On 17th October 2013, Independent Peer Lord Filkin led a take-note debate in the House of Lord on the Report of the Public Service and Demographic Change Committee ‘Ready for Ageing?’ The Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, took part in the debate, focusing his remarks on the important role civil society play in supporting the elderly. He also raised concerns about the language used to talk about the elderly and highlighted the very significant contribution played by older people in society.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, and his colleagues on the Select Committee for introducing such a comprehensive and expert report. I shall pursue the theme mentioned of the contribution of civil society.
My first point is about the language that we use and the signals that we give out. The noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, talked about the importance of a public debate. It is easy to use language such as “retirement”, which indicates something negative, about stopping and ceasing to contribute. In the diocese where I work, we have 200 clergy who are retired; 80% of them make an enormous contribution, not just filling in but front-line, active contribution to the life of the church. Some cultures use the word senior rather than the word ageing. We must be very careful how we frame the debate. I invite the Minister to comment on the language that we use and the signals that we give out, so that it is not about a problem of decline and desperation but celebrating life at different stages and in different ways. Continue reading “Bishop of Derby takes part in debate on demographic change in the UK”
On 17th October 2013, a Government Statement was repeated in the House of Lords by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary State for Schools, Lord Nash, on the Al-Madinah Free School in Derby. The Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, responded to the statement during the subsequent question and answer session.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I declare an interest as the Bishop of Derby and congratulate the Minister and his colleagues on the monitoring and firm action that is being taken. As I understand it, this is a very local initiative. What lessons can be learnt because if we do not have the local authority playing a key role, how are we providing the right kind of framework and guidance for local initiatives so that the right kind of standards, structures and expectations are put in place and met? What are we learning and how are we going to deal with that?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash): I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate for his question. This is a local initiative, it is quite a complicated situation and I do not have time to go into all the details now, but I can assure the House that we are all over this and will not allow this situation to continue.
On 17th October 2013 the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, received answers to written question on the topics of civil service corporate credit cards, freedom of religion and the United Nations.
Civil Service: Corporate Credit Cards
The Lord Bishop of Derby: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what are the rules and criteria for the issuing of corporate credit cards to civil servants; and how the use of such cards is monitored and audited.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble: The Government Procurement Card (GPC) is a payment charge card used for making low value purchases. Its proper use contributes to making efficiencies.
All Departments have a clear policy for card allocation. The GPC Steering Group, established after the last General Election, has developed minimum policy standards for central Government departments and their Arm’s Length Bodies (ALBs). GPC Central Policy describes the roles and responsibilities for personnel that are required to govern and control local GPC programmes. These policies have been shared with the National Audit Office (NAO) and must be followed by all departments using GPCs. Before the last General Election there was no central oversight of Government GPC card use.
All Departments now operate compliance checking processes which include transaction logs that must be reconciled with bank statements and receipts each month; and the requirement for budget managers to reconcile GPC payment to ensure compliance with approved spend. The departmental controls, in accordance with GPC policy, include monthly compliance checking, including identifying off-contract spend and clear guidance for users on the correct route-to-buy.
On 15th October 2013, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, spoke during the Committee Stage of the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill. He spoke in support of an amendment tabled by Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Phillips of Sudbury, which sought to require a review to be undertaken into the current exemptions some banks and similar institutions enjoy from the Gaming Acts, on transactions which could be understood as gambling. Following the debate on the amendment, it was withdrawn.
The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, I am slightly surprised that the Minister should be resistant to what seems to me a very reasonable amendment. One of the dangers that we have faced in the markets over many years is that of parallel markets. The derivatives markets are, as we know, opaque, as has already been remarked on, and we examined them in some detail in the banking standards commission. The computer-driven markets are also very opaque. We examined those markets and remarked that they would constitute the next great crash. When you have these gambling markets on the side that no one quite understands or knows who is participating in them, and which often take place offshore, it seems to me that at the very least there are grounds to hold an inquiry into the effect they are having on market prices through their impact on the shadow market—we should also examine the psychology of the dealers—and on those involved directly in the more regulated market. Continue reading “Archbishop of Canterbury backs calls for review into gambling in the financial sector”
On 15th October 2013, Lord Truscott asked Her Majesty’s Government whether they consider that the recent Russian-led Syrian peace initiative provides a model for defusing other international crises, for example relating to Iran. The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, does the Minister agree that this shift in fortunes in Syria is very largely due to the relationship of trust that the United States Secretary of State and the Russian Foreign Minister have developed in recent months, and that similar levels of trust will be vital to resolving other pressing international crises, not least with Iran?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I agree. I should also say that the British Foreign Secretary has worked extremely hard over the past nine months and more to come to terms with the Russians and to develop a relationship with the Russian Foreign Minister. The European Union high representative, the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, has also done a great deal of work with the Russians on Syria and as part of the E3+3 on Iran.
On 14th October 2013, Lord Trefgarne asked Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Church of England about the procedure for the appointment of bishops in the Church of England. The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, is the Minister aware that, typically, the Crown Nominations Commission consults some 100 members of civil society in each region to which appointments are made; that legislation to bring forward the possibility of women bishops is now before the General Synod and it is anticipated that it will be brought into law within two years; and that the Archbishop of Canterbury takes a very keen interest in the proceedings of this House, and will take careful note of any concerns about the speed of Episcopal appointments made in the course of this Question Time?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I thank the right reverend Prelate for his question. In consulting when preparing for this Question, I was struck by how many of the people I spoke to said, “You have to understand that the workload of a diocesan bishop is enormous and that some wish to retire before the age of 70 because they feel they have done more than they can sustain for another 10 to 15 years”.
On 14th October 2013, Steven John Lindsey, Lord Bishop of Sheffield, was introduced and took the oath, supported by the Bishop of Leicester and the Bishop of Wakefield, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.
The full video of the Bishop’s introduction can be viewed here.
On 14th October 2013, the Bishop of Coventry received answers to two written questions on humanitarian assistance in Syria.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they intend to take following the G20 Summit in St Petersburg to ensure unimpeded access for humanitarian workers inside Syria, including safe routes for aid convoys and the lifting of any bureaucratic hurdles imposed by the Assad regime.
Baroness Northover: It is vital that aid reaches those who have been affected by the Syria crisis. Since the G20 summit, the UK has successfully pushed the Security Council to capitalise on its strong chemical weapons resolution by applying its weight and authority to securing unfettered and immediate humanitarian access. On 2 October, the UN Security Council unanimously agreed a Presidential Statement setting out measures to facilitate access for humanitarian relief to all parts of Syria. The Minister of State for International Development, the right honourable Alan Duncan MP, met Baroness Amos of the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs on 9 October to discuss these urgent matters.
On 14th October 2013, the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, and the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, both received answers to written questions on the European Union’s Justice and Home Affairs Measures.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord McNally on 29 August (WA 318), what guarantees they sought from other member states, prior to their decision of 9 July to opt out of 130 European Union Justice and Home Affairs measures, that the United Kingdom would be able to opt back in to various police and justice measures.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): Protocol 36 does not provide for guarantees to be obtained from Member States and no Member State would have been able to have given such a guarantee. We therefore did not seek any such guarantees from Member States. However, the issue has been discussed in meetings with our EU counterparts at both Ministerial and official level.
However, Protocol 36 to the Treaties places an obligation on the UK and the Union institutions to, “…seek to re-establish the widest possible measure of participation of the United Kingdom in the acquis of the Union in the area of freedom, security and justice without seriously affecting practical operability of the various parts thereof, while respecting their coherence”. Given this, we are confident that we will be able to reach agreement on a sensible final package of measures that the UK will formally apply to rejoin.