the Student Loans Company on its online student loan repayment system.” The Bishop of Chichester, Rt Revd Martin Warner, asked a follow-up question:

The Lord Bishop of Chichester: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, has made a trenchant point about the presentation of these financial statements. The University of Chichester plans to reopen its school of nursing and to recruit locally—to pick up a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Clark, on an earlier Question. For mature and part-time students whom the university seeks to attract, the level of loan debt is as important as the clarity of the information about their loan repayments—perhaps more so. Will the Minister look again at the impact of student loans on recruitment and retention in key public services in the light of their significance to our recovery from the pandemic? Continue reading “Bishop of Chichester asks about impact of student loans on recruitment and retention in key public services”

Bishop of Southwark calls for Government action on human rights abuses in China

On 22nd July a statement was given about China. The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark asked a follow up question.

Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, the Foreign Secretary is correct about the importance and place of China in the world but China’s human rights record, especially as it concerns Uighurs, has been well known for some time. In the light of the recent US Uighurs human rights act, will Her Majesty’s Government consider similar measures and produce a list of Chinese companies involved in the construction and operation of the camps? Given the rising and publicly expressed concern in this country, including by the Board of Deputies, will the Minister now accept that it is high time we took firmer steps to counter Beijing’s harrowing human rights abuses against the Uighurs, and that such abuses should influence negotiations on any future trade deal with China?

Continue reading “Bishop of Southwark calls for Government action on human rights abuses in China”

Bishops of Southwark and Bristol highlight concerns with Government’s Immigration Bill

On 22nd July the Government’s Immigration and Social Security (EU Withdrawal) Bill was debated at Sec0nd Reading in the House of Lords. The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark, and the Rt Revd Vivienne Faull, Bishop of Bristol, spoke in the debate, highlighting modern slavery, work eligibility, EU citizens, visas for ministers of religion, tariffs, and children’s welfare.

The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, the introduction of this Bill in another place is a signal opportunity for Her Majesty’s Government comprehensively to reset the legislative basis for immigration control in this country, to set out a vision for doing so, and to rationalise and streamline the more than 1,000 pages of immigration legislation under which we labour. It is surprising, therefore, that, as other speakers have pointed out, this Bill is so narrow in scope. Continue reading “Bishops of Southwark and Bristol highlight concerns with Government’s Immigration Bill”

Bishop of St Albans asks Government for clarity about Covid-19, singing and face masks in churches

On 22nd July Lord Lexden asked Her Majesty’s Government “further to the Written Answer by Lord Greenhalgh on 26 May (HL4184), what discussions they have had with (1) the Church of England, (2) the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and (3) other Churches, about the reopening of church buildings for private devotional prayer and public worship.

The Rt Revd Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, asked a follow up question focusing on singing and compulsory wearing of face masks:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, many of our churches and cathedrals are desperate to enable small groups of singers, perhaps four singers standing five metres apart from each other. Is there any possibility that that will be allowed soon? Secondly, will the Minister tell the House whether there are any plans for the compulsory wearing of face masks in places of worship?

Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks Government for clarity about Covid-19, singing and face masks in churches”

Agriculture Bill: Bishop of St Albans supports amendments on food security and vulnerable farmers

On 21st July House of Lords debated amendments to the Government’s  Agriculture Bill, during its Committee stage. The Rt Revd Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, spoke to amendments on maintaining food security during he movement to the new farm payments scheme.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I will say a few words about the transition period and, in particular, in support of Amendments 150 to 154 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Rock, which have the support of the National Farmers Union and the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, among others.

Continue reading “Agriculture Bill: Bishop of St Albans supports amendments on food security and vulnerable farmers”

Bishop of St Albans asks for swords into ploughshares approach to tackle rising knife crime

On 21st July the Rt Revd Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, asked Her Majesty’s Government “further to the statistical bulletin by the Office for National Statistics Crime in England and Wales: year ending March 2020, published on 17 July, which reported that the incidence of knife crime is at a record high, what action they are taking to address the rise of knife crime in England and Wales.” The Minister’s response and the follow-up question from the Bishop, is below:

Baroness Williams of Trafford (The Minister of State, Home Office): My Lords, the Government are taking urgent action to tackle knife crime, which is costing too many lives and leaving too many people afraid. Police funding is increasing by more than £1 billion this year. We are recruiting 20,000 more police officers and making it easier for them to use stop and search, and we are ensuring that more knife crime offenders go to prison for longer.

Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks for swords into ploughshares approach to tackle rising knife crime”

Bishop of Winchester asks Government about free college meals

On 21st July Baroness Massey of Darwen asked Her Majesty’s Government “what steps they are taking to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on social mobility”. The Rt Revd Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester, asked a follow up question focusing on free meals for college students.

The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, the Association of Colleges’ summer survey, published yesterday, indicates that three out of four colleges require additional resources to provide free college meal vouchers to eligible students over the summer. In my diocese, 52% of students at City College Southampton receive free college meals. We welcome the £96 million of ring-fenced funding announced yesterday for all 16 to 19 providers to supply additional catch-up tutoring. Will the Minister say how the Government will support colleges to ensure that all eligible students receive free college meals over the summer?

Continue reading “Bishop of Winchester asks Government about free college meals”

Votes: Business and Planning Bill

Two votes on amendments to the Government’s Business and Planning Bill took place on Monday 20th July during its Report Stage. The Bishop of St Albans supported both amendments: Continue reading “Votes: Business and Planning Bill”

Bishop of Durham asks Government about training and apprenticeship funding for disadvantaged students

On 21st July Lord Aberdare asked Her Majesty’s Government “what steps they are taking to ensure that the young people due to leave school in the current academic year are prepared for work in a post-COVID-19 environment; and what changes they have made to careers support and guidance provision to achieve this”. The Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, asked a follow up question focusing on funding for training and apprenticeships.

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, the Social Mobility Commission recently published an apprenticeships report, which highlighted a 36% reduction in the number of apprenticeship starters who were from disadvantaged backgrounds.

As we prioritise developing the skills of young people, can the Minister confirm how the new £1.6 billion funding for scaling up training and apprenticeships will be distributed across the country to ensure that areas such as the north-east with a high proportion of disadvantaged students have access to quality training?

Continue reading “Bishop of Durham asks Government about training and apprenticeship funding for disadvantaged students”