On 21st November 2013, Liberal Democrat Peer Baroness Benjamin asked Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to record whether or not an individual remanded in custody, or sentenced to prison, has any children. The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart asked a supplementary question.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, perhaps I may press the Minister a little further. When a court is aware of a child whose parent is imprisoned and that child is in a vulnerable state, will he ensure that the court refers the child to the proper care of the local authority or a charity in the region where that child is living?
Lord McNally: I go back to what I would expect to be common sense in these areas. Courts already have a duty, in every case, to take account of any mitigating factors, including that the offender has primary care responsibilities for children or other dependants. However, it is important that the presence of such dependants is brought to the attention of the court. Again, I can only emphasise that the direction of travel we are going in is to try to make sure that the prison and court authorities are aware of their responsibilities and that they link up with the supporting organisations needed in these cases.
In Church Commissioners Question Time on Thursday 21st November 2013, Sir Tony Baldry MP was asked by MPs to answer questions on women bishops, the recruitment of clergy, credit unions and metal crime.
Andrew Stephenson (Pendle) (Con): What progress has been made by the General Synod of the Church of England on legislating to enable women to enter the episcopate.
The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Tony Baldry): Yesterday, the General Synod voted by 378 votes to eight, with 25 abstentions, to approve a new package of proposals that will enable women to become bishops in the Church of England.
Andrew Stephenson: This is obviously very welcome news. Can my hon. Friend give us an idea of the likely time scale for the introduction of the change?
Sir Tony Baldry: My hon. Friend is right; this is very welcome news. As a result of the vote yesterday, I am confident that this House will have an opportunity to pass the necessary legislation in the lifetime of this Parliament.
Continue reading “MPs Questions to Church Commissioners”
On 19th November 2013, Crossbench Peer Baroness Boothroyd asked Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have received relating to the creation of a humanitarian aid corridor in Syria. The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd and the Rt Hon. Richard Chartres, asked a supplementary question.
The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, I think that everybody recognises the complexity of the situation, but just over a month ago, the UN Security Council itself called unanimously for humanitarian pauses. What contribution have Her Majesty’s Government been able to make diplomatically pursuing the possibility of more humanitarian pauses to bring relief to some of the civilians caught up in the fight?
Baroness Northover: Again, that is a case in point. The right reverend Prelate makes a good point in referring to those humanitarian pauses which were politically agreed but not delivered. That is the challenge. This is a very complex situation with many groups fighting each other, and enormous efforts are being put in—not least by UN special envoy Brahimi at the moment—to try to push forward some kind of agreement, but it is immensely difficult.
On 18th November 2013, the Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, asked a question in response to a Government statement on the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and the Philippines typhoon. The question was answered by the Leader of the House of Lords, Lord Hill of Oareford.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I thank the Government for this remarkable reminder of the generosity of the British people and DEC, and for the commitment of “HMS Daring” and other support. “HMS Daring” of course is connected with Birmingham, the most landlocked city in Britain. Perhaps I may ask the Leader of the House about not just the emergency phase, which is so important, as regards food, water and shelter, but the recovery phase in disasters such as this where we are looking for housing, infrastructure and livelihood. In looking further ahead than just the natural response to the ghastly situation, will he take into account two matters? One was raised by the Philippines climate change commissioner, Yeb Sano, at the UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw. He said, “Typhoons such as Haiyan”— or Yolanda as it is called in the Philippines—
“and its impacts represent a sobering reminder to the international community that we cannot afford to procrastinate on climate action”,
and that the emergency response should look into the much more serious long-term effects of these kinds of climate changes. Continue reading “Bishop of Birmingham calls for long-term focus in development assistance in emergency situations”
On 31st October 2013, the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, received an answer to a written question regarding free schools.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the recent concern about the Al-Madinah free school, what plans they have to provide a framework in which free schools should operate that reflects the expectations of parents and the Department for Education.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash): The Department has already put in place such a framework, through the rigorous approval process for free school applications, the contractual funding agreement between the school and the Secretary of State for Education, the legislative requirements placed on academies and free schools through the Independent School Standards and, as for all schools, Ofsted inspections. Together, they provide the necessary checks and balances to ensure that free schools meet the high standards expected of them. Where those standards are not met, the framework enables us to take swift and decisive action.
On 31st October 2013, the Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, received an answer to a written question on Israel.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Warsi on 10 October (WA 47), and in the light of the first progress report from UNICEF (14 October 2013) on the treatment of children in Israeli military detention, what representations have they made to the Government of Israel about the conformity of such practice with international standards.
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): Ministers at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and our Ambassador to Tel Aviv, have spoken and written to both the Israeli Justice Minister and the Israeli Attorney General to make representations on the treatment of Palestinian child detainees and the need for Israel to abide by its obligations under international law. Most recently, our ambassador in Tel Aviv wrote again to the Israeli Justice Minister, Tzipi Livni, on 14 October and Embassy officials discussed the issue with the Israeli Ministry of Justice on 16 September.
I can assure the Most Reverend and Noble Lord Bishop that we will continue to press for further progress on this important subject.
On 30th October 2013, Baroness Massey of Darwen asked Her Majesty’s Government whether free schools and faith schools will be required to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum which addresses the needs of all pupils. The Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Lichfield: Does the Minister agree that the use of the phrase “faith schools” can be profoundly unhelpful in the context of this discussion? Schools of a religious character come in many forms. Is it not true that the nearly 4,700 Church of England schools sit very firmly within the mainstream of English education, and that even C of E free schools and academies are linked to diocesan boards to ensure that the education that they provide is broad and balanced, academically challenging, personally inspiring and serving the needs of the whole local community?
Lord Nash: I agree entirely with the right reverend Prelate. Faith schools are a long-established and highly valued part of our educational establishment, and church schools are, too. Church schools consistently outperform maintained schools; they are very popular and often highly oversubscribed. The applications procedures of many of them do not rely heavily on faith; they have a much wider intake.