On 17th January 2023, the House of Lords debated the Levelling Up Bill in its second reading. The Bishop of Bristol spoke in the debate, raising concerns about financial support for parish churches and the services they provide, and the importance of housing and development planning:
The Lord Bishop of Bristol: My Lords, it is good to be here considering this much-awaited piece of legislation. I declare my interest as a member of the Church Commissioners board, as set out in the register. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Anderson, on her powerful maiden speech and on the stories of her female antecedents. I look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Jackson.
I am also grateful to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Chartres, for his speech on the role of heritage in levelling up. As the current Church of England lead bishop for church buildings, I want to look at one detail in this Bill, which provides an opportunity for the clarification of the law on local council funding for parish church buildings. Across the country, parish churches are vital to the flourishing of their local communities. Initiatives have brought about much transformation in recent years. Exemplifying this is the current Warm Welcome campaign. Since its launch, thousands of churches and other places of worship across the country have welcomed 2.6 million people, providing space for relationship and community building and practical support as the days, like today, get colder. Add to this the ongoing work done in every region by church-run food banks, debt advice centres, domestic abuse support services and so much more. As your Lordships can imagine, I want to live in a world where such services are not needed, but it is important that action can be taken now to address systemic inequalities.
The Bishop of Chelmsford asked a question on mortgage lending on 12th January 2022, during a debate on issues faced by residential leaseholders:
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, in light of the commitment made by the big six lenders to accept mortgage applications for flats with building safety issues from Monday 9 January, will the Minister confirm that the Government will monitor their lending decisions to ensure that this time their commitments will be fulfilled, so that this part of the housing market can be unfrozen?
Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con): The right reverend Prelate brings up an interesting point. I do not know exactly what the Government will do, as the announcement was made only this week. However, I will find out exactly how we will monitor them and the process, and come back to her.
The Bishop of Chelmsford asked a question about support for migrant survivors during a debate on housing support for domestic abuse survivors on 12th December 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, in addressing this very important Question, I think we should also consider the experience of migrant survivors who may have insecure status or no recourse to public funds or may be frightened of repercussions for contacting the police. Will the Minister outline what progress the Government have made in the light of the DAC’s recommendation to develop a long-term funding solution that ensures that a clear universal pathway to support is available to domestic abuse survivors regardless of migration status and whether they will be reporting on the results of the pilot project to support migrant survivors?
On 9th December 2022 the Bishop of Chelmsford spoke in a debate led by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the principles behind UK asylum and refugee policy.
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Twycross, for her gracious maiden speech and for mentioning the role of churches in local resilience forums. I look forward to hearing the two maiden speeches to come. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester and I were formerly colleagues when I was Bishop of Loughborough, and I look forward to working with him in this House.
I thank my right reverend friend the Archbishop of Canterbury for securing this timely and important debate. This past year alone, we have seen multiple developments of concern, with an increase in forced migration due to conflict around the globe and over a third of Ukraine’s population displaced by war, with millions seeking refuge beyond their borders. A record 40,000-plus people have made the precarious English Channel crossing. We have also seen deeply troubling conditions faced by people once they are in the UK: overcrowded processing centres, threats of deportation to Rwanda, and a lack of resettlement through the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme.
Andrew Selous MP, representing the Church Commissioners, gave the following written answers to questions from MPs on 11th November 2022:
Jim Shannon MP (DUP): To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, if the Church of England will make an assessment of the potential merits of providing accommodation on their land for people aged 55 and over with shared values.
The Bishop of Durham spoke in a debate on housing demand on 8th November 2022, emphasising the need to build more social housing and affordable homes:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I begin by commending the report and thank the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, for introducing this debate. I also commend the work of my right reverend friend the Bishop of Chelmsford, who, as the Church of England’s lead bishop for housing, has tirelessly engaged with this issue and the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill.
Last year, the Archbishops’ Commission on Housing, Church and Community published its Coming Home report, which set out a vision for housing to be sustainable, safe, stable, sociable and satisfying. It is through these values that strong and lasting communities can be built, enabling people to thrive and flourish. It was very interesting to note how warmly these five values were welcomed by the industry itself as a guide.
However, the reality is that a large proportion of housing in this country does not embody these values. It is widely stated that we face a housing crisis, including a shortage of social housing. Social housing is designed to help those whose needs are not served by the market, most commonly those on the lowest incomes. However, when Meeting Housing Demand was published, 1.9 million households were on local authority waiting lists for social housing in England. With rents and interest rates rapidly rising, more households are being pushed into poverty and this list is only growing longer.
The Bishop of Chelmsford received the following written answers on 2nd November 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford asked His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of raising the threshold at which affordable housing quotas apply, from developments of 10 houses to developments of (1) 40, and (2) 50 houses, on the creation of affordable housing stock.
Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con): In August 2020, HMG consulted on raising the threshold at which affordable housing contributions are required from 10 units to 40 or 50 units. This was proposed as part of the ‘Changes to the Current Planning System’.
The Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham received the following written answer on 31st October 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham asked His Majesty’s Government when they plan to introduce the Renters Reform Bill; and, given the increase in mortgage costs may lead to tenants spending longer in rented accommodation, what consideration they have given to bringing forward their timetable for seeking to get the Bill passed.
The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answer on 31st October 2022:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government what progress they have made with their plans to end section 21 eviction notices.
Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Con): Everyone deserves to live in a safe and secure home. The Prime Minister has committed to the ban on Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions to protect tenants. Ensuring a fair deal for renters remains a priority for the government and we will legislate in this Parliament.