3 Baroness Meacher debates involving the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport

Mon 29th Jun 2020
Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage & Report stage (Hansard) & Report stage (Hansard) & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords

Loneliness Strategy

Baroness Meacher Excerpts
Wednesday 23rd March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The noble Lord is right. Community and volunteer groups of all shapes and sizes play an important role. Since April 2020, we have continued to grow the membership of the Tackling Loneliness Network to over 150 members. Last year, we published our Tackling Loneliness Network action plan, setting out actions that members of the network committed to take to tackle loneliness during the pandemic. We will continue to review that and see how that work can be furthered.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
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There can be no more lonely experience than that of CFS/ME sufferers, for whom crushing fatigue is just one of a long list of symptoms that interfere with—and I would say prevent—normal social interactions. NICE recently issued guidelines for CFS/ME sufferers. Will the Minister agree to contact NICE to see if it would consider adding a section on loneliness for these particular sufferers—as I understand it, it did not include that issue within its guidelines?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I shall follow up that point with my honourable friend Nigel Huddleston and colleagues at the Department of Health. The noble Baroness is right: we know that people with long-term health conditions are significantly more likely to report feeling lonely. Through our loneliness funding, we have supported groups that work with people with disabilities and long-term health conditions to support them to feel more connected, including Mencap, the National Autistic Society, the British Deaf Association and the RNIB, to name just a few. I will follow up the point that she makes about NICE as well.

Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill

Baroness Meacher Excerpts
Baroness Henig Portrait The Deputy Speaker
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I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, does not wish to speak, so I call the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I support the Bill because it provides an opportunity for some residents to obtain telecommunications infrastructure for their properties, even when their landlord cannot be contacted to give permission for such installations. The problem is I do not think that many tenants would be included. I added my name to Amendments 2 and 3 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, because they would enable further, badly needed, additions to our telecommunications infrastructure.

The essential issue here is the need to extend the availability of telecoms infrastructure as widely as possible, while providing sufficient protection for landlords to avoid unnecessary damage to, or interference with, their property. The protections for landlords in the Bill are more than adequate, albeit that some of the detail of those protections will be specified in regulations and be up to Ministers.

The most important protection for the landlord is that the operator must convince the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) of the justification for the installation of telecommunications infrastructure. Only then will permission be given for the installation to go ahead. The Bill makes it clear that the tribunal will require an enormous amount of information before making its decision, and at the start of the process the operator must make multiple attempts to contact the landlord and gain their approval if they possibly can. The amendment provides for Ministers to extend the scope of the Bill.

The Government’s justification to the Delegated Powers Committee—I declare my interest as a member of that committee—for restricting the scope of the Bill at the outset is simply that multi-occupied blocks of flats are the most common source of demand for the provisions of the Bill. However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, that it would be sensible to extend the scope of the Bill to tenants with a rental contract, for example, even if it turns out that the demand from those tenants is not all that great.

The Government refer to business parks and office blocks as potential candidates for the powers under the Bill to obtain telecommunications infrastructure. Perhaps the Minister could explain if there is any reason not to include such premises within the scope of the Bill now, and by that I mean rental situations as well as lessee situations.

Amendment 3, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, affords an operator the right to initiate proceedings to provide infrastructure on a site where they see a public interest in doing so. Again, I welcome the proposal; the safeguards for the landlord are so extensive, including the need to convince the tribunal of the merits of the case, that this extension of the scope of the Bill could only be beneficial.

I hope very much that the Minister will consider these amendments sympathetically. They are not party-political issues at all but rather a genuine concern for the general improvement of the country’s infrastructure.

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I entirely agree with all the arguments that have been made by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, and have nothing to add. I hope the Government will accept this amendment.

Covid-19: Vulnerable People

Baroness Meacher Excerpts
Tuesday 12th May 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran
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The noble Baroness raises a crucial point. A number of organisations, including the Department for Education and charities in this field, are finding new ways to make sure that they have regular contact, whether by phone or online or, where safe to do so, face to face, to support those children.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB)
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My Lords, asylum seekers waiting for asylum decisions are expected to live on £37.75 a week. Can the Minister assure the House that either a generous portion of the £76 million for vulnerable people can somehow find its way to these particularly deprived people or, better still, that asylum support rates will be lifted by £20 per week in line with universal credit?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran
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It is up to individual departments to decide exactly how the funding for vulnerable people is distributed, but I acknowledge what the noble Baroness said. This is a particularly vulnerable group.