Bishop of Leeds asks about direct aid to hospitals in Gaza strip


leeds-20117-bOn 21st March 2017, Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the present state of public health in the Occupied Territories of Palestine; and the prospects for agreed international action, in particular action by Israel, to keep the Gaza Strip habitable. The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines asked a supplementary question about direct aid from the UK to particular hospitals.

The Lord Bishop of Leeds My Lords, does the Minister agree that the health sector in the Gaza Strip is really on life support and that while the blockade remains and while there is a lack of public water, this will continue? Does he see any way of encouraging direct aid from the United Kingdom towards particular hospitals? There are two Anglican hospitals, for example, serving the whole community, often free of charge: the Al Ahli Arab Hospital; and the Al-Wafa Medical Rehabilitation Hospital, which has had to be relocated because of damage to St Luke’s Hospital in Nablus. These are beacons of hope in a fairly desperate place. Is there a way of enabling direct funding there as we continue to urge an end to the blockade? Continue reading

Digital Economy Bill: Bishops argue against relaxation of blocking powers on online pornography


On the 20th March 2017, the House of Lords debated a Government amendment to the Digital Economy Bill at its Report Stage, on access to online pornography. Original Government proposals were that the threshold of censorship and prohibition should be as consistent as possible for material distributed online and offline. In a new amendment the Government offered a revised approach, with a higher threshold for prohibiting material online alongside a focus on age verification measures. The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, and the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, spoke against the amendment, arguing to keep the original approach. The amendment was however agreed without a vote. The Bishops’ speeches are below, with an extract of the Minister’s reply. The full text of the debate on the amendments can be read in Hansard, here.

leeds-20117-bLord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, it seems odd in a society such as ours that we are even thinking about how to give access to violent pornography or trying to mitigate it in some way. It seems clear to me is that most of us sitting in this House probably have less idea of how online digital communications work than a five year-old. Children—my grandchildren’s generation—are very adept and almost intuit how to do this stuff. Continue reading

Votes: Digital Economy Bill


On 13th March 2017 several votes took place on amendments to the Government’s Digital Economy Bill. The Bishop of Leeds took part in two of the divisions.

Lords No Division Lobby

House of Lords Division Lobby

Baroness Butler-Sloss moved amendment 25YD, after clause 22, to insert the new clause “Extreme pornographic material: review and repeal”.

Contents: 46| Not Contents: 176| Result: Government Win

The Bishop of Leeds voted Content.

Continue reading

Week in Westminster, 13th-17th March 2017


Welcome to the Church of England’s weekly round-up of activity in Parliament.

This week in the House of Lords bishops spoke and voted on the Government’s EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill,  and the Higher Education and Research Bill. Bishops spoke in debates on the 2017 Budget, end of life care chaplaincy and the Commonwealth and responded to Government statements on National Insurance and on the EU Court ruling on religious symbols.They asked questions about religious freedom in Egypt, Iraq, accessibility of churches and on the work of the Home Office. In the House of Commons Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP answered two written questions about church land and the cathedral in Peterborough. Continue reading

Bishop of Derby on role of the Commonwealth in development and modelling diversity


On 16th March 2017 the House of Lords debated a Government motion “To move that this House takes note of the United Kingdom’s relationship with the Commonwealth, ahead of the United Kingdom hosting the Heads of Government meeting in 2018.” The Bishop of Derby, Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay for her introduction and her leadership in international development matters and, now, the Commonwealth. I want us to think of ​the Commonwealth as a global community which, like any community, will have very mixed ingredients, as we have already heard. Although it is important in our present moment to look at the potential for trade and its enriching, I want us to look at the wider context in which the meeting is happening and what the agenda for the Heads of Government might be to be fruitful. Continue reading

Bishop of Chester welcomes Government policy reversal on National Insurance contributions


ChesterOn 15th March 2017, a statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on national insurance contributions was repeated in the House of Lords. The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, responded to the statement.

The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I think I can paraphrase the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, by saying:

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”,

as Churchill said. It is a strength that the Government can change their mind so openly and directly, and I wish that politicians would more often simply and openly accept that they have changed their mind in the light of the evidence. So, in that sense, I welcome this announcement. Continue reading