Bishop of Winchester protests Government suspension of public worship

On 4th November 2020 the House of Lords debated the Government’s Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020. The Regulations introduce a second coronavirus lockdown in England, including the susp0ension of public worship. The Bishop of Winchester responded:

The Lord Bishop of Winchester [V]: My Lords, I am grateful to Her Majesty’s Government for seeking to ensure that the appropriate measures are in place to protect the most vulnerable and restrict the spread of this virus. It is important that we do not prolong such stringent lockdown measures because of the way that they impact on the mental, physical and, indeed, spiritual well-being of the population. However, I will not be supporting the fatal Motion. I recognise the exceptional nature of these times, and welcome that the regulations will enable places of worship to remain open for private prayer and broadcasting acts of worship. Creating such broadcast acts of worship often requires a team of people, both amateurs and professionals. I would welcome more clarity from the Minister on the number of people allowed to do this.

Clergy across the country have worked hard to ensure that our church buildings are Covid-secure for public worship, education settings, food banks and other essential services. In most places, by distancing and limiting congregation sizes, communal worship can safely take place without the need for an outright ban.

Religious worship is not a leisure activity: the freedom to worship and to assemble for this purpose is a right that we enjoy in this country and strongly advocate for in other countries. Continue reading “Bishop of Winchester protests Government suspension of public worship”

Bishop of Durham calls for postponement of Ofsted school inspections during ongoing covid-19 pandemic

On 29th October the House of Lords considered the Government’s Education (Exemption from School and Further Education Institutions Inspections) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 in Grand Committee. The Bishop of Durham spoke on the Regulations, highlighting the need for postponement of Ofsted and schools inspections whilst the vcovid-19 pandemic is ongoing:

The Lord Bishop of Durham [V]: My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register. In welcoming warmly this new instrument to ensure that all schools are subject to inspection in the same way, we recognise the continuing value of inspections as a whole. I want to associate myself warmly with the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, and the noble Lord, Lord Addington. However, although we welcome this instrument, we would also welcome the further postponing of Ofsted and school inspections, including the Section 48 inspections of schools with a religious designation, throughout the pandemic period. Continue reading “Bishop of Durham calls for postponement of Ofsted school inspections during ongoing covid-19 pandemic”

Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill: Bishop of St Albans supports amendment on pensioner poverty

On 27th October 2020 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill in Committee. The Bishop of St Albans supported an amendment on reporting impacts on pensioner poverty:
Continue reading “Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill: Bishop of St Albans supports amendment on pensioner poverty”

Lords passes General Synod (Remote Meetings) (Temporary Standing Orders) Measure

On 22nd October 2020 the House of Lords considered and passed the General Synod (Remote Meetings) (Temporary Standing Orders) Measure. The Bishop of London introduced the Measure, which will now proceed for Royal Assent:

Motion to Direct

Moved by The Lord Bishop of London: That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the General Synod (Remote Meetings) (Temporary Standing Orders) Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.

The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, this Measure will enable the General Synod—the legislative body of the Church of England—to meet and conduct its business remotely. Current coronavirus restrictions mean it is not practically possible for the synod to meet in the usual way, with 500 people from across England gathering in the same place. Continue reading “Lords passes General Synod (Remote Meetings) (Temporary Standing Orders) Measure”

Votes: Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

On 21st October 2020 three votes were held on the Government’s Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill. Members of the Lords were asked to agree with the decisions of the Commons to reject amendments they had passed to the Bill, or to propose further amendments in lieu of them. Several bishops took part:
Continue reading “Votes: Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill”

Votes: Agriculture Bill

On 20th October three votes were held on the Government’s Agriculture Bill, on whether the Lords agreed with the decisions of the Commons to reject amendments they had passed to the Bill at earlier stages, or whether they would propose new amendments in lieu. The Bishop of St Albans took part:
Continue reading “Votes: Agriculture Bill”

