Bishops of Durham and St Albans debate international response to Covid-19

On 18th May 2020 a virtual sitting of the House of Lords debated a motion from Baroness Sugg, “That the Virtual Proceedings do consider the international response to COVID-19.” The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, and the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, spoke in the debate:

20.04.30 Durham 2The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, thankfully, the virus appears to be spreading slowly in most African countries, with Lesotho declaring its first case only last week. However, the World Bank forecasts that Covid-19 could push 49 million people into extreme poverty. The economic impact on some poorer nations could be more detrimental than the health threat. The aid Her Majesty’s Government committed at the international pledging event will be vital for the poorest nations, but our international response must be sustainable, which requires trade, not simply aid. What actions have Her Majesty’s Government taken to ensure that good free trade agreements are made with poorer nations?

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Bishop of Portsmouth asks Government about contact tracing app trials on Isle of Wight

On 18th May 2020 Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb asked the Government “what steps they are taking to address privacy concerns about (1) the use of the NHS Covid-19 contact tracing application, and (2) the introduction of immunity certificates.” The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, asked a follow up question.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, the Minister has reminded the House that tens of thousands of people on the Isle of Wight have downloaded and used the app. People of the island often feel—with, I regret, some justification—that they are considered last if at all. Now, despite the questions about privacy, effectiveness and rollout, they have been the first to step up and make a significant contribution to the nation’s common good. Will he undertake to look at how their service might be recognised?

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Bishop of Newcastle asks about mental health support for social care workforce

On 18th May 2020 the Bishop of Newcastle, Rt Revd Christine Hardman, received a written answer to a question on mental health support for the social care workforce:

The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: HL3834 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans are in place to provide mental health support for the social care workforce (1) during, and (2) after, the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Bishop of St Albans asks Government about demolition of churches and arrests of Christians in China

On 18th May 2020 the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, received a written answer to a question about demolition of churches and arrest of Christians in China:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: HL3843 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports of (1) churches being demolished, in particular the demolition of the Donghu Church, Qinghai Province, and (2) Christians streaming religious services at home being arrested, in China Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks Government about demolition of churches and arrests of Christians in China”

Church Commissioners’ Written Answers: Coronavirus and Reopening of Churches

On 18th May 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered two written questions on the reopening of churches, from Dr Luke Evans MP and Andrew Rosindell MP.

Dr Luke Evans (Bosworth): 45480 To ask the right hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps is the Government taking to work with churches and dioceses to ensure the safe opening of churches for religious worship.

Andrew Rosindell (Romford): 45018 To ask the right hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church of England is planning to take to allow it to reopen churches as soon as possible while limiting the risk of spreading covid-19.


SelousAndrew Selous: The Church of England is committed to the reopening of buildings in a phased way, in accordance with the rules, restrictions and timetable established by Government. On 5th May the House of Bishops issued guidance, which can be seen here: https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/news/house-bishops-backs-phased-approach-revising-access-church-buildings

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Church Commissioners’ Written Answers: Coronavirus, Lichfield and Hereford dioceses

On 18th May 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered two written questions from Mark Pritchard MP:

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin): 46582 To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what discussions he has had with the Diocese of Lichfield on lost revenues resulting from the closure of places of worship during the covid-19 outbreak.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin): 46581 To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what discussions he has had with the Diocese of Hereford on lost revenues resulting from the closure of places of worship during the covid-19 outbreak.

rsz_1andrew_profile_2Andrew Selous: The Church Commissioners and National Church Institutions are in discussions with dioceses during this challenging period, including on the evolving financial impact. A series of structured interviews have been held with every diocese, including with the Diocese of Lichfield at the beginning of May [and Diocese of Hereford at the end of April]. Though too early for detailed conclusions, it was clear that the financial challenges will be significant.
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Week in Westminster, 11th-15th May 2020

Parliament met this week, in Westminster and online.

The Bishop of Durham began each virtual sitting day in the Lords with prayers, and also asked COVID-19 related questions of Ministers on rough sleepers, the job retention scheme in the north-east, the two-child benefit limit, school reopening plans and the rollout in schools of relationships education, and the need to include spiritual social and mental wellbeing in the Government’s response strategy. He also raised the situation of migrant children after Brexit.

Throughout the week Lords Spiritual  raised the impact of COVID-19 across a range of policy areas: The Bishop of St Albans called for more help for farmers and for rural transport. The Bishop of Gloucester asked about testing in prisons, and the Bishop of London asked about the effect on immigration detention and removals. The Bishop of Winchester asked about support packages for universities in the UK, and about food insecurity in Africa.

The Bishop of Leeds received answers  on suspending debt payments from poorer countries during the pandemic. The Bishop of Worcester received  answers on the UK’s contribution to the UN pandemic response plan, the WHO and African Union, and the impact of coronavirus on both press freedoms abroad and UK military operations. The Bishop of Coventry received answers  on the impact of COVID-19 on religious minorities overseas including Saudi Arabia, on food aid, and the situation of Baha’i prisoners in Yemen.

The Bishop of Southwark also received answers to written questions on Israel and West Bank settlements.

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