On 21st March 2023, Baroness Pinnock tabled a Motion to Regret on the Building Safety (Leaseholder Protections) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2023. A vote was held on the motion, in which Bishops took part:
The Bishop of Manchester, the Bishop of St Albans, the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, and the Bishop of Worcester took part in a vote on Baroness Pinnock’s motion to regret regarding the Building Safety (Leaseholder Protections) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2023:
Baroness Pinnock moved that this House regrets that in laying the Building Safety (Leaseholder Protections) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2023 (SI 2023/126) His Majesty’s Government have not published data on the number of landlords who have benefited from an error which allowed landlords to transfer costs of remedying historical building defects on to their leaseholders; further regrets that His Majesty’s Government have no intention to identify leaseholders affected by that error to advise them to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal to recover costs; and calls on His Majesty’s Government to publish these figures in a spirit of transparency and write to those affected with clear guidance on how to recover costs.
The motion was agreed. Content: 185 / Not Content: 138.
The Bishop of Manchester, the Bishop of St Albans, the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, and the Bishop of Worcester voted Content.
The Bishop of St Albans spoke in support of a motion to regret relating to leaseholder protection tabled by Baroness Pinnock on 21st March 2023:
‘That this House regrets that in laying the Building Safety (Leaseholder Protections) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2023 (SI 2023/126) His Majesty’s Government have not published data on the number of landlords who have benefited from an error which allowed landlords to transfer costs of remedying historical building defects on to their leaseholders; further regrets that His Majesty’s Government have no intention to identify leaseholders affected by that error to advise them to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal to recover costs; and calls on His Majesty’s Government to publish these figures in a spirit of transparency and write to those affected with clear guidance on how to recover costs.’
The motion was agreed.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I shall add a few words of support for the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock. I stand with a weary sense of déjà vu, looking around at a number of people with whom I have sat as we have worked through building safety and fire safety measures.
What is interesting is that the Government fundamentally tried to grasp this problem. I pay tribute to the right honourable Michael Gove, who has been quite exceptional in taking hold of it and trying to solve it. I say well done to the Government for shifting the main problem in this very troubling area.
The Bishop of St Albans tabled a question on the health of the British banking sector on 21st March 2023:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the health of the British banking sector, following the challenges faced by overseas banks.
Baroness Penn (Con): The UK Government welcome the steps taken to support financial stability on Sunday by the Swiss authorities relating to Credit Suisse. This follows the sale on 13 March of Silicon Valley Bank UK to HSBC after the resolution of its US parent. No other UK banks have been materially affected by these actions. The Governor of the Bank of England has confirmed that, in his view:
“The wider UK banking system remains safe, sound, and well capitalised.”
On 21st March 2023 Rt Hon Ben Bradshaw MP spoke to a Motion he had tabled in the House of Commons, for leave to bring in a Bill on same sex marriages in the Church of England. The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, responded.
SAME SEX MARRIAGE (CHURCH OF ENGLAND): TEN MINUTE RULE MOTION
Mr Ben Bradshaw: That leave be given to bring in a Bill to enable clergy of the Church of England to conduct same sex marriages on Church of England premises in certain circumstances; and for connected purposes.
A transcript of the response from Andrew Selous is below:
Mr Andrew Selous MP (Second Church Estates Commissioner): Thank you very much Mr Deputy Mr Speaker. I do not intend to divide the House, but it is necessary to respond to the Bill in my capacity as Second Church Estates Commissioner, because it seeks to usurp the role of the democratically elected General Synod of the Church of England, as well as to remove the freedom of the Church of England to decide its own doctrine, a freedom which Members on all sides of this House champion for religions and beliefs all over the world, and one that we should therefore apply equally to the Church of England.
There are passionately held and differing views about same sex marriage on all sides of this House and I am also acutely aware of the personal pain and hurt that this issue causes for so many people. But it is for the democratically elected assembly of the Church of England, the General Synod, to decide matters of doctrine rather than Parliament. And this has been the settled convention for nearly fifty years, since the 1974 Worship and Doctrine Measure was approved by Parliament.
At the General Synod last month, it was agreed that the Prayers of Love and Faith proposed by the bishops would be finalised, that the pastoral guidance for clergy would be produced, and that a welcoming culture towards LGBTQI+ people would be embedded throughout the Church. It was also agreed not to change the doctrine of marriage. And that Motion was passed by a clear majority in all three Houses of the Synod. Amendments to require the bishops to bring forward proposals for same-sex marriage to the next meeting of Synod and to revisit the issue within the next two years, were rejected by the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy and the House of Laity.
The Right Honourable Gentleman’s Bill proposes that the decision of the Synod, arrived at prayerfully and democratically, should simply be set aside.
In this House, we do not all agree with each other, but we do respect everyone’s right to be here because we have all been given our mandate through the same black boxes on election night. I would ask that the Members of this democratically elected House show the same respect to the democratically elected members of the General Synod.
Directing the Church of England on doctrine is not the job of Parliament. It would infringe on settled principles of religious freedom, which we argue for our sisters and brothers overseas, and it would call into question the rights and protections of conscience for other denominations and faiths as well. Several Catholic members of this House came up to me after the Urgent Question on the 24th of January and told me how grateful they were that Parliament was not telling their church what to do!
