Week in Westminster, 13th-17th November 2017

This week in the House of Lords bishops led debates on rising household debt and the freeze on benefits and spoke in other debates on universal credit and education funding. They asked questions about Zimbabwe, new housing, freedom of religion and belief, Saudi Arabia, human rights, and cathedrals. Continue reading “Week in Westminster, 13th-17th November 2017”

Bishop of St Albans calls for end to freeze on working age benefits, to help children and families

On 16th November 2017 the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, led a debate in the House of Lords on the benefit freeze. His opening speech and that of the Minister responding are below. The whole debate can be read here.

“The Lord Bishop of St Albans to ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the impact of rising inflation on families affected by the freeze of working age benefits.”

Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, we are at risk of failing a substantial number of children and some of the most needy people of this country. If a society is to be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable, then unless we are prepared to put aside party difference and make common purpose in addressing inequalities in our system of social security, we will surely be found wanting. Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans calls for end to freeze on working age benefits, to help children and families”

Bishop of Ely on the need for schools to tackle deprivation and disadvantage

On Thursday 16th November 2017 Lord Bird led a debate in the House of Lords, “to ask Her Majesty’s Government what new resources and strategies they will implement to ensure that every child has the opportunity to attend a good school and that all schools are fairly funded, as announced in the Queen’s Speech.” The Bishop of Ely, Rt Revd Stephen Conway, spoke in the debate, focusing on church schools:

The Lord Bishop of Ely: Follow that! My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bird, for having made this debate possible and for providing the opportunity for us to focus not only on a fair distribution of funding for our schools and the children in their care but on fair access to good teaching in good and imaginative schools.

The Church has, down the centuries, provided a constant yet adaptable force in education. The Church of England recently produced a new vision for education, two pillars of which are dignity and hope. As the ultimate aim of our schools is to promote human flourishing, we are particularly concerned—particularly in our emphasis on supporting schools in areas of disadvantage—to enable every child to fulfil his or her aspirations, and indeed to be given the opportunity to have any aspirations in the first place. Continue reading “Bishop of Ely on the need for schools to tackle deprivation and disadvantage”

Bishop of Durham calls for urgent changes to “flawed system” of universal credit

On 16th November 2017 the House of Lords debated a motion from Baroness Hollis of Heigham “That this House takes note of the impact of Universal Credit on claimants.” The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, on securing this debate and on her introduction.

Universal credit originally set out to simplify a fragmented, complex system and to reduce poverty through the simple, noble philosophy of making work pay. While it still has the potential to transform this ​broken system, its current shape risks undermining these two core objectives for the neediest in the nation and thus failing British families. Almost every week, I receive heart-breaking stories about how the transition to UC is devastating the lives of claimants. What does the five or six-week waiting period, which is often longer, actually look like for a family or single parent with young children? Continue reading “Bishop of Durham calls for urgent changes to “flawed system” of universal credit”

Bishop of Southwark asks Government to support peaceful transition of power in Zimbabwe

On Wednesday 15th November a Government statement about the situation in Zimbabwe was repeated in the House of Lords. The Bishop of Southwark, Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, asked a follow up question:

The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, the Minister is only too aware both of the United Kingdom’s historic links with Zimbabwe and of the difficult relationship with ZANU-PF; that is reflected in the Statement, which has won support around the House. Speaking as chair of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Zimbabwe round table, I pass on the concern of Anglican bishops in Zimbabwe that any transition should not be allowed to lead to a reoccurrence of conflict in a country that has suffered much. I ask that the UK offers help sensitively and purposefully where it is possible to do so, supporting key stakeholders who are committed to a peaceful transition and who are prepared for it. Continue reading “Bishop of Southwark asks Government to support peaceful transition of power in Zimbabwe”

Bishop of Ely highlights importance of cathedrals to their communities

On 15th November 2017 Lord Beith asked Her Majesty’s Government “when they expect to receive the report of the English Churches and Cathedrals Sustainability Review, which was announced in 2016.” The Bishop of Ely, Rt Revd Stephen Conway, asked a follow up question:

The Lord Bishop of Ely: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for his intervention, Lincoln having recently won a favourite cathedral award—Ely is not too bad either. Of course, these churches, cathedrals and chapels are part of our shared heritage, but does the Minister agree that even more important is the work undertaken by cathedrals and churches in food banks, in supporting economic regeneration and in working with homeless people and the lonely, especially in remote parts of the country? Does he agree that the Government should endorse that work and will he encourage the way in which they can support it through the use and deployment of these buildings? Continue reading “Bishop of Ely highlights importance of cathedrals to their communities”

Bishop of Leeds asks about 70th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

On 15th November 2017 the Bishop of Leeds, Rt Revd Nick Baines, received a written answer to a question on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

The Lord Bishop of Leeds: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to mark, in 2018, the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Continue reading “Bishop of Leeds asks about 70th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights”