Church Commissioners Written Answers: Cathedrals, Church Repair and Maintenance, and Support for Family Relationships, Parenting and Marriage

Andrew Selous MP, representing the Church Commissioners, gave the following written answerto questions from MPs on 2nd December 2022:

Jim Shannon MP (DUP): To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, in what way cathedrals are supporting community cohesion in communities they serve.

Andrew Selous MP (Con): First and foremost cathedrals are places of worship, but like parish churches they are also community buildings and often a focus for civic gatherings of faith, political and business leaders in our cities, which facilitate discussions for the common good. They are regularly used for pilgrimages, festivals, concerts, exhibitions and lectures, which are open to all in the community.

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Bishop of Durham asks about report on families by the Children’s Commissioner

The Bishop of Durham asked a question on the government’s assessment of a report by the Children’s Commissioner as part of the Independent Family Review, on 7th November 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Durham: To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the report by Children’s Commissioner for England Family and its protective effect: Part 1 of the Independent Family Review, published on 1 September; and in particular, what assessment they have made of the definition of the ‘protective effect’ and its implications for future policy.

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Bishop of Durham asks about families and households

The Bishop of Durham asked a question regarding government policy towards families during a debate on the Children’s Commissioner’s Family Review on 10th October 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, one of the most interesting discoveries in the report, for which the Children’s Commissioner for England is to be commended—it is a really good report—is that policymakers work on households but families themselves think more broadly than households, and that “family” needs to be the thing that drives policy rather than “household”. This is seen, for example, in young offenders and in other areas of life. Can the Minister comment on thinking about changing how policy is made towards family?

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Bishop of Gloucester asks about automatic registration for the Healthy Start Scheme

The Bishop of Gloucester received the following written answer on 20th July 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Gloucester asked Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to the potential merits of introducing an automatic registration process for the Healthy Start scheme.

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Bishop of Carlisle asks about flexible working for carers

The Bishop of Carlisle asked the following question on 19th July 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, we are all aware of the huge contribution to the nation’s health and economy made by unpaid carers, including those who combine caring responsibilities with other paid employment.

This issue is currently being explored by both the Select Committee of your Lordships’ House and an Archbishops’ Commission. Does the Minister agree that, whenever possible, as well as paid or unpaid leave, flexible working arrangements for those with caring responsibilities are in everybody’s best interests?

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Schools Bill: Bishop of Carlisle supports amendments on regulation of home schooling

The Bishop of Carlisle spoke in a debate on the Schools Bill in its second day of Report Stage, on 18th July 2022, in support of amendments on home schooling and the home school register. His speech is below, followed by those of other peers:

The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, I speak on behalf of my right reverend friend the Bishop of St. Albans, who has two amendments in his name, 

Amendments 66 and 94. His name is also listed on Amendments 65 and 66A, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas.

Amendments 65, 66 and 66A continue to take issue with the proposals for details of the means by which a child is being educated to be included on the register. Amendment 66 would replace this with a determination of suitability, and provide for visits by the local authority for determining that suitability to be recorded. However, further to communication with the Department for Education and the Minister, we understand that their interpretation of the word “means” does not relate to the educational content or methods of home educating but simply to the providers of the education, since separate rules for registration will pertain to out-of-school education. We have been informed that this framework will be set out in the future statutory guidance. This is a much more positive interpretation than had previously been supposed, but if this is the interpretation I am not sure why it could not have been contained within the primary legislation rather than prescribed at a later date. Amendment 66A, from the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, would naturally resolve that problem.

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Bishop of Durham supports Refugee Family Reunion Bill

On 8th July 2022, the House of Lords debated the Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill in its second reading. The Bishop of Durham spoke in the debate on this Private Member’s Bill- his speech and contributions from other peers are below:

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I am pleased to speak today in support of this Bill. In doing so, I declare my interests as a member of the Refugee, Asylum and Migration Policy—RAMP—project and as a trustee of Reset.

The Bill proposes sensible provisions to consider the wider notion of family when enabling refugee families to come back together. Family reunification is often a neglected safe and legal route. The simple principle is that those who have been forced apart from family members due to persecution, war and other factors should be able to rebuild their lives with their loved ones when they have been granted protection as a refugee. In recent years, the largest safe route to the UK has been via family reunion, with 90% of those travelling this way being women and children.

It is on children that I would like to focus, namely the right of a child to reunite with their family, particularly their parents, when rebuilding a life here in the UK. Currently, we have the situation where we decide to layer more trauma on a child by expecting them to grow up separated from their parents and be placed in state care. Across Europe, the UK is simply an outlier in this regard.

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Bishop of Durham speaks in a debate on Bill to front-load Child Benefit

On 8th July 2022, the House of Lords debated the Front-Loaded Child Benefit Bill at its second reading. The Bishop of Durham spoke in the debate on this Private Member’s Bill and his speech and contributions from other peers are below:

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I rise to speak to this Bill with a degree of curiosity. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, for introducing it.

Children, and the family who cares for them, should be particularly supported in their early years. This is when their most important development happens, so we must want them to thrive. These early years are still too often overlooked in the impact they have on both the leading of a happy and healthy life or the long-term harm of adverse childhood experiences. The Bill is an interesting one, as I can see some of the arguments for front-loading child benefit. However, I also have some quite deep concerns. I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, has intentionally kept his briefing for the Bill minimal to accommodate the policy-making that would have to accompany it, but there are some key details to learn, or note.

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Bishop of Durham asks about social security and universal credit

The Bishop of Durham received the following written answers on 25th April 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Durham asked Her Majesty’s Government whether they applied the Family Test to the Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 2022.

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Bishop of Durham asks about the Nationality and Borders Bill (2022)

The Bishop of Durham received the following written answer on 25th April 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Durham asked Her Majesty’s Government whether they have applied the Family Test to the Nationality and Borders Bill.

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