Bishop of Derby urges caution over ‘sapping of political energy’ in civil society

“We need transparency for professional lobbying and for political parties but we need transparency, and that is openness, in political debate. We should rejoice that so many charities, faith groups and voluntary groups want to be involved. They are subject to regulation in the political sphere through our tradition of charity Acts. Politics needs this political energy for the common good and all the signals—as we can tell from our e-mail inboxes—are that this source of political energy is being closed down and discouraged at the very time we are wringing our hands because the great public are not interested in political parties, elections or the democratic process.”

On 22nd October 2013, the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, took part in the Second Reading debate of the Government’s Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill. In his speech, he asked the Minister to comment on three of the major tests for regulating transparency: the test of influencing electoral outcomes; the test of levels of financial expenditure and the test regarding the constituency as a measure. He expressed concern that as a result of politics becoming professionalised and pragmatic, ordinary people with political instincts were being excluded and the Bill as it stood would further sap political energy. The bishop hoped that there would be a pause and that the Minister would be willing to meet representatives of charities, faith and voluntary groups to look at proper controls and accountability.

Bishop of DerbyThe Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I, too, want to comment on Part 2 from the perspective of charities and faith groups and the scoping out of a framework in this debate for further work. I declare an interest as a trustee of Christian Aid and as chair of the governors of the Churches’ Legislation Advisory Service, the secretariat service of which comprises Central Lobby consultants who will have to register under Part 1 of the Bill.

I recognise that the Government are trying hard to listen to concerns about Part 2. Like others, I have been in correspondence with the Leader of the Commons and his team. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, and others have said, the Constitution Committee noted:

“The provisions of Part 2 directly affect the fundamental common law right to freedom of political expression”. Continue reading “Bishop of Derby urges caution over ‘sapping of political energy’ in civil society”

Bishop of Ripon and Leeds raises concerns over implementation of welfare reforms

On 21st October 2013, the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt Revd John Packer spoke during the debate on the Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Claims and Payments) Regulations 2013. The Bishop said he hoped that proper attention would be paid in the working out of the universal credit system to the mother’s role, which in many circumstances was crucial when the whole family was under stress. He also expressed concern about the monthly payments system, which was making it more difficult to control family finances. The Bishop hoped that the Minister would give an assurance that one-month’s back-dating would be legitimate without a particular reason needed for it and would clarify the circumstances under which a claimant was considered unable to claim online due to system failure.

R_LThe Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, for bringing this matter to our attention again, and for the three powerful speeches which we have already heard. First, I want to emphasise my concern about that part of the Motion which speaks of the way in which universal credit awards paid in respect of children will not necessarily by default be paid to the main carer of the children and the disproportionate impact this will have on women. Through my work, I have become increasingly aware of the mother’s crucial role in the sorts of situations that we have been discussing over the past few minutes and indeed over the past few years. The mother needs to have proper control of the money which is coming for the benefit of the family and in respect of her children. I hope that in our discussions and the way in which the regulations and the whole universal credit system are worked out we shall be able to pay attention to the mother’s role, which in many circumstances is crucial when the whole family is under severe stress. Continue reading “Bishop of Ripon and Leeds raises concerns over implementation of welfare reforms”

Bishop of Chester speaks during debate on Children and Families Bill

On 21st October 2013, the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, spoke during the Committee Stage of the Children and Families Bill. He raised concern about the wording of an amendment tabled by Lord Lloyd of Berwick on the standard of proof required in cases where children are taken into care, suggesting that the amendment be altered before being re-tabled at a subsequent stage of the Bill. The amendment was withdrawn following the debate.

14.03 Bishop of ChesterThe Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, at the risk of lowering the tone of this extraordinarily learned exchange, in the church we face a similar issue when trying to discern when someone poses a potential risk but nothing can be proved. It is a difficult line to establish. In the drafting of this amendment, my eye has been caught by the juxtaposition of the words “likely” and “possible”. I wonder whether there is a better way of phrasing it. The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, used the word “might” at one point, but interestingly then corrected herself and said “was likely to”. There is a real difference between someone being assessed as “might” be a threat and “is likely to” be a threat. I think that I come down on the side of the noble and learned Baroness. However, it is good to know that the lawyers have only two views in these situations.

