Bishop of Ely asks Government about educational support for disabled young people


Ely 2On 31st October 2016, the Bishop of Ely, the Rt Rev Stephen Conway, received a written answer from Lord Nash (Department for Education), to a question about educational support and careers advice provided to disabled young people.

Lord Bishop of Ely: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to ensure that schools, further education colleges and universities are able to provide specialist careers advice and support for disabled young people. Continue reading

Votes: Investigatory Powers Bill


On 31st October 2016 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Investigatory Powers Bill at its Third Reading. The Bishops of Chester and Truro took part in a vote on an amendment to the Bill tabled by Crossbench Peer Baroness Sheila Hollins about the unlawful interception of telephone calls. Continue reading

Church of England Week in Westminster, 24th-28th October 2016


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

Westminster-abbeyThis week bishops in the House of Lords asked questions about the safety of child refugees in Calais, exiting the EU, rural fuel poverty and the impact on schools of rising business rates on solar panels. Bishops spoke in debates on social mobility, anti-Semitism at universities and rural broadband. They also took part in debates and votes on the Government’s National Citizen Service Bill and Bus Services Bill.
Continue reading

Bishop of Portsmouth says social mobility needs to be about more than helping people to ‘just manage’.


“It is hard, and sometimes impossible, to seek a new or better job or to support your children in their education if your daily preoccupation has to be with getting by.” – Bishop of Portsmouth, 27/10/16 


On 27th October 2016 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Holmes of Richmond “To move that this House takes note of Her Majesty’s Government’s plans to promote social mobility.” The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, took part in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, in these few minutes I should like to set the concern and aspirations for social mobility—already so well introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, and other noble Lords—in the context of the challenges faced by many people, some in my own diocese, who face the daily grind and trial of simply getting by for the day or, at best, the week. The Prime Minister has referred to the need to focus on “just managing” families, and I agree with her, but surely the task is to help make it possible for them to do better than just manage, enabling their energy to be taken up not just in dealing with the everyday challenges but in improving life chances for themselves and their families, including social mobility. Continue reading

Bishop of Winchester calls for universities to confront and combat anti-Semitism


On 27th October 2016 the House of Lords held a short debate on a question from Baroness Deech, “to ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they propose to take to combat anti-Semitism, in particular in universities.” The Bishop of Winchester, Rt Revd Tim Dakin, spoke in the debate:

Bishop of WinchesterThe Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, for initiating this debate.

Despite there being Jewish societies in over 60 universities, a study in 2011 found that half of all Jewish students in the UK attend only eight universities. Safety in numbers seems to be key, as Nottingham, Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester all boast Jewish societies with over 1,000 members. None the less, we know that Jewish staff and students experience anti-Semitism in a significant number of higher education institutions today. As the recent Universities UK task force report on hate crime makes clear, anti-Semitism is a practice for which there is no place in universities, nor in the Church or society at large. Continue reading

Bishop of St Albans highlights problems of poor broadband services in rural areas


On 27th October 2016 the House of Lords held a short debate on a question from Lord Foster of Bath “to ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to ensure the rollout of superfast fibre broadband to homes across the country.” The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, spoke in the debate:

StAlbans171115The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, my thanks, too, go to the noble Lord, Lord Foster, for securing this important debate. I, too, want to address rural issues and I declare an interest as president of the Rural Coalition. Many of our members are deeply concerned about this area. As other noble Lords have mentioned, nearly half of rural households in the UK currently struggle with broadband speeds of less than 10 megabits per second. Around one in five rural households can only access broadband speeds of under 5 megabits per second, and a significant proportion cannot access any broadband at all. This lack of connectivity acts as a huge obstacle to the growth of the rural economy and to rural sustainability. This is even more important as we get ourselves geared up for Brexit. Continue reading

Bishop of Portsmouth asks Government to look at impact on schools of increasing business rates on small solar panels


portsmouth241016On 27th October 2016 Baroness Featherstone asked Her Majesty’s Government “whether they will reverse their decision to end the business rate exemption for small solar panels from April 2017”. Baroness Featherstone said “I urge the Government to look at the impact on schools and parish councils, which will be devastating”. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, asked a follow up question: 

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, may I press the Minister a little further on the impact—perhaps, I am hoping, the unintended impact—of this decision on some small schools? Is it really intended that small schools should pay business rates, often after significant community fundraising to install solar panels to increase awareness among children and young people of climate-change issues? Continue reading