On 17th July 2013, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James took part in the debate on the Report Stage of the Mesothelioma Bill. The Bishop, recalling that the former Bishop of Peterborough Ian Cundy had suffered from Mesothelioma before his death in 2009, spoke in support of a group of amendments which sought to impose a levy to stimulate research. The Bishop argued that the proposed levy would stimulate more high-quality researchers to think that mesothelioma was a worthwhile and reliable area in which to have a sustained work programme. A division was called on Lord Alton’s amendment on research funding. More information can be found here.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, I support this group of amendments and I thank the Minister for his work, which was well illustrated at the beginning of this debate. I knew very little about mesothelioma until I saw its debilitating effects on friends, including the former Bishop of Peterborough, Ian Cundy, who some Members may recall died in 2009. The knowledge that the cause of this cancer has been lurking in one’s body for 20 years or more of active life may suggest in itself that more research into detection and treatment may prove valuable. There is nothing that can be done to rewrite someone’s life history, which may include often unwitting exposure to asbestos while young, but much can be done to promote research into a disease that will kill 2,400 people in the UK this year—the equivalent of wiping out one of Norfolk’s smaller market towns within 12 months. If that sort of tragedy happened it would be front page news but this passes us by too easily. Continue reading “Bishop of Norwich speaks in debate on Mesothelioma Bill”
On 15th July 2013, the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd and Rt Hon. John Sentamu, took part in the Report Stage of the Government’s Local Audit and Accountability Bill. The Archbishop queried the inclusion of the term “fair view” in an amendment on a clause dealing with the general duties of auditors. The amendment, tabled by the Government, was agreed to.
The Archbishop of York: My Lords, on Amendment 12, if the statement is true, are not the words “fair view” fatuous? Could you have a true statement which needs qualifying as being unfair? If it is true, it is true. Are those warm words, are they warming up the word “true”? What do they add, those words “fair view”? If it is true, it is true.
Lord Palmer of Childs Hill (Government response): My Lords, unfortunately in accountancy there is a certain jargon. “True and fair view” is jargon used by firms of accountants and auditors from time immemorial, probably since the formation of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, which was the first institute.
My query is whether this is not something which could be included in the external auditors’ audit report in the normal way. Currently, the external auditors’ audit report will say that the accounts have been true and fair and all the other jargon that goes with it in a format which has evolved over the years. The amendment seems to provide that the auditors must be satisfied that the local authority presents its accounts in a true and fair way. If that be the case, I wonder whether my noble friend can say, either now or in writing, whether the auditors’ report itself will need to be amended. Currently, the auditors’ reports just say that the accounts are, in their opinion, true and fair—or words of that nature. Now we seem to be saying that the external auditor must be satisfied that the local authority has presented its accounts in a true and fair way, which seems to be going beyond the opinion that those figures are true and fair. I know that we have a jargon and that the statement should be true but not fair seems completely wrong, but this is a form of words which has been used by accountants for years and is being replicated in the Bill. Continue reading “Archbishop of York takes part in debate on Local Audit and Accountability Bill”
On 15th July 2013, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, took part in the Third Reading debate on the Government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. The Bishop spoke in support of a group of amendments seeking to remove inequalities in relation to survivor benefits under occupational pension schemes and thanked the Minister and the Government for accommodating the needs of the Church of England and other faith traditions within the Bill. As the Third Reading is the final opportunity for debate in the legislative process, Baroness Stowell of Beeston noted the work of the Bishop of Leicester during the passage of the Bill.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, I support this group of amendments. A review of the benefits accruing to all survivors under occupational pension schemes is both desirable and necessary. The principle of equity under the law for those whom the law holds to have the same status in relation to the deceased is a sound one. Hard-pressed pension schemes must be tempted to limit benefits, and the complexity of some schemes may hide inequity, so this principle is clear and just and I support it. Indeed, the Church of England pension scheme already treats surviving civil partners in precisely the same way as widows and widowers.
There is a wider reason for supporting these amendments. It is no secret that the majority of Christian churches and other world faiths do not believe that same-sex marriage accords with their understanding of marriage itself. However, many of us, including on these Benches, welcome the social and legal recognition of same-sex partnerships and believe that our society is a better and healthier one for such recognition. That is why I support this group of amendments. This point has sometimes been obscured in public commentary on what has been taking place here, but not in the debates in your Lordships’ House. The courtesy and clarity with which your Lordships have listened to each other represent our very best traditions, and I echo all that has already been said in this brief debate. Continue reading “Bishop of Norwich debates pension provisions in Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill”
On 9th July 2013, two bishops took part in a division on the Government’s Offender Rehabilitation Bill, during its Third Reading.
Labour Peer Lord Beecham moved amendment 2, which sought to introduce a pilot scheme, and a permanent scheme if successful, of veterans’ courts for ex-service personnel, following the precedent set in the United States.
The Bishops of Chester and Norwich, the Rt Revds Peter Forster and Graham James, voted ‘content’. No bishop voted ‘not content’.
There were: Contents: 186 | Not Contents: 205 | Result: Government Win
On 4th June 2013, nine bishops took part in a division during the Second Reading debate of the Government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.
Crossbench Peer Lord Dear moved, as an amendment to the motion that the bill be now read a second time, to leave out from “that” to the end and insert “this House declines to give the bill a second reading”.
Nine bishops voted “content” with Lord Dear’s amendment. They were: the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Bishops of Birmingham, Bristol, Chester, Coventry, Exeter, Hereford, London and Winchester. A further five bishops attended but abstained from the vote. No bishops voted “not content.”
There were: Contents: 148 | Not Contents: 390 | Result: Government Win
On 3rd & 4th June 2013 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at its Second Reading. The Bishop of Exeter, Rt Revd Michael Langrish, spoke in the debate and his remarks are below, with extracts from speeches made by Peers where reference is made.
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, observed that, from a Christian perspective, God can be present in every true love. I absolutely agree. But marriage is about more than love. Then we are told that the issues at stake here are equal rights, justice and social inclusion. Certainly, these are things about which Governments may legislate. Indeed, if they wish to support particular kinds of relationship by according them tax and pension benefits, that must be a matter for normal political debate. However, in this Bill the Government have chosen to proceed not by addressing real, material or legal inequalities but by redefining the key concept of marriage and its meaning. Continue reading “Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill – Bishop of Exeter’s speech in the Lords”
On 3rd & 4th June 2013 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at its Second Reading. The Bishop of Chester, Rt Revd Peter Forster, spoke in the debate and his remarks are below, with extracts from speeches made by Peers where reference is made.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I associate myself closely with the previous speeches from these Benches but want to develop the discussion in a slightly different direction. I should emphasise that I am speaking in my personal capacity as a bishop and not, in any formal sense, on behalf of the wider Church of England.
I want to focus on the potential impact on the relationship between the Church of England and the state. As I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Dear, with his great list of implications for Argentina, I wanted to leap up and say, “And we have the Church of England to think about as well, on top of all that lot”. It was an issue that did not receive much attention in the debate in the other place—hardly any at all. I say at the outset that the Church of England has no right simply to maintain the status quo in our relationship with the state; nor do we necessarily wish to do so. However, the argument that there has been change, as there has been, in church-state relationships is no argument for any particular change. The weakness in the powerful speech of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, was that all the changes in marriage that he listed were, in themselves, no argument for the particular change that we are discussing now. Continue reading “Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill – Bishop of Chester’s speech in the Lords”