If this comes back, I hope that we will be able to look at the phraseology. To deduce that something is “likely” from a certain level of possibility seems to carry a stigma that we should not attach unless we really have to do so.


Votes – Care Bill

On 14th, 16th and 21st October 2013, a number of bishops took part in divisions on the Government’s Care Bill, during its Report Stage.

House of Lords Division Lobby
House of Lords Division Lobby

14 October 2013

Labour Peer Lord Hunt of Kings Heath moved amendment 63, which sought to create a model deferred payment scheme, to act as a framework for all local authorities.

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, voted ‘content’. The Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, voted ‘not content’.

There were: Contents: 202 | Not Contents: 224 | Result: Government Win


Continue reading “Votes – Care Bill”

Archbishop of Canterbury backs calls for review into gambling in the financial sector

On 15th October 2013, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, spoke during the Committee Stage of the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill. He spoke in support of an amendment tabled by Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Phillips of Sudbury, which sought to require a review to be undertaken into the current exemptions some banks and similar institutions enjoy from the Gaming Acts, on transactions which could be understood as gambling. Following the debate on the amendment, it was withdrawn.

Archbishop of CanterburyThe Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, I am slightly surprised that the Minister should be resistant to what seems to me a very reasonable amendment. One of the dangers that we have faced in the markets over many years is that of parallel markets. The derivatives markets are, as we know, opaque, as has already been remarked on, and we examined them in some detail in the banking standards commission. The computer-driven markets are also very opaque. We examined those markets and remarked that they would constitute the next great crash. When you have these gambling markets on the side that no one quite understands or knows who is participating in them, and which often take place offshore, it seems to me that at the very least there are grounds to hold an inquiry into the effect they are having on market prices through their impact on the shadow market—we should also examine the psychology of the dealers—and on those involved directly in the more regulated market. Continue reading “Archbishop of Canterbury backs calls for review into gambling in the financial sector”

Archbishop of Canterbury supports “second reserve power” amendment to Banking Reform Bill

“The amendment—and this is why the element of culture is so important—increases vastly the voltage of the ring-fence. If it has to be used, like much of these forms of regulation, it will have failed to some degree. But it says that, if the industry loses its way in ethics and culture, as it did in the early years of this century, there is catastrophe in regulatory terms.”

On 8th October 2013, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd. and Rt Hon. Justin Welby, spoke on the first day of the Committee Stage of the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill. He spoke in support of Lord Turnbull’s amendment, based on the recommendation made by the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, which sought to introduce a second reserve power to “implement full separation” of “the [banking] sector as a whole.” The Archbishop described the amendment as a rational extension to existing provisions. He stated that it would reinforce a change of culture and act as a permanent reminder to the banking industry of the danger of slipping back into previous norms of behaviour. The Government argued against the amendment, having previously rejected the Commission’s recommendation in its First Report. The amendment was subsequently withdrawn. 

Archbishop of CanterburyThe Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, I apologise that I, too, was not here for Second Reading as I was at the funeral of a close friend. I speak as a member of the PCBS [Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards], having had the privilege of a year of lessons from the other members, especially noble Lords here today, and the great pleasure of being rung up by the noble Lord, Lawson, quite frequently at weekends, to explain how I should think about a particular subject, which he has done with great eloquence as well today.

I agree entirely with the speeches made by the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, twice, and both speeches by the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, which have put the position very clearly. It must be a very long time—and my experience of this House is very limited—since a solution to a major problem was put forward with such a noticeable lack of enthusiasm. Almost everyone who has spoken about the ring-fence has damned it with faint praise, to put it at its most polite. The noble Baroness, Lady Cohen, simply eliminated it quite quickly and very clearly. We are in danger of getting lost in looking at the regulation and forgetting what the regulation is trying to do. This is about a question of a culture and ethics, not detailed rules. We all remember Bob Diamond, the chief executive of Barclays, saying that culture is what happens when no one is looking. Continue reading “Archbishop of Canterbury supports “second reserve power” amendment to Banking Reform Bill”

Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 – summary and timeline

Summary & timeline: Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013

The Government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill received Royal Assent on 17th July 2013, having been passed by both Houses of Parliament.

The Bill followed a Government consultation in 2012. The Church of England made a formal response to that consultation in June 2012 and accompanied it with a press release. In December 2012 the Government published a summary of responses to the consultation, alongside its own response. Continue reading “Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 – summary and timeline”