This week, Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, the Bishop of Gloucester, was introduced to the House of Lords. Bishops spoke and voted on Government proposals for tax credits, support for credit unions, young people in the criminal justice system and help for those seeking refuge from Syria. Bishops also asked questions on Syrian refugees, Saudi Arabia and benefit fraud. In the House of Commons, Second Church Estates Commissioner answered questions on church support for credit unions land for housing development.
On 30th October 2015 the Bishop of Coventry, Rt Revd Christopher Cocksowrth, received a written answer to a question on religious freedom in Saudi Arabia.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of steps taken by Saudi Arabia to revise textbooks, curricula, and teaching methods to remove
content disparaging religions other than Islam.
On 29th October 2015 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Harris of Haringey “that this House takes note of the case for taking action to address the problems of young people before they enter the criminal justice system in order to reduce the prison population, improve conditions within prison, and focus on the rehabilitation of prisoners, as set out in The Harris Review: Changing Prisons, Saving Lives.” The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Rev Christopher Foster, spoke in the debate.
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, I welcome the very thorough and wide-ranging review conducted by the noble Lord, Lord Harris. The Bishop to Prisons, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester, regrets that he cannot be in his place today and contribute to this very welcome debate. The Harris inquiry took every opportunity to talk to young people and to the families who have tragically lost their children while they were in the care of the state in prisons and young offender institutions.
On 29th October 2015 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Truscott, to “ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the recent assault by the Syrian armed forces on Aleppo, what is their strategy for tackling the refugee crisis in Syria.”
The Bishop of Southwark, Rt Rev Christopher Chessun, spoke in the debate.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I have the honour to be a patron of the charity Embrace the Middle East and visited Syria in May of last year for the enthronement of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch, His Holiness Aphrem II, at Maarat Saidnaya, just outside Damascus.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Truscott, for giving your Lordships the opportunity to discuss this pressing matter. With over half its population displaced, Syria is now a land of the dispossessed, and we are looking at a topography of dust, rubble and dried blood. This is the land where we read in Acts that the designation Christian was first used but where all minorities are now especially vulnerable in the particular context of the destabilisation of the state. We are witnessing a humanitarian disaster in slow motion, with repercussions which are impacting on many nations including our own.
On 28th October 2015 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP, answered a written question from Gareth Thomas, MP for Harrow West, on the church’s work in promoting credit unions.
Gareth Thomas: To ask the right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church Commissioners are taking to promote the use of credit unions in the work of the Church of England; and if she will make a statement.
Mrs Caroline Spelman: The Church of England’s work in support of credit unions has been led by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Task Group on Responsible Credit and Savings, chaired by Sir Hector Sants.
Nationally, the Task Group has developed a number of strategic, church-led initiatives, including matching the resources of local churches with the diverse needs of local credit unions through the Church Credit Champions Network. To date, the pilot scheme has engaged over 200 churches, trained 150 Credit Champions and is on target to bring in 3,000+ new credit union members across London, Southwark and Liverpool dioceses, with plans to roll out to 30 more dioceses from next year.
On 28th October 2015 the Bishops of St Albans and Coventry received written answers to questions of Government on religious freedom in Saudi Arabia and its use of the death penalty.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Saudi Arabia concerning the cases of Dawood Hussein al-Marhoon and Abdullah Hasan al-Zaher.
On 27th October 2015 Lord Roberts of Llandudno asked Her Majesty’s Government “what plans they have to ensure that they meet the Prime Minister’s objective that 1,000 Syrian refugees should be brought to Britain by Christmas.” The Bishop of Bristol, Rt Revd Mike Hill, asked a supplementary question.
The Lord Bishop of Bristol: My Lords, I detect a kind of frustration at the moment around the fact that a good many people are very happy to help and willing to give homes to these refugees but find the process of working that out a little opaque and, frankly, at times overbureaucratic, while recognising that there need to be some bureaucratic safeguards. Will my noble friend comment on what the Government propose to do to make the process transparent and easily accessible to those who want to give genuine care to those in great need?