The Bishop of London asked about the government’s plans to publish a health disparities white paper on 17th October 2022, during a debate on childhood obesity:
The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, the National Food Strategy to tackle obesity, the new tobacco control plan and the health disparities White Paper were key to the Government’s aim to level-up health. The most recent NHS Providers report found that 95% of trust leaders said that the cost of living had either significantly or severely worsened health inequalities in the local area. Given the worsening situation, can the Minister confirm when the health disparities White Paper will be published? If not, can he point to what else the Government are doing to reduce inequalities in health?
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.
The Bishop of London spoke in a debate regarding the Queen’s Speech on 17th May 2022:
The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, it is a pleasure to speak in the debate on the Motion for the humble Address. I declare my interests as outlined in the register. There is much in Her Majesty’s gracious Speech to commend it to your Lordships’ House. However, it is unfortunate that it did not include any detailed remarks on the relationship between health disparities and the levelling-up agenda. While there was a valid emphasis on restoring the strength of the economy, it was a shame to hear so little detail on the circumstances that will enable us to economically bounce back: namely, our health.
Thankfully, the actual levelling-up report highlighted health as one of its mission areas, stating:
“By 2030, the gap in Healthy Life Expectancy … between local areas where it is highest and lowest will have narrowed”,
and that, by 2035, healthy life expectancy will rise by five years. The measurement of these missions, along with an independent body to ensure that they are seen through, will be vital to their success and essential in the wider context of health inequalities which we are facing post pandemic. Without these metrics and this accountability, we may well miss the goal of levelling up entirely.
On 11th May 2022 the Bishop of Guildford, Rt Revd Andrew Watson, made his maiden speech in the House of Lords, in a debate on the Queen’s Speech:
The Lord Bishop of Guildford (Maiden Speech): My Lords, it is a privilege to be making my maiden speech in this most important debate on Her Majesty’s gracious Speech. I thank noble Lords for their welcome this afternoon.
As I have taken my first infant steps as a Member of the House, I have been struck by the genuine warmth and friendliness that I have experienced from fellow Members, along with House officials and staff. I am equally impressed by the quality of the debate that I have witnessed and the probing but courteous spirit in which it has been exercised. I have also begun to connect with those involved in the area of freedom of religion and belief, in which I have a lifelong interest, and I applaud their efforts to advance these basic human rights around the globe.
On 11th May 2022, the House of Lords debated the Queen’s Speech. The Bishop of St Albans spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I declare my interests as president of the Rural Coalition and a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I, too, welcome Her Majesty’s Speech and the Government’s commitment to implementing the levelling- up agenda; although, as other noble Lords have, I note the Secretary of State’s comments about the difficulties of levelling up in a period of high inflation.
The scope of the Government’s 12 levelling-up missions is ambitious, but they now need to be accompanied by a determination to deliver them, which will be costly. Cautious as the Government may be about fulfilling these mission statements, expectations are high among those in left-behind communities, even if, to date, some of the most deprived areas are still not receiving the funding that they had hoped for and expected. The BBC programme has been referenced by others; it was telling when we looked at how the money has so far been allocated.
On 11th May 2022, the House of Lords debated the Queen’s Speech. The Bishop of Oxford spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, it is a privilege to share in this debate, and I thank the Minister for her careful and thoughtful introduction. I particularly look forward to the maiden speech of my colleague, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford. I have heard him speak before, and it is always a profitable experience.
I congratulate the Government warmly on the priority given to the levelling-up agenda and the ambition of 11 of the 12 missions outlined in the White Paper. I know from my seven years as Bishop of Sheffield that the gap between different parts of the country has been widening for many years, and it is very good that this is being addressed.
On 7th April 2022, the Bishop of Exeter asked a question for short debate about levelling up in the south-west of England, in Grand Committee:
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are their ‘levelling up’ plans for the South-West of England.
My Lords, I am privileged to serve a diocese in one of the most beautiful parts of England, except the picture postcard view of the region loved by tourists is only half the story. In keeping with most shire counties, the population is older than the national average. Dorset has the oldest population and Devon the second-oldest, with the average age in both counties set to rise significantly over the next 10 years, putting further strain on the NHS and our care services. However, the great thing about an older population, which became evident during the lockdown, is their resilience—they bring ballast and a honed wisdom to their communities. But this does not permit us to underestimate the logistical and economic challenge of sustaining an ageing population, particularly in coastal communities and remote rural areas.
The Bishop of Durham received the following written answers on 22nd March 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Durham asked Her Majesty’s Government when the ministerial visits mentioned in the Levelling Up the United Kingdom white paper, published on 2 February, will take place in the North East of England.
Following the Budget speech, the Bishop of Birmingham, David Urquhart, Convenor of the Bishops in the House of Lords, said:
“This is a time of great uncertainty, and while the Chancellor has rightly focussed on steps to get the economy moving, I’m concerned he has missed the chance to give certainty to those people and families who rely on Universal Credit, by not making the £20 uplift permanent.
“I’ll look at the details of the Budget closely for measures that will help the poorest and most vulnerable, especially access to sustainable jobs. The £19m for Domestic Abuse programmes is welcome as is support for schools to help get children back on the road of educational discovery. The lack of detail on social care is, however, a worry.
“The £300m additional funding for the Culture Recovery Fund is very welcome and will support the many small businesses and independent contractors our churches employ and support. I also note that the Levelling Up Fund prospectus specifically mentions cultural and heritage assets, including churches, and we look forward to churches and cathedrals particularly in areas of high deprivation taking part in this programme.”