On 24th May 2023, the House of Lords debated the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill in Grand Committee. The Bishop of Bristol tabled amendments to the bill that would remove the existing confusion in law on whether local authorities can offer grants to places of worship:
Amendment 485: After Clause 214, insert the following new Clause—
“Removal of prohibition on local authority from making grants to churches etc. In section 8(1)(i) of the Local Government Act 1894 (works to church property), omit “, not being property relating to affairs of the church or held for an ecclesiastical charity”.”
Member’s explanatory statement: This amendment would remove the prohibition concerning churches and ecclesiastical charities in section 8(1)(i) of the Local Government Act 1894 and would ensure that local authorities’ spending power under section 8(1)(k) could be used to make grants to places of worship.
The Lord Bishop of Bristol: My Lords, I am pleased to speak to my Amendments 485, 505, 510 and 512. I thank the Government for making time so soon after the conclusion of the debate on Monday. I declare my interests as a board member of the Church Commissioners, as set out in the register, and as the Church of England’s lead bishop for church buildings. Noble Lords will also recall the debate on Amendment 163, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, which took place earlier in Committee on 15 March.
I tabled these four amendments to clarify the issue of local authority funding responsibilities for all Christian churches, including parish churches. The Bill affords the opportunity to bring much-needed clarity to this issue and resolve a long-standing problem. I am delighted to say that these amendments have received strong cross-party support, and I am particularly grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Cormack and Lord Best, and the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, for acting as sponsors. The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, is unable to be in her place today, but I am assured of her continued support for these amendments.
On 3rd May 2023, the House of Lords debated the Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill in committee. The Bishop of Exeter spoke in support of amendments to the bill tabled by Lord Greenhalgh, seeking to ensure that emergency services are considered during planning and reform:
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, I rise in support Amendments 324, 329, 342, 346, 347, 351, 352 and 360 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Greenhalgh, and to which I have added my name. They concern planning reform and the emergency services.
A robust and effective planning process is essential for the flourishing of our communities. A key aspect of this is to ensure the adequate provision of emergency services. I welcome the fact that the Bill has included emergency services in the definition of infrastructure under Schedule 11, but, historically, this has not always been the case. It remains the fact that local authorities are not obliged to take into account the views and concerns of the emergency services.
On 28th April 2023 MPs asked questions of Andrew Selous MP, Second Church Estates Commissioner.
Holy Land: Desecration of Religious Sites
Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con)
1. What discussions the Church of England has had with international counterparts on the desecration of religious sites in the Holy Land. (904699)
Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)
4. What discussions the Church of England has had with international counterparts on the desecration of religious sites in the Holy Land. (904702)
The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous): In the first three months of this year, seven cases of serious vandalism and antisocial behaviour against churches have been recorded in Israel. That is a sharp increase on the previous year. The Church of England continues to work with the Anglican Archbishop of Jerusalem, the heads of other Churches, other faith leaders and the Jordanian Government, as custodian of the holy sites, to maintain the peace.
The Bishop of Durham received the following written answer on 27th March 2023:
The Lord Bishop of Durham asked His Majesty’s Government when they plan to publish details of how the £150 million funding for local authorities to support people on Ukraine visa schemes into longer term accommodation will be allocated.
On 22nd March 2023, the House of Lords debated amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. The Bishop of Manchester, on behalf of the Bishop of Chelmsford, spoke in support of an amendment to the bill that would require local authorities to being forward an assessment of the local need for housing for older people as part of their housing plans:
The Lord Bishop of Manchester: My Lords, I support Amendment 221 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Best, to which, as he indicated, my right reverend friend the Bishop of Chelmsford added her name. She apologises for being unable to be in her place today; in my own brief remarks, I will make a number of points that she would have contributed had she been here. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, who, like the noble Lord, Lord Best, has a long and honourable history of leading the thinking on housing matters in this land.
I declare my interest in housing for older people: as set out in the register, I am a board member of the Wythenshawe Community Housing Group. In fact, it is more than an interest; it is a passion. In my time as chair of the association, we have opened a flagship development of 135 apartments for older people with mixed rental, shared ownership and outright purchase. Developments such as this enable local people to live in dignity in old age. They provide social space as well as private dwellings. In many cases, they allow residents to remain close to their family networks and former neighbours—the support networks that they need in later life. We can do well for older people but that should not have to rely on episcopal passion or potluck. It needs to be part of how we plan housing provision at a strategic level.
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