Bishop of Chelmsford on trust in public life and institutions

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On 30th June 2016  Lord Fairfax of Cameron led a debate “That this House takes note of the role of openness and transparency in reinforcing confidence in public institutions.” The Bishop of Chelmsford, Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, spoke in the debate:

Chelmsford 251115The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax of Cameron, for introducing this debate. I am still relatively new to this House, so you may not know that if there is a stick lying on the ground with a label on it saying, “wrong end”, I am prone to pick it up. I was drawn by the title of this debate and therefore went to the Library to read the briefing pack, which was fascinating. Its conclusion opens by saying that overall, the survey suggests that the public continue to have a very poor valuation of current standards in public life; respondents generally gave negative answers. That is something we should be concerned about.

My contribution will be over in 10 minutes and then you can get on with the debate that obviously some of you want to have, but I want to speak about what I see as the moral and spiritual dimensions to this issue. Continue reading

Bishop of Chelmsford calls for statutory guidelines on historic abuse allegations, responds to concerns about George Bell case

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On 30th June 2016 Lord Lexden led a debate in the House of Lords, “That this House takes note of the case for introducing statutory guidelines relating to the investigation of cases of historical child sex abuse.” During the debate Lord Lexden raised the case of Bishop George Bell, as did Lord Carey and a number of other Peers. The Bishop of Chelmsford, Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, responded to the points made by those Peers about the Bell case and his speech is reproduced below, with extracts from the frontbench responses. All speeches made in the debate can be read here.

14.06.09 Chelmsford 3The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Lexden, for bringing this debate before us and for the considered and careful way in which people have made their contributions. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, that this House has an important part to play in setting our moral compass on the issues we are discussing.

I wish to make it clear that I and the Church of England welcome the introduction of some statutory guidelines for responding to historic allegations. As we in the Church are acutely aware, this is a difficult and sensitive area, so responding well to such allegations is extremely important. If there was statutory guidance on such cases, it would be easier to respond well and consistently. That said, we are all aware that the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse may make relevant recommendations, and it might be that the Government wish to wait for them before issuing guidance in this area.

The noble Lords, Lord Lexden and Lord Dear, the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Carey, and others have raised the specific case of Bishop George Bell, and I want to reflect briefly on it. Continue reading

Bishop of Chelmsford calls for strengthening of religious education to combat hatred and xenophobia

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Chelmsford 251115On 30th June 2016  Lord Taverne asked Her Majesty’s Government “in what way the guidance produced by Dr Satvinder Juss on the implications of the High Court’s ruling in R (Fox) v Secretary of State for Education is “inaccurate” as they have stated.” The Bishop of Chelmsford, Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, asked a follow up question.

The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, I address the House at this point in my capacity as a lapsed atheist. I make it clear that I welcome the place of non-religious world views in religious education; they are very important. However, will the Minister further agree that one of the best ways in which people can counter the race hatred, xenophobia and misunderstandings that we see in our society at the moment is by strengthening religious education in schools? Continue reading

Bishop of Rochester asks Government about radicalisation and extremism in prisons

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RochesterOn 27th & 30th June 2016 the Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, received written answers to questions on radicalisation in prisons.

The Lord Bishop of Rochester: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they are having with prison chaplains, including those of Muslim and Christian faith, to address concerns about radicalisation and extremism in prisons. [HL599] Continue reading

Bishop of Derby asks Government about pastoral care and training for those on zero-hour contracts

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On 29th June 2016 Baroness Quin asked Her Majesty’s Government “in the light of the increased use of zero-hours employment contracts nationally and regionally, what assessment they have made of the effects of such contracts on an individual’s chances of gaining full-time salaried employment, and on specific sectors, both public and private, of the UK economy.” The Bishop of Derby, Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, spoke in the debate.

Derby 191115cThe Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Quin, for introducing this important event. It does feel lonely over here, and I hope you will not think that I am the Opposition.

I have become interested in this issue in part because of my work on modern slavery. I name that, alongside this issue, because we are in a perfect storm that is making slavery and zero-hours contracts increasing phenomena in our society. We have heard about this perfect storm: this tightness in margins and the shifting of risk; the desire for flexibility; the fact that people are so mobile they do not develop a strong relationship with any employer anyway; and the fact that, as the noble Lord, Lord Monks, and the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, said, economic inequality is increasing so much that people are desperate for work. Then migration, and especially illegal migration, adds another degree of desperation. There is a market to be exploited, both through slavery and through the unscrupulous use of zero-hours contracts, although we know these do suit some people. Continue reading

Bishop of Chelmsford condemns hate crime, calls for better religious literacy

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On 29th June 2016 Lord Ahmed repeated to the House of Lords a Government statement made in the House of Commons about hate crime. The Bishop of Chelmsford, Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, asked a follow up question about religious literacy and education.Chelmsford 251115

The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister two specific questions about religious literacy and religious education. First, I welcome the Statement and the responses from the other Front Benches, and of course to express my own great dismay at the incidents that we have experienced in recent days. As I said in the House on Monday, the diocese where I serve includes some of the most multicultural parts of this country. I have heard many disturbing stories, and even more of them here today.

My first question relates to religious education. We have discovered in recent days something that is already there within us and that has been stirred up and legitimised by some of the debate, yet religious education has less of a place in the national curriculum than it used to. I wonder whether this is another opportunity for the Government to look again at the place of religious education in schools.

My second question is about religious literacy. I serve on this House’s Select Committee on Communications. We have recently completed a report on the renewal of the BBC charter. Religious broadcasting has almost disappeared from public service broadcasting, and the BBC no longer has a commissioning editor for religious broadcasting. Surely this is a time when we need to do more about this. It is a very practical matter that the Government could address. Continue reading

Bishop of Chelmsford asks about Free Speech in Universities

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Chelmsford 251115On the 27th June 2016, Lord Leigh of Hurley asked the Government “what steps they are taking to counter anti-Semitism on university campuses in the United Kingdom.” The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, asked a supplementary question: Continue reading