Bishop of Wakefield raises concerns about Islamophobia in Georgia

The Lord Bishop of Wakefield asked Her Majesty’s Government: what representations they are making to the Government of Georgia regarding Islamophobia in that country; and what steps they are taking to ensure freedom of religion and the rights of minority groups there.

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, the UK raises human rights issues on a regular basis with the Georgian Government, both bilaterally and through multilateral institutions such as the EU, the OSCE and the Council of Europe. We have not made any recent representations regarding Islamophobia, but we continue to follow minority rights closely, including through our embassy’s work in Tbilisi and its regional travel. We fund a local NGO to maintain an inter-religion working group, which involves a variety of faith groups, including Muslims.

The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, last year, I was fortunate to spend a couple of nights with a Muslim family in Batumi, and the next morning I met the president of the semi-autonomous region there, Mr Archil Khabadze. I pressed the question to him of why there was only one mosque for something like 110,000 out of the 150,000 people, that being the number of Muslims in the city. He said that at that time they would take immediate steps to find more land made available for Muslims in that city. I said that I would be coming back in the next three months to open the mosque with other religious groups. Would Her Majesty’s Government please press the authorities to make sure that the local administration there is asked to fulfil the promise that they made; otherwise, these very open Muslims will soon become radicalised.

Baroness Warsi: The right reverend Prelate raises a really important issue. His Question prompted me to go away and do some research, and I was quite intrigued to find out that just over 10% of Georgia’s population are indeed Muslim—a much larger percentage than in our own communities. The right reverend Prelate will be aware that one of the challenges in Georgia is that the Muslim community is not particularly well engaged politically and therefore does not really put its head above the parapet. I have become aware of low-level discrimination and tensions towards the Muslim community there, but as Georgia moves towards closer EU integration part of its requirement is to fulfil its obligation to bring in anti-discrimination laws.

(via parliament.uk)

Bishop of St Albans calls on Government to include churches in voter registration initiatives

Lord Roberts of Llandudno asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to support National Voter Registration Day on Wednesday 5 February, which seeks to encourage new, especially young, people to register to vote.

The Bishop of St Albans asked a supplementary question:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, the Church of England is involved in the education of more than 1 million young people and we want to play our part in supporting this. Will Her Majesty’s Government talk with the department to see if, in future, they will write not only to schools but to the 43 statutory diocesan boards of education, many of which employ full-time schools workers, and to dioceses? My diocese has an average of 30 to 40 full-time paid youth workers and many volunteer ones. We would be delighted to use our communication resources to support this sort of initiative.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the Government recognise that they alone cannot do everything in this regard. We welcome conversations with all other organisations. I wondered whether the right reverend Prelate was going to promise that the Church of England would give sermons on the subject. Once, when I was a parliamentary candidate, I was taken by a young woman called Liz Barker—the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, as she is now—to the Methodist church in which her father had been a minister. The sermon came as close as possible to suggesting that the congregation might like to vote for me.

Bishop of Worcester calls for gender equality to be at heart of next generation of development goals (Written Question)

The Lord Bishop of Worcester asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to include a robust gender mainstreaming goal in the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals.

Baroness Northover: The UK has been clear in its advocacy for a standalone post-2015 goal on gender equality and girls’ and women’s empowerment as well as ensuring that these issues are mainstreamed in the goals and targets in the framework to be agreed by the United Nations.

We are working with others across the international community, including civil society, to ensure that this is achieved.

(via parliament.uk)

Bishop of St Albans asks questions on affordable energy for rural households

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Office of Fair Trading about securing an affordable energy supply for rural households that are off the gas grid.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma):
Representatives of the Office of Fair Trading attend the Roundtable meetings chaired by my Rt. Hon. Friend the Minister of State for Energy. The Roundtable brings together Government, regulators, advisory and charitable bodies, the fuel supply industry and others to work together to improve the security and affordability of off-grid fuel supply.14.03 Bishop of St Albans

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the energy companies about reducing the price of electricity paid by households that are not dual fuel customers because they do not have access to the gas grid.

Baroness Verma: DECC Ministers regularly meet with energy supply companies to discuss a range of energy issues. Electricity prices for household consumers are a commercial matter for the companies concerned.

(via Parliament.uk)

Bishop of Wakefield urges Government to support pupils in areas of rural deprivation

Lord Horam asked Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to increase the Pupil Premium for the most disadvantaged primary school children.

The Bishop of Wakefield asked a supplementary question:

The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, can the Minister tell us whether the Government are considering ways in which an increase in the pupil premium can be targeted at the forms of deprivation most difficult to address? Rural deprivation, for example, particularly in church schools, is very significant in our part of West Yorkshire, in the Diocese of Wakefield.

Lord Nash: The right reverend Prelate is quite right to point out the problems with rural deprivation; it is similar to coastal deprivation. There are particular schemes that schools follow: mentoring; systemic feedback; much more involvement of parents; early intervention, particularly using the better teachers; and peer tutoring. Much can be learnt from groups like Ark, whose academy in Portsmouth, for instance, which is in a classic coastal town, has improved results in four years from 24% to 68%.

(via parliament.uk)

The Bishop of St Albans raises concerns about affordable energy in rural areas (Written Questions)

The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Office of Fair Trading about securing an affordable energy supply for rural households that are off the gas grid.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): Representatives of the Office of Fair Trading attend the Roundtable meetings chaired by my Rt. Hon. Friend the Minister of State for Energy. The Roundtable brings together Government, regulators, advisory and charitable bodies, the fuel supply industry and others to work together to improve the security and affordability of off-grid fuel supply.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the energy companies about reducing the price of electricity paid by households that are not dual fuel customers because they do not have access to the gas grid.

Baroness Verma: DECC Ministers regularly meet with energy supply companies to discuss a range of energy issues. Electricity prices for household consumers are a commercial matter for the companies concerned.

Bishop of Wakefield highlights Church’s role in preventing sexual violence in the DRC

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale asked Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of recent developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Bishop of Wakefield asked a supplementary question:

The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, I am sure that the Minister will be aware that my colleague and friend the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury is visiting the DRC today with the Minister for Africa. Could she inform the House of the work of Her Majesty’s Government, currently being promoted by them, in the protection of women in the DRC, particularly from gender-based violence?

Baroness Warsi: The Minister for Africa will have meetings with the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of the DRC, particularly to support HEAL Africa, a project which aims to support women who have been subjected to sexual violence.

(via parliament.uk)