Church of England Week in Westminster, 24th – 28th November 2014


Welcome to the Church of England’s weekly round-up of activity in Parliament.

Westminster-abbeyThis week, bishops in the House of Lords spoke in debates about the UK’s membership of the European Union, the Consumer Rights Bill and the role of religion and belief in British public life. They also took part in a division on the Government’s Consumer Rights Bill.

They also asked questions about Universal Credit, the Work Capability Assessment,  domestic abuse, South Sudan and energy prices.

In the House of Commons, the Second Church Estates Commissioner asked a question about funding for cathedrals.

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Lords Debate on Religion and Belief in British Public Life

A full transcript of the House of Lords debate on Religion and Belief in British Public Life, which took place on 27th November 2014, is below.
A video of the debate can also be watched on the UK Parliament website, here.
The speeches made by the Bishops of Norwich and Birmingham are also available on this website, here and here.
Motion to Take Note
11.53 am
Moved by Lord Harries of Pentregarth
That this House takes note of the role of religion and belief in British public life.

Red Benches

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Service and trust: Bishop of Norwich speaks in Lords debate on religion and belief in public life


“Service, in the Christian tradition, is a vocation. When Jesus washed the feet of his disciples he reversed the power relationship between the teacher and his followers. Two thousand years ago, service never made you great; it was a sign of your enslavement. These days, by contrast, everyone wants to do us a service” – Bishop of Norwich, 27/11/14

On 27th November 2014 the House of Lords debated a motion from the Crossbench Peer and former Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, on ‘the role of religion and belief in British public life’. The Bishop of Norwich, Rt Rev Graham James, spoke in the debate, focusing on themes of trust and a vocation to service in public life.

14.06.12 Bishop of NorwichThe Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, like other noble Lords I am very grateful to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for securing this debate. I notice that the commission of which he is part is considering how religion may contribute to,

“greater levels of mutual trust and collective action, and to a more harmonious society”.

I will address the reference to mutual trust, especially with regard to our public life, which is far from well. The level of cynicism about our political structures and politicians finds reflection in an all too common assumption that many people in public life are not to be trusted. That is true for religious leaders, too, and for almost anyone in the public eye, and it generates cynicism about the state itself. Continue reading

Bishop of Birmingham in Lords Debate on Religion and Belief in Public Life


On 27th November 2014 the House of Lords debated a motion from the Crossbench Peer and former Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, on ‘the role of religion and belief in British public life’. The Bishop of Birmingham, Rt Rev David Urquhart spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I am grateful to my colleague, the noble and right reverend 01.04.14 Bishop of BirminghamLord, Lord Harries, for shaping this debate and for the remarks just offered by the noble Baroness. It may be a great surprise to many of our fellow citizens that public religious figures should be asked to play a part at all in 21st century society. However, the least surprised in the city of Birmingham are my interfaith colleagues. They expect the leaders and members at a local parish level and at a national level in what they regard as the indigenous national religion to play a full part in society and to articulate the needs, values and beliefs of those who have faith on things that are a matter of importance to the whole of society, whether they are faithful or not. Continue reading

Sir Tony Baldry welcomes investment in Cathedrals


On 27th November 2014, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, the Rt Hon Sir Tony Baldry MP, asked a supplementary question about funding for cathedrals during questions to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. The exchange is reproduced in full below.14.01 CCQ Baldry


Mr Robin Walker (Worcester): What recent funding his Department has provided for the fabric of cathedrals in England. [906279]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Sajid Javid): In this year’s Budget, the Chancellor announced a £20 million fund to allow cathedrals to undertake urgent repair work. As my hon. Friend knows, that included £330,000 for the beautiful Worcester cathedral. In addition, cathedrals have access to the listed places of worship grant scheme, which has a budget of up to £42 million per annum.

Mr Walker: I am grateful for that answer. May I add my condolences on the tragic death of Phil Hughes, who is fondly remembered in Worcestershire, where he used to play? I was pleased recently to welcome the Secretary of State to Worcester cathedral for a magnificent performance of Shakespeare. Will he join me in celebrating the fact that, in the year that Bishop John of Worcester has taken the lead for the Church of England on cathedrals and church buildings, the east window at Worcester cathedral will be being restored with that grant of £330,000?

Sajid Javid: May I first say to my hon. Friend that I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the cathedral with him and seeing “Julius Caesar”. It is an excellent demonstration of how our cathedrals can be open to so many activities in our local communities. In fact, I have seen similar events recently at Rochester and Portsmouth cathedrals. With regard to Bishop John, I was actually just discussing that very matter with His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday, and I join my hon. Friend in warmly congratulating the bishop on his position.

Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury): I warmly thank the Secretary of State for the £20 million grant for cathedrals, which has enabled some 41 cathedrals to carry out various works and repairs from fixing leaking roofs, repairing stained-glass windows and spires and carrying out many other important works to enable them to commemorate the centenary celebrations. Does my right hon. Friend agree that cathedrals are powerful symbols of our shared history and are also the envy of the world? They bring in many tourists, so this investment by the state in our cathedrals is great value for taxpayers.

Sajid Javid: Yes, I agree fully with my right hon. Friend. He will know that of the £20 million we allocated in that grant, £13 million has been used so there is still about £7 million left to go. I urge other cathedrals to take advantage of that and to work to help their local communities.


Bishop of St Albans – Energy Prices (Written Answer)


On 27th November 2014, the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, receieved an answer to a written question on energy prices.

Bishop of St AlbansThe Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what were the outcomes of the round-table event convened by Ofgem on 29 October on price differences between various payment methods for domestic consumers of electricity and gas, particularly in relation to addressing the higher fuel costs of pre-payment meters.[HL2852]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): There was general agreement at the workshop that payment differentials was a complex issue and that any changes to the rules would create winners or losers with no clear benefit to vulnerable groups. For example, of households who were fuel poor in England in 2012, around 48% paid for their electricity and 40% paid for their gas through direct debit and around 27% paid for their electricity and 20% paid for their gas through prepayment meters. Changing rules in favour of pre-payment meter customers would make direct debit customers worse-off. Continue reading

Bishop of Derby – South Sudan (Written Answers)


On 27th November 2014, the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, received answers from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to four written questions about South Sudan.

Bishop of DerbyThe Lord Bishop of Derby: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to encourage greater and co-ordinated regional political pressure being put on all parties to the conflict in South Sudan to cease fighting and to respect agreements signed to date.[HL2864]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns): The UK is actively supporting regional efforts, led by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), to resolve the crisis in South Sudan. We raise the need for continued regional engagement through our Embassies in IGAD capitals, contacts between Ministers and through the UK Special Representative’s engagement in the peace talks. Continue reading