When Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury, revealed in 1983 that he had voted in the recent general election (though not who for), he was unlikely to have imagined that it would give rise to newspaper headlines and questions in parliament. He had not broken the law, though the subsequent debate shone a light on an otherwise little-known feature of the House of Lords.
“Western culture has developed—or, rather, deteriorated—into an atomised individualism… As we have scattered to our own personal enclaves, as it were, we have left the elderly behind as unproductive, unrewarding problems” – Bishop of Oxford, 14/5/14
On 14th May 2014 the House of Lords debated a question for short debate from Baroness Cumberlege, “To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the incidence of elder abuse across the nation.” The Bishop of Oxford, Rt Rev John Pritchard spoke about the need to focus on schools and civil society to counter recent worrying trends.
In the House of Lords on 14th May 2014, Baroness Jones of Whitchurch asked Her Majesty’s Government “what early intervention measures they are putting in place to reduce the educational and financial implications of failing free schools.” The Bishop of Oxford, who chairs the Church of England’s Board of Education, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, given that prevention is better than costly cure, can the Minister let us know what is being done to make sure that free schools are established as groups of interdependent schools, rather than independent and autonomous units? Can he let us know how what we have learnt from the academies programme—that we need to get schools grouped together in multi-academy trusts—is being transferred to free schools?
Lord Nash: The right reverend Prelate makes an extremely good point. Although it is true that a number of outstanding schools have been established entirely independently, the way forward is the school-to-school support model, with schools operating in local clusters and secondaries working with their primaries. We are taking this learning, which has been very successful in the academy movement, into the free schools movement.
In the House of Lords on 14th May 2014 Lord Bach asked Her Majesty’s Government “what action they have taken to assist the Government of Nigeria to rescue the schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram.” The Bishop of Oxford, Rt Rev John Pritchard, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, would the Minister agree with the comments made by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury last weekend to the effect that, however abhorrent we may feel the organisation to be, it is necessary to engage in some way with Boko Haram and to do that at different levels? If that is the case, would the Minister give some indication of what kind of support or encouragement the Government are giving to that dialogue between Boko Haram and the Government of Nigeria?
Baroness Warsi: The most reverend Primate’s comments about negotiations or discussions with Boko Haram are quite right and, as the right reverend Prelate says, they are certainly something which the Nigerian Government have to take forward. I know that he has a considerable history of dealing with this kind of situation in Nigeria and, indeed, of being involved in mediation processes. However, the message that HMG have been strongly sending out, along with our international partners, is that this is an abhorrent crime, that the girls must be returned unconditionally and that this is not something we need to feel that Boko Haram has negotiating power over. There is a longer-term challenge in relation to tackling Boko Haram but I am not sure that that needs to be done over the lives of these young girls.
Written answer, received on 14th May 2014
Baroness Northover (LD): According to UN sources, approximately 1,500 to 1,600 families have been displaced from the city of Kessab.
On 13th May 2014, the Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry, received an answer to a written question on Iran.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the question of human rights and freedom of religion and belief was amongst the range of international issues discussed by the Foreign Office’s Political Director, Sir Simon Gass, when he met senior Iranian officials whilst visiting Iran in April.
Baroness Warsi: Human rights were not amongst the issues discussed by Sir Simon Gass on his visit to Iran in April: his interlocutors did not have responsibilities in this area. However, the UK’s non-resident Chargé d’Affaires discussed human rights with a range of Iranian government officials during his visit to Iran on 12 March 2014. He raised the use of the death penalty, freedom of religion and the workings of the criminal justice system. Prior to that, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Rt. Hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), raised Iran’s human rights records with Iranian foreign minister Zarif at the UN General Assembly on 23 September 2013.
On 13th May 2014, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, received answers to written questions on petroleum gas and oil, consumer credit advertising, and Iran.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they intend to ensure the continuing affordability of liquid petroleum gas and oil for those households which are not on mains gas supply.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): Her Majesty’s Government is acutely aware of the difficulties people have experienced with the price of liquid petroleum gas and heating oil. The price of LPG and oil is influenced by a range of factors, including crude oil prices (the major factor), refinery capacity, stock levels, distribution costs and retail margins.