The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked Her Majesty’s Government what analysis they have made of reports of the forced evictions of Roma communities in Cluj-Napoca, Romania; and whether they will discuss the matter with the government of Romania and ask that government to enforce the decision of the Cluj-Napoca County Court that evictions targeting the Roma community are illegal.
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): Our Embassy in Bucharest has been monitoring this issue closely (along with other forced evictions of Roma e.g. in Eforie Sud and Baia Mare). We understand that the Cluj-Napoca Court recently ruled the forced eviction in December 2010 illegal. However this decision is not final and is subject to appeal. We have raised wider concerns about social inclusion of the Roma with the Romanian government on 28 January. With regard to this specific case, the British Embassy will visit Cluj on 11 February and will raise the issue of forced evictions with the local government. They will also launch a partnership with a local NGO to develop projects aimed at preventing disadvantaged Roma children leaving school before the minimum age. The UK government does not condone unjustified evictions of any community.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord McFall, for his analysis, not least his observation that growth is not the answer and the unintended consequences of marketisation, as he called it. I probably want to explore what he might have meant by “the social, stupid”—there is an important clue in that.
I am engaged in this issue. In the City of Derby, where I work, I chair the inner city renewal project. That is the local authority and all kinds of voluntary and faith groups looking at how we can tackle this at grass-roots level, where there are a lot of people who are disadvantaged, with no social mobility and no equality in terms of finance, environment or opportunity. There are two ways of doing this. One is a needs-based approach—what are the needs and what resources can you put in to try to improve things?—and there is what they call an asset-based approach, which means asking what these people have in their own potential, as the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, said—what do they have that can be grown so that they can contribute? Continue reading “Bishop of Derby’s speech on inequality and social mobility”
Baroness Hanham asked Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the recommendations in the final report of the Electoral Commission Electoral fraud in the UK.
The Bishop of Wakefield asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, following the question of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, about areas of high risk, in our diocese of Wakefield the local authority of Kirklees has been pinpointed as just one such area for the sort of reasons that the noble Lord mentioned. The local authority is working hard with a number of agencies to ensure the probity of the next elections. Will the Minister say what sort of support will be given to councils to enable them to fulfil this important duty?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I was discussing that exact question with the electoral registration officer of Kirklees the summer before last, including the authority’s co-operation with the police. We all know that there are pockets of problems within Kirklees. It is a matter for local co-operation with the police, who are well aware of this. We are also well aware that there is a certain tendency in some local elections for candidates to use allegations of electoral fraud against each other as part of the local campaign. That is one of the reasons why the police are occasionally a little sceptical about allegations being thrown around during the campaign.
The Lord Bishop of Chester asked Her Majesty’s Government what amount and proportion of the United Kingdom’s electricity requirement in 2013 was met by inputs through interconnectors with other countries; and how much electricity the United Kingdom exported during 2013.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma) (Con): The table below shows UK imports and exports of electricity, in GWh, January 2013 to September 2013. Data for 2013 as a whole will be available on 28th March 2014.
Imports and Exports in the UK for January-September 2013 in GWh
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps are being taken to increase the number of people who are registered to vote in the United Kingdom.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, noble Lords will know that churches and the ancillary buildings connected with them are often the places where hustings take place, and indeed are used as polling stations. This is a key way of engaging local people in the democratic process. With the recent passing of the transparency of lobbying Act, will the Minister reassure us that churches and such places will continue to be used and will not be affected by the passing of that Act?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I cannot see any way in which the use of churches as polling stations, and indeed the role of the clergy in encouraging people to do their community and civic duty, will be adversely affected. I very much hope that the church will continue to encourage all those who are part of its community to take a full part in civic, social and political life.
On Tuesday 4th February 2014, Donald Spargo, Lord Bishop of Peterborough, was introduced and took the oath, supported by the Bishop of Wakefield and the Bishop of Birmingham, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield asked Her Majesty’s Government: what representations they are making to the Government of Georgia regarding Islamophobia in that country; and what steps they are taking to ensure freedom of religion and the rights of minority groups there.
Baroness Warsi: My Lords, the UK raises human rights issues on a regular basis with the Georgian Government, both bilaterally and through multilateral institutions such as the EU, the OSCE and the Council of Europe. We have not made any recent representations regarding Islamophobia, but we continue to follow minority rights closely, including through our embassy’s work in Tbilisi and its regional travel. We fund a local NGO to maintain an inter-religion working group, which involves a variety of faith groups, including Muslims.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, last year, I was fortunate to spend a couple of nights with a Muslim family in Batumi, and the next morning I met the president of the semi-autonomous region there, Mr Archil Khabadze. I pressed the question to him of why there was only one mosque for something like 110,000 out of the 150,000 people, that being the number of Muslims in the city. He said that at that time they would take immediate steps to find more land made available for Muslims in that city. I said that I would be coming back in the next three months to open the mosque with other religious groups. Would Her Majesty’s Government please press the authorities to make sure that the local administration there is asked to fulfil the promise that they made; otherwise, these very open Muslims will soon become radicalised.
Baroness Warsi: The right reverend Prelate raises a really important issue. His Question prompted me to go away and do some research, and I was quite intrigued to find out that just over 10% of Georgia’s population are indeed Muslim—a much larger percentage than in our own communities. The right reverend Prelate will be aware that one of the challenges in Georgia is that the Muslim community is not particularly well engaged politically and therefore does not really put its head above the parapet. I have become aware of low-level discrimination and tensions towards the Muslim community there, but as Georgia moves towards closer EU integration part of its requirement is to fulfil its obligation to bring in anti-discrimination laws.