Bishop of Chichester highlights importance of arts and education in first speech to the Lords

On 19th July 2018 the Bishop of Chichester, Rt Revd Martin Warner, delivered his first speech in the House of Lords, during a debate led by Lord Norton of Louth, “That this House takes note of the value to the United Kingdom of higher education as an export.” The full text of his speech is below, as are the welcoming remarks from other Members of the House:

The Lord Bishop of Chichester (Maiden Speech): My Lords, I begin by recording my thanks for the welcome and encouragement that I have received both today and on so many occasions since being introduced into your Lordships’ House.

I came to the See of Chichester in 2012 after ministry in inner-city parishes in Plymouth and Leicester, as the priest administrator of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk, a canon at St Paul’s Cathedral, and all-too-short a time in the diocese of York as Bishop of Whitby, which was always about more than Dracula and goths. In each context, the Church’s contribution to learning and the arts has been a significant element of my ministerial experience, perhaps exemplified most strikingly by the centuries-old work of St Paul’s Cathedral School, which today offers choristers a free education in music of an international standard. Many choristers have become professional musicians in adult life, sustaining and enriching Britain’s cultural life.

I often feel overwhelmed by the scale of this inheritance and by the best accomplishments of my predecessors. Bishop George Bell made Chichester famous for its contribution to learning and the arts, and he was building on solid foundations. In a tenure of just four years, his predecessor, the remarkable Bishop William Otter, established a teacher training college that has joined with another local institution to become the University of Chichester. Otter was inspired by the tradition of learning nurtured by Christian Europe, and from which, even post Brexit, the Church of England will continue to draw. His academic credentials lay in the founding of King’s College London in 1829 as an explicit expression of Christian commitment to higher education.

It is no accident that today the arts form a central part of the university’s life in Chichester, drawing on rich resources in the cathedral’s outstanding musical tradition, the art in Pallant House Gallery and the Chichester Festival Theatre, presently enjoying summer performances of “Me and My Girl”. The theatre runs a vibrant youth theatre for more than 800 people of school age. Its workshops for young people and adults with special needs represent a remarkable achievement of social inclusion.

​This inheritance in Chichester demonstrates that in a creative, balanced and economically sound society, the arts, science, engineering and technology need each other. As we consider the value to the UK economy of higher education as an export, the Church of England, a foundational stakeholder in higher education, is also concerned with the quality and scope of the offer we make to overseas students.

The Church of England holds fast to the question of what education is for, believing it right to ask how learning gives moral value to economic activity. It is right to pay constant attention to the flourishing of human life and society. Further, particularly with foreign students in mind, the work of our chaplaincies not only addresses their pastoral, emotional and financial needs, but also ensures the dignity of their access to religious worship, which is particularly important to their identity. The Church of England is of course also concerned with the right to nurture the wisdom that will govern well our stewardship of the earth.

The benefits of access to learning and the arts can and must be open to all, especially in areas of deprivation in this country, where they provide unique opportunities to combat some of the symptoms of social dislocation and its consequences, and to build greater levels of racial understanding. I was delighted to learn that it was back in the 1950s that the Glyndebourne Festival took a production of “Fidelio” into HMP Lewes as part of a rehabilitation programme for prisoners, seeking to build the social integration for which we still long.

However, the challenges to sustaining this access and integration through higher education are substantial.

Last year saw a 39% drop in the number of A-level music students and a 31% drop at GCSE. The impact of this is catastrophic in higher education as an export and its maintenance of our place as a world-class centre for music and the arts. Moreover, fears that there is growing social segregation in access to the arts are strengthened by the realisation that only one in 10 pupils from a disadvantaged background in Hastings or Eastbourne in my diocese will go to university.

In this context, the University of Chichester seeks to make a distinctively positive contribution to the arts and to economic regeneration locally where it is most needed, and as an international export offering an experience that is always more than money can buy.

One example of the university’s commitment is the new engineering and digital technology park in its Bognor Regis campus, which aims to serve the Hampshire and West Sussex coastal region—an area seriously disadvantaged by low levels of skills, business growth and earnings. Only one in five people in Bognor Regis and Littlehampton has higher-level qualifications.

Finally, I believe we should demonstrate a duty of care for students, locally from home and international students, that stretches beyond the academy. At present, 40% of Chichester’s graduates leave the region within a week of completing their courses because affordable accommodation is unavailable. This is a crippling outcome for the future economic and cultural life of provincial towns and cities such as Chichester. Similarly, we have a duty to sustain the relationships we are building with overseas students who are our exports to ensure that ​the bonds of learning and culture forge a greater sense of international trade and security that will build a peaceful and better future.

I have no sense of being equal to the noble achievements of my worthy predecessors but, encouraged by your Lordships’ welcome, I look forward to playing an active role in the work of your Lordships’ House in the years to come.


