Bishop of St Albans speaks about the challenges facing pensioners and low-income workers

The Bishop of St Albans spoke in a debate on financial stability on 3rd November 2022, focusing on the effects of the current financial situation and cost of living crisis on low-income workers and on pensioners:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, we are living in challenging times, with inflation rates at a 40-year high. Turbulence in the financial markets, with higher interest rates and larger mortgage payments, is adversely affecting people in all walks of society. With the wholesale price of energy and gas increasing due to Putin’s appalling and illegal invasion of Ukraine, it is vital that His Majesty’s Government do all they can to protect renters, those with mortgages and, of course, pensioners.

To put a human face to this debate, I thought it might be worth while just quoting one of a number of emails I have received from communities in my diocese this very week. One person emailed me on Friday: “In my role as chair of a food bank, we are having to make decisions around both frightening increases in demand and a growing decline in donations. This summer, we increased our warehouse capacity to handle food for somewhere around 500 food parcels a day. The problem is in-work poverty which is growing substantially. In the past few weeks, we have been approached by a hospital, a large business, schools and a local council about whether they can refer low-paid staff to us.” He went on: “Apparently, employers are not prepared to talk about the problem of in-work poverty, feeling ashamed. They would like to raise wages and want the best staff welfare but can’t because that would move them into a deficit budget.” The human reality of what we are facing is stark. Unfortunately, the mini-Budget of 23 September made a challenging financial climate much worse.

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Archbishop of York asks whether benefits will rise with inflation

The Archbishop of York asked a question about benefits rising with inflation on 19th October 2022, during a debate following a statement on the economy:

The Lord Archbishop of York: My Lords, I do not pretend to know the ins and outs of exactly where we find ourselves but I serve communities in the north. I think particularly of people I have met recently in Middlesbrough and Hull, where there were great hopes for levelling up. It now seems a distant dream. I recently visited a school where children go in the morning with an empty lunch box for them to fill up with food from the food bank in the playground at the end of the day. The budget for school meals has gone up by 2% yet food inflation has gone up by more than 10%. We need to make tough decisions—I am glad to hear that the triple lock will remain in place—but, on behalf of the communities where I serve, I must ask this: will benefits rise in line with inflation? If not, millions of people will be moved into poverty. Those who recently donated to food banks are now visiting them themselves.

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Bishop of Oxford asks about “compassionate conservatism”

On 18th October 2022, the Bishop of Oxford asked a question in response the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt’s, speech on the economy:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I welcome the new Chancellor, many of the measures announced yesterday, and the increased prospect of greater stability. I noticed that in his Statement yesterday he used the phrase “compassionate conservatism” several times. I wonder if the Minister would unpack that phrase a little, particularly on how the Chancellor will navigate to privilege the needs of the very poorest in society, perhaps especially in the outworking of the increase in benefits in line with price inflation, and in looking to see a decrease in the use of foodbanks in the coming years, which has escalated in major ways in the last decade.

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Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich speaks about the economy and the environment

The House of Lords debated a motion to take note of the government’s Economic Growth Plan on 10th October 2022. The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich: My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Gohir, and look forward to working with her. I also add my lament at the departure of our dear right reverend friend, who has to me also been a great friend and a great encourager.

Two of the most important lessons many of us learned during the pandemic were, first, that we were all in it together and that none of us was immune, and secondly, that no one should be left behind, which meant focusing on the most vulnerable, with all of us sharing the load. As His Majesty’s Government embarks on this bold and, I believe, risky economic experiment, I urge that those two lessons be heeded, for we ignore them at our peril.

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Bishop of Derby speaks in a debate on the economy

On 1oth October 2022, the House of Lords debated the government’s economic growth plan. The Bishop of Derby spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, it is a pleasure to join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Gohir, on her maiden speech, which was delivered with such authority and clarity on matters that are close to my heart as well. I look forward to working with her in the years ahead. It is also a real privilege to pay tribute to my right reverend friend who gave his final reflection from these Benches. I am indebted to him as he has been not only an excellent Convenor of the Lords Spiritual but someone whose example has greatly influenced my ministry over many years.

