On 16th May 2022 the Bishop of St Edmundsbury an Ipswich, Rt Revd Martin Seeley, gave his maiden speech in the House of Lords, in the debate on the Queen’s Speech.
The Lord Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich (Maiden Speech): It is a huge honour to be able to address your Lordships’ House today. I thank noble Lords for kind words and acts of welcome. I have been very struck by the kindness and warmth of the staff who work here and who have supported me in my early faltering steps. I regret that a bout of Covid last week prevented me attending at all, but I look forward to building a pattern of regular engagement in the work of this House.
I have had the joy and privilege of serving the people of the diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, which comprises most of the wonderful county of Suffolk, for the past seven years. I previously served in Scunthorpe, New York City, St Louis, Missouri, Westminster, the Isle of Dogs and Cambridge, and I simply reflect on the curious ways of the Church of England that I ended up serving a largely rural diocese.
On 11th May 2022 the Bishop of Guildford, Rt Revd Andrew Watson, made his maiden speech in the House of Lords, in a debate on the Queen’s Speech:
The Lord Bishop of Guildford (Maiden Speech): My Lords, it is a privilege to be making my maiden speech in this most important debate on Her Majesty’s gracious Speech. I thank noble Lords for their welcome this afternoon.
As I have taken my first infant steps as a Member of the House, I have been struck by the genuine warmth and friendliness that I have experienced from fellow Members, along with House officials and staff. I am equally impressed by the quality of the debate that I have witnessed and the probing but courteous spirit in which it has been exercised. I have also begun to connect with those involved in the area of freedom of religion and belief, in which I have a lifelong interest, and I applaud their efforts to advance these basic human rights around the globe.
On 28th April 2022 MPs asked Andrew Selous MP, representing the Church Commissioners, about parish ministry, freedom of religion & belief, affordable and sustainable housing, illegal migrant crossings in the Channel, families parenting and marriage, candidates entering Holy Orders, and supporting arts and culture. A transcript is below.
The government’s plan is troubling because we are discharging our responsibility to welcoming the stranger, writes the Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler.
In the House of Lords over the past few months, I have been contributing to debates on the Nationality and Borders Bill – engaging with the government’s desire to reform the asylum system. My starting point is the Christian commitment to welcoming the stranger, treating them as we would each other.
On 22nd March 2022 the Archbishop of Canterbury responded to a statement by the Government on the behaviour of P&O Ferries towards its workers. The Archbishop raised three points relating to reporting to Parliament on progress of talks, the wages of P&O staff, and the security of services in British waters.
On 10th March 2022 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered questions from MPs in the House of Commons, freedom of religion or belief overseas, family hubs, supporting Ukrainian refugees, affordable housing, the Queen’s platinum jubilee, and the Commissioners’ Scottish landholdings.
Global Summit: Freedom of Religion or Belief
Caroline Ansell (Eastbourne) (Con): What role the Church of England has in supporting the global summit to promote freedom of religion or belief, to be hosted by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in July 2022. (905957)
The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous): The Church is making every effort to support that important summit to promote freedom of religion or belief. A debate was held on the lack of global religious freedom at last month’s General Synod and I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), in her capacity as the Prime Minister’s special envoy for freedom of religion or belief, was able to brief Synod members on the huge cost of following Jesus in many parts of the world.
On 27th January 2022 MPs asked the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered questions in the House of Commons chamber:
Churches and Cathedrals: Sustainability
Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con)
What assessment the Church of England has made of the steps needed to put the maintenance of churches and cathedrals on a sustainable basis. (905258)
The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous): The Church estimates that over the next five years at least £1.14 billion of maintenance and repairs are needed for churches and cathedrals. The Church is very grateful that 550 churches and cathedrals have already benefited from the culture recovery fund, but there remains an urgent need for predictable and sustainable sources of funding, which enable us to keep skilled builders and craft people in work.
“When people are too scared to express their genuinely held and legally protected beliefs, that is very dangerous for democracy.”
On 10th December 2021 in the House of Lords the Archbishop of Canterbury held a debate on freedom of speech. His opening and closing remarks are below, and the full debate including the contributions of Peers and the Opposition and Government response, can be read in Hansard, here.
Moved by The Archbishop of Canterbury: That this House takes note of contemporary challenges to freedom of speech, and the role of public, private and civil society sectors in upholding freedom of speech.
The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Leader of the House, the usual channels, all noble Lords who have taken the trouble to be here today and, especially, the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, for answering on behalf of the Government in order that we may have this debate. It is a return to an Advent tradition, interrupted in recent years by elections and pandemics. Should your Lordships worry that I am infectious in some way, I have been tested to the limits of testing. I have my granddaughter’s cold, for which I would like to record my grateful thanks.
We on these Benches have our critics—I have a large number—but for all our present failings you would be hard-pressed to find a more disastrous move by the Lords spiritual than when, in 1831, 21 of them lined up behind the Duke of Wellington and opposed the Great Reform Bill. Had they voted the other way, it would have passed. The people, denied their rights, responded with riots, and bishops were particularly targeted, some with violence. In Bristol, the Bishop’s Palace was burned down. A dead cat was thrown at my predecessor Archbishop Howley, narrowly missing him but striking his chaplain in the face. “Be glad it wasn’t a live one,” Howley is reported to have responded.
I start with this dive into the past because it illustrates a present point. The grey area between, on the one hand, peaceful protest and reasoned criticism and, on the other, incitement to hatred or to violence is one that we are still trying to navigate today. The Church of England knows about that. I must start by suggesting that our society should never follow our historical example of coercion, Test Acts and punishment. There is still a prison at Lambeth Palace at the top of the Lollards’ Tower, with room for eight people. It was used for the Lollards—I have a little list.
“search engines free of advertising, social networking freed from the blind pursuit of profit, messaging services which do not mine our data—and all protecting the rights of the child? Perhaps the Government might be willing to explore this kind of radical intervention—social media in public service—in this vital area”
On 10th December 2021 the Bishop of Oxford spoke in a House of Lords debate led by the Archbishop of Canterbury on contemporary challenges to freedom of speech and the role of the public, private and third sectors in upholding it:
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, it is a great privilege and honour, as always, to follow the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, one of my distinguished predecessors. I am grateful for this timely debate and to the most reverend Primate for his very comprehensive introduction. In a few days’ time, as we have heard, the scrutiny committee of both Houses will publish its report on the online safety legislation: a potentially vital web of provisions to prevent harm to individuals and, I hope, to society.