On 28th July Baroness Neville-Rolfe asked Her Majesty’s Government “further to the paper by Professor David Miles, Mike Stead and Dr Adrian Heald Living with COVID-19: balancing costs against benefits in the face of the virus, published on 26 June, what plans they have to ensure that in the future fuller account is taken of the economic costs of any measures adopted to address the COVID-19 pandemic such as lockdowns.” The Rt Revd James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester, asked a follow up question, focusing on those affected by the benefit cap and those housed in the private rented sector.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, this is a complex matter, because economic, social and other community matters often go hand in hand. It is clear that many who have in these circumstances been bearing economic burdens are among those who are also the most socially disadvantaged. Bearing in mind the context of the forthcoming spending review, can the Minister give an assurance that the Government will take care to address the needs of such groups, including, for example, those affected by the benefit cap and those housed in the private rented sector, where repossession cases come before the courts again from later in August?
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?
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?
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?
On 13th July Lord Chidgey asked Her Majesty’s Government “what assessment they have made of the impact of (1) the COVID-19 pandemic, and (2) desert locusts, on food security in countries in east Africa, and in particular in (a) Sudan, and (b) South Sudan”. The Rt Revd Nick Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury asked a follow up question, focusing on overseas aid.
The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: With the economy of Sudan collapsing and inflation rocketing, the Anglican Archbishop of Khartoum said recently that people would rather die of Covid-19 than of hunger. In South Sudan the Anglican Archbishop of Juba said that mortality rates were already high and, in response to the virus, hygiene and social isolation are difficult—indeed, almost impossible. The diocese of Salisbury has a long-standing partnership with the Anglican churches in those countries and we have launched an emergency appeal this month for at least £50,000 for hygiene and food. What are the British Government doing to support the improvement of hygiene and food in those countries? What does the Minister think we are learning about the motivation for our giving aid to these countries?
On 10th July 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered a written question on singing in churches from Bell Ribeiro-Abby MP.
Bell Ribeiro-Addy: 69712 To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what the timescale is for allowing churches to resume choir singing; and what guidance will be published for churches on resuming choir singing safely during the covid-19 outbreak.
On 6th June Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb asked Her Majesty’s Government “what assessment they have made of the likelihood of an increase in COVID-19 infections as a result of lifting the restrictions in place to address the pandemic.“ The Rt Revd James Newcome, Bishop of Carlisle, asked a follow up question focusing onCovid-19 outbreaks in meat-processing plants and abattoirs.
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, given the incidence of outbreaks of this virus in meat-processing plants and abattoirs in a number of countries, including our own, and the fact that many workers at such plants are often poorly paid and belong to ethnic minority communities, and frequently live in accommodation in multiple occupancy, what advice are Her Majesty’s Government giving to the managers of such plants to mitigate the spread of the virus?
On 6th July the Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, received a written answer to a question from Baroness Stedman-Scott on social security benefits for children.
The Lord Bishop of Durham: HL5845 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the call by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Save the Children to increase the child component of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credits by £20 a week, following their research showing that 7 in 10 families with children in receipt of Universal Credit are cutting back on essentials as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On 2nd July Baroness Barker asked Her Majesty’s Government “what steps they are taking to ensure that mental health services are available in (1) acute, and (2) community, care settings (a) during, and (b) after, the COVID-19 pandemic.” The Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry, asked a follow up question focusing on the role of faith communities in supporting those with poor mental health due to Covid-19.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: My Lords, at least one of the churches in my diocese recently set up a mental well-being centre, providing support groups, a helpline and signposting to professional services. Has the Minister considered inviting churches and other faith communities, with their knowledge of, trust within and connections to the local community, including networks of young people, to participate in the response to the mental health needs caused by Covid-19?
On 1st July a statement was given updating the House of Lords on the Covid-19 situationin the UK. The Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry, asked afollow up question focusing on data sharing.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: My Lords, the Minister said that data required by local authorities is given to them, but I am told by the leader of Coventry City Council and our director of public health that, although data sharing has improved over the past two weeks, it still comes from different sources and does not include data on workplaces and other settings that people regularly visit or, as we have heard, on ethnicity. Can the Minister provide further assurances that local authorities will be supplied with the full data that they need to respond to local outbreaks in a streamlined form and at an early point?