In the House of Lords on 14th January 2021 the Bishop of St Albans received written answers to questions on vaccines for developing countries and the situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia while the Bishop of Durham received answers to questions on the recent updated report by the Child Poverty Action Group and the Church of England on Poverty in the pandemic.
Meanwhile in the Chamber, the Bishop of Birmingham raised the issue of devolution in England with the Government during Lord Young’s Oral question about the formation of a Constitution, Democracy and Human Rights Commission. Text below:
On 2nd December 2020 in the House of Lords the Bishop of St Albans responded to a Ministerial statement about the cut in overseas aid:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]: My Lords, I ask the Minister to answer the question from the noble Lord, Lord Collins: will Her Majesty’s Government include a sunset clause in any legislation amending the International Development Act?
Secondly, do the Government intend to produce and publish any impact assessment of the reduction in spending on official development assistance?
On 25th November 2020 the House of Lords asked questions of Government on its abandonment of the legal commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI on overseas aid. The Bishop of Worcester highlighted the many pledges made to protect this, which had now been broken:
The Lord Bishop of Worcester [V]: My Lords, the 2019 Conservative general election manifesto said:
“We will proudly maintain our commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI on development”.
That was before Covid, of course. On 16 June, the Prime Minister said in the other place that spending 0.7% remained the Government’s commitment.
On 18 June, the Leader of the House reassured the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Peterborough of the Government’s continued commitment to the 0.7% target.
In this House on 2 September, the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg, reassured the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol, with these words:
“I assure her that we will continue to be guided by our responsibilities under the International Development Act”.—[Official Report, 2/9/20; col. 354.]
In a letter to the Prime Minister last week, I drew attention to Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s words:
On 2nd September 2020 the Bishop of Bristol, Rt Revd Vivienne Faull, asked a question to Government on its commitment to the 0.7% GNI development aid target. The Minister had given a commitment to the fulfilling the Government’s obligations under law to the target in earlier exchanges:
The Lord Bishop of Bristol: My Lords, I have personally seen through the Anglican Communion’s worldwide partnerships the positive impact that the UK’s overseas aid has made to alleviating poverty. I share the concerns of other Peers about the reports of the Government’s intent to overturn the legal commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on aid. At the risk of tedium, I hope that the Minister will continue to give this House assurances that the Government have no such plans, which would reduce the UK’s impact under the UN sustainable development goals. Continue reading “Bishop of Bristol asks Government for assurances that 0.7% aid commitment will stay”
On 27th July Lord Harries of Pentregarth asked Her Majesty’s Government “how the merger of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development will enhance the United Kingdom’s ability to help (1) the poorest, and (2) the most vulnerable, communities abroad.” The Rt Revd James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester, asked a follow up question, focusing on poverty reduction.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, in this context will the Minister give assurances that the Government will continue to adhere to their stated commitment to poverty reduction, observing both the letter and spirit of domestic development legislation, including not only the matter the Minister has already mentioned—the 0.7% GDP target—but matters such as independent evaluation of impact and gender equality, and that any deviation from the present pattern will be debated and agreed both here and in the other House?
On 20th May 2020, Lord Collins of Highbury asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the response of international institutions to the impact of COVID-19 on refugee camps”. The Archbishop of Canterbury asked a follow-up question:
The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, the Minister will be aware of the Global Humanitarian Response Plan published by the UN and updated this month, which emphasises “The importance of involving and supporting local organizations … given the key role they are playing in this crisis.” In all areas where the world’s 70 million displaced people gather, faith groups and especially churches are often the only remaining organisations with reach from grass roots to leaders, but they are often ignored by international and relief agencies. In many cases, shortage of money and logistics hamper food distribution. What steps are the Government taking to ensure that faith-based local groups are fully involved by all international agencies in all aspects of relief, reconciliation and moral and spiritual support?
On the 7th January the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, spoke during the second day of debate on the Queen’s Speech, on the topics of child poverty, climate change sustainable development and immigration:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, initially I want to note how little reference there is in the gracious Speech to the needs of children, except in the realm of education. There is nothing about children’s first 1,000 days, nor any firm commitment to tackle the iniquity of child poverty. How we treat children speaks volumes for where our priorities lie. Could the Minister please comment on this omission?