Church of England Week in Westminster 23rd – 27th May 2016


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

Westminster-abbeyThis week the formal debate on the Queen’s Speech continued in the House of Lords, with bishops speaking on the themes of defence, international affairs, the economy, life chances, prison reform, counter-extremism, British values and human rights. The Bishop of Newcastle made her maiden speech to the House during the debate. Bishops also spoke in a debate on special educational needs provision and asked questions on domestic violence and the detention of pregnant women. The House rose for the Whitsun recess and will return on 6th June. Continue reading

Bishop of Southwark: special educational needs children “not a burden but a gift”


On 26th May 2016 Lord Addington led a debate in the House of Lords “That this House takes note of the case for improved individual school capacity to deal with commonly occurring special educational needs and disabilities, in the light of the increasing number of academies and free schools.” The Bishop of Southwark, Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, took part: 

SouthwarkThe Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I am also very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, for securing this debate. Our schools prepare young people for our communities and are committed to seeing that all children are valued and respected, which serves to build a society where all know the fullness of life. Last week in this House, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely reminded us:

“Life in all its fullness means being exacting, rigorous, ambitious and having appetite for all that excellence demands”.—[Official Report, 19/6/16; col. 63.]

He added in another speech that,

“we cannot allow our commitment to academic rigour blind us to the fact that we are teaching people, not subject matter”.

This is core to the Christian idea of education as a matter of mutual flourishing, of which academic achievement is only a part, albeit an important part. Continue reading

Queen’s Speech: Bishop of Portsmouth responds on the economy and life chances


On 25th May 2016 the House of Lords held the fourth and final debate on the Queen’s Speech. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke in the debate on the Government’s proposals for the economy and life chances.

BishPortsspeechtaxcreditsThe Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, in responding to the gracious Speech, I am delighted to welcome, first, the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle and to congratulate her. To be in the House and on this Bench today is a pleasure. We are colleagues again here, as we were in St Albans diocese some years ago. We have a shared conviction that the work of the Church and of government is to support the welfare of all people, reminding ourselves that welfare is properly understood not in the restricted sense in which we so often use it in our debates about benefits and eligibility but as the well-being of all people in the whole of their lives. Bishop Christine has powerfully reminded us of the perspective from her diocese and the north-east. Continue reading

Queen’s Speech: Bishop of Newcastle gives maiden speech


On 25th May 2016 the House of Lords held its fifth day of debate the Queen’s Speech. During the debate the Bishop of Newcastle, Rt Revd Christine Hardman, gave her maiden speech, becoming the second female bishop to speak in the House of Lords. As well as introducing herself to the House she addressed the Government’s life chances strategy, and regional growth in the North. Her speech is below in full, alongside responses from Peers.Newcastle 5

The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: My Lords, the theological understanding of grace is of the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done to deserve it. In these early days in your Lordships’ House, it is grace that I have experienced—wonderful kindness and a warmth of welcome from your Lordships, the staff and all who work in this place. It has been entirely undeserved but a truly heart-warming experience. It will be no surprise to your Lordships that one of the loveliest and warmest welcomes came from the late Lord Walton—a fine and godly man, and a distinguished son of the north-east.

Bishop of Southwark asks Govt about detention of pregnant women under the Immigration Act


SouthwarkOn 25th May, Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb asked Her Majesty’s Government “whether they will make it their policy routinely to publish statistical information on the detention of pregnant women under the Immigration Act 2014.” The Bishop of Southwark, Rt Rev Christopher Chessun, asked a follow-up question:

The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I would be grateful if the Minister would detail the criteria and give examples of the exceptional circumstances that justify the detention of pregnant women under the Act.

Continue reading

Queen’s Speech: Bishop of St Albans on human rights and human dignity


However, the proposals for a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act make me question whether the celebrations last June were something of a missed opportunity.

Continue reading