The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their estimate of the impact of the recent increase in inflation on the number of children in poverty; and what plans they have for protecting low income families against the rising cost of basic essentials.
The Lord Bishop of Durham: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the Households Below Average Income statistics revealing that 3.2 million adults in working families were in relative poverty in 2015–16, what action they will take to reduce in-work poverty. [HL6346]
On 9th March 2017 Labour Peer Baroness Sherlock asked Her Majesty’s Government “what assessment they have made of the impact on claimants of the time taken between applying for Universal Credit and receiving payments.” The Bishop of Oxford, Rt Revd Steven Croft, asked a follow up question.
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, in the last three months I have visited a large number of food banks across the diocese of Oxford in seemingly affluent communities, building on my experience of food banks in the diocese of Sheffield. All have underlined to me that the most common reason why people access food banks is delay in accessing welfare payments.
On 22nd February 2017, Lord McKenzie of Luton asked Her Majesty’s Government “what estimate they have made of the extent to which the new lower benefit cap will encourage people into work or to move into smaller homes”. The Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, asked a follow up question.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, according to the Government’s own impact assessment nearly a quarter of a million children are affected by the reduced benefit cap, more than two and a half times the number of affected adults. This includes many preschool children in lone-parent families at greater risk of poverty. Given that the prime aim here is to encourage more people into work, will the Minister consider exempting single parents with young children, who would not otherwise be expected to work under the current benefit rules and who rely on familiar social networks and services?
On 21st December 2016 Lord Farmer led a short debate in the Lords, to ask Her Majesty’s Government “what progress they are making in rolling out Universal Credit, and what assessment they have made of its impact”. The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, took part in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, for this important debate. On behalf of these Benches, I take the opportunity to thank the Minister for his very considerable contribution, drive and service to this House, and wish him well as he leaves the Front Bench.
I think it is true to say that very few in this House disagree with the stated aims of universal credit—to simplify the benefits system and ensure that work always pays. However, I also suspect that there are quite a few of us in this House and, indeed, on these Benches, who fear that on occasion Her Majesty’s Government may have lost sight of that aim. Indeed, it seems that successive cuts to the welfare budget have been prioritised as an easy way of balancing the Government’s finances.
On 29th November 2016, Lord Young of Cookham moved that the House take note of the economy in the light of the Autumn Statement. The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, spoke in the debate:
On 29th November 2016, Lord Young of Cookham moved that the House take note of the economy in the light of the Autumn Statement. The Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth My Lords, after nearly three years in this House, and having had the opportunity to speak in most of the debates responding to the Budget and Autumn Statements, it is not difficult to note the tendency for some contributors to applaud proposals they consider welcome; for others to criticise proposals they consider to have sectional interest or bias; and to have the expectation—or at least the hope—conveyed that the Chancellor and the Government will, and can, do even more when they are praised for welcome initiatives. I want to do a little of that this afternoon, though recognising the restrictions the Chancellor faces. I invite the Minister, and through him the Government, to reflect on what they ought to do—I introduce a moral note in using that phrase—to repair the fractures of trust, address growing injustices that are perceived as more hurtful than inequalities, and create not just a flourishing economy but a nation where people believe there is more that unites us than divides us. Indeed, my question to the Minister is whether the Government can better articulate their rationale and approach in the important area of inequality and injustice.