The Bishop of Exeter received the following written answers on 24th March 2023:
The Lord Bishop of Exeter asked His Majesty’s Government what plans they have to ensure that the 500,000 properties currently unable to access a broadband service running at a minimum of 10Mbps via a fixed line will be able to access broadband.
Viscount Camrose (Con): The Government has set out its plan to deliver Project Gigabit, our £5 billion mission to deliver fast, reliable broadband across the UK, and we are making good progress. Our target is for 85% of UK premises to have access to gigabit-capable broadband by 2025, and over 99% by 2030. This will include some premises currently unable to access more than 10Mbps.
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The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answers on 22nd March 2023:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Benyon on 8 March (HL5863), how much they paid to farmers in 2022 as part of the Avian Influenza Compensation scheme.
Lord Benyon (Con): In 2022, a total of £41.0 million was paid in compensation to bird keepers whose flocks were culled for avian influenza disease control purposes.
Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks about avian influenza compensation, farmers incomes, and plant biosecurity”
Andrew Selous MP, representing the Church Commissioners, gave the following written answers to questions from MPs on 10th March 2023:
Jerome Mayhew MP (Con): To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, if he will make an assessment of the adequacy of local authority grant funding available to parish churches to upgrade their facilities.
Andrew Selous MP (Con): It is the view of the National Church Institutions that Local Authority and Parish Council grant funding is not being made available to parish churches on a consistent basis, due to a lack of clarity in interpretation of existing law, specifically the Local Government Acts 1894, 1972 and the Localism Act 2011.
Continue reading “Church Commissioners Written Questions: Church Repairs & Maitenance, Rural Areas, and Vandalism of Cemeteries in Jerusalem”
The Bishop of St Albans spoke during the debate on the Financial Services and Markets Bill on Tuesday 7th March 2023, raising concerns on access to cash and the lack of digital connectivity in rural communities, and the impact on businesses and individuals:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I will not detain the Committee for very long but perhaps I could say one or two things. Briefly, I come at this by thinking about rural sustainability and rural business. I declare my interest as president of the Rural Coalition.
Before I say anything on that, a month ago I had my wallet stolen on my way into Parliament and I learned a lesson: do not keep all your cards in your wallet but have some different ones. I was, to use a theological term, absolutely stuffed that morning. Fortunately, I had a member of staff at home. I went back and cancelled the cards then phoned up my bank, which said, “Yes, come up—we can give you some cash”. When I got up there, I was told, “No, the system’s got it wrong and we aren’t able to give you cash here”. I then had to get someone to take me six miles to get some cash. When I eventually got into London for some meetings, I went to four places before I could find somewhere to buy lunch because I had only cash. This is actually quite a complex thing.
Continue reading “Financial Services and Markets Bill: Bishop of St Albans highlights issues in rural communities”
The Bishop of St Albans took part in a debate on healthcare in rural areas on 23rd February 2023, highlighting issues of age, access and infrastructure:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, for obtaining this debate. She is a powerful champion for these issues; we are grateful that she continues to raise them. I also add my thanks to and appreciation of all those who work on the front line in our rural areas. They often have to drive huge distances, sometimes along quite difficult roads; it is not always easy and is certainly not always as wonderful as our memories of remote rural areas from our holidays. I declare my interest as president of the Rural Coalition.
Although many people in this country dream of retreating to the rural idyll that is deeply embedded in the English psyche, they do not always realise that, if their dream comes true, they may face many challenges in living in rural areas: poor access to banks and cash; patchy broadband; sporadic mobile signal; virtually non-existent public transport; and little childcare. Then, of course, there is the topic we are exploring today: the stresses on the healthcare system, which is primarily and unsurprisingly designed for an urban context. Rurality faces a unique challenge in the delivery of healthcare, demanding that the Government adopt a clear strategy for improvement. I welcome His Majesty’s Government’s promise to rural-proof our healthcare system; my hope is that that promise will be able to deliver what is needed.
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The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answer on 9th Febraury 2023:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of how many people in rural areas do not have access to (1) landline phones, (2) mobile telephone coverage, (3) wireless coverage, (4) broadband, and (5) satellite internet.
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con): Ofcom collects coverage as part of its reporting requirements, most recently in its Connected Nations Report, with data for the period to September 2022.
Ofcom reports that 96% of rural premises have indoor 4G coverage from at least one operator, rising to 99% for outdoor coverage. This equates to c.195,000 rural premises not having 4G indoor coverage, with c.26,500 not having outdoor 4G coverage.
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Andrew Selous MP, representing the Church Commissioners, gave the following written answers to questions from MPs on 31st January 2023:
Ben Bradshaw MP (Lab): To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what the cost of legal support provided by (a) dioceses and (b) the Church Commissioners to incumbents and PCCs of parishes affected by pastoral reorganisation making a representation at an oral hearing of the Mission, Pastoral and Church Property Committee was in each of the last five years.
Continue reading “Church Commissioners Written Questions: Church Buildings, Heritage Protection, LGBT+ People, Religious Freedom, Funding for Rural Churches, and the Coronation of King Charles III”
The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answer on 21st December 2022:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government:
- what steps they are taking to ensure that cash access remains viable in the most remote parts of the UK.
- further to the introduction of shared banking hubs in larger towns in the UK, what assessment they have made of level of cash access those in the most rural areas can expect to have in the future.
- what steps they are taking to support people who rely solely on cash to (1) access cash, and (2) access digital banking alternatives to cash.
Lord Harlech (Con): The government recognises that while the transition towards digital banking and payments brings many opportunities, cash continues to be used by millions of people across the UK, including those who may be in vulnerable groups.
The government is currently taking legislation to protect access to cash across the UK through Parliament as part of the Financial Services and Markets Bill 2022. The legislation will establish the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) as the lead regulator for access to cash with responsibility and powers to seek to ensure reasonable provision of withdrawal and deposit facilities.
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The Bishop of St Albans asked whether the government would ensure that any decision made about the use of cash as legal tender would take into account difficulties specific to rural areas, during a debate on the future acceptance of cash on 15th December 2022:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, this is a problem that particularly affects rural areas, where there are far fewer cash-dispensing machines. Also, there are many parts of rural areas where there is no internet, so even if you want to pay by BACS or direct transfer, you just cannot do it. Will the Minister assure us that the Government will properly rural-proof this discussion so that we are able to ensure that rural areas can still function effectively?
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The Bishop of Exeter spoke in a debate on the effects of long covid on 17th November 2022, focusing on the impact on rural communities:
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, for securing this important and timely debate.
I will focus my remarks on the rural dimension of long Covid, which is having an impact on many people in Devon where I am privileged to serve. I am concerned about rural sustainability and the need to ensure that the Government’s levelling-up agenda is not focused exclusively on urban deprivation. Rural poverty may not show up on government statistics because it is dispersed in pockets, but it is just as real. Research suggests that structural inequalities, including poverty, are important in the development and course of Covid-19 and may form an important context for long Covid.
As far as Devon is concerned, the picture postcard view of my county beloved by holidaymakers is only half the story. The best information we have is that there are currently around 16,000 people living with long Covid in Devon and, as I am sure the noble Baroness, Lady Watkins of Tavistock, will corroborate, it is impacting on the economic life of our county.
Continue reading “Bishop of Exeter speaks in a debate on the effects of long Covid”
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