Remarks from speaker’s before the Bishop’s speech:

Lord Holmes of Richmond (Con): ..I also very much look forward to the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester. It is always good to know that more wisdom will be drifting up from the Bishops’ Benches to this Back-Bencher.

Lord Parekh (Lab)… I shall be succeeded in speaking by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester. I look forward to his maiden speech and welcome his presence in your Lordships’ House.

Remarks following the Bishop’s speech:

Lord Bilimoria (CB): My Lords, when the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, the then Bishop of Durham, made his maiden speech in the House, he spoke in a business debate. I said to someone, “What is he doing speaking in a business debate?” They replied, “Don’t you know that he was a very successful trader in the oil business for many years?” He spoke with great authority.

Today, we welcome to these Benches the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester, who spoke so eloquently and superbly about higher education. He spoke about some of his career: he is Dr Martin Warner; he studied at St Chad’s College, Durham, then St Stephen’s House, Oxford; he has worked in the Midlands, Norfolk, St Paul’s Cathedral, where he was treasurer, and York; he is a regular contributor to the Church Times; he is a cyclist; he enjoys the arts; and, most importantly, he is well known for his hospitality and welcome. He has written five books, one of which is Between Heaven and Charing Cross. I think that he was being prescient and talking about the House of Lords.

In a recent interview, he was asked,

“Aren’t you more of a chief executive than a bishop?”

He responded:

“I’d certainly resist the chief executive title—but there are certain systemic and structural issues here which I must address. The word shepherd means someone who takes care of their flock, just like a parent is in charge of a household”.

He was then asked about government cuts. He said:

“For priests, their priority is their work, particularly in areas of deprivation and need. They see first hand what the impact is of government policy … Often they are there to pick up the pieces”.

He illustrated that clearly in his speech today. In that interview, he also said:

“A priest lives in often tough places where no other professional person would live”.

I hope that he will not find this House such a tough place and will, from the Spiritual Benches, temper us on the temporal Benches with his wisdom in the years to come.

The Earl of Dundee (Con)...I warmly congratulate the right reverend Prelate on his excellent maiden speech. Looking it up this morning, I discovered that he is the 77th Bishop of Chichester. His earliest predecessor, Saint Wilfrid, was already in office in the year 681, thus nearly 700 years before we began to develop our own two Houses of Parliament here in the 14th century.

The Lord Bishop of Winchester:…I thank the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, for securing this debate and for outlining some of the key issues, but begin by congratulating the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester on an excellent maiden speech, with its characteristic blend of deep pastoral concern, learning lightly worn and a keen appreciation of the importance of education. He and I share the pleasure of having a Cathedrals Group university in our dioceses. I am sure that my right reverend friend will contribute greatly to the deliberations of this House.

Baroness Greenfield (CB)…I add my welcome to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester and congratulate him on his insightful speech

Lord Smith of Finsbury (Non-Afl)… I greatly enjoyed the contribution from the right reverend prelate the Bishop of Chichester in his maiden speech. I trust that we will hear much more from him as part of our discourse in the years to come. I was particularly impressed by his reference to some of his distinguished predecessors. I recall, however, that one of my predecessors as master of Pembroke was Bishop Nicholas Ridley, who was burned at the stake by Queen Mary. I have to observe that I trust this practice will not be revived in current times.

Baroness Redfern (Con): …I welcome the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester and congratulate him on his eloquent maiden speech.

Lord Storey (LD)… I also congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester on his maiden speech. When I was training to be a teacher at St Katharine’s Church of England College in Liverpool, I went on a field trip to the Anglican college in Chichester and had a wonderful time—so I have happy memories of Chichester.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab): …I congratulate, too, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester on a fine maiden speech, in which he highlighted the benefits of learning in general and in higher education in particular. I look forward to hearing more contributions from him in the months and years ahead.

Viscount Younger of Leckie (Con):…Talking of cities, we have rather done the rounds this afternoon. We heard about Winchester, with its cultural and educational focus, and, from the noble Lord, Lord Smith, about Cambridge and Pembroke—but above all, we heard about Chichester. I was particularly pleased to hear the right reverend Prelate’s warm, interesting and informative maiden speech about this remarkable city, a place where I spent every summer as a boy. In the way that he marketed that great city to us, he provided us with an educational insight. Chichester’s excellent mix of arts, science and cultural and theological life clearly remains a great asset. Speaking of which, the right reverend Prelate will clearly add considerably to the contributions to this House. I also note the excellent appreciation that the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, gave to the right reverend Prelate’s speech.

Lord Norton of Louth: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to everyone who has spoken in this debate. There have been some excellent contributions, including the splendid maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester.​



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