The Bishop of Carlisle asked a question on when the government’s NHS Workforce Plan would be published, during a debate on junior doctors strikes on 30th March 2023:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, we know that a major cause of the strikes that we have recently seen in the health service relates to staff who are overstretched. That is the result of chronic shortages, which suggests a lack of adequate workforce planning. We have just heard that there are currently over 124,000 reported vacancies, according to the NHS Confederation. I repeat a question that was asked earlier, or shall at least reinforce it: when will the workforce plan be published? Without it, healthcare staff will continue to struggle to provide the level of care that they would like.
The Bishop of Carlisle also spoke in the debate on the future of social care on 30th March 2023, highlighting the central themes of the Archbishops’ Commission on Reimagining Care, and the need for change in the approach to social care:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, I have had the great privilege of sitting on both the Adult Social Care Committee and the Archbishops’ Commission on Reimagining Care. I also pay tribute to the outstanding work of their respective chairs, the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, and Dr Anna Dixon.
When the two reports were published, it came as no great surprise that there were huge areas of overlap. In fact, a careful analysis has revealed at least 17 different points of congruence, ranging from providing everyone with the opportunity to lead a full life, through to appointing a commissioner for care and support and properly implementing the Care Act 2014—all of which have already been mentioned.
As we have heard, the role of unpaid carers, including children, was highlighted in particular by both reports. Because that became such a central feature of the Select Committee’s investigation and report, it is being fully addressed by many noble Lords speaking in this important debate. Rather than repeating their valuable contributions, I, like the noble Lord, Lord Polak, and the noble Baroness, Lady Shephard, want to focus on another area of concern raised by both reports, namely the current difficulty experienced by those who try to navigate the statutory care and support system. Phrases such as a “baffling range of organisations” and a “fog of confusion” abound. As we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, whose long-term contribution to this debate we so value, dealing with the complex and circular bureaucracy is time-consuming and frustrating.
On 19th January 2023, the Bishop of Carlisle spoke in a debate to mark the lead up to International Holocaust Memorial Day:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton. Like so many others, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, for this Motion. It provides an opportunity not only to hear such moving contributions but to express from these Benches our deep appreciation of the history and values that Christians and Jews have in common, as well as the importance we attach to our ongoing dialogue, understanding and attempts to work together for the common good. Our central Christian act of worship, the Eucharist, originated in Christ’s participation in the Jewish ceremony of Passover. We note the huge contribution that Jewish people have made to British society through the centuries, which is a great expression of the significance of faith in public life.
On 18th January 2023, the Bishop of Carlisle asked a question on changes to the Localism Act 2011 to better enable national parks to engage in conservation:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, some of our national parks believe that they could better address climate and nature emergencies if they were added to the list of authorities which have a general power of competence under the Localism Act 2011. Can the Minister tell us whether His Majesty’s Government have any plans to bring that about?
The House of Lords debated the Levelling Up Bill in its second reading on 17th January 2023. The Bishop of Carlisle spoke in the debate, focusing on health inequalities between the North and South of England:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, in the brief time available, I will address health inequalities between the north of England, where I live, and the south, and their implications for levelling up and regeneration. Health inequalities are defined as avoidable, unfair and systematic differences in health between different groups of people. In 2010, Sir Michael Marmot conducted his celebrated review into such inequalities, in the hope that this might lead to some improvement. Instead, we have seen an increase, rather than a reduction, of such inequalities over the last 12 years. For instance, life expectancy in deprived areas of the north-east is at least five years lower than it is in similar areas here in London. A baby boy born in Blackpool today can expect an additional 17 years of poor health compared with a baby born in Richmond upon Thames. People in all social groups in the north of England, male and female, are consistently less healthy than those in the south, and premature death rates are about 20% higher across all age groups in the north, due not least to lower lifetime chances.
These statistics—there are many more—are a stark reminder that inequalities in health are often closely linked to people’s socioeconomic circumstances. This has been forcefully illustrated by the Covid pandemic, which, in the words of one commentator, exposed “deep fractures of inequality” running across our society. During the first year of the pandemic, the mortality rate was 17% higher in the north than in the south, unemployment was 19% higher and there were significant differences in mental well-being between the north and the south. It is now reckoned that health issues account for about 30% of the gap in productivity between the north and the south.
The Bishop of Carlisle asked a question on the benefits of funded childcare schemes on 17th January 2023, during a debate on access to childcare for working families:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, following the recommendation in a recent report published by the Work and Pensions Committee on universal credit and childcare costs, can the Minister tell us what assessment His Majesty’s Government have made of childcare funding schemes in Scotland and in some Scandinavian countries? Have they investigated whether their costs are offset by other benefits to society, such as increased economic activity, additional tax receipts and personal well-being?
The Bishop of Carlisle asked a question on whether the government have revised their PPE purchasing systems for possible future pandemics on Monday 16th January 2023:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, can the Minister tell us whether His Majesty’s Government have yet put in place a revised system to purchase PPE during a pandemic?
Lord Markham (Con): PPE is an example of where we all agree that we could have done better, to say the least. At this stage, I should declare an interest in that I set up a Covid testing company—not PPE—which never supplied the Government. I want to be clear about that, so that the House is fully aware of it in terms of my replies, now we are talking about PPE and related areas. Yes, we can learn a lot about PPE. At the same time, we did buy 35 billion items, 97% of which worked very well. It is important that we keep all this in context; we got 97% of things right.
The Bishop of Carlisle asked a question concerning the proposed opening of a new coal mine in Whitehaven, Cumbria, on 8th December 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, I declare a slight interest in this topic, since Whitehaven is in my diocese, and like the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, I live in west Cumbria—in a particularly beautiful part of it, I have to say. This debate has now been running for more than two years, and in Cumbria, as in the whole country, it has been highly contentious, with a great deal of passion expressed on both sides. We have already heard some of that passion in the debate this evening. So I am acutely aware of the many arguments about both the potential environmental impact, which has been deplored, and the employment opportunities, which would—as has already been mentioned—be very welcome in this very deprived part of the country.
The Lord Bishop of Carlilse asked a question on what the government is doing to promote alternatives to prison sentences, during a debate on prison capacity on 6th December 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, my friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester much regrets that she is not able to be present today. I know she shares my concern over this Statement since we, like others who have spoken, believe that the emergency use of police cells for prisoners is deeply worrying. We greatly welcome the increase in the number of police officers but feel that it is connected to the larger number of people going to prison, and that that should not be the case. Initially I wanted to ask about rehabilitation, but that question has already been addressed. I accept that the question of sentences is for the courts, but can the Minister help us by saying what the Government are doing to promote community and non-custodial sentences, rather than people simply going to prison?
The Bishop of Carlisle asked a question on whether the government would seek approval from relevant medical bodies for methods of age-assessment used on refugees on 6th December 2022, during a debate on the ethical considerations of such assessments:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, further to that answer, in determining what constitutes an appropriate scientific method of age assessment, can the Minister assure us that any future methods will be formally approved by the relevant medical body before they come into use?
Lord Murray of Blidworth (Con): Plainly they will be formally approved by the advisory committee to the Home Secretary, and one suggests that the views of relevant professional bodies will be of great weight in making such a decision.
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