Welcome to the Church of England’s weekly round-up of activity in Parliament.
This week bishops in the House of Lords spoke on the Government’s Policing and Crime Bill and Investigatory Powers Bill, the Carbon Budget and in debates on the wellbeing of children in Gaza and the impact of leaving the EU on UK agriculture. Questions were also asked about religious broadcasting and the BBC Charter, unaccompanied children in Calais, delays with single farm payments, rural housing and development on brownfield sites. Bishops also responded to a Government Statement about the political situation in Turkey. The new Bishop of Oxford took his seat in the Lords, following his translation from Sheffield. Parliament has now risen for the summer recess and will return on the 5th September.
On 21st July 2016 Lord Warner led a debate to highlight “the conditions in which Palestinian children are living and the impact on their health and wellbeing.” The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark, spoke in the debate, drawing on his experiences of visiting Gaza and the West bank. Baroness Mobarik responded for the Government to a number of points made by the Bishop. her remarks can be found below.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: I, too, express my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Warner, for securing this important debate. I speak as patron of the charities Embrace the Middle East and Friends of the Holy Land. I regularly lead pilgrimages to Israel and Palestine and for these past two years I have participated annually as a Church of England bishop in the Vatican Holy Land Coordination visiting Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and refugee camps in neighbouring countries.
On the 21st July 2016 Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty’s Government “what progress they are making in encouraging the development of brownfield sites.” Rt Revd Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: This is not just about housing, important though that is—not least the fact that we are not building enough homes, especially affordable and starter homes; it is also about how we will solve some very difficult, long-term environmental problems relating to brownfield sites. Does the Minister agree that this really is an area where, for example, the housing association sector, with some quite focused work and grants, can make a huge difference both in solving environmental problems and in making a significant contribution to our housing shortage?
On the 21st July 2016 Baroness McIntosh of Pickering held a debate about “the impact on British farmers of the decision to leave the European Union.” Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans asked the Government to help to cultivate a culture of appreciation among the British public towards British farming. Lord Gardiner of Kimble responded for the Government and his comments can be found below.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, for this debate. I share the delight of other Members of this House that in the recent reshuffle it was neither an exit nor a Brexit but a clear remain vote for the Minister, and not only that but a promotion, so we are delighted and thank him.
Whatever our opinions on Brexit, it is undeniable that British farming faces a period of uncertainty and insecurity. While it is true that the decision to leave the EU will bring some new opportunities for British agriculture in the long term, it is clear that there are substantial challenges ahead. Agriculture is more intimately connected to the European Union than any other UK sector, and the process of unpicking that relationship must be done with utmost care. Continue reading
On 20th July 2016 Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty’s Government “what is their assessment of the threatened demolition of the Calais Jungle camp and the position of child refugees.” The Bishop of Southwark, Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I welcome the noble Baroness to her post. Mindful of the fact that over 200 children went missing when the southern part of the camp was dismantled, will a commitment be given in the case of unaccompanied children to avoid the perils of sudden dispersal? Continue reading
On 20th July 2016 the Earl of Shrewsbury asked Her Majesty’s Government “what progress has been made to rectify delays in payments from the Single Farm Payment Scheme.” The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, those of us in touch with the farming community are deeply aware of the 13,000 cases that are being reassessed at the moment, and we are grateful for what is being done to expedite that. The important question is: how will the system be reviewed and resourced so that this does not happen in future years? Can the Minister assure us that something is being done to guarantee that we have a better system? In particular, will he reconsider appointing a specific case worker for each application to try to see them through? Continue reading
On 19th July 2016 the House of Lords debated the approval of the Government’s draft Carbon Budget Order 2016 and Climate Change Act 2008 (Credit Limit) Order 2016. The Bishop of Salisbury, Rt Revd Nicholas Holtham, spoke in the debate, welcoming the Orders, which were approved by Peers at the conclusion of the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: My Lords, I welcome both orders and welcome the Minister in her new role with its important responsibilities to further our progress in the care of our common home. I particularly welcome her as somebody who lives in the diocese of Salisbury, and I look forward to working with her in this new context.
The Committee on Climate Change’s Meeting Carbon Budgets—2016 Progress Report to Parliament says that it,
“comes at a critical point in the development of climate policy in the UK … against the backdrop of the Paris Agreement in December last year”.
The political circumstances could not be more significant. I was grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, for his eloquent speech in favour of international agreements, which gave me a sense of urgency in relation to the implementation of the Paris agreement. I have taken on a preaching engagement in the autumn, about which I have been feeling some trepidation. It is to preach at the annual service for the Worshipful Company of Fuellers. I am now looking forward to that event and to trying to engage with that group of people on these issues. Continue reading