On 23rd July 2013, the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, spoke during the Committee Stage of the Government’s Energy Bill. He spoke during a debate on an amendment to develop the interconnectedness of European energy and electricity markets, focussing his remarks on the question of energy security.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, when I am in a really tedious meeting I sometimes flick to my iPhone if I succumb to the temptation. The Energywatch organisation has a splendid app which tells you exactly what electricity generation is going on at any particular moment. I can tell your Lordships that at this moment we are depending upon supplies from overseas of 7%, or 3 gigawatts. Wind is producing at the moment less than one sixth of that. Over time, I am struck by just what a significant proportion of our electricity already comes in that way. Three gigawatts is not nothing; it is a very significant amount.
When the Minister responds, it would be helpful to give some indication as to what security there is. I belong to those who have some anxieties that in three or four years’ time, if economic activity picks up and some outages occur at a couple of big stations that we are not expecting, and if the weather is very cold and the wind is not blowing, we are going to depend upon electricity coming from these interconnectors. We can depend on it only if we know that they will be available. If the weather is also inadvertent in other countries, what security do we have that the electricity will be available from other places? I am entirely with the view that we should have a European electricity market. That is absolutely right but it has to be with certain guarantees for supply in this country, especially when supply gets tight in a few years’ time. Continue reading “Bishop of Chester speaks about energy security during Energy Bill debate”
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”