On 19th July 2022 the House of Lords debated the Government’s Energy Bill at its Second Reading:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, I take many of the cogent and very well-informed points that have already been made in this debate, not least the one made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, on the need for international co-operation. Even so, I welcome all three pillars of this Bill. Its stated direction could offer at least a step forward towards the goal of net-zero carbon.
I suggest in particular two rather domestic but, I hope, practical areas that could, in my view, do with further development in the Bill; namely, local renewable energy generation, as raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and carbon capture, which has been addressed by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan.
In both cases, I hope noble Lords will forgive special reference to Cumbria, where I live. It is currently engulfed in a very contentious debate about the Woodhouse Colliery near Whitehaven that is not nearly as straightforward as it might first appear. Cumbria also has the “energy coast”—originally coal, then nuclear and now, increasingly, renewables. It has the Walney Extension offshore wind farm, which has more than 20% of the UK’s wind farm generating capacity. What is more, as a county, we have more than 50% of all the potential small-scale hydropower generation in the north-west.
On 8th July 2022 the Bishop of Durham brought forward his Universal Credit (Removal of Two Child Limit) Bill, to be debated in the House of Lords. His speech introducing this Second Reading debate is below, followed by those of other Peers and the Government Minister responding:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I am glad to bring before you this Bill, which would abolish the two-child limit to universal credit. In doing so, I declare my interest as patron of the North East Child Poverty Commission.
When this policy was originally debated, I made it clear that we would seek to hold the Government to account for its impact. Working with others, including the Child Poverty Action Group, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and many others, I have sought to do this. Before the policy was rolled out, its impacts were predicted—notably, that many children would pay the price. They are, with more families affected every year.
On 28th June 2022 the House of Lords debated the Government’s Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, at its Second Reading.The Bishop of Coventry spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: My Lords, intense competition for students, jostling for promotion among lecturers, vigorous, often intense and sometimes rancorous debate, with dashes of sharp practice and occasional mob violence—not a preview of some future Office for Students report but a snapshot of the early academic career of Augustine of Hippo. One of his first publications was advice to lecturers and, significantly for this debate, he later asserted that “By force we can make no one believe.” I will make some general points about the Bill and then raise three more specific issues.
Timothy Garton Ash speaks of three “vetoes” that silence the ability of people to express themselves: shouting them down, the “heckler’s veto”; declaring what they say to be offensive, the “offensive veto”; and, in extreme cases, threatening to kill people, the “assassin’s veto”.
Sadly, it seems that we have seen each of these techniques in action within higher education, as some of the evidence submitted to the Bill Committee demonstrated.
On 27th June 2022 the Bishop of Chelmsford spoke during the Second Reading debate of the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill:
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, I also begin by congratulating the noble Viscount, Lord Camrose, on his excellent maiden speech. Clearly, he has a whole set of skills and experiences that will ensure that his contributions in this House will be highly valuable, as was apparent in his incisive and to the point speech, much of which I agree with and endorse.
Before I go any further, I declare my specific interest as the Church of England’s lead bishop for housing. Noble Lords will know that the Archbishops’ Commission on Housing, Church and Community has been actively working to envision how the Church, government and the nation might tackle the current housing crisis. Last year, the commission released its Coming Home report, which sets out in detail a reimagining of housing policy and practice centred on five core values, which are that housing should be “sustainable, safe, stable, sociable and satisfying.”
On 21st June 2022 the House of Lords debated the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2022, alongside a motion from Baroness O’Loan ‘that this House regrets that the Regulations (1) disregard the statutory role of the Northern Ireland Assembly and ignore the devolution settlement, and (2) make substantial constitutional changes via secondary legislation’. The Bishop of Blackburn spoke and voted in favour of Baroness O’Loan’s motion. At the end of the debate the Regulations were approved by the House and the motion was rejected by 28 to 181 votes.
The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: My Lords, I am conscious that it is not commonplace for Prelates to comment on matters that extend to Northern Ireland only. However, what made me reluctant to speak on this matter is the same driving force that has brought me to speak—the fact that this was, and should be again, a devolved matter. My desire and aim today is not to speak around the rights and wrongs of the matter but to state my discomfort that this debate is happening in this place at all.
It is a deeply regrettable moment for us as a nation that the government is pursuing a policy that intends to transport asylum seekers to another country thousands of miles away, before and without considering their claim to asylum in the UK.
We have a rich history of providing sanctuary to those around the world fleeing war and persecution, and it is intolerable to see us abdicate both our moral responsibility and commitment to international law. This week, all of the 26 bishops of the Church of England who serve in the House of Lords signed a letter voicing our alarm over the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.
All of the Lords Spiritual signed a letter to The Times voicing alarm about the Government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. They wrote:
Whether or not the first deportation flight leaves Britain today for Rwanda, this policy should shame us as a nation. Rwanda is a brave country recovering from catastrophic genocide. The shame is our own, because our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have for centuries. Those to be deported to Rwanda have had no chance to appeal, or reunite with family in Britain. They have had no consideration of their asylum claim, recognition of their medical or other needs, or any attempt to understand their predicament.
“I praise the emergency services and the police for their sensitivity in the way they have addressed this, but they are doing so within a culture that often treats religion as a private matter.”
The House of Lords considered the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in Committee on 22nd November 2021. The Bishop of Leeds spoke in the debate on an amendment to the Bill from Baroness Stowell of Beeston about police procedure on religious rituals or prayer at crime scenes:
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, this is very sensitive territory. Dying is sacred and is part of our living. I think I am the only minister of religion here, and I have accompanied many people, including my own father, to and through their death. If you have been party to that, you will know that it is holy territory
One could say that violent death is even more holy because of how that dying has been brought about. It seems that there needs to be religious literacy on the part of the emergency services and the police, and that the religious bodies need also to improve their literacy in relation to the nature of these events and how they are dealt with.
On 7th June 2021 the Bishop of Salisbury, Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, made his final speech in the House of Lords before retirement, in the Second Reading debate on the Government’s Environment Bill:
The Lord Bishop of Salisbury (Valedictory Speech): My Lords, I have not been in the House in person since the first week of February. Sitting on the Front Bench earlier with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln, I found myself wondering whether both of us had misjudged the timing of our retirements. I have led on the environment for the Church of England for seven years and have been a Member of the House for six. It has been a privilege as well as a responsibility and I am grateful to noble Lords who have spoken kindly of what has been achieved; of course, it could never be enough.
With an eye towards retirement, I had thought that last year, 2020, would have provided a good conclusion, with the Lambeth Conference of Bishops from the Anglican Communion, COP 26 and this Environment Bill. All were postponed, so I find myself standing for the last time in this House without the prospect of being able to engage in the detailed scrutiny and revision that will make what is, in many ways, a good Bill better. Of course, my colleagues will contribute, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford has already. I thank the Minister for meeting the Bishops in preparation for this debate.
On 8th March 2021 the House of Lords considered amendments to the Government’s Domestic Abuse Bill at its Report Stage. The Bishop of Manchester had co-sponsored amendments with two other Peers, on exempting from the benefit cap for a year all those forced to claim benefits because of domestic abuse. The Government Minister responded to say that guidance would be strengthened to local authorities that those fleeing domestic abuse should be given priority in receiving discretionary housing payments.
The Lord Bishop of Manchester [V]: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response to this group of amendments, in particular to Amendments 72 and 102, to which I have added my name. I also thank her for her reassurance that local authorities will be given clear encouragement to prioritise the needs of domestic abuse victims, as the noble Lord, Lord Best, requested.
Can she ensure that national statistics on the number of such cases accepted and rejected in each year will be counted and made public?