Bishop of St Albans calls for extension of discretionary housing payments to rural areas

Baroness Quin asked Her Majesty’s Government what recent discussions they have had with local authorities about the costs associated with implementing the underoccupancy charge.

The Bishop of St Albans asked a supplementary question:

The Lord Bishop of St Alba14.03 Bishop of St Albansns: My Lords, as affordable rental properties in rural areas are in such shortage, will the Government extend the scheme, which currently applies only to the 21 most sparsely populated districts, and allow more local authorities to use discretionary housing payments to help retain more couples and families in their homes?

Lord Freud: My Lords, that is exactly what the discretionary housing payment is for. It is for local authorities to take decisions, based on their local knowledge, so that they get the funds to the right people. The emerging signs are that we will not spend all the discretionary housing payments this year. I am, however, making sure that a substantial amount of discretionary housing payment goes out next year, for which the total figure will be £165 million.


The Bishop of Leicester speaks in favour of updating guidance on sex and relationship education

The Bishop of Leicester spoke in the debate on the Report Stage of the Children & Families Bill. He spoke in favour of Amendment 53, on behalf of the Bishop of Oxford, who co-sponsored the amendment. The amendment called for guidance on sex and relationship education to be updated in light of technological changes. He spoke of the need for holistic education of children, and reflected on the conclusions of the ‘Good Childhood’ commission that children themselves are keen to develop strong and healthy relationships. The amendment was not pressed to a votLeicestere.

The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, I support Amendment 53 and speak in place of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, who has lent his name to it but cannot be in his place today. Personally, I find myself on the side of those who want PSHE to be a formal part of the curriculum and Amendment 53 goes some way in that direction.

I have three brief points to make. First, we on these Benches see social, emotional and spiritual intelligence as a vital part of a child’s development. We are not just interested in raising children who can pass exams, but in creating opportunities for young people to take control of their lives and values. Secondly, it is clear that there is a strong and growing coalition of organisations involved in this work, which have some knowledge in this area, and which support this proposal, including the Children’s Society the Mothers Union and many others.

Thirdly, I speak as a former chair of the Children’s Society and as a member of the Good Childhood commission, which reported four years or so ago, and which took evidence from more than 5,000 children. It was not evidence on this specific point, but it was evidence on the general point of what children understand makes for their well-being. Over and over again, children said that one of their top priorities was their friendships. They were trying to find their way through a complex, labyrinthine world in which friendships, intimacy and relationships had to be understood in this technological age, which has been so vividly described by previous speakers, where it was children who were asking for help in this area.

That is the most telling contribution I want to make to this debate. We do not have children in this House; we do not have the voice of children here. If we listen carefully to what they are saying to us through the Good Childhood Report and in other ways, we will find that they want our generation to help them to understand who they are and who they are with others in this completely new world, which has not shaped the relationships or outlooks of any Members of your Lordships’ House. For that reason, I strongly support Amendment 53.

The Bishop of Leicester calls for evidence-based approach to provision of the Social Fund

Baroness Lister of Burtersett asked Her Majesty’s Government what arrangements will be made from April 2015 for the payment to local authorities of the moneys devolved from the Social Fund.

The Bishop of Leicester asked a supplementary question:

The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, in view of what the Minister has said, willLeicester she assure the House that there will be a proper assessment of the take-up of government funds by local authorities in 2013-14 to inform future consideration of the success or otherwise of these changes? How will the Government ensure that future consideration is linked to the wider impact of the Government’s welfare reforms?

 Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The Department for Work and Pensions is committed to reviewing how local authorities have been providing this support until now, and it will continue to do so during the course of 2014. What I hope we will see from that is that the very best practice which is being carried out in some local authorities will be used to inform other local authorities, and that the best practice is spread widely.


Votes – Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill

House of Lords Division Lobby
House of Lords Division Lobby

On 28th January 2014, a number of bishops took part in two divisions on the Government’s Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, during ‘ping pong’.

Continue reading “Votes – Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill”

Bishop of Leicester asks question on mental health spending for those living with dementia

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath asked Her Majesty’s Government why they have discontinued the annual survey of mental health spending.

The Bishop of Leicester asked a supplementary question:

The Lord Bishop of LeicesteLeicesterr: My Lords, between 2011 and 2012 home support services saw a decrease of some 5.5% in expenditure. Can the noble Baroness tell us what impact this is likely to have on the mental well-being of people living with dementia and their carers? How can this impact be monitored if detailed spending figures are not yet available?

Baroness Jolly: Dementia services are delivered jointly with social care. The Government will be working with NHS England through clinical commissioning groups to make sure that the joint strategic needs assessments that are set out in local plans include provision for people living with dementia. My honourable friend in the other place has set up pioneering groups that are looking at integration of services. All that is very high on the agenda.


Bishop of Wakefield calls for Government to support investment in Georgia

Lord Harries of Pentregarth asked Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the current situation in Georgia

The Bishop of Wakefield asked a supplementary question:

The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, I begin by declaring an interest as the Church of England’s lead bishop on Georgian affairs. Last year, I had the good fortune to meet the outgoing President Saakashvili and, independently, some of his associates. I then met a number of members of the present Government. The antagonism could be felt in both directions and was seriously affecting stability and development. The previous Government had done some good work on corruption, tax collection and so on. If the economy is to prosper, the next thing that needs to happen is a building up of the infrastructure. Can Her Majesty’s Government assure noble Lords that the new Government will do that?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, on my last visit to Tbilisi I had lunch with MPs from both the governing party and the opposition party. That would not have been possible in Armenia or Azerbaijan. One has to put these things in perspective. Yes, of course we are assisting with developing the infrastructure in Georgia. The European neighbourhood partnership is putting a lot of money into Georgia and, of course, BP and other foreign investors are also assisting with the development of the country.


Fracking: Church Commissioners’ Written Answer

Second Church Estates Commissioner, Rt Hon Sir Tony Baldry MP answered a written question on fracking.

Miss McIntosh: To ask t14.01 CCQ Baldryhe right hon. Member for Banbury, representing the Church Commissioners, whether any applications for licences for fracking been made on land owned by the Church of England.

Sir Tony Baldry: The Church Commissioners believe that the Government has awarded a number of Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDL) which cover wide geographical areas and these include some interests held by the Commissioners. To date no approaches have been made to the Commissioners and no applications have been received from any potential Licensors.