On 29th July 2013, Lord Sheldon asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to reduce the number of suicides of children in prisons. The Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Guildford: Would the Minister care to comment, in the light of the reports of HM Inspectorate of Prisons of May this year on the increased violence at Ashfield and Feltham—it is 10 years to this month since the Commission for Racial Equality produced its report on Feltham—on the desirability of the elimination of the use of batons and routine strip searches in juvenile prisons?
Lord McNally: Every inclination I have is in that direction. Carrying on the policy of the previous Administration, we have tried to make sure that order and discipline in young people’s institutions of various kinds are maintained with the minimum of physical intervention and with the maximum attention on trying to manage difficult situations. A lot of the training addresses how the staff themselves are able to manage down situations before they become violent. However, we also have a duty of care to our staff and a duty of care to other inmates in these institutions, who may become victims of uncontrolled violence.
“I celebrate today the contribution of humanists and atheists to the common good. I revel in our common humanity, our shared commitment to society and the gift of friendship.”
On 25th July 2013, Lord Harrison led a debate in the House of Lords to take note of the contribution of atheists and humanists to United Kingdom society. The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, welcomed the debate and the contribution of humanists and aetheists to the common good. He hoped that the debate would challenge intolerant tribalism and noted that people of faith, atheists and humanists had in common a desire to explore profound questions about life.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, while I am still privileged to occupy the Bench of the Lords spiritual on behalf of the nation, I am delighted to say that the debate today is most welcome and I am honoured to follow the previous three speakers. They have given us the opportunity to hear the great deal of good that can and should be recognised, wherever we find it, whether in philosophy—the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, reminded us of the great traditions of humanist philosophy—or in science. I note the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, about the very serious business of assisted dying; I am sure that we will work hard on that together to get it right.
There is also the wonderful good that comes from humanists or atheists ringing bells. So often in society we appear to be motivated simply by our own interests, with the consequence that acknowledging good in others is interpreted simply as disloyalty to one’s tribe. Within the church, we are not immune to this problem. None the less, the Christian tradition points to the wider generosity; when Jesus was asked for an example of neighbourliness, he told a story about the Samaritan and not a good religious Jew, such as himself. I hope that, among many other themes, this debate will challenge intolerant tribalism in all walks of life wherever we find it. Continue reading “Bishop of Birmingham speaks of shared values of religious and non-religious”
On 25th July 2013, Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to follow up the report of the United Nations High-level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: Like other noble Lords, I applaud the Prime Minister’s initiative and leadership in this area and encourage him to press on. In view of the importance that the report attaches to gender equality and empowerment, can the Minister confirm that the Government will look to next year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women, which starts in March, to build consensus among UN member states on this matter, ahead of any final negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda?
Baroness Northover: I can assure the right reverend Prelate that we are already doing that. A great deal of work went into ensuring that this year’s CSW could reach agreement. It required a lot of work but we were delighted that that agreement was reached. We are already working on the next one and are delighted that the second of the 12 goals is on gender equality.
On 25th July 2013, Lord Empey asked Her Majesty’s Government whether they have plans to reduce VAT on the retrofitting of existing buildings to encourage energy saving and job creation. The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, the Minister has twice referred to the Green Deal as the Government’s policy response to the issue. Can he tell the House how the take-up of the Green Deal is progressing in relation to the hopes that were expressed?
Lord Newby: My Lords, the Green Deal is a new project with a 20-year life ahead of it. Up to the end of June, some 44,479 assessments had been made and 3,500 installations had received cashback payments. In addition, 78% of people with a Green Deal advice report said that they had, were getting or would get energy-saving measures installed, which demonstrates a very high level of consumer interest.
On 25th July 2013, the Bishop of Derby received written answers to questions on the topics of food banks and sexual violence in overseas conflicts. The original questions and their answers are reproduced below.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what incentives are provided to supermarkets to donate waste food to food banks at the end of trading.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): The Government does not currently offer incentives to supermarkets to redistribute surplus food. We do however recognise the good work of organisations that redistribute surplus food to provide access to nutritional meals for those who may otherwise struggle. In addition, most major retailers already have partnerships with redistribution charities. In 2012, Defra held a meeting with retailers and food distribution charities to explore the current barriers to redistribution. The Waste and Resources Action Programme is working with Fareshare and FoodCycle to deliver a trial to increase food redistribution from retail stores.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Northover on 9 July (WA35), what consideration has been given to inviting religious leaders from recipient countries to attend the high level event in the autumn designed to mobilise global leadership to prevent sexual violence in conflict.
Baroness Northover: The Call to Action event in the autumn will highlight the actions the international community needs to take for the protection of women and girls in emergencies. The UK’s commitment to addressing sexual violence in conflict and, more broadly, in tackling the many forms of violence against women and girls that manifest themselves in emergencies. Preparations for the event are underway and officials are considering what role religious leaders might play.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Northover on 9 July (WA35), whether the proposed technical training and guidance for field staff and advisers will include advice on how to engage with religious communities when providing humanitarian support to the victims of sexual violence in conflict.
Baroness Northover: The guidance and training for DfID advisers and staff is based on the United Nations Inter-Agency Standing Committee Guidelines for Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings. These guidelines draw attention to the role that religious leaders and groups can play in the provision of psychological and social support, and in encouraging survivors of violence to seek appropriate care.
“I and my colleagues on these Benches trust that the industry will wholeheartedly embrace a professional standards process, with independent leadership and all the practical things that we will talk about in the next few minutes and days; and that step by step—with any necessary amendments to the Bill and a full adoption in the autumn of the parliamentary commission’s recommendations—we will all take responsibility for achieving a healthy, vigorous, profitable and accessible but virtuous banking system.”
On 24th July 2013, the Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, took part in the Second Reading debate of the Government’s Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill. He welcomed the practical themes in the bill and the opportunity it provided to develop structures with a new culture that would enable the common good to develop in society.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, for his kind remarks about members of the banking commission who sit in this House, not least my friend the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, who, sadly, is not in his place today but fully intends to be so many times in the autumn when the commission’s work will be discussed in this House in more detail. Perhaps I can partially stand in his place as we spent many years in different parts of the oil industry before entering another sort of multinational work.
We appreciate the practical themes in the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill and the opportunity that it provides to implement the recommendations of the Vickers report and, more recently, of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards. As the Community Investment Coalition put it, the Bill provides an opportunity,
“for Britain to continue as a leading global financial centre, while at the same time protecting ordinary working people”.
On 24th July 2013, Lord Dubs askedHer Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the causes of homelessness and rough sleeping in the United Kingdom. The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: The Minister will be aware of the good practice of the multi-agency response to homelessness among 16 and 17 year-olds in Birmingham at the St Basils Youth Hub but, with the recent support expressed by the Housing Minister for the End Youth Homelessness Alliance, how will the Government meet the alliance’s challenges for family support, employment and affordable, safe housing for that category of people?
Baroness Hanham: I am aware of what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham is talking about. The policies of the Government will support the question that he has asked.
On 24th July 2013, the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, received written answers to questions on Lebanon and Syria.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to build the resilience of the Lebanese army to respond to the security situation on its border with Syria.
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): The UK is providing an additional £10 million of assistance to support the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in their mission to secure Lebanon’s border with Syria. The package of non-lethal assistance includes mobility, communications, protection and observation equipment and associated training. The package was discussed by the then Chief of Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards, with the LAF commander during his visit to Lebanon on 4-5 July.
On 24th July 2013 the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, received written answers to questions on Egypt and the Gulf States.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the prospects for political reconciliation in Egypt.
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi):We are in contact with all sides in Egypt, and have urged all to resolve their differences through dialogue, and avoid violence. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), was in regular contact with former Foreign Minister Amr, most recently on 8 July to discuss the situation in Egypt. We have requested contact with the new interim government and continue to be in contact with the army and Muslim Brotherhood. It is important that Egypt makes an early return to democratic processes, including free and fair elections, and that those processes are inclusive.