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Near Neighbours Programme

Volume 609: debated on Thursday 5 May 2016

I am so sorry that we do not have the presence of my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess), as it would have given me an opportunity to thank Mr Speaker for hosting a reception in his apartment to celebrate the Queen’s birthday. What better opportunity could there be to bring the community together—people of all faiths and all backgrounds—in every one of our constituencies than to celebrate the birthday of the Head of the Church?

Specifically, in relation to the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers), I wish to highlight that a further tranche of £1.5 million-worth of funding has been made available for a Near Neighbours programme, which is administered by the Church urban fund to encourage people of different religions to come together to understand each other better and to improve the cohesiveness of our society.

I thank my right hon. Friend for a very full answer. In Lincolnshire, we have both coastal communities and, in the agricultural industry, many seasonal workers who come from all sorts of different faiths. Will she outline what additional work the Near Neighbours programme can do to support coastal communities and rural areas?

This kind of fund provides very small grants to communities, which are used to meet a range of pressing social needs, including employment skills, environmental work, homelessness, healthy eating projects and so on. It is significant that 71% of those projects have continued to run after the funding has ceased. It is precisely because of the diverse backgrounds of the seasonal workers in Lincolnshire—many are from the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church—that such grants could facilitate the cohesiveness of the society in my hon. Friend’s constituency.