On 24th June, the Bishop of St Albans asked a question following a Government statement on the Windrush Compensation Scheme.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, we are all implicated in the conscious and unconscious bias which bedevils our society. It will change only if we all take responsibility to make that change come about. Due to the age of those who came on the “Windrush”, time is of the essence in gaining compensation. Some of them have already died. What specifically is being done to speed up the process? On the more general issue, what is the relationship between the various groups, such as this cross-government working group and the race equality commission, and is the Minister sure that these groups will complement each other and expedite matters rather than confuse them?
On 23rd June 20202 the Rt Revd Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, asked a question following a statement from the Government on the terrorist attacks in Reading on 20th June.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: The Minister has referred to the extra £90 million for counterterrorism. Is this ring-fenced and will it be continued in future years? Secondly, what reassurances and protections are being given to minority communities, which will be feeling very vulnerable at this point?
On 23rd June the Rt Revd Alan Smith,Bishop of St Albans received a written answer to a question on religious freedom in China.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: HL5718 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that priests in China have been forced to preach Chinese nationalism in return for the opening of religious spaces.
On 17th June Baroness Northover asked Her Majesty’s Government “what assessment they have made of their relationship with the government of China; whether they intend to alter that relationship; and if so, how they intend to do so”. The Rt Revd Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans asked a follow up question, focusing on freedom of religion and belief.
Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, inevitably, trade and defence issues will play an important part in our relationship with China. Will the Minister assure us that issues of freedom of religion or belief will not be overlooked? Estimates suggest that between 900,000 and 1.8 million Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other Muslims have been detained in Xinjiang province. What plans have the Government made to join our American allies in sanctioning those responsible for the oppression of Uighurs in Xinjiang?
On 16th June Baroness Sanderson of Welton asked Her Majesty’s Government “when they plan to publish the social housing White Paper“. The Rt Revd Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, asked a follow up question focusing on the loss of social housing units.
The Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, these Benches welcome the upcoming White Paper, but we are still losing tens of thousands of social housing units annually, with a net loss of 17,000 in 2019 alone. Can the Minister confirm to your Lordships’ House that increasing social housing will be addressed in the White Paper, and is he able to give us some indication as to the steps that Her Majesty’s Government will implement to address this worrying decline?
On 15th June the Lord Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked Her Majesty’s Government “what is their assessment of ongoing protests led by the Black Lives Matter movement, and the consequent removal of statues and monuments”.
Baroness Williams of Trafford (The Minister of State, Home Office): My Lords, I understand the strength of feeling around the death of George Floyd and peaceful protest remains a vital part of a democratic society. However, coronavirus remains a real and present threat to all of us and mass gatherings for whatever reason risk spreading the disease. I condemn all forms of illegal activity. Changes to the urban architecture should be affected through democratic processes and not by criminal damage.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: I thank the Minister for her response. Racism is deeply embedded, and it affects every part of society, including the Church. We all have much to do to confront it. Indeed, it is possible to remove statues from public places without dealing with the fundamental nature of the problem. Will another commission be any more successful in stopping the demolition of statues than the Lammy review, the Angiolini review, the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, and the review from the noble Baroness, Lady McGregor-Smith? Would it not be cheaper and quicker for Her Majesty’s Government to implement the recommendations of those reviews, committing proper resources and leadership to drive through the change we so desperately need?
On 10th June the House of Lords debated the Agriculture Bill. The Rt Revd Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, spoke in the Second Reading debate, and highlighting issues around food security and environmental land management.
The Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I am pleased that the long-anticipated Agriculture Bill has finally arrived in your Lordships’ House. There are many good and laudable parts of the Bill, not least the fair trading provisions for farmers and concerns for the environment and wildlife.
On 10th June the Rt Revd Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, received a writtenanswer to a question fromBaroness Stedman-Scott on child poverty in Luton.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans:HL4300 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the rate of child poverty in Luton; and what plans they have to provide additional financial support to the Luton Borough Council to help it address that rate.
On 9th June Baroness Quin asked Her Majesty’s Government “what discussions they have had with the Local Government Association on how national and local government can work together to promote economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic”. The Rt Revd Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, asked a follow up question, focusing on business rates for large online retail companies and small high street shops.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: I declare my interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. What discussions have taken place about reviewing business rates, so that large online retail companies, which perhaps have no actual shops and many of which pay relatively small amounts of tax, do not have an unfair advantage over our small shops in our high streets which are under threat at the moment?