This week the Archbishop of Canterbury led a debate in the House of Lords about shared national values and bishops spoke in debates on the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, the UK’s future relationships with the EU and about online safety. Bishops also asked questions about benefit sanctions, supported housing, social rented housing, corporate governance and the relocation of Parliament. In the House of Commons the Second Church Estates Commissioner answered written questions about veterans, war memorials, the Bishop of London and the Dean of Peterborough.
On the 2nd December 2016 the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, spoke in the debate led by the Archbishop of Canterbury on shared values and their role in shaping public policies. She highlighted the compassionate hospitality which this country has shown generations of refugees alongside the work she is undertaking in Gloucestershire to build community, standing ‘with’ rather than ‘othering’ people to promote human flourishing.
The Lord Bishop of Gloucester: My Lords, I thank my noble friend the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury on his foresight in tabling this debate on shared values. I also add my own congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord McInnes of Kilwinning, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, on their poignant and insightful maiden speeches.
In the diocese of Gloucester, I have recently been talking to young people about body image and reflecting with them on how their true worth begins deep within, the place from which true values emerge and are lived. Last Saturday, I hosted a huge community party in Cheltenham to publicly launch our new vision for the diocese of Gloucester. The vision has emerged from conversations in local communities, urban and rural, involving about 6,000 people, churchgoers and otherwise, discussing what sort of church they want to see in their communities.The vision is one of human flourishing and transformation, emanating from those words of Jesus from the gospel of John:
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”.
That is a good starting place when it comes to talking about values.
On the 2nd December 2016 the Bishop of Ely, the Rt Revd Stephen Conway spoke in a debate led by the Archbishop of Canterbury on shared values and their implications for public policy making. The Bishop of Ely spoke about the importance of character education in developing values and the role played by church schools in fostering good links between children of all faiths and none.
The Lord Bishop of Ely: My Lords, I thank my friend the most reverend Primate for securing this timely and essential debate. I applaud the noble Lord, Lord McInnes, on his excellent speech, not least on drawing together our concern for values with opportunity for our children and young people. When we talk about British values, we should be aiming not at the lowest common denominator but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, said, at the highest ideals that we want to promote for and with our children.
Character education is all set to be the foundation for the kind of person we want each child to become: a member of society who not only understands the world, but cares about it, is equipped to continue in the good and recognise and challenge the bad and is courageous enough to bridge divides and extend the hand of friendship. The Church of England vision for education actively seeks to provide an education that fosters this. Character education is about educating children not only to become efficient economic units, but to flourish in all areas of their lives, and enjoy life in all its fullness, as Jesus says in the Gospel of John. Fundamental to this is the nurturing of virtues as the intrinsic building blocks of a rounded human life with concrete outcomes in behaviour and service. St Paul takes the life of virtue beyond what had previously been categorised when he wrote in the Letter to the Galatians about the “fruits of the spirit”: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
On 2 December 2016 the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, led a debate in the House of Lords “That this House takes note of the shared values underpinning our national life and their role in shaping public policy priorities.” His opening and closing speeches are below. The Bishops of Ely and Gloucester also spoke in the debate.
The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, I am most grateful to the usual channels for making this debate possible. I should also like to thank noble Lords who have made the time and taken the trouble to attend today in considerable numbers, the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, and those who look after us so well in this House.
In case noble Lords are wondering what the Motion is [laughter]…I decided to change it at the last minute…It reads:
“The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury to move that this House takes note of the shared values underpinning our national life and their role in shaping public policy priorities”.
It will be an especial pleasure to hear maiden speeches from the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, and the noble Lord, Lord McInnes of Kilwinning. The noble Baroness brings her knowledge of communications, issues of disability among children and education. The noble Lord will enable us to have a wider view of issues in Scotland.
The UK, especially perhaps England, is a pragmatic country with a bias towards the empirical over the theoretical. Not for us the cries of “liberty, equality and fraternity”, to be followed by years of bloodshed to ensure true fraternity was established. Rather, ours is an untidiness of cumulative reforms and changes, worked out in practice through the highways and byways of our constitution. We relish the irony of a constitution that works in practice but never could in theory.
Great times of change in mood and culture demand from us a reimagining of what we are about as a nation. As we move into a post-Brexit world, alongside the other events that buffet and deflect us, unless we ground ourselves in a clear course and widely accepted practices, loyalties and values—what I will call values in this speech—we will just go with the wind.
On 1st December 2016, Baroness Howe of Idicote led a short debate in the Lords to ask the Government “what steps they are taking in order to achieve compliance with the new European Union net-neutrality Connected Continent requirements in such a way that United Kingdom adult content filtering regimes can be maintained in order to help keep children safe online.” The Rt Revd Dr Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester, took part in the debate.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, the House should be deeply grateful indeed to the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, for her persistence in bringing before us the difficult issue of online safety, particularly as it affects our children. I must say, the thickness of the plot as she set it out in her opening speech would be a credit to Agatha Christie herself in this particular aspect of it. We will be returning to the broader aspects when the Digital Economy Bill comes before us shortly. I believe that there is also a forthcoming report by the Communications Select Committee on children and the internet.
On the 1st December 2016 Lord Liddle held a debate on ‘the best options for the United Kingdom’s future relationship with the European Union following the referendum vote to leave’. The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, spoke about the foundations of the idea of ‘Europe’ not just as an economic construct but as a civilisation.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, the Motion before us is not limited to economic issues, although the debate so far has understandably concentrated on them. I would like to take a slightly broader look at our future relationship with the EU. Of course, the social and economic issues associated with the four freedoms will inevitably take centre stage over the next few years, and it will be an anxious time for many. I hope it will also be a time of opportunity for at least some, perhaps many; we will see.
On the 1 December 2016 the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, received a written answer from the Department for Work and Pensions regarding supported housing.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Statement by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (HCWS154), when they intend to publish their evidence review of the scale, scope and cost of the supported housing sector.