On 29th July the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon “Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020”. The Right Revd James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester, spoke in the debate.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I, too, welcome this new regime of sanctions, but we must of course ensure that targeted sanctions do not become empty gestures. As other noble Lords have indicated, these sanctions will be most effective when they are consistent with other foreign policy priorities and done through co-ordinated, collective action. Without the support of a wider coalition, we risk being isolated diplomatically.
On 29th July Baroness Gale asked Her Majesty’s Government “what plans they have to ensure that any data collected on domestic abuse includes the abuse of people over the age of 74.” The Rt Revd James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester, asked a follow up question, focusing onhow faith communities could become part of a solution to domestic abuse.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I have sad personal experience of a family situation where the perpetrator of the abuse was an older person, and we are all fearful that lockdown may have led to an increase in such instances. In that context, I am pleased that my diocese of Rochester is the first in the Church of England to establish a strategic partnership with the White Ribbon Campaign. In a world where such abuse, especially when it involves older people, often remains hidden, will the Minister commit to meeting with Members of these Benches, and perhaps other faith leaders, to discuss how the Domestic Abuse Bill’s guidance might empower faith communities to be part of the solution?
On 28th July Baroness Neville-Rolfe asked Her Majesty’s Government “further to the paper by Professor David Miles, Mike Stead and Dr Adrian Heald Living with COVID-19: balancing costs against benefits in the face of the virus, published on 26 June, what plans they have to ensure that in the future fuller account is taken of the economic costs of any measures adopted to address the COVID-19 pandemic such as lockdowns.” The Rt Revd James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester, asked a follow up question, focusing on those affected by the benefit cap and those housed in the private rented sector.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, this is a complex matter, because economic, social and other community matters often go hand in hand. It is clear that many who have in these circumstances been bearing economic burdens are among those who are also the most socially disadvantaged. Bearing in mind the context of the forthcoming spending review, can the Minister give an assurance that the Government will take care to address the needs of such groups, including, for example, those affected by the benefit cap and those housed in the private rented sector, where repossession cases come before the courts again from later in August?
On 27th July Lord Harries of Pentregarth asked Her Majesty’s Government “how the merger of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development will enhance the United Kingdom’s ability to help (1) the poorest, and (2) the most vulnerable, communities abroad.” The Rt Revd James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester, asked a follow up question, focusing on poverty reduction.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, in this context will the Minister give assurances that the Government will continue to adhere to their stated commitment to poverty reduction, observing both the letter and spirit of domestic development legislation, including not only the matter the Minister has already mentioned—the 0.7% GDP target—but matters such as independent evaluation of impact and gender equality, and that any deviation from the present pattern will be debated and agreed both here and in the other House?
On 30th June the Rt Revd James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester, received a written answer to a question from Lord Keen of Elie on Covid-19 in prisons.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: HL5099 To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many (1) prisoners, and (2) staff, were (a) suspected of having, (b) confirmed as having, (3) hospitalised as a result of, and (4) died from, COVID-19 in prisons in England, broken down by region.
On 16th June the Rt Revd James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester received written answers to three questions on coronavirus in prisons.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: HL5101 To ask Her Majesty’s Government to what extent each prison in England and Wales has implemented (1) the compartmentalisation strategy, (2) protective isolation units and shielding units, and (3) reverse cohorting units.
Lord Keen of Elie: We continue to implement our compartmentalisation strategy: isolating the symptomatic, quarantining new arrivals and shielding the vulnerable. This strategy has shown early signs of success in reducing transmission in the prison estate.
On 15th June a Government statement on probation services was repeated in the House of Lords. Rt Revd James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester, asked a follow up question.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this discussion. Like others, whatever nuances of language there are, I welcome what I see as a general change of direction.
Predictably, my question focuses on the charitable sector, which others have mentioned, not least the faith-based sector. One of the privileges and joys of my time as bishop to Her Majesty’s prisons has been to see the work of faith-based and community-based organisations all over the country, not least in work through the gate and in seeking to rehabilitate and resettle people into local communities.
On 9th June the Rt Revd James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester received a written answer to a question from Lord Keen of Elie on the number of prisoners who have had coronavirus and what proportion have been tested.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: HL5097 To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many prisoners (1) have displayed, or (2) are currently displaying, symptoms of COVID-19; and of those, (a) how many, and (b) what proportion, have been tested.
Lord Keen of Elie: As of Friday, 29 May our management information shows that there were 162 prisoners currently showing symptoms of Covid-19. Of those, 85 (52%) had been tested. Our records show that a further 3450 prisoners had previously displayed symptoms of Covid-19 where cases are now closed. Of those, 1447 (or 42%) had been tested.
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.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, from these Benches I echo everything that has just been said. Noble Lords and noble Baronesses who come in to Prayers will know that one of the prayers said by the duty bishop concerns the purpose for which this House is here—namely, the commonwealth, the common well-being, of our nation—and, in some senses, the way in which its business is to be conducted.
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.