Bishop of Durham supports Early General Election Bill, hopes for respectful campaign

19.01.07 durham bOn the 30th October the Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Evans of Bowes Park) moved the Second Reading of the Early Parliamentary General Election Bill. The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, contributed to the debate: 

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, it is an honour to follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, but it is always slightly daunting as well. I believe that the House should expedite this business as simply and as quickly as it can. While I have much sympathy with giving the vote to 16 and 17 year-olds, that should be done with full due consideration and process at another time. Perhaps such a Bill could be introduced by the next Government. I also have sympathy with giving EU nationals the vote, but since that would be an example of the UK offering fuller and better rights than any current EU nation, it too would require proper scrutiny. Rushing it now would be inappropriate.

Whether a general election is the best way to take us out of our current impasse is certainly debatable. Whether doing so in December is good timing is, likewise, an interesting question. Will it tie us to another election in five years’ time? That question can surely be handled by the review of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act in 2020 or, in view of the comments already made, rather more quickly. However, it is the way that has been decided by the elected Members of the other place and I am sure that it is not our place to stand in the way of such a decision.

We all recognise that there is an impasse; a way forward has to be found. I hope and pray that, somehow, an election will break this impasse. If, however, the outcome were a House of Commons without a clear majority for a way forward, those newly elected MPs will have to consider very carefully how they handle such a situation differently from the history of these past months. They must not repeat it, if that is what occurs. We cannot afford a repeat of such a period.

I hope we will pass the Bill as it stands today. I trust that there will then be a campaign from all sides that is about seeking the best for the nation and is conducted with care, thoughtfulness, kindness, respect and generosity, and not with vitriol or false representation of the other. Then, once we have a new Government, let us all look to rebuilding trust, relationships and harmony beyond the general election.

As we pray at the outset of every day in this place the prayer displayed in the corridor on the other side of the Chamber, I hope that,

“the result of all our counsels may be … the publick wealth, peace and tranquillity of the Realm, and the uniting and knitting together of the hearts of all persons and estates within the same, in true Christian Love and Charity one towards another”.

Lord Cormack (Con): [extract] My Lords, I think we should all say “Amen” to that, in our hearts as well as with our lips, as we do every day. …

…There is one thing I really hope we will do, and it builds on the remarks made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham. Our country has been torn apart; families and communities have been divided. We have to seek to come together and it would be no bad thing if the Conservative Party took a lead in this. …

Lord Taylor of Holbeach (Con): [extract] …I turn to the Spiritual Bench and am sorry that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham has gone, because I too went into the Not-Content Lobby and read the prayer that we have every day. In addition to the quotation that he read, I add the part that asks that we,

“lay aside all private interests, prejudices and partial affections”.

The ethos of Parliament lies in those words. …

Lord Lea of Crondall: [extract] …Finally, I would like to reflect on the approach of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach. On this side, I add my thanks to him for his courtesy—not deserved by some of us—in the course of his time as Chief Whip. We should build on that sort of good will, as was called for by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham.





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