On 9th June 2015 Baroness Gardner of Parkes asked the Government “what plans they have to consult Housing Associations, local authorities and the general public before finalising the proposal to extend the right to buy to Housing Association properties”. The Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for confirming that intention to consult the sector. Is she able to offer any indication of how Her Majesty’s Government propose to implement this right to buy in relation to housing-association properties in small and rural communities, where such housing is often built on rural exception sites defined in the National Planning Policy Framework as intended,
“for affordable housing in perpetuity”?
Baroness Williams of Trafford: The right reverend Prelate is absolutely correct when he says that rural communities are different. The development of that particular policy is ongoing, and details will be set out in due course.
On 3rd June 2015, during the debate on the Queen’s Speech, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, spoke on improvements needed to the housing market and the far-reaching impacts that these would have. The text of his speech is below and can be watched online here:
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate on the gracious Speech. I am delighted to follow the noble Earl because he has paved the way for me in reminding us of some of the contributions which were made in yesterday’s debate on matters to do with housing and the proposed housing Bill. He has illustrated the points rather more graphically and personally than I might be able to do. I make that connection between yesterday and today because I think it is very clear that issues to do with housing have a real relevance to the matters which are our main focus in today’s debate in your Lordships’ House. For example, research over decades has underlined the point which has just been so graphically made—that there is a clear connection between the quality and conditions of housing on the one hand, and people’s mental and physical health and well-being on the other. There can be very little debate about that; I do not need to labour the point. Continue reading “Bishop of Rochester call for improvements to housing”
On 18th March 2015 the Bishop of Rochester, Rt Rev James Langstaff, asked a question in the House of Lords on the Government’s response to a report on access to justice. He followed it with a supplementary question to the Minister. Those exchanges, along with a transcript of all subsequent questions on the same by Peers, are below.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they plan to take in response to the recommendations of the recently published Theos report Speaking Up.
Lord Faulks (Minister of State, Ministry of Justice): My Lords, the Government have noted the Theos report. We carefully considered the matters raised in it, including access to justice, when developing our policy on legal aid reform. The Government have already committed to a review of the impact of the LASPO Act three to five years after implementation. Even after reform, our legal aid system will remain one of the most expensive in the world at £1.5 billion per year. Continue reading “Bishop of Rochester presses government to work for acess to justice for all”
On 12th February 2015, Lord Dubs to ask Her Majesty’s Government what further steps they are taking to reduce the number of residential properties left vacant by their owners. The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, the contributions already made have underlined the importance of this and the potential for tackling some of the issues in the housing market and the lack of housing. While this may be a relatively small part of that, is the Minister aware of schemes such as the Houses into Homes initiative in Wales, which uses recyclable loans mainly to private individuals and has managed to return some 2,000 empty homes to use since 2012? Do the Government have further plans to encourage such initiatives, particularly those that are at a local level and involve private individuals and the voluntary sector? Continue reading “Bishop of Rochester commends ‘Houses into Homes’ initiative to reduce levels of empty housing”
On 12th January 2015, Lord Roberts of Llandudno asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to safeguard village life. The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, reference has been made at various points to housing. The Minister will be well aware of the importance for the sustainability and vitality of rural communities of a good mix of housing, housing tenure and so forth. Does he agree that community land trusts are a valuable and perhaps essential way of ensuring a continuing and permanent supply of affordable housing in rural communities? If so, what commitment have the Government made to increasing the number of such trusts? Continue reading “Bishop of Rochester calls for action on affordable housing in rural communities”
On 9th December 2014, four bishops took part in divisions on the Government’s Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, during ‘ping-pong’ between the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The amendments dealt with secure colleges and judicial review. Bishops previously voted in favour of amendments on judicial review, and details can be found here.
The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, co-sponsored amendments 44 and 44a to the Serious Crime Bill, which concerned Female Genital Mutilation. He also contributed to the debate on amendment 44, stressing that the seriousness of harm done to the individual by acts of FGM was too great for it to be allowed in the UK under the principle of tolerance for alternative cultural and religious practices. Baroness Smith of Basildon the lead sponsor of the amendments concluded the debate on amendments 44 and 44a. Following the Ministerial statement reacting to the debate on the amendments Baroness Smith decided ot to press the amendments to a vote on the basis of further discussion before Third Reading.
On 27th October 2014, four bishops took part in divisions on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, on the third day of its Report Stage. Details of the votes can be seen below.
Amendment 146 – Judicial review in the High Court and Upper Tribunal
Crossbench peer Lord Pannick moved amendment 146, which sought to soften the Government’s proposal that the High Court must refuse permission for a Judicial Review if it is ‘highly likely’ that the decision whose legality is being challenged would be unchanged even if the Review were successful.
Four bishops voted ‘content’ to this amendment. They were the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, the Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill, the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, and the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith. No bishop voted ‘not content’. There were: Contents: 247 | Not Contents: 181 | Result: Government Defeat
On 27th October 2014, Lord Horam asked Her Majesty’s Government what progress is being made with the Troubled Families programme. The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, tomorrow morning the Prison Reform Trust will publish the latest edition of its well regarded Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile. Among other things that will show the continuing correlation between exclusion from school, being brought up in care and offending behaviour. In the light of this and of other responses already given, can the Minister give an assurance that the Troubled Families programme is being well co-ordinated with the Ministry of Justice’s young offenders policy?
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: I can give the right reverend Prelate that assurance. Indeed, in a previous incarnation when I was the Whip for the justice department, I saw the importance of many rehabilitation programmes directly through visits programmes. He raises an important part of the mix that defines troubled families. As he is well aware, one of the key elements is youth crime and targeting youth crime and anti-social behaviour. Again, what we are seeing, for the first time I believe, is not just departments working together, but people at a local level working well together to ensure that all people involved, whether in youth crime, those involved in not attending school, as my noble friend said, or those who are not in employment, get sustainable solutions for the long term.
On Wednesday 22nd October 2014, the House of Lords debated amendments to the Government’s Criminal Justice and Courts Bill during the second day of its Report Stage.
The Rt Reverend James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester, contributed to the debate on Lord Ramsbotham’s amendment 108 to the bill, which was later withdrawn. The amendment sought to ensure that no secure college for young offenders could be established until clear rules on their operation had first been agreed. The Bishop spoke in favour of the amendment, highlighting the need to provide the highest standards of education for children in young offender institutions, especially when it had often been such a lacking feature of their pasts.