The Bill is also unnecessary as should Synod decide to change the doctrine of marriage in the future, it could do so. It would produce a Measure, which would come before Parliament and amend the 2013 Marriage Act. There is no need therefore for Parliament to act independently to change the Act.
Although the Bill is intended to be permissive and not to compel any member of the clergy to solemnise same-sex marriage, it is just not possible to leave it to individual clergy to choose to do things that are clearly contrary to the doctrine of the church. Doctrine is not determined by local decision, varying by parish or diocese, but is decided centrally, not by a small group of bishops, but through the prayerful deliberation and decision of the democratically elected Synod. If the Church lost its ability to require compliance with its doctrine, this would be a breach of the Human Rights Convention as it would be contrary to article 9, read with article 11, for the State to interfere with a religious organisation’s ability to require compliance with its own doctrine.
The Bill’s attempt to give individual freedom and choice would be unworkable and would breach the longstanding convention that Parliament does not legislate for the internal affairs of the Church of England without its consent.
I honoured my commitment to tell the General Synod the views of Parliament as expressed in the Urgent Question on the 24th of January, and I know that the General Synod will continue to listen carefully and respectfully to the views of this House, just as I would ask Parliament to be respectful to the views of the Synod.
Note: The Motion was not opposed in a vote and the Bill was presented, though it will be unlikely to progress any further due to lack of time in the parliamentary session.
The Bishop of Durham received the following written answer on 21st March 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Durham asked His Majesty’s Government, further to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report An Essentials Guarantee: Reforming Universal Credit to ensure we can all afford the essentials in hard times, published on 27 February, which found that “95 per cent of people on Universal Credit facing debt deductions are going without essentials”, what steps they are taking to prevent debt from being (1) generated, and (2) sustained, in the social security system.
The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answers on 21st March 2022:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government what plans they have to limit the spread of Phytophthora ramorum in trees in England.
Lord Benyon (Con): Phytophthora ramorum is primarily distributed across the western regions of GB affecting larch plantations. For over twelve years we have had a robust management programme in place, including aerial and ground-based surveillance and risk-based inspections at nurseries and retail sites. Scotland and Wales have their own management programmes.
Where it is found, given the economic impact of the disease to the forestry industry, Statutory Plant Health Notices are served requiring the destruction of infected trees and those nearby. Specific measures are taken related to the handling, movement and processing of larch infected with P. ramorum, to prevent the spread through the trade in timber and related products.
The Bishop of Exeter received the following written answers on 21st March 2023:
The Lord Bishop of Exeter asked His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of litter on wildlife.
Lord Benyon (Con): There is a systematic, proactive screening of potential new and emerging plant health risks. This includes consideration of changes which have the potential to affect the risk posed by non-native plant pests and pathogens to UK plants, both cultivated and in the wider environment. Pests and pathogens which are considered to pose a risk are prioritised for action in the UK Plant Health Risk Register. Risks are reviewed monthly by an expert group and Ministers, and prioritised for actions such as contingency plans in the event of an outbreak, pest risk analyses which can look in detail at potential risks associated with climatic factors, surveillance, enhanced inspection, regulation, national measures, import controls, research and awareness raising. Actions and decisions are kept under review and would be reconsidered in light of new information concerning the pest or other factor which would change the risk to GB.
The Bishop of Durham received the following written answer on 21st March 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Durham asked His Majesty’s Government how many children are currently eligible for free school meals but have not yet made a claim.
Baroness Barran (Con): The latest published statistics show that around 1.9 million pupils are claiming free school meals (FSM). This equates to 22.5% of all pupils, up from 20.8% in 2021. Together with a further 1.25 million infants supported through the Universal Infant Free School Meal policy, over one third of pupils receive a free meal in school.
The Bishop of Worcester spoke in a debate on amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill on 20th March 2023, supporting an amendment by Baroness Pinnock that would address inflation in land prices in different regions:
The Lord Bishop of Worcester: My Lords, I support the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, to which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford has added her name. She regrets that she is unable to be in her place today; I wish to make some points that undoubtedly she would have contributed had she been here.
As already indicated by the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, the Government’s tabled Amendment 165 is very welcome. The review of Section 123 of the Local Government Act 1972, and the correction of the omission of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime—and of police and crime commissioners generally—are necessary and positive steps. However, there remain ways in which the general disposal consent 2003 could be improved to better allow public bodies to dispose of assets for less than market value for social, economic or environmental benefit. We believe that such measures would be very much in line with the Bill’s desired outcome: levelling up communities across the country.
The Bishop of Worcester asked a question on the problematic nature of the judicial death penalty during a debate on capital punishment and UK membership of the Council of Europe on 2oth February 2023:
The Lord Bishop of Worcester: My Lords, in view of the comments to which the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, has drawn attention, does the Minister agree that there is something deeply ironic about a society condemning the taking of a person’s life, and in order to demonstrate exactly how strongly it does so, doing exactly that through a judicial killing?
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