Libby Lane – 2022 Speech on the Growth Plan (Lord Bishop of Derby)

The speech made by Libby Lane, the Lord Bishop of Derby, in the House of Lords on 10 October 2022.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Gohir, on her maiden speech, which was delivered with such authority and clarity on matters that are close to my heart as well. I look forward to working with her in the years ahead. It is also a real privilege to pay tribute to my right reverend friend who gave his final reflection from these Benches. I am indebted to him as he has been not only an excellent Convenor of the Lords Spiritual but someone whose example has greatly influenced my ministry over many years.

I declare an interest as vice-chair of the Children’s Society. This afternoon, I want to give voice to the unheard voices that it works with and advocates for, as we take note of the economy and the Government’s growth plan. Last month, the Children’s Society published the 2022 Good Childhood Report, which records that 85% of parents and carers, despite welcome packages of support, are worried about the increase in the cost of living as it affects their ability to care for their children.

I too am concerned about the direct impact of economic policy on children. To ask the lowest-income families to cope with even less seems unthinkable. At a time when so many families are already struggling to put food on the table, a real-terms cut to their income would be catastrophic. Some 4.3 million children in the UK are growing up in poverty and the Children’s Society calculates that not uprating benefits would add another 200,000 to that number.

According to a coalition of national children’s charities, one of the most direct ways of supporting the most vulnerable children would be by increasing child benefit. A £10 increase would help but, given the rate of inflation, an increase of £20 to £25 would be more realistic. On behalf of those charities, I ask the Minister whether His Majesty’s Government might reconsider their position on those benefits to directly support the welfare of children. Jesus, our scripture tells us, put a child at the heart of the kingdom of God and I urge us to do the same in our United Kingdom.

As Bishop of Derby, I am pleased to recognise that Derby is an international centre for skilled engineering and high-tech industry which has brought to the area many highly paid and secure jobs. Some in Derby and Derbyshire will likely benefit from much of the Government’s plan for growth. However, we also face some of the starkest indices of inequality in the country.

I finish with words from Psalm 41:

“Blessed are those who consider the poor and needy; the Lord will deliver them in time of trouble.”

I trust that as we take note of the economy and the Government’s growth plan we will prioritise those who are at the margins of our society to reduce further inequality, especially as it impacts our nation’s most vulnerable children.