In the House of Lords on 20th March 2014 Lord Beecham asked Her Majesty’s Government ‘what assessment they have made of the number and role of food banks in the United Kingdom.’
The Bishop of Gloucester, Rt Rev Michael Perham, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Gloucester: My Lords, research by Citizens Advice shows that the main reason people are referred to food banks is delay in the payment of benefits and benefit sanctions; anecdotally, this is also the church’s own experience from its involvement in the many food banks it helps to run across the country. Will the Minister tell us whether the Government are persuaded by this evidence and, if they are not, will he share with us what plans they have to carry out their own research into the reasons leading so many people to seek food aid?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I very much acknowledge the right reverend Prelate’s question. While it is right to expect that claimants who are able to look for or prepare for work should do so, a sanction will never be imposed if a claimant has good reason for failing to meet requirements. If claimants demonstrate that they cannot buy essential items, including food, as a result of their sanction, they can claim a hardship payment. No claimant should ever have to go without essentials as a result of a sanction.
On Wednesday 20th March 2013, the Second Church Estates Commissioner Sir Tony Baldry MP posed a written question to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice asking about the plans to mitigate the impact of bats upon churches
Continue reading “Second Church Estates Commissioner Questions Minister on Bats in Churches”
Written Question, answered on 20th March, 2014:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Iran regarding that country’s human rights record.[HL6021]
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): The UK’s non-resident Chargé d’Affaires discussed human rights with a range of Iranian government officials during his most recent visit to Iran on 12 March 2014. He raised the use of the death penalty, freedom of religion and the workings of the criminal justice system. Prior to that, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Rt. Hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), raised Iran’s human rights records with Iranian foreign minister Zarif at the UN General Assembly on 23 September 2013.
Responding today to the Chancellor’s 2014 Budget statement, the Bishop of Birmingham, Rt Rev David Urquhart said:
“There is much to welcome in today’s Budget announcement, not least the news that economic growth is strengthening, the long awaited transferable tax allowance for married couples, and the new funds to help restore the fabric of some our nation’s great cathedrals.
The increasingly confident economic outlook is good news. The crucial challenge will be to ensure that the stewardship of the economy takes into account the need for those at the lower end of the income scale or at the margins of society to share fully in the proceeds of growth.
The reaffirmation by the Chancellor of our country’s commitment to spend 0.7% of our national income on overseas development assistance is an important demonstration of our national commitment to those in the greatest need. Continue reading “Bishop of Birmingham Responds to the Budget”
On March 19th 2014 the Bishop of Coventry, Rt Rev Christopher Cocksworth, received an answer to a written question about the promotion of stability in Somalia.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assistance they are providing to the Federal Government of Somalia to make progress on delivering security, stability and services to all its people.
Baroness Northover: The UK Government is committed to promoting security, stability and service delivery in Somalia. Funding is not provided directly to the Federal Government of Somalia. UK assistance is mainly delivered through international partners such as the UN, NGOs and private sector providers. DFID support includes work to deliver more legitimate governance structures and promote conflict resolution, supporting increased access to justice and security; and the provision of basic services through health and education programmes.
In addition, DFID, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence co-finance the Conflict Pool, which provides support to promote security in Somalia.
On March 19th 2014 the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Rev Dr Alan Smith, received an answer to a written question about human rights abuses in Iran.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the human rights situation in Iran following the election of President Rouhani.
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): The human rights situation in Iran remains dire. We are particularly concerned by reports that the rate of executions has increased in 2014. We urge Iran to take concrete action to improve its human rights record. However, President Rouhani’s government has taken some positive steps on human rights, including the release of a number of political prisoners in September 2013.
On March 19th 2014 the Bishop of Coventry, Rt Rev Christopher Cocksworth, received answers to two written questions about Egypt: on political and religious freedom in the country.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the current state of political freedom in Egypt and of the prospects for free and fair Presidential elections later this year.
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): The January 2014 constitutional referendum was an important moment for millions of Egyptians who expressed their opinion through the ballot box. We welcome the fact that the new constitution includes better provisions for the protection of the rights of minorities, including Christians, and women. However, we are concerned by restrictions on freedom of expression for opposition groups and the press, both in the run-up to the referendum and since. We encourage Egypt’s interim authorities to ensure that Egypt’s democratic transition leads to free and fair presidential elections in a genuinely inclusive process. We are pleased to hear that the EU European External Action Service is discussing with Egyptian authorities its intention to send an Electoral Observation Mission to Egypt for the presidential elections.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the state of freedom of religion and belief in Egypt following the removal of President Morsi from office in July 2013.
Baroness Warsi: Sectarian violence increased under President Morsi and has continued since. Amnesty report that 200 Christian-owned properties have been attacked and 43 churches burned down or damaged since July 2013. In September, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Rt. Hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), made a statement in Parliament condemning the violence against Christian churches. Article 64 of the 2014 constitution states that freedom of belief is absolute. The key test will be how the constitution is implemented, as many articles require additional legislation. We have continued to raise the importance of respect for different religions and beliefs and the protection of religious minorities with the Egyptian authorities. The Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, my Rt. Hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Mr Robertson), discussed the situation faced by Coptic Christians and implications of the new constitution in a meeting with Bishop Yulios during his visit to Cairo in December 2013. The Bishop was optimistic about the new Constitution provisions for religious minorities.
On 19th March 2014 the Bishop of Coventry, Rt Rev Christopher Cocksworth, received an answer to a written question about the Indian operation at the Golden Temple, Amritsar.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Warsi on 3 March (WA 287), whether they intend to hold further meetings with the representatives of Sikh organisations in the United Kingdom to address concerns arising from the publication of the Cabinet Secretary’s report on the Indian operation at Sri Harmandir Sahib.
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): Ministers held two recent round-table meetings with the Sikh community and the Government is keen to ensure that constructive dialogue is maintained.
On 18th March 2014 Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty’s Government “what assessment they have made of the findings of the United Nations commission of inquiry into human rights in North Korea.”
The Bishop of Peterborough, Rt Rev Donald Allister, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Peterborough: My Lords, can the Minister confirm recent reports of the possible execution of 33 people for allegedly plotting to overthrow the regime by their association with the South Korean missionary, Kim Jung-wook? What efforts are being made to urge the North Korean authorities not to proceed with such executions and to respect freedom of religion?
Baroness Warsi: We are aware of these terrible reports. Of course, this relates to the suspicion that these individuals were involved with the creation of an underground church under the support of Kim Jung-wook, a South Korean who was arrested by the DPRK last year. As noble Lords are aware, freedom of religion and belief is a key priority for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and we make those views clear to the North Koreans. I am sure that the right reverend Prelate will accept that we have only so many mechanisms with which to make our opinions known on this matter.
“Even if this crisis has cast a Cold War shadow over Europe, it is important that we remain in dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church. That is not always an easy task” – Bishop of St Albans.
On March 18th Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi moved ‘that this House takes note of the situation in Ukraine.’ The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Rev Alan Smith, spoke of the religious dimension to the crisis in Crimea between Russia and Ukraine:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans:
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for this debate and for her helpful setting out of the situation. We have heard some fascinating background regarding the very complex history behind the situation. My comments will focus on the religious dimension, which has not been drawn out very fully so far.
Continue reading “Ukraine Crisis – the Religious Dimension. Speech by Bishop of St Albans”