Vote: UK Internal Market Bill motion to regret

On Tuesday 20th October a vote was taken on a Motion to Regret on the Government’s United Kingdom Internal Market Bill. Seven bishops voted for the Motion:
Continue reading “Vote: UK Internal Market Bill motion to regret”

UK Internal Market Bill: Bishop of Leeds says trust, integrity and morality matter in international relations

On 19th and 20th October the House of Lords considered the Government’s UK Internal Market Bill at its Second Reading. The Bishop of Leeds spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Leeds [V]: My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, and look forward to her future contributions to this House. I fully endorse the arguments set out by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge. I concur with the concerns set out in the report cited by other noble Lords earlier. I even welcome the commitments articulated by the Minister, but I question how they can be trusted, given the underlying ethic of the Bill—and it is absolutely right for archbishops to ask questions of such matters.

Relations with potential partners usually depend on integrity. Trade, security, migration and so on all rest on fundamental trust. Trust cannot be one-sided, or it is not trust at all. Respecting one’s interlocutors is essential. This is inevitably evidenced in language. The Bill before us assumes that our interlocutors cannot be trusted and will behave in bad faith, and that we need to be protected from them. If they do not give us what we demand, we are free to do our own thing, including breaking the law and reneging on agreements made less than a year ago that were said at the time to be “oven ready”—a good arrangement that required “no more negotiations”. What the Bill does not ask is why our word should be trusted by others. Continue reading “UK Internal Market Bill: Bishop of Leeds says trust, integrity and morality matter in international relations”

House of Commons passes General Synod (Remote Meetings) (Temporary Standing Orders) Measure

On 19th October the House of Commons considered and passed the General Synod (Remote Meetings) (Temporary Standing Orders) Measure. The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, introduced the Measure:

First Delegated Legislation Committee [Julie Elliott in the Chair]

General Synod (Remote Meetings) (Temporary Standing Orders) Measure

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous): I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the General Synod (Remote Meetings) (Temporary Standing Orders) Measure (HC 879).

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Elliott. I reassure Members that we should be able to dispose of this matter reasonably speedily. The Measure will enable the General Synod, which is the legislative body for the Church of England, to meet and conduct its business remotely. The current coronavirus restrictions mean that it is not practically possible for the Synod to meet in the usual way with 500 people from across England gathering in the same place, either over the road in Church House here in London, or in York. In this Parliament, as we are all aware, we have been able to make provision for remote participation in sittings using the orders of the House. However, as the General Synod was created by statute law, it does not have the same freedom, and legislation is required to enable it to meet remotely. Continue reading “House of Commons passes General Synod (Remote Meetings) (Temporary Standing Orders) Measure”

UK Internal Market Bill: Archbishop warns of consequences for Northern Ireland peace and UK reputation if international law is broken

On 19th and 20th October the House of Lords considered the Government’s UK Internal Market Bill at its Second Reading. The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke in the debate, repeating the concerns he and his fellow UK Anglican Primates had raised about the rule of law, devolution and the Northern Ireland peace process, in an open letter published that day by the Financial Times:

The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, I look forward to hearing, here and online, the contributions to come, especially the maiden speeches of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, and the noble Lord, Lord Sarfraz.

I also concur totally with the powerful and remarkable speech by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge. What we are called to do above all in this country, deeply embedded in our Christian culture and history, is to act justly and honestly. We cannot do so if we openly speak of breaking a treaty under international law, reached properly, on which peace in part of the UK relies. My distinguished former colleague Sentamu, who paid with beatings for his defence of law and justice in Uganda would have spoken trenchantly. I regret his absence.

There are some who claim that I and my colleagues who wrote in the FT this morning are misinformed. But the letter—and this intervention—followed the lead of those who have spent their lives seeking peace in Ireland. Peace is surely something of which religious leaders should speak. We also listened to the Select Committee on the Constitution, to all five living former Prime Ministers, two former Conservative leaders, and distinguished judges, including former Presidents of the Supreme Court and the former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, to name but a few. Continue reading “UK Internal Market Bill: Archbishop warns of consequences for Northern Ireland peace and UK reputation if international law is broken”