On 30th December 2020 the House of Lords considered all stages of the Government’s European Union (Future Relationship) Bill. The Bishop of Southwark spoke at Second Reading:
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I am glad to follow the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, and agree with much of what he said. I congratulate Her Majesty’s Government on achieving a negotiated outcome with the European Union. In doing so, I pay tribute not only to the Prime Minister but to the negotiating team, which bore a weighty burden, the Civil Service support that provided them with necessary expertise and, last but not least, the chief negotiator the noble Lord, Lord Frost.
The wider debate requires a candid and truthful recognition of what has been a complex process, including an explicit acknowledgement that a successful negotiation requires significant compromise. Such truthful recognition makes for good civil discourse. This will be further helped by more accurate language about the good and less good aspects of the package and appropriate scrutiny of detail—sadly not possible today. I hope that the public debate is less about the intangibles of rhetoric and more about the true and honest cost of the investment, outreach and spiritual renewal needed if we are to flourish as a nation state, going forward.
My final point begins with comments from the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams of Oystermouth, recently retired from this House, who, early in the pandemic, spoke of what has become a much wider perception that our lives are bound together with those of every human being on this planet. That, he said, poses “the biggest moral questions”. A more positive focus on our continuing interdependence, not least with other European nations but more widely—globally—would be welcome and herald the future partnerships that are so essential to our national well-being.
Therefore, I hope that, as we consider the Bill and continue the shared endeavour that is our proud national story, we recognise that people and institutions flourish best under relational frameworks and that individualism, freed of obligation or collective provision, will ultimately fail. We are still in the season of Christmas, and the birth of a saviour transcends all national boundaries with a message of peace and good will to all people.
On 7th December the House of Lords considered the Government’s Trade Bill at its Report Stage. The Bishop of St Albans sponsored and spoke in support of amendment 6 from Lord Purvis of Tweed on parliamentary approval of future trade deals:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V] :
My Lords, I support Amendment 6 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, and the revision he has made as he has engaged with the Government. I am grateful for his very clear exposition and will be concise in my support.
Modern trade agreements affect huge swathes of public policy, including consumer and workers’ rights, environmental legislation, food standards, health, public services and international development. MPs, who represent constituencies and work with a variety of stakeholders, deserve the right to assess the consequences of an agreement, as does your Lordships’ House.
Continue reading “Trade Bill: Bishop of St Albans support amendments to give parliament approval of trade deals”
On 3rd December 2020 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill 2020 at its Committee Stage. The Bishop of Durham had co-sponsored two amendments aimed at restricting or regulating the use of children as covert agents. The Bishop of Carlisle spoke in his place, in support of the amendments. As is usual practice they were withdrawn after debate and may be returned to at a later stage:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, I speak in support of Amendment 43, in the names of my right reverend friend the Bishop of Durham, the noble Lord, Lord Young, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Chakrabarti and Lady Bull, and Amendment 60, in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Young and Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark. As we have heard, both concern the treatment of children.
We should not for a moment underestimate some of the evils in our society that the Government and the forces of law and order are tasked with confronting. Some of those evils involve the abuse of children and vulnerable people, including, as we know, the scourge of county lines drug gangs, sexual predators and traffickers. It does not take much imagination to see how, as a result of this, there is a periodic temptation to use children as covert assets. We must clearly guard against that temptation; as we have already been reminded, our first duty must be to the care and well-being of children. This applies all the more to children who find themselves in vulnerable and harmful situations, such as those used and abused by criminal gangs.
Continue reading “Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill: Bishop of Carlisle supports amendment to prevent use of children as covert agents”
On 3rd December the House of Lords debated the Chancellor’s November Spending Review statement. The Bishop of Portsmouth took part in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth [V]: My Lords, I was delighted to hear the Chancellor stress that the Government would continue to support the most vulnerable, but the proof of that assertion will be in how much money the Government are prepared to provide. That will be the barometer of what and who they consider most important. I therefore join my voice to those profoundly deprecating the proposed cut in development aid. I urge the Government to think again. Continue reading “Bishop of Portsmouth urges Government to keep uplift in universal credit for those ‘on cliff edge’”
On 18th November the House of Lords considered the Government’s Ship Recycling (Facilities and Requirements for Hazardous Materials on Ships) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020. The Bishop of Salisbury spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: My Lords, neither ship recycling nor Northern Ireland are my territory, though church is sometimes seen as an ark to gather people safely and hazardous materials are a concern for us all. It is important for Northern Ireland to thrive as best it can within the new political arrangements that are still unfolding. The purpose of this SI is clear and not controversial; it is to the benefit of one shipyard in Northern Ireland. The EU has developed a good scheme for overseeing this process and I am sure we will be glad to continue to use it. Continue reading “Bishop of Salisbury raises environmental implications of ship recycling regulations”
On 11th November the House of Lords debated the Government’s Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill at its Second Reading. The Bishop of Durham spoke in the debate, raising concerns about the risks to the safety of children:
The Lord Bishop of Durham [V]: My Lords, I too would like to welcome the noble and learned Minister to the House and to his new role. Not many find their maiden speech to be that of introducing a Bill to the House, and I congratulate him on the necessarily blended speech.
