Bishop of Portsmouth asks Government about historic buildings

On 21st May 2020, Lord Cormack asked the Government “what steps they are taking to support (1) museums, (2) galleries, and (3) historic buildings open to the public, affected by the restrictions in place to address the COVID-19 pandemic”. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke in the debate:

Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, the Church of England alone has 16,000 church buildings, over 12,000 of which are listed. We are at the bedrock ​of our communities and thus can be at the heart of recovery. I therefore make three points. First, we are rich in assets, but the pandemic means that income is plummeting, and budgets were already tight. I therefore urge the Government at least to remove VAT on repairs to historic buildings.

Secondly, government often brackets us with the hospitality industry. Are we hospitable? I hope so. Are we historic? Yes. Does such categorisation meet our distinct needs? No.

Thirdly, the Church encompasses buildings and people. Our impact on people will define us, so how we respond pastorally to the pandemic from our buildings will leave the deepest impression.

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Bishop of Portsmouth asks Government about establishing a royal commission on social care

On 20th May 2020 a Government statement was given in the virtual House of Lords regarding care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, asked a follow up question:

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, we know how crucial the social care sector is, and the huge challenges it faced even before Covid-19, with 120,000 care assistant vacancies. Can the Minister therefore respond to the excellent suggestion from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury that we establish a royal commission on social care, not to blame but to learn, so that we have the right information to make the right decisions and provide the right services for these most vulnerable people?

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Bishop of Portsmouth asks Government about Covid-19 tests for Armed Forces

On 19th May 2020, Lord Touhig asked the Government “what steps they are taking to coordinate the response to the COVID-19 pandemic with NATO to prevent any security risks”. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, asked a follow-up question:

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The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, one of the most significant threats to our security would be if our Armed Forces were unable to guarantee that security and to play their part in NATO. With the recent positive tests for Covid among some of the crew on HMS “Queen Elizabeth”, is the Minister confident that any member of the Armed Forces who needs a test has ready access to one? How many have been tested, and how many of those tests have been positive?

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Bishop of Portsmouth asks the Government about housing for homeless after Covid-19

On 18th May 2020 a statement was given regarding housing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, asked a follow up question:

Bishop of PortsmouthThe Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, the Statement speaks of homes for all people as the Government’s vision, so I congratulate them on the funding they have made available which has allowed a huge amount to be done to support homeless people in a very short space of time. Does the Minister accept that withdrawing dedicated funding risks undermining all that has been achieved in providing housing as a first step towards the homeless having homes?

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Bishop of Portsmouth asks Government about contact tracing app trials on Isle of Wight

On 18th May 2020 Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb asked the Government “what steps they are taking to address privacy concerns about (1) the use of the NHS Covid-19 contact tracing application, and (2) the introduction of immunity certificates.” The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, asked a follow up question.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, the Minister has reminded the House that tens of thousands of people on the Isle of Wight have downloaded and used the app. People of the island often feel—with, I regret, some justification—that they are considered last if at all. Now, despite the questions about privacy, effectiveness and rollout, they have been the first to step up and make a significant contribution to the nation’s common good. Will he undertake to look at how their service might be recognised?

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Bishop of Portsmouth call for measurement of children’s well-being on national level

On 12th March 2020 the House of Lords debated a motion from Baroness Tyler of Enfield, “that this House takes note of the case for Her Majesty’s Government to use wellbeing as a key indicator of national performance when setting budgets, deciding policy priorities and reviewing the effectiveness of policy goals.” The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, I begin by humbly making two recommendations of ways in which your Lordships might profitably spend their time.

The first is to visit Portsmouth’s historic dockyard, where the nations historic naval hardware is on display. It is the stuff of national myth: from the “Mary Rose” to HMS “Victory” to HMS “Warrior”. Beyond them, visitors can see one or sometimes both of the Royal Navy’s latest, hugely powerful expressions of British sea power: the great aircraft carriers HMS “Queen Elizabeth” and “Prince of Wales”. These great ships, old and new, represent projections of hard power, but what often speaks more powerfully to those visiting the dockyard is the soft side to life on board: the story, how people lived their lives, their feelings, aspirations, hopes and fears—their well-being.

It seems to me that this exemplifies the challenge faced by policymakers and any assessment of how well, and if, a policy has worked: whether it has produced the desired outcome. Crunching the numbers is one way, but what policy looks and feels like in Whitehall and Westminster can be very different from the feelings and experience of those it directly affects. ​ Continue reading “Bishop of Portsmouth call for measurement of children’s well-being on national level”

Bishop of Portsmouth asks how coronavirus will be handled on prisons estate

On 12th March 2020 Lord Bethell, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care, repeated a Government statement on coronavirus. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, asked a follow up question:

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, in thanking the Minister, may I ask him whether he can give any information on the precautions and particular challenges in prisons, where, for instance, social distancing, isolation and provision of hospital services will be difficult to achieve? Continue reading “Bishop of Portsmouth asks how coronavirus will be handled on prisons estate”

Bishop of Portsmouth asks Government about provision for women and children leaving women’s refuges

On 10th March 2020 Baroness Donaghy asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the financial sustainability of women’s refuges.” The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, asked a follow-up question:

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, I return to the provision available after victims and their children are able to move on from refuges. Substantial, important and fragile ground has been moved and gained through the provisions in this Bill. But the provision after victims leave refuges is very patchy indeed, offered in only one in seven local authorities. Can the Minister say when provision will be available everywhere, for all victims and survivors? Continue reading “Bishop of Portsmouth asks Government about provision for women and children leaving women’s refuges”

Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill ‘discourages possibility of reconciliation’ – Bishop of Portsmouth

On 5th February 2020 the House of Lords debated the Government’s  Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill at its Second Reading. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, expressed concern about the Bill, saying that divorce needed to be kinder to all involved, rather than easier. In his view “the Bill before the House discourages reflection and hence the possibility of reconciliation”.

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Bishop of Portsmouth responds to Queen’s Speech – how to build ‘one-nation’

On 9th January 2020, the Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke in the Queen’s Speech debate, about unifying the nation by building on the expansion of the Living Wage and addressing welfare, child poverty, homelessness and help for the disabled: 

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, it is stating the obvious to say that these are turbulent, uncertain times, perhaps the most turbulent in living memory, even when that memory belongs to Members of your Lordships’ House—a particular, special demographic. It is striking in the face of so much that is uncertain and unknown that the Government’s rhetoric is of clarity, confidence, and even dash. However, while the terrain might be new, much of the rhetoric is from an older school. What is novel is from whom it comes. Continue reading “Bishop of Portsmouth responds to Queen’s Speech – how to build ‘one-nation’”