Bishop of St Albans asks about government response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Somalia

The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answer on 31st January 2023:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Somalia regarding their involvement in China’s Belt and Road initiative.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con): China is a significant partner for many countries, including through the Belt and Road Initiative. The Somali Government pursues its international trading, development and political relations as it chooses. The UK’s focus is on working closely with the Somali Government to support its ambitious programme for a more stable and peaceful Somalia. This includes the provision of humanitarian relief and crucial support for the fight against Al-Shabaab.

Hansard

Bishop of St Albans asks about provision of services to rural areas

The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answers on 31st January 2023:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to prevent the closure of rural bus routes.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton (Con): The Government has provided nearly £2 billion of support since March 2020 through emergency and recovery grants to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on the bus sector. This includes a six-month extension to the Bus Recovery Grant to provide up to £130 million to continue supporting bus services in England outside London until the end of March of this year.

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Public Order Bill: Bishop of Manchester expresses concerns on amendments relating to protests at abortion clinics

During a debate on amendments to the Public Order Bill on 30th January 2023, the Bishop of Manchester expressed concerns regarding amendments to clause 9 of the bill:

Clause 9: Offence of interference with access to or provision of abortion services.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester: My Lords, in Committee I shared my concerns about Clause 9 as it then stood. I am grateful for conversations that have taken place since. I particularly thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Sugg and Lady Barker. The latter has listened patiently and sympathetically to me and my friends on these Benches at some length.

My concerns regarding Clause 9 had nothing to do with the moral merits or otherwise of abortion; they lie in my passion to see upheld the rights of citizens of this land, both to receive healthcare and to protest. Women must be able to access lawful medical interventions without facing distressing confrontations, directed at them personally, when they are identifiable by their proximity to the clinic or hospital. At the same time, anyone who wishes to protest in general about abortion law must be able to do so lawfully, with the least restriction on where and when they may do so.

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Public Order Bill: Bishop of Manchester speaks in favour of amendments on police powers

On 30th January 2023, the House of Lords debated amendments to the Public Order Bill. The Bishop of Manchester spoke in the debate, supporting amendments by Baroness Chakrabarti concerning police powers to arrest protestors for “locking on” offences:

The Lord Bishop of Manchester: My Lords, I shall speak very briefly in support of the amendment to remove Clauses 1 and 2 that my right reverend friend the Bishop of Bristol signed. She regrets that she cannot be in her place today. As the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, said, establishing new offences of locking on and being equipped for locking on have very significant consequences for the right to protest. A few days ago I got an email from a retired vicar in my diocese. He wrote to tell me he is awaiting sentencing: he has just been convicted of obstruction by gluing himself to a road during a protest by an environmental group. The judge has warned him and his co-defendants that they may go to prison. I cite his case not to approve of his actions—which I fear may serve to reduce public support for his cause rather than increase it—but because it clearly indicates to me that the police already have sufficient powers to intervene against those who are taking an active part in such protests. Anything extra, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has just so eloquently illustrated, is superfluous.

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Votes: Public Order Bill

On 30th January 2023, the House of Lords debated amendments to the Public Order Bill (2022) in the first day of the report stage. Votes were held on amendments to the bill, in which Bishops took part:

Division 1:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Manchester and the Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham took part in a vote on an amendment to the bill tabled by Lord Coaker: “to insert a new clause: Meaning of ‘serious disruption.’

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Bishop of Manchester asks about government response to pollution in rivers and on beaches

The Bishop of Manchester asked a on government response to pollution in the context of climate change and extreme weather events, during a debate on river and beach pollution on 30th January 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Manchester: My Lords, I declare my interest as a Church Commissioner in the farming industry. What attention are the Government paying to pollution as we get more and more extreme weather events, with climate change being upon us?

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Bishop of Durham speaks on the effects of child poverty

The Bishop of Durham spoke in a debate on vulnerable teenagers on 26th January 2023, emphasising the negative effects of child poverty on later life:

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, it is a real pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord McConnell; I associate myself with everything he said, particularly about adopting the recommendations. He also reminded us that this is no new problem. He talked about his experience in the 1980s; I could do the same from when I was doing youth work. You can also quote Greek writers and philosophers about the problems of young people in the era of the Greeks, so this is something we have always lived with.

I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, for securing this debate. It is always lovely to share something with someone else from this part of the north-east of England. I congratulate Anne Longfield on the report, Hidden in Plain Sight. As the Commission on Young Lives’ report demonstrates, young people falling vulnerable to violence and exploitation and entering the criminal justice system is not an issue that is shrinking, nor one that could possibly be ignored. 

The effects of this problem are widespread, impacting not only the lives and futures of the young people themselves but the prosperity and security of our whole country. Such an issue cannot be resolved through sticking plasters or short-term solutions; it is instead vital that we examine and address the root causes and respond with long-term solutions.

As the report states,

“it is impossible to overestimate how important poverty is as a driver for so many of the social problems ruining and holding back lives.”

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Church Commissioner Questions: Church Attendance, Sustainable Maintenance, Historic Involvement with Slavery, Lichfield Cathedral, and Blessings for Same-sex Couples

On 26th January 2023, MPs put questions in the House of Commons to the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP:

Parish Churches: Family Attendance

Kevin Foster MP (Torbay, Con), asked:

  1. What recent steps the Church of England has taken to encourage families to attend events at parish churches.

Andrew Selous MP: There are Church of England churches that provide breakfast and lunch clubs, as well as youth, children’s and toddler activities, including messy church and much more besides. A vibrant children’s and youth ministry is often a key component of church growth.

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Bishop of Southwark asks about the Windrush Lessons Learned Review

The Bishop of Southwark received the following written answer on 26th January 2023:

The Lord Bishop of Southwark asked His Majesty’s Government, further to the statement by the Secretary of State for the Home Department on 23 June 2020 (HC Deb col. 1193), what progress they have made towards implementing recommendations 9 and 10 of the Windrush Lessons Learned Review (HC 93) to create a Migrants Commissioner and to give more powers to the Independent Chief Inspector for Borders and Immigration.

Lord Muarry of Blidworth (Con): In March 2020 the then Home Secretary published Wendy Williams’s Windrush Lessons Learned Review, which set out 30 recommendations for the department.

A range of options have been considered for delivering these recommendations, which have been discussed with external stakeholders. The Home Office is taking steps to be more transparent to ensure that the department is as open as possible to all types of scrutiny, both internal and external.

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Bishop of St Albans asks about free-trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand

The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answers on 26th January 2023:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of whether the procedure and available time for the ratification of the Australia and New Zealand free trade agreement allows for sufficient parliamentary scrutiny.

Lord Johnson of Lainston (Con): The Government has committed to additional measures for new free trade agreements which go beyond our statutory scrutiny requirements.

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