On 30th December 2015, the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, received an answer to a written question concerning the detention of Chinese Human Rights lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang.
Welcome to the Church of England’s weekly round-up of activity in Parliament.
This week the House of Lords sat for two days before breaking for the Christmas recess. Bishops spoke to amendments to the Government’s Welfare Reform Bill and also during the Second Reading of the Government’s Immigration Bill. Bishops also asked questions about countering extremism and evaluation of the ‘under occupancy charge’. The House of Lords will return on the 11th January 2016.
On the 22nd December 2015 the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun spoke during the Second Reading debate of the Government’s Immigration Bill. Bishop Christopher spoke about the proposals for new powers for immigration officers and voiced concern about further reductions in support for those whose asylum claims have been refused. He also drew on his recent visit to the Calais migrant camp.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, the Bill is the latest in a list of substantive immigration legislation that this House has considered in recent years. Since the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 we have had five further pieces of primary legislation in this area, yet Her Majesty’s Government have published no White Paper on immigration since 2002—no considered, detailed overview and proposals through which we might consider all aspects relating to immigration before embarking on major legislation. The Explanatory Notes are helpful but they are no substitute for a White Paper.
On the 22nd December 2015 Baroness Lister of Burtersett asked Her Majesty’s Government “how they propose to respond to the results of the Evaluation of Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy: Final Report.” The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith asked a supplementary question.
On 21st December 2015 the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, spoke in favour of amendment 90B during the fourth day of committee stage of the Government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill. This amendment sought to exempt kinship carers from the impact of the reduced benefit cap.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I rise to express my support for the intention behind the amendment in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, which makes both sound social and economic sense. If a child can be cared for within the family network, and that is not to be parents or step-parents, that is in most cases preferable for the emotional, physical and spiritual well-being of the child. Churches have watched and participated for centuries in the patterns of such relationships and know that while they can hide dangers, they provide in the main the best setting for the formation of life. Better that than the anxiety, grief and hardship that the imposition of benefit rules not designed for such scenarios imposes, and that a proportion of such children be an economic charge on local authorities and reap the emotional deficit that will all too often occur.
On 21st December 2015 the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, spoke in favour of six amendments to the Government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill, during the fourth day of its committee stage.
The Bishop spoke to amendments 93 and 94, which would introduce considerations for the safeguarding of children and the welfare of the disabled into any statutory review of the benefit cap; to amendments 95, 100 and 102, which would block the proposed benefits freeze; and to amendment 101 (on behalf of the Bishop of St Albans), which would protect ESA Support Group claimants from the impact of the freeze to the basic ESA rate.
On 21st December 2015 Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty’s Government “whether, as part of their antiterrorism strategy, they will encourage leaders of the United Kingdom’s Muslim communities to identify, confront and expose their violent co-religionists.” The Bishop of Peterborough, Rt Revd Donald Allister, asked a follow up question: