On 31st October 2019 Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth moved a Motion, “that this House takes note of the Phase 1 report of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.” The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, spoke in the debate, drawing attention to the work of churches and others in supporting the survivors, and the wider issues of neglect within the community.
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I thank the Whips Office for understanding that my friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans cannot speak due to the change of time, and that I have been allowed to speak in his place.
It is important for us to remember that for the bereaved families and survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire, who have now suffered for so long, the past week has been particularly difficult. The report mentions many contributing factors, including issues of fire safety, communication between emergency services, building regulations and the use of materials. In his introduction, the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, spoke eloquently on all those, and many other noble Lords will be able to speak about them from a position of informed authority.
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On 2nd July 2019 Lord Evans of Watford asked the Government “what steps they are taking to increase the number of homes for social rent”. The Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, asked a follow-up question:
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his point about social housing delivery. He is right that it has been a challenge for successive Governments. We have delivered 79,000 social homes since 2010, which, it has to be said, is better than the numbers achieved in the previous nine years. In relation to his point about garden villages, we had previously announced 29 and last week we announced another 19. That is significant. It includes providing a special community village for dementia-friendly housing, which again is very good news, and I hope that that will also feed into the discussions that we are having about modern methods of construction.
The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, I welcome very much that last answer. In that connection I declare an interest, in that I have set up a commission to look into the housing crisis and the contribution that can be made by civil society and particularly the Churches. It comprises a former Permanent Secretary and a huge number of significant experts. One of the commission’s earliest priorities is to look at how we create communities rather than simply build houses. That means that there is a need for multipurpose community facilities and for looking at the sociological aspects as well as the mere physical construction. Will the Minister undertake to listen to the representations from that and similar inquiries over the next 18 months to two years?
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On 13th June 2019 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP, answered a written question from Frank Field MP on affordable housing:
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On 10th June 2019 the House of Lords heard repeated a statement by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on the second anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire. The Bishop of Coventry, Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: My Lords, I echo the praise that has already been given to the emergency services following both Barking and the Grenfell disaster. I welcome the Statement’s recognition of the power of community and its commitment to a new and stronger partnership between residents and those who serve them, for trust to rebuilt and, in particular, for the council to listen and the community to be heard.
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On 4th April 2019 the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, received a written answer to a question on building on brownfield sites:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to their commitment to “maintaining existing strong protections for the Green Belt, and clarifying that Green Belt boundaries should be amended only in exceptional circumstances” in Fixing our broken housing market (CM 9352), published in February 2017, what assessment they have made of the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s report State of Brownfield 2019, published in March; and what plans they have to incentivise building on brownfield sites.
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