Any MP wishing to take their seat in the Commons has by law to either swear an oath or make a solemn affirmation of allegiance to the Crown. After this June’s General Election, 483 of Parliament’s 650 MPs, three quarters of the whole, chose to swear their oath of allegiance on a religious text (Christian or other faith). The option to affirm, for those MPs not wanting to involve God in their declarations of allegiance, was taken up by 160 MPs.
While swearing in habits might give some general insight into trends of religious and cultural affiliation, they don’t help us to pinpoint with exact precision numbers of the faithful on the green benches. Over half of all MPs, 378 in total, chose to swear an oath of allegiance on the King James Bible, but that may say more about tradition and precedent than about personal Christian commitment. Historically the option to affirm instead of swear on a religious text was as much about providing conscientious alternatives for the religious as well as for atheists, and choosing to affirm instead of swear is still practised by a small number of MPs of Christian and other faiths (both Sikh MPs affirmed, whilst one MP affirmed whilst holding the King James Bible). Even with those caveats, it’s possible to notice some broad trends. Continue reading “Oaths and Affirmations”
Welcome to our weekly round up of activity in Parliament. This week bishops in the House of Lords led a debate on welcoming refugees, supported an amendment to a Government Bill aimed at alleviating problem debt, and also spoke on the electricity market and transport to and from the island of Lindisfarne. Bishops also asked questions about mental health provision in schools, unaccompanied child refugees, Iraq, South Sudan, Nigeria, Indonesia, religious freedom in Russia, Tajikistan and Yemen, the UNHCR, the 2018 Commonwealth Summit, executions in Saudi Arabia, stalking offences and transport in the north-east. The Second Church Estates Commissioner answered questions from MPs in the House of Commons on food banks and rural church growth. Parliament rose on Thursday for its summer recess and will return in September.Continue reading “Week in Westminster, 17th-20th July 2017”
On 20th July 2017 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Berkeley “that this House takes note of the transport needs of remote island communities in England.” The Bishop of Newcastle, Rt Revd Christine Hardman, spoke about the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in Northumberland:
The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: My Lords, islands are special places and I am so grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for this debate and for learning, in his speech and those which have followed, so much more about the context of the Isles of Scilly. I discovered the Isles of Scilly only a few years ago. They are magical but after the boat trip over there, I understood why you can buy fridge magnets saying “I survived the ‘Scillonian’”.
Today, it is the transport needs of another remote island community I wish to speak about: the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in Northumberland. It is a very special place in my diocese. The island has been designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty. There is a national nature reserve covering 3,500 hectares. It has a rich historical and spiritual heritage including Lindisfarne Castle, owned by the National Trust, and Lindisfarne Priory, managed by English Heritage. The Holy Island of Lindisfarne is of course where St Aidan founded his monastery in the 7th century and based his mission to the people of Northumbria. Continue reading “Bishop of Newcastle speaks about transport links to Holy Island of Lindisfarne”
On the 20th July 2017 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Dame Caroline Spelman MP answered two oral questions to the Church Commissioners in the House of Commons, on food poverty and on growing the rural church. A transcript of the questions and follow-up questions by MPs on other issues, are reproduced below.
The right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked
Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): What steps the Church of England is taking to tackle food poverty. 
The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Dame Caroline Spelman): First of all, may I congratulate the hon. Member for Houghton and Sunderland South (Bridget Phillipson) on her appointment to her role representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission? I thought she did a very good job of answering the questions.
Seventy-five per cent. of churches collect food, 38% provide volunteers, 29% help to manage a food bank, and 21% distribute food vouchers. Churches also work in partnership with organisations such as Citizens Advice and Christians Against Poverty to tackle the underlying causes of food poverty.
On 20th July 2017 in the House of Lords Baroness Quin asked the Government “what are their priorities for transport investment in the North East of England over the next two years”. The Bishop of Newcastle, Rt Revd Christine Hardman, asked a follow up question: