The Bishop of St Albans speaks in debate on Independent Panel on Forestry report

My Lords, I was eager to participate in this debate and I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, for raising this vital issue, which has touched the nerves of so many people right across the country, in every part of our nation. I want to pick up four details of the Government’s response. They are minor, not major, points but I hope that they will be helpful. The first is to build on the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, about the unprecedented levels of flooding that we are having in the UK. Continue reading “The Bishop of St Albans speaks in debate on Independent Panel on Forestry report”

Bishop of Worcester responds to Government statement on flooding

The Lord Bishop of Worcester: My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister’s Statement. As we all know, attention has rightly focused on the Somerset Levels and the terrible plight that people are enduring there, but when I left Worcester this morning the city was gridlocked as a result of the closure of the main bridge across the river and the situation remains acute. I do not want to apportion blame; I want to pay tribute to those who are working very hard and to the understanding and graciousness of the inhabitants of Worcester. However, it is true that the implications of this will be enormous, economically and from a human point of view. Can the Minister confirm that a coherent policy will be forthcoming for all the affected areas, not just those most terribly affected?

Lord De Mauley: The right reverend Prelate is absolutely right—I can confirm that. We have finite resources and must apportion them in a proper way, in accordance with priorities, and the priorities must be human life and property. While I am at the Dispatch Box, can I say that, although I have not given them credit, I know that the churches in Somerset in particular are playing a major part in helping people affected by this dreadful tragedy?

(via parliament.uk)

Bishop of St Albans asks questions on affordable energy for rural households

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Office of Fair Trading about securing an affordable energy supply for rural households that are off the gas grid.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma):
Representatives of the Office of Fair Trading attend the Roundtable meetings chaired by my Rt. Hon. Friend the Minister of State for Energy. The Roundtable brings together Government, regulators, advisory and charitable bodies, the fuel supply industry and others to work together to improve the security and affordability of off-grid fuel supply.14.03 Bishop of St Albans

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the energy companies about reducing the price of electricity paid by households that are not dual fuel customers because they do not have access to the gas grid.

Baroness Verma: DECC Ministers regularly meet with energy supply companies to discuss a range of energy issues. Electricity prices for household consumers are a commercial matter for the companies concerned.

(via Parliament.uk)

Bishop of Wakefield urges Government to support pupils in areas of rural deprivation

Lord Horam asked Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to increase the Pupil Premium for the most disadvantaged primary school children.

The Bishop of Wakefield asked a supplementary question:

The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, can the Minister tell us whether the Government are considering ways in which an increase in the pupil premium can be targeted at the forms of deprivation most difficult to address? Rural deprivation, for example, particularly in church schools, is very significant in our part of West Yorkshire, in the Diocese of Wakefield.

Lord Nash: The right reverend Prelate is quite right to point out the problems with rural deprivation; it is similar to coastal deprivation. There are particular schemes that schools follow: mentoring; systemic feedback; much more involvement of parents; early intervention, particularly using the better teachers; and peer tutoring. Much can be learnt from groups like Ark, whose academy in Portsmouth, for instance, which is in a classic coastal town, has improved results in four years from 24% to 68%.

(via parliament.uk)

The Bishop of St Albans raises concerns about affordable energy in rural areas (Written Questions)

The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Office of Fair Trading about securing an affordable energy supply for rural households that are off the gas grid.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): Representatives of the Office of Fair Trading attend the Roundtable meetings chaired by my Rt. Hon. Friend the Minister of State for Energy. The Roundtable brings together Government, regulators, advisory and charitable bodies, the fuel supply industry and others to work together to improve the security and affordability of off-grid fuel supply.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the energy companies about reducing the price of electricity paid by households that are not dual fuel customers because they do not have access to the gas grid.

Baroness Verma: DECC Ministers regularly meet with energy supply companies to discuss a range of energy issues. Electricity prices for household consumers are a commercial matter for the companies concerned.

Bishop of St Albans calls for extension of discretionary housing payments to rural areas

Baroness Quin asked Her Majesty’s Government what recent discussions they have had with local authorities about the costs associated with implementing the underoccupancy charge.

The Bishop of St Albans asked a supplementary question:

The Lord Bishop of St Alba14.03 Bishop of St Albansns: My Lords, as affordable rental properties in rural areas are in such shortage, will the Government extend the scheme, which currently applies only to the 21 most sparsely populated districts, and allow more local authorities to use discretionary housing payments to help retain more couples and families in their homes?

Lord Freud: My Lords, that is exactly what the discretionary housing payment is for. It is for local authorities to take decisions, based on their local knowledge, so that they get the funds to the right people. The emerging signs are that we will not spend all the discretionary housing payments this year. I am, however, making sure that a substantial amount of discretionary housing payment goes out next year, for which the total figure will be £165 million.

(via Parliament.uk)

Bishop of St Albans receives answers to written questions on energy policy and housing benefit

Written Questions answered on 24th January, 2014:

14.03 Bishop of St AlbansThe Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to mitigate the additional cost of heating for rural households not on the gas grid.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): The Government believes that domestic consumers living off the mains gas-grid should have access to secure and affordable fuel supplies to heat their homes.

Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans receives answers to written questions on energy policy and housing benefit”