On 20th February 2017 the House of Lords held the first in a two-day debate on the Government’s EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill. The Bill would give the Government authority to begin the process of withdrawal from the European Union. The Bishop of Southwark, Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: As many in your Lordships’ House are aware, my diocese covers most of south London and east Surrey. The voters there opted to remain in the European Union on 23 June 2016 by some margin; in the borough of Lambeth, where I live, nearly 80% of those voting opted to remain. Only in Sutton and in Surrey did votes tip the other way. What I have occasionally heard articulated, but have yet to see in action, is how the aspirations of those people—and indeed, if one thinks more widely, Londoners in general, or Scots, or the people of Northern Ireland or simply people under the age of 45—are to be taken into account. The majority of all these groups voted to remain. If we adopt a model for leaving the EU that ignores them, we risk a regional divide, generational resentment and a threat to the union.
Welcome to the Church of England’s weekly round-up of activity in Parliament.
This week in the House of Lords bishops spoke on the Government’s Digital Economy Bill and voted on amendments to the Government’s Health Service Medical Supplies (Costs) Bill. Bishops spoke in debates on heritage, Syria and self-harm by young people, and asked questions about the new Housing White Paper, religious literacy of asylum caseworkers, mental health in the workplace, and on residential care staff. In the House of Commons the Second Church Estates Commissioner answered questions on pay, employment and security. Continue reading
On 9th February 2017 the House of Lords debated a motion from Crossbench Peer Baroness Cox “To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of recent developments in Syria.” The Bishop of Coventry, Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for securing this debate. My main reason for speaking is to draw your Lordships’ attention and, especially, Her Majesty’s Government, to a recent report by the World Council of Churches, The Protection Needs of Minorities in Syria and Iraq. It is a serious piece of field study that has gathered the first-hand views of some 4,000 people, over 2,000 of them Syrians from minority communities: Christians, Yazidis, Druze, Turkmen and many others. I was in Baghdad and Irbil last month as part of a World Council of Churches delegation to test the findings of the report with community leaders and members, as well as with UNAMI and locally based NGOs, and confirm the soundness of its recommendations. I have every reason to believe that the report’s analysis of the Syrian situation is as credible as we found its Iraqi analysis to be. Therefore I ask the Minister that the Government engage with this robust report. Continue reading
On 9th February 2017 the House of Lords debated a motion from Baroness Massey of Darwen “to ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they plan to take in the light of the Association for Young People’s Health briefing There for you which discusses the role of parents in supporting young people with mental health problems.” The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, there are few more urgent issues in modern Britain than the state of mental health among our young people, and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for tabling this important debate. Referrals to specialist mental health services have risen dramatically in recent years as increasing social pressures on our young people threaten the mental health of a generation. Issues around body image are one area of particular concern, fuelled in part by the rise of social media. I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester for her important work around body image and self-worth. Continue reading
On 9th February 2017 the House of Lords debated a motion from Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Oates “To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will publish guidance to encourage the protection of existing historical statues and memorials and promote the establishment of new memorials that reflect the broader history of the United Kingdom.” The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Oates, for this debate, and in particular for the work he is doing on the memorial to those who have been enslaved. We look forward to hearing more about it as it develops. I am pleased that he has focused our minds not just on existing memorials, but on what we ought to be doing as we look to the future, especially for the urgent need to celebrate the wide diversity of people and events that have contributed to our national life, many of which are underrepresented in our public spaces. Continue reading
On 9th February 2017 Lord Singh of Wimbledon asked Her Majesty’s Government “what steps they are taking to combat religious extremism and to promote a cohesive society by enhancing religious literacy at all levels of government.” The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Aolan Smith, asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, just three weeks ago I spent half a day in an immigration removal centre and so gained an up-to-date insight into some of the complex and sensitive issues that are being dealt with there. Concerns continue to be raised about the level of religious literacy among some of the asylum caseworkers. Is the Minister content with the level of training that they are getting in religious literacy and, if not, what can be done to improve it? Continue reading
On 8th February 2017 the Bishop of Chester, Rt Revd Peter Forster, spoke during a debate on an amendment by Lord Lucas to the Government’s Digital Economy Bill. The amendment was that Ofcom be granted powers to ‘carry out and publish evaluations of algorithms’.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, this is an important amendment because it touches upon the bigger issue of the impact of artificial intelligence on all sorts of aspects of our lives. There is a law called Moore’s law, which says that every two years the power of computers doubles. That has been true over the past 20 or 30 years and we should assume that that power will continue to develop. Artificial intelligence in all its impacting forms will be more and more prevalent in our society and more and more potent in the hands of terrorists in the years to come.