On 25th March 2020 the House of Lords passed the Government’s emergency Coronavirus Bill. It then rose for the Easter recess. The Lord Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, praised the spirit of collaboration in which all sides had worked to get the Bill through.
On 24th March 2020 Lord Dannatt asked the Government “what plans they have to provide additional support to charities working with people who are self-isolating as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic”. The Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, the noble Baroness has indicated that conversations are going on between the Government and the sector. I wonder whether she could give us more detail on that and on whether new networks are being put in place in the present circumstances, especially to link not just with the larger charities but with the wider sector, particularly those on the ground.
On 24th March 2020 the House of Lords debated the emergency legislation from the Government to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic. The Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, spoke in the debate, highlighting issues to do with church closures, funerals, and care of the vulnerable, including the homeless, and those in prison or immigration detention:
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, in these days I have been reflecting on the words of the Hebrew psalmist who, at the time of his people’s exile, articulated the question:
“How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”
In many ways we are entering into a strange land, and indeed in some ways a land of exile: a land in which we are exiled from many of our normal patterns of living, in which people of faith are not able to attend their places of worship and in which many people find themselves having to live life in entirely new ways.
On 18th March 2020 the House of Lords debated the Budget Statement made the previous week by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, as many have already observed, this Budget comes in extraordinarily unusual circumstances, and in relation to the issues around Covid-19, subsequent to the Budget announcement, the Chancellor has brought forward a number of measures which have been largely well received, and no doubt others will need to follow. While voluntary action in our communities will form much of the day-to-day response to those who are the most vulnerable and potentially isolated across our nation, the sustaining of public services and of businesses is vital for both our social and economic well-being; other speakers have already begun to address some of those issues.
Following the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury is always a risky business, and other noble Lords have already spoken with considerable knowledge of these matters, so I shall focus my remarks on one or two specific issues and areas which were already matters of concern, and where that concern is perhaps greater because of the circumstances in which we now find ourselves.
On children and young people, I hugely welcome the long-overdue extension of higher-rate housing benefit for care leavers until the age of 25, thus giving stability in their accommodation beyond their 22nd birthday. This is something that the Church of England organisation the Children’s Society and other charities have campaigned for over some time, and it is most welcome. Also welcome is the £2.5 million for research on family hubs. However, what is not in the provisions of the Budget or subsequent provisions is sufficient funding to address the urgent need for every child to achieve a good start in life, and that is becoming more urgent in the light of the current circumstances. Continue reading “Bishop of Rochester responds to Chancellor’s Budget Statement”
On 21st January 2020 the House of Lords voted on amendments to the Government’s EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill. Three bishops took part in a vote on an amendment from Lord Dubs, to put in place measures for refugee children family reunion. The Bishop of Durham also acted as a sponsor of the amendment. Continue reading “Votes: EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – Refugee children family reunion”
On 9th January 2020, Baroness Massey of Darwen asked the Government, “following their ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, what plans they have to promote children’s rights and well-being across government departments in this Parliament”. The Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I have two particular groups of children in mind whose well-being is often compromised. The first are those who have a parent or other primary carer on the cusp of going into custody. What plans do Her Majesty’s Government have to ensure that sentencers, including magistrates, are aware of the new guidance from the Sentencing Council on this matter? On looked-after children, what intentions do Her Majesty’s Government have to further promote the vocation—it is a vocation—to become a foster carer or an adopter? Continue reading “Bishop of Rochester asks Government about children of prisoners, improving fostering and adoption”
On 8th January 2020 the Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, spoke during the third day of debate on the Queen’s Speech, on the topic of criminal justice:
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this debate on the gracious Speech and look forward to hearing two maiden speeches from the noble Lords, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay and Lord Davies of Gower. I am sure we will listen with interest to their contributions and that their different experiences will come to be of value in your Lordships’ House.
My contribution focuses on criminal justice matters, not only because of my role as bishop to Her Majesty’s prisons but because these issues affect every community, including those in my diocese.