In the past week, bishops in the House of Lords have spoken in debates on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, human rights abuses in North Korea and international religious freedom.
They have also put questions to the Government on events in Ukraine, oversight of schools in Birmingham and LGBT rights in Uganda.
Monday 21st July
A Government statement on the Ukraine (Shooting Down of MH17) and Gaza was repeated in the House of Lords by the Leader of the House, Baroness Stowell of Beeston. The Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, asked a supplementary question. The question, and the response from the minister, can be read here.
Criminal Justice & Courts Bill – Committee Stage
The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, spoke during the Committee Stage of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. He spoke in support of an amendment to make assault on workers selling alcohol a specific criminal offence. Following the debate on the amendment, it was withdrawn without being put to a division of the House. The Bishop’s remarks can be read here.
Tuesday 22nd July
Birmingham Schools – Government Statement
A Government statement on Birmingham Schools was repeated in the House of Lords by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools, Lord Nash. The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, responded to the statement. He called for Government support of the Kershaw Report, asked for clarity on responsibility and accountability in the education system, and argued that the incident highlighted the need for greater understanding of faith and religion throughout civil society. The Bishop’s response can be read here.
Wednesday 23rd July
Lord Lexden asked Her Majesty’s Government what action they propose to take over the abuse of the human rights of LGBT people in Uganda as a result of the passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act there. The Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, asked a supplementary question which can be read here.
Human Rights in North Korea – Question for Short Debate
Lord Alton of Liverpool tabled a debate to ask Her Majesty’s Government ‘what was their response to the work of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’. The Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Rev Donald Allister, spoke about the importance of keeping diplomatic channels open, the situation of the Christian population in North Korea and the need to keep up pressure over human rights abuses. Drawing on his experiences of visiting South Korea, he spoke about the growth of Christianity there and the Anglican Church’s initiative, TOPIK—Towards Peace in Korea.
The Bishop said: “There is great evil in the North Korean regime, which the civilised world cannot simply ignore…not to do anything about evil on this scale is to collude with it.”
The Bishop’s full speech is available here.
Criminal Justice and Courts Bill – Committee Stage
The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev James Langstaff, spoke during the Committee Stage of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. Bishop James spoke in support of Lord Ramsbotham’s amendment to remove clause 29 relating to the creation of ‘secure colleges and other places for detention of young offenders’ from the Bill. The Bishop’s intervention can be read here.
Thursday 24th July
Universal Declaration on Human Rights – Question for Short Debate
Crossbench Peer Lord Alton of Liverpool led a short debate in the House of Lords to take note of international compliance with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights concerning freedom of belief. The Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, spoke in the debate. He spoke of the role of religious freedom as a marker for other freedoms, and the positive role religious freedom can play in strengthening democracy and countering radicalisation and terrorism. He also spoke of the responsibility held by religious institutions to speak together on the importance of religious freedom for all, and to model these freedoms themselves.
The Bishop said: “Freedom of belief, including the freedom to change one’s belief, is like a canary in the mine of human rights. Abuses of religious freedom are often an early indication that all is not well….Where religious freedom is abused, peace and security often become more elusive.”
The speech can be read in full here.