The Bishop of Exeter spoke in a debate on the effects of long covid on 17th November 2022, focusing on the impact on rural communities:
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, for securing this important and timely debate.
I will focus my remarks on the rural dimension of long Covid, which is having an impact on many people in Devon where I am privileged to serve. I am concerned about rural sustainability and the need to ensure that the Government’s levelling-up agenda is not focused exclusively on urban deprivation. Rural poverty may not show up on government statistics because it is dispersed in pockets, but it is just as real. Research suggests that structural inequalities, including poverty, are important in the development and course of Covid-19 and may form an important context for long Covid.
As far as Devon is concerned, the picture postcard view of my county beloved by holidaymakers is only half the story. The best information we have is that there are currently around 16,000 people living with long Covid in Devon and, as I am sure the noble Baroness, Lady Watkins of Tavistock, will corroborate, it is impacting on the economic life of our county.
The Bishop of Exeter received the following written answer on 14th November 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Exeter asked His Majesty’s Government how they are working with supermarkets to ensure that affordable staple foods are available on the shelves this winter given the increasing food cost for (1) consumers, and (2) retailers.
Lord Benyon (Con): Defra has well established ways of working with industry. This includes extensive, regular and ongoing engagement with supermarkets and producers in order to tackle the cost-of-living challenge. Through this engagement, Defra will continue to explore the range of measures food retailers can take to ensure the availability of affordable food. For example, by maintaining value ranges, price matching and price freezing measures.
The Bishop of Exeter received the following written answer on 8th November 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Exeter asked His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the annual survey conducted by the Grocery Code Adjudicator which identified a deteriorating relationship between food suppliers and retailers; and what steps they will take to improve that relationship.
The Bishop of Exeter asked a question regarding further funding for a government project to combat avian influenza on 3rd November 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, earlier this year, His Majesty’s Government announced the establishment of a new flu map research project, which aims to help us better understand the transmission and spread of avian flu. Along with many others, I welcome the £1.5 million in funding by the Government, but in the light of the severity of this current outbreak, have the Government undertaken an assessment of the need for additional and further funding for this project, mindful of the fact that prevention is better than cure?
On 28th October 2022, the House of Lords debated the Genocide Determination Bill, brought forward by Lord Alton of Liverpool, in its second reading. The Bishop of Exeter spoke in support of the bill:
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, I support the Bill and, in company with others, pay warm tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for his perseverance and passion for justice for the victims of genocide. We are united in this House and on these Benches in our condemnation of what is a manifest evil, that which the Coalition for Genocide Response describes as “the crime of crimes”. My colleague the Bishop of Truro, whom I hope will join us in this House before too long, three years ago published his report on the persecution of Christians, to which the noble Lord, Lord Browne, just referred. Your Lordships will recall that His Majesty’s Government accepted all its recommendations in full. Recommendation 7 asked the Government to:
“Ensure that there are mechanisms in place to facilitate an immediate response to atrocity crimes, including genocide through activities such as setting up early warning mechanisms to identify countries at risk of atrocities, diplomacy to help de-escalate tensions and resolve disputes, and developing support to help with upstream prevention work.”
It is the mechanisms with which we are concerned in the Bill.
On 28th October 2022, the Bishop of St Albans brought a revised version of his Coroners (Determination of Suicide) Bill before the House of Lords for its second reading. The Bishop of Exeter spoke in support of the bill.The bill was read and sent to a Committee of the Whole House:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: That the Bill now be read a second time.
My Lords, I declare my interest as a vice-chair of Peers for Gambling Reform.
I am glad to bring before the House the Coroners (Determination of Suicide) Bill, now in its third iteration. This latest version is significantly different from the previous two; it has taken on board many of His Majesty’s Government’s criticisms and attempted to resolve them. Indeed, the Minister who dealt with the Bill in the previous Session, the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, had hoped to speak today from the Back Benches but has to be in court. He has, however, given his permission to say that he supports the aims of the Bill. Because we have tried to respond to the points made by the Government, I will listen attentively to the Minister as he outlines their response, given that I believe their concerns have largely been dealt with.
The genesis of the Bill is the frustration that many of us in your Lordships’ House have felt when we have tried to bring in sensible reforms to the Wild West of online gambling, which is causing untold suffering in communities across our nation. More than a third of a million adults in our country are now diagnosed with a gambling addiction. More than 62,000 teenagers, who in law are not even allowed to gamble, have been diagnosed with a gambling problem. With an estimated more than 400,000 suicides every year due to problem gambling, we need to address this problem in a sensible way. On a number of occasions when I and other noble Lords have raised the issue in the House, the Government have resisted our attempts to bring some order to this sector, simply claiming, “We don’t understand the size of the problem.” The Bill is a proposal for one way of obtaining more data.
The Bishop of Exeter asked a question on protecting green spaces during a debate on the 2022 Growth Plan on 25th October 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his answers, but how will the investment zones in His Majesty’s Government’s growth plan dovetail with local and neighbourhood plans to protect their green spaces?
The Bishop of Exeter asked a question regarding government plans to support institutions in responding to and organising redress for incidences of child sexual abuse on 24th October 2022, following the publication of a final report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse:
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, those of us who sit on this Bench, along with all on other Benches in your Lordships’ House, are deeply saddened and ashamed by the harm and suffering experienced by victims and survivors of abuse. I salute the courage of survivors in coming forward to share their stories. We are determined to learn from the mistakes of the past and make the Church as safe a place as possible. That is why we welcome this final report and are already embracing its various recommendations with, for example, the Church of England’s redress board, which has a victims and survivors working group. In this respect, what exactly is the Government’s intention? Is it their preference to support institutions, including the Church, in establishing individual redress schemes? Or is it their intention to create a new overarching external regulatory body in this respect?
The Bishop of Exeter asked a question about support for produce exports during a debate on food imports and security on 24th October 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: I thank the Minister for his responses here, but, given the current value of the pound, which is making our exports so attractive, what are His Majesty’s Government doing to seize this opportunity to grow our exports of British produce and therefore support and really encourage our fantastic and hard-working farmers?