I declare an interest as vice-chair of the Children’s Society. This afternoon, I want to give voice to the unheard voices that it works with and advocates for, as we take note of the economy and the Government’s growth plan. Last month, the Children’s Society published the 2022 Good Childhood Report, which records that 85% of parents and carers, despite welcome packages of support, are worried about the increase in the cost of living as it affects their ability to care for their children.

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Bishop of Durham speaks on poverty and social security

On 10th October 2022, the Bishop of Durham spoke about poverty and social security during a debate on the government’s economic growth plan:

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I congratulate my friend of more than 40 years, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham, on his valedictory speech. I thank him for his contributions to this House, particularly as our convenor, and pray God’s blessing for his future endeavours. I also congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Gohir, on her excellent maiden speech.

In Luke, chapter 16, Jesus tells of a rich man who

“lived in luxury every day”,

while a beggar named Lazarus lay longing to eat what fell from his table. Sat at the rich man’s gate, Lazarus was in plain sight, yet he was invisible to the rich man—a man blind to suffering and the needs of Lazarus.

The Trussell Trust has revealed devastating statistics regarding those in poverty. In recent months, its food banks have provided 50% more parcels. Of those on universal credit, 2 million have skipped meals to meet other essential costs. These statistics continue to rise; poverty is in plain sight. Yet a policy of trickle-down economics renders those in poverty invisible. Like Lazarus waiting to eat what fell from the rich man’s table, this policy does not address urgent needs. These people cannot wait for the benefits of this economic policy to trickle down; this is especially the case for children and young people. We all get only one childhood, which shapes the rest of our lives. Children do not have time to wait for the “pie” to grow; they need meaningful investment now. God does not “trickle down” his love for us; he pours it out extravagantly. Jesus’s priority was to lift up the poor, not wait for some small advance to trickle down.

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Bishop of Birmingham makes his valedictory speech

The Bishop of Birmingham made his valedictory speech to the House of Lords on 10th October 2022, during a debate on the Economy Growth Plan 2022 (Motion to Take Note):

The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I have been immensely grateful for the stimulation and companionship I have found in your Lordships’ House as a Member for the last 12 years, not least in the last three or four speeches this afternoon on this immensely complex subject. It is worth turning up, if only to feel the embarrassment of my colleagues when one of their number is called “mature” and “sensible”—where better to hear it than here, in public and on the record? —and to be with the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, with whom I share a long business background, although not necessarily in the same sector. I am particularly grateful to have been Convenor of this Bench for some years and to have been able to relate to the usual channels in the House informally. I am very grateful to those here who have accepted my presence at certain moments, whether they were to do with Brexit, the pandemic and the hybrid House, or even the late Queen’s funeral.

This is an opportunity just to say thank you to the officers of the House for the remarkable support that we received from them—in recent weeks, as it happened, day and night. I wish my successor as convenor of these Benches, my right reverend friend the Lord Bishop of St Albans, every success and the same wonderful co-operation and fulfilment.

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Bishop of Gloucester asks about increasing community advice services to low income households

The Bishop of Gloucester received the following written answer on 13th July 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Gloucester asked Her Majesty’s Government whether they have carried out an impact assessment of increasing the numbers of face-to-face advice services covering (1) household finances, and (2) benefit entitlement, in community centres that provide food to households on low incomes.

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Bishop of St Albans asks about the rural economy

The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answer on 24th May 2022:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the report by the APPG for Rural Business and Rural Powerhouse Levelling Up the Rural Economy: An Inquiry into rural productivity, published on 27 April.

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Bishop of Oxford asks about targeted support for poorest community members

The Bishop of Oxford asked a question during a debate on inflation on 23rd May 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I have seen at first hand from touring every part of the three counties in the Diocese of Oxford the rise in the take-up of food banks in recent weeks. I pay tribute to all those who work and volunteer in them. I have heard heartbreaking stories of those who need to use them. The Government’s response to the Covid pandemic was remarkable in its creativity and urgency, helping the poorest. Will we see now a windfall tax? Will we see more targeted support for the poorest in the communities as an urgent matter?

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