On 13th May 2021 the House of Lords heard the repeat of a Government statement on a Coronavirus Inquiry.
The Lord Bishop of Durham: The pandemic has highlighted the vital role that the faith and voluntary sectors play in our society, particularly in the poorest communities, but initially our engagement was not as well done as it could possibly have been. Will the Minister comment on how the Government intend to include the faith and voluntary sectors in the inquiry so that their role is guaranteed in the future?
On 13th May 2021 the House of Lords considered the recent train delays caused by defects in the Hitachi stock.
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I declare an interest as a regular LNER user—indeed, I experienced disruption to the service on my trip down from Darlington. While it is essential that the defects are addressed, I am very aware of the jobs and investment brought to County Durham by Hitachi. Can the Minister confirm that this issue will not impact the investment in the region and the security of the jobs?
On 12th May 2021 the House of Lords debated the Queen’s Speech. The Bishop of Durham spoke, focusing on its impact on children and young people, and on the proposals for immigration.
“My Lords, it is a privilege to be the first to speak from these Benches on Her Majesty’s gracious Speech. I look forward to the valedictory speech of my colleague, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth, who has served the House so well during his years as a Lord spiritual. I also look forward to the maiden speeches of the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, and the noble Lord, Lord Lebedev.
“I make my comments within a very specific framework: are the measures contained in the gracious Speech good for the children and young people of our land? At the outset of her tenure as Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza commented: ‘I want to see childhood right at the top of the Government agenda. That means every speech from the Prime Minister and Chancellor mentioning children, and every Government department constantly pushing to improve the lives of children’— so it was good to hear a range of references to children. Having the best start in life by prioritising early years is essential. There is no debate any longer that the months in the womb and the first 1,001 days of a child’s life are absolutely critical to lifetime development. Much deeper investment in all aspects of early years well-being—mental, physical, social and spiritual—is essential.
On 12th May 2021 tributes were paid in the House of Lords to Lord Fowler, the retiring Lord Speaker. The Bishop of Durham spoke on behalf of the Lords Spiritual:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: It is my privilege to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, from the Spiritual Benches. I start with a specific reflection from these Benches on our leading of Prayers at the start of each day. The noble Lord was consistently considerate and courteous, taking the time to personally thank the duty Bishop for their prayers on each occasion. It was a small, kind gesture that meant more than he may have realised.
We all know of the noble Lord’s long-term, ongoing dedication and perseverance in addressing HIV. His patient persistence is admirable and notable. As he continues with this commendable work, as a UN ambassador, we trust he will further help it move forward. As it happens, this morning, before we began business, I was on a call with Christian Aid, for Christian Aid Week, with people from Kenya who were reflecting not only on climate change but the ongoing impact of AIDS in their country. It is work that needs to continue.
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:
In the House of Lords on 13th January 2021 the Bishop of Durham spoke during the debate on the Covert Human Intelligence Bill and the Bishop of St Albans received a written answer to a question on support for those living with gambling-related harm. Details below:
On 17th December the Bishop of Durham asked a question in the |Lords during exchanges on the Office for National Statistics latest findings on life expectancy:
The Lord Bishop of Durham [V]: Given the ONS recent findings that the lowest regional life expectancy for both male and female children at birth in 2017-19 was observed in my area of the north-east of England, when will Her Majesty’s Government commit to a full-blown strategy to eliminate the obstacles disproportionately facing children in poverty here in the north-east?
On 16th December 2020 the Bishop of Durham received a written answer to two questions of Government on making permanent the temporary increase to Universal Credit and legacy benefits:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what factors they will consider in their review of whether to make permanent the temporary Universal Credit uplift; and when they plan to announce the outcome of that review. [HL11202]
The Lord Bishop of Durham: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the statement by more than 60 organisations and bishops on 29 November on the Universal Credit uplift and legacy benefits; and what plans they have to extend the uplift to legacy benefits. [HL11203]