I welcome the Government’s move to provide a statutory basis for covert human intelligence sources to participate in criminal conduct, where it is necessary and proportionate to do so for a limited set of specified purposes. We recognise the heavy duty placed on government to protect its citizens, and this Bill is a necessary step so that those undertaking these activities with a view to protecting the public can be clear in their status and duties.
However, while welcoming the intent behind this Bill, I am concerned that safeguards should be properly scrutinised, in particular when they concern the treatment of children. Continue reading “Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill – Bishop of Durham raises child safety fears”
On 9th November 2020 the House of Lords debated and voted on the Government’s UK Internal Market Bill during its Committee stage. A cross-party group of Peers had tabled motions that all the clauses of Part 5 of the Bill, which covered Northern Ireland, international law, and executive powers, should not remain in the Bill. These successfully passed by large majorities across two votes. The Bishop of Leeds acted as a sponsor of two of those motions, and spoke in the debate on whether the clauses of Part 5 should ‘stand part’ of the Bill:
The Lord Bishop of Leeds [V]: My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie. I endorse completely the points made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, at the outset of this debate. I hope the Government will listen carefully to the advice from the noble Lord, Lord Empey, on the alternatives to what is before us. This is not an either/or situation.
I have read every word of the Second Reading and Committee debates and the reports—especially from the Constitution Committee. I have even reread Tom Bingham’s book on the rule of law. I ask myself whether I am missing something, but I still come back to the point of principle. I accept the Government’s intention in this Bill, but not the means. Continue reading “UK Internal Market Bill: Bishop of Leeds supports removal of clauses on Northern Ireland and international law”
On 9th November 2020 the House of Lords debated and voted on the Government’s UK Internal Market Bill during its Committee stage. A cross-party group of Peers had tabled motions that all the clauses of Part 5 of the Bill, which covered Northern Ireland, international law, and executive powers, should not remain in the Bill. These successfully passed by large majorities across two votes.
The Archbishop of Canterbury had also sponsored an amendment with Lord Eames that Ministers report on the effect of the Bill’s provisions on peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, which he spoke to during the debate:
The Archbishop of Canterbury [V]: My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 161*, to which I have added my name, alongside the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, the noble Lord, Lord Hain, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick. The previous speeches have all been both moving and deeply eloquent, and I shall therefore be very brief.
As the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, so powerfully explained, the purpose of our amendment is simply to put on the record a concern that this Bill in its current form fails to take into account the sensitivities and complexities of Northern Ireland, and could have unintended and serious consequences for peace and reconciliation. The noble and right reverend Lord spent 20 years as Archbishop of Armagh, between 1986 and 2006, and the force of his words was most remarkable. He has experience of everything from the funerals in small churchyards of those caught up in the Troubles through to negotiations behind the scenes for the Belfast agreement. He speaks with the integrity and authority that those 20 years have earned him, and I trust that the House will listen carefully. Continue reading “UK Internal Market Bill – Archbishop supports amendments on Northern Ireland impact”
On 10th November the House of Lords considered the Government’s Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill. Lord Dubs pressed again an amendment on child refugees and family reunion, his earlier amendment to the Bill having been rejected in a vote in the House of Commons. The Bishop of Southwark spoke in support of the amendment. Lord Dubs did not press it to a vote, accepting some concessions from the Government in its place.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I speak in favour of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. In doing so, I speak not only on my account but also in place of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, who is locked down in the north-east and therefore, because of the procedures for consideration of Commons amendments, is unable to speak on this amendment, although that had been very much his intention.
Family life and kin relationships are vital in many parts of the world to ensure survival. Even in the UK, family means the difference between misery, destitution and poor mental health and a life where, even in the most difficult circumstances, there is practical care, support and love. Thus, I, too, welcome the Government’s steps towards ensuring safe and legal routes, including the commitment in case of a no-deal Brexit, to pursue bilateral negotiations on arrangements for family reunion, which I trust they will seek to ensure are equivalent to the Dublin regulations. I welcome the Minister’s commitments and await with interest her further comments following what the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, just said.
However, a step in the right direction is not the end of the journey. Continue reading “Immigration Bill: Bishop of Southwark supports Dubs amendment on child refugees and family reunion”
On 4th November 2020 the House of Lords debated the Government’s Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020. The Regulations introduce a second coronavirus lockdown in England, including the susp0ension of public worship. The Bishop of Winchester responded:
The Lord Bishop of Winchester [V]: My Lords, I am grateful to Her Majesty’s Government for seeking to ensure that the appropriate measures are in place to protect the most vulnerable and restrict the spread of this virus. It is important that we do not prolong such stringent lockdown measures because of the way that they impact on the mental, physical and, indeed, spiritual well-being of the population. However, I will not be supporting the fatal Motion. I recognise the exceptional nature of these times, and welcome that the regulations will enable places of worship to remain open for private prayer and broadcasting acts of worship. Creating such broadcast acts of worship often requires a team of people, both amateurs and professionals. I would welcome more clarity from the Minister on the number of people allowed to do this.
Clergy across the country have worked hard to ensure that our church buildings are Covid-secure for public worship, education settings, food banks and other essential services. In most places, by distancing and limiting congregation sizes, communal worship can safely take place without the need for an outright ban.
Religious worship is not a leisure activity: the freedom to worship and to assemble for this purpose is a right that we enjoy in this country and strongly advocate for in other countries. Continue reading “Bishop of Winchester protests Government suspension of public worship”