Welcome to the Church of England’s weekly round-up of activity in Parliament.
This week, bishops in the House of Lords took part in debates on Eritrea and Ethiopia, the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, education reform and Palestine. Bishops also asked questions on Saudi Arabia, Boko Haram, faith and free schools, oil prices and flood control.
In the House of Commons, the Second Church Estates Commissioner answered questions on the Archbishop of York’s Book ‘On Rock Or Sand’, medical ethics, the Anglican Communion, financial education, women bishops and bats.Continue reading
On 30th January 2015, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, the Rt Hon Sir Tony Baldry MP, answered three written questions on the subject of chancel repair liability and the powers of parochial church councils.
Andrew George (St Ives, Liberal Democrat): To ask the right hon. Member for Banbury, representing the Church Commissioners, what powers parochial church councils possess to convey (a) capital, (b) property and (c) other assets to a local community organisation or charity they are (i) seeking to assist and (ii) whose objections or plan they support.
The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Rt Hon Sir Tony Baldry): A Parochial Church Council is a statutory corporation established for the purpose, among other more specific functions, of “co-operating with the minster in promoting in the parish the whole mission of the Church, pastoral, evangelistic, social and ecumenical”. The Parochial Church Council may properly convey money or property to another charity or community organisation if it considers that doing so would further this charitable purpose. A transfer of land would require the consent of the diocesan authority. No consent is required for a transfer of money or other property.
On 29th January 2015, Lord Steel of Aikwood moved that the House of Lords take note of the Resolution of the House of Commons of 13 October 2014 that “this House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution”, and that this recommendation has also been adopted by the European Parliament, and the Parliaments of Sweden, France, Ireland, Portugal and Luxembourg. The Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, spoke during the debate on the motion. He reflected on a recent visit to the region, as an Anglican participant in the annual visit of the Holy See’s co-ordination group of bishops in support of the church in the Holy Land. He raised questions about how best to protect the rights of minority groups in the region and the need for a strong commitment to religious freedom to ensure the participation of all parts of the population in diplomatic and reconciliation efforts.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I was privileged earlier this month to spend a week in Gaza and the West Bank. I went as an Anglican participant in the annual visit of the Holy See’s co-ordination group of bishops in support of the church in the Holy Land. It was very challenging to see at first hand the current situation in Gaza and more widely in the West Bank.
On 29th January 2015, the Bishop of Ely, the Rt Revd Stephen Conway, took part in Baroness Perry of Southwark’s take note debate in the House of Lords on the progress of the Government’s school reforms. The Bishop, who recently took over the role of Chair of the Church of England’s National Society, focused his speech on the success of reforms in Church schools – including through the transition of many secondary schools into academies and the development of imaginative and collaborative ways to protect rural schools. He noted the Church’s focus on the development of free schools in areas of deprivation, the importance of high-quality training and recruitment of teachers, the importance of character education alongside other parts of the curriculum, and the hope that a holistic approach could be taken to education, to ensure that the next generation are best prepared for the future.
The Lord Bishop of Ely: I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for securing this timely debate, not least as I have just taken over as chair of the Church of England’s National Society, which is responsible for our schools. We talk about urgency and the long term, and our picture goes back until at least 1811, with the foundation of the National Society. We have planted thousands of schools, determined that every child in the country should have access to a decent education regardless of their capacity to pay for it. The church continues to want to be involved in the reform and improvement of education across the board, not just in church schools but across primary schools, community schools, secondary schools and the university sector.Continue reading
On 29th January 2015, The Earl of Courtown asked Her Majesty’s Government what they are doing to ensure that the benefits of lower oil prices are passed on to consumers, particularly in rural areas. The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, will the Minister tell us what Her Majesty’s Government are doing to ensure that those on low incomes and living in the coldest homes are able to benefit from renewable heating technologies?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate for his question, because this Government have, through many measures, not only tried to respond to people living in very inefficient homes in urban areas, but also looked at how to reach out to people who are often off grid and help support them through the renewable heat incentive and other measures. I am very happy to write to the right reverend Prelate about a number of measures undertaken by this Government.
In Church Commissioners Question TIme on Thursday 29th January 2015, the Rt Hon. Sir Tony Baldry MP answered questions on the Archbishop of York’s Book ‘On Rock Or Sand’, Medical Ethics of Mitochondrial Transfer, the Anglican Communion, Financial Education, Women Bishops and Bats in Churches
On 29th January 2015, the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, received an answer to a written question on flood control.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to ensure long-term support and funding for flood prevention schemes. [HL3997]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): This Government has developed a six-year programme of work, involving over 1,400 projects, to improve defences throughout the country between 2015 and 2021. This has been made possible by our record level of commitment by investing £2.3 billion in improving defences over the coming six years. Efficiency gains will ensure this funding goes even further. This work is projected to reduce the risk of flooding or erosion to at least 300,000 households by 2021, and avoid around £30 billion in economic damages.