Bishop of Winchester on importance of education, religion and voluntary agencies in UK foreign policy

On 21st May 2019 the House of Lords debated a Motion from Lord Howell of Guildford ,”That this House takes note of the Report from the International Relations Committee UK foreign policy in a shifting world order (5th Report, HL Paper 250).” The Bishop of Winchester, Rt Revd Tim Dakin, spoke in the debate:

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Bishop of Portsmouth – we must not let Brexit dilute our moral purpose

On 15th May 2019, the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Horam, “That this House takes note of the Report from the European Union Committee Brexit: Common Security and Defence Policy missions and operations (16th Report, HL Paper 132).” The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke in the debate: 

19.04.02 Portsmouthb

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth:  My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, has just reminded us that none of us participating in this debate can forget that we will shortly mark the 75th anniversary of what must surely be the most defining day in Europe in living memory: D-day. That has special significance for the city of Portsmouth, and indeed the whole diocese I serve. As a result, we will have the pleasure—I think—of welcoming the President of the United States into our midst as part of the commemorations.

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Bishop of Leeds calls for leadership by example to counter ‘toxic public debate’

On 9th May 2019 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Harris of Haringey, “to move that this House regrets the conduct, and toxicity, of debate in public life; of the divisions in society which result from that; and calls on Her Majesty’s Government to take steps to address such divisions.” The Bishop of Leeds spoke in the debate and a transcript is below. The Bishop of Rochester also spoke in the debate and his speech can be read here:

The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for securing this debate and for the clarity of his and other speeches. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Patten, that if such a cast were assembled, some of the people who need to be there simply would not turn up. If they did, they would see it as their job to disrupt it, so I suspect it will be more complex.

We still admire Benjamin Disraeli for telling Parliament that half the Cabinet were asses and, on being ordered to withdraw the comment, responding, “Mr Speaker, I withdraw. Half the cabinet are not asses”. Political invective is not new and it must have a place in a free society, but words matter. I speak as a former professional linguist. Language is never neutral, and the ad hominem abuse we increasingly witness now simply encourages wider public expression of violent hatred. It is incrementally corrosive.

If the conduct of debate in public life has become toxic, it is only because it has been in the interests of some people to allow it to be so. I have already spoken in this House of the corruption of the public discourse and the consequences of normalising lying and misrepresentation. I add that reducing people to categories might reinforce tribal identity, but it demonises and dehumanises everyone else. As Viktor Klemperer recognised from 1930s Germany, a million repetitions of single words, idioms, and sentence structures or slanders become unconsciously assumed to be normal. Think of Rwanda and “cockroaches”.

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Bishop of Rochester – national conversation with unifying narrative needed to overcome toxic public debate

On 9th May 2019 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Harris of Haringey, “to move that this House regrets the conduct, and toxicity, of debate in public life; of the divisions in society which result from that; and calls on Her Majesty’s Government to take steps to address such divisions.” The Bishop of Rochester spoke in the debate and a transcript is below. The Bishop of Leeds also spoke in the debate and his speech can be read here:

The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for bringing forward this debate and for his characteristically robust, thoughtful, clear and evidenced introduction. I also thank other noble Lords for their contributions. I look forward to reading in the Official Report what the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, has just said, because there is a lot to reflect on.

Others have spoken from these Benches in recent months on this and related matters, referencing a number of scenarios which have given rise to language and expression that cause hurt and offence and do no credit to our public life. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds will, I understand, speak later in this debate about the power and importance of language in our public discourse. My contribution, which I hope will be brief, is to raise a question about one part of the context in which such harmful, toxic, destructive and even violent expression may come to flourish.

The phrase attributed to Aristotle about nature abhorring a vacuum has many applications. I suggest that one of the reasons for this flourishing of destructive and harmful conduct and debate may be that these things are rushing in to fill a vacuum.

Bishop of Salisbury calls for climate action and legally binding target of net zero emissions by 2045

On 2nd May 2019 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Rooker, that “this House takes note of Her Majesty’s Government’s legal responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as detailed in the Climate Change Act 2008 and the implications of continuing climatic changes for global security and stability and for the world economy.” The Bishop of Salisbury, Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, spoke in the debate:

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Archbishop of York on the need for access to low-cost credit

On 1st May 2019 the House of Lords debated a Motion from Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, “That this House takes note of the Financial Guidance and Claims Act 2018 (Naming and Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2019 (SI 2019/383).” The Archbishop of York, Most Revd John Sentamu, spoke in the debate:

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Bishop of St Albans welcomes Online Harms proposals, calls for action on gaming addiction

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, this is a vast subject, and I will limit my comments to just a few areas.

I and others on these Benches welcome this White Paper, in particular the attempt to rethink the way we see this whole area. In the past we brought in individual laws to deal with particular problems. My colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford has been arguing for some while that we need to see this as public space. We need to try to understand how we can regulate it from first principles in a way that guarantees the freedoms we want and the huge benefits that have come through the online world, which has made a huge and incalculable difference to our lives, but also protects the many people who are vulnerable. We have heard some account of just some of the problems some people have faced.

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