Welcome to the Church of England’s weekly round-up of activity in Parliament by the Lords Spiritual.
In the past week, Bishops in the House of Lords have spoken in debates on human rights in the Republic of Sudan, the Infrastructure Bill, the Serious Crime Bill, the Assisted Dying Bill and spoke during tributes to the outgoing Leader of the House.
They have also put questions to the Government on Disabled Students’ Allowance, preventing child abuse, fuel poverty and the new government of India.
In the House of Commons, the Second Church Estates Commissioner answered questions on food banks, church and cathedral repairs, human trafficking, women bishops and pay, procurement and ICT in the Church Commissioners.
Monday 14th July
Human Rights in the Republic of Sudan – Question for Short Debate
Baroness Cox led a short debate in the House of Lords to ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of human rights in the Republic of Sudan. The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, took part in the debate. He spoke about the dire humanitarian situation in the country and the increasing role being played by the church; and also highlighted a number of instances of persecution on the grounds of religious beliefs, urging the Government to put pressure on the Republic of Sudan to respect and promote Article 18 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
The Bishop said: “…the local Christian diocese has to shoulder most of the burden of caring for people who are in desperate need, and of attempting to feed them when its own resources are pitifully small. Have Her Majesty’s Government given any consideration to providing aid, and so helping to meet people’s basic human rights to food and drink, through the church in that part of Sudan? Heroic efforts are being made to alleviate desperate need, but funding is urgently required.”
The Bishop’s full speech can be read here.
The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, received answers to two written questions, on the subject of Disabled Students’ Allowances. The original questions and their answers can be read here.
Tuesday 15th July
Tributes the the Leader of the House
Tributes were offered to the out-going Leader of the House of Lords, the Lord Hill of Oareford, following his nomination as the United Kingdom’s candidate to the European Commission. The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, led the tributes on behalf of the Lords Spiritual. His remarks can be read here.
Lord Storey asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to prevent and tackle child abuse in the United Kingdom. The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, asked a supplementary question, which can be read here.
Deregulation Bill – Committee Stage
The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, spoke in support of amendments to the Government’s Infrastructure Bill, during its Committee Stage. The amendments, the the Bishop’s intervention, focused on forestry and the place of the public forest estate. The amendments were withdrawn at the end of the debate.
The Bishop’s full speech can be read here.
Serious Crime Bill – Committee Stage
The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, co-sponsored two amendments to the Government’s Serious Crime Bill, during its Committee Stage. The first amendment sought to make three small changes to legislation making child neglect a criminal offense – raising the age of those covered by the provisions to 18, and made clarifications to the ways in which neglect would be classed as a criminal offense. The second amendment sought to create a duty to report abuse in institutions and activities where there are children and vulnerable adults. Both amendments were withdrawn after they had been debated, pending assurances from the Government.
The Bishop said: “My Lords, I support the amendment. I begin by pointing out that, had I been in this House two years ago, I would not have supported it. It is my experience of listening to and hearing stories, not just from within the church sector but from many sectors, that has led me to be convinced that this is a move we need to make.”
The Bishop’s speeches can be read in full here
Church Commissioners – Written Questions
The Second Church Estates Commissioner, the Rt Hon. Sir Tony Baldry MP, answered two written questions on behalf of the Church Commissioners, on pay and procurement.The original questions and their answers can be read here.
Thursday 17th July
Lord Ezra asked Her Majesty’s Government whether, in the light of the recently published statistical report on fuel poverty indicating a rising trend in 2014, they intend to expedite the announcement of their policy for dealing with the matter. The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a supplementary question, which can be read here.
India – Oral Question
Lord Harries of Pentregarth asked Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the new Government of India and the challenge presented by poverty in that country. The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, asked a supplementary question, which can be read here.
Church Commissioners – Oral and Written Questions
The Second Church Estates Commissioner, the Rt Hon Sir Tony Baldry MP, answered a number of questions on the floor of the House of Commons, during the monthly Church Commissioner Questions slot. He answered questions on food banks, church and cathedral repairs, human trafficking and women bishops. He also answered a written question on Church Commissioners ICT. The full transcript of the session can be read here.
Friday 18th July
Assisted Dying Bill – Second Reading
Three Lords Spiritual spoke during the Second Reading debate for Lord Faulkner’s Assisted Dying Bill. The Archbishop of York, the Most Revd and Rt Hon John Sentamu, the Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Mike Hill, and the Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, all spoke against the Bill.
The Archbishop of York said: “This is far too complex and sensitive an issue to be rushed through Parliament and decided on the basis of competing personal stories. I therefore suggest that a Royal Commission be set up to provide a way of exploring these complex issues in greater depth.”
The Bishops of Bristol said: “Many of us who are opposed to the Bill are greatly concerned by the unintended consequences that it will inevitably bring into play. It is simply not good enough for those who support the Bill to dismiss out of hand this genuine concern. It is for them to give us consistent evidence that our fears are unfounded. Sadly, the available evidence appears to raise, rather than allay, anxiety.”
The Bishop of Carlisle said: “By going down this track we would be sending a clear message to society, and especially its most vulnerable members, about individual lives having a different value according to their circumstances.”