On 29th October 2013, the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, received an answer to a written question on accountability in free schools.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that there is a rigorous assessment of the leadership, aims and ethos of free schools.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash) (Con): All free school applications undergo a rigorous assessment against a number of criteria. The areas covered include: the education vision and plan for the school, which will cover its proposed aims and ethos; and the capacity and capability of the applicant group, which covers the track record and expertise of the trust members and proposed governing body, as well as their plans for recruiting a high quality principal. We also carry out due diligence checks on the suitability and track record of key members of the proposer group. The assessment criteria for the next round of applications will be published on the Department’s website shortly.
Where an application is approved into the pre-opening phase, those leading the project work closely with a named lead contact and an education adviser from the Department. Where any concerns are reported, including about their leadership, aims or ethos, the matter is escalated and an early decision is taken on what action to take in response, which may include cancellation of the project.
On 25th October 2013, the Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, spoke in support of of Lord Lucas’ Equality (Titles) Bill, during its debate at Second Reading. He also highlighted the Church of England’s progress towards enabling women to become Bishops. The Bill received one day of Committee consideration, but did not receive Royal Assent.
The Lord Bishop of Guildford: My Lords, I am grateful for the courtesy of the House in allowing me to slip into the gap, as it were. I shall, I hope, be courteous in return by being very brief in so doing.
Members on this Bench have no direct interest in the content of the Bill, for obvious reasons. Nevertheless, I express support in principle and, indeed, in practice for the Bill before your Lordships’ House and hope to hear that the government Front Bench is also sympathetic. I will not rehearse what has already been said in the House in support of the Bill, which I fully agree with, but am sorely tempted to slip in an amendment to the effect that women bishops could be ordained in the Church of England.
Noble Lords: Hear, hear!
The Lord Bishop of Guildford: That would allow the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, to add bishops to her list.
“I am not yet convinced that a change in Iran’s human rights agenda will come with the Rouhani presidency, because critical decisions continue to be made by the Supreme National Security Council. This remains populated by a cohort of people who spent much of their careers in the military and security services.”
On 24th October 2013, the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt Revd John Packer, took part in a short debate led by Baroness Afshar to ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the recent elections in Iran, what steps they are taking to facilitate closer commercial and educational ties with that country. The Bishop asked what the Government considered a normalisation of relations between Iran and the UK to look like. He also raised concerns about human rights abuses in Iran and the importance of the respect of religious freedom and noted the need for strengthening of relations between UK and Iranian Churches.
The Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Afshar, for initiating this debate and for introducing it so comprehensively. I am aware, through contacts, of Iranian students in Leeds and of some of the difficulties of which noble Lords have been speaking in terms of their education and the way that that has developed, and of the struggle to keep them at Leeds University.
Like others, I have been heartened by the change of political rhetoric following the elections in Iran, and share the high expectations that a more pragmatic stance from Tehran will see progress made on a range of issues, not least the nuclear issues. In view of the speed of recent diplomatic developments and the ambitious timetable set at this month’s talks in Geneva—the six to nine months to which a number of noble Lords have already referred—it would be helpful to have some idea from the Minister as to what she understands to be the end game. What would a normalisation of relations look like? What might be the trade-offs that each party might be required to make? That seems to be at the heart of the question that the noble Baroness has put before us today. Continue reading “Bishop of Ripon and Leeds speaks during debate on UK-Iran relations”
On 24th October 2013, the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt Revd John Packer asked Her Majesty’s Government on what evidence they consider the Democratic Republic of the Congo to be a safe country to which to return asylum seekers.
The Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds: Despite my unelected nature, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): My Lords, we observe our obligations under the refugee convention and the European Convention on Human Rights. Every asylum application is considered on its individual merits in the light of country information from a range of sources, including fellow European and asylum-intake countries. Returns are made only if it is safe to do so, and the courts have supported our position.
The Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds: I am very grateful to the Minister for that response. Following the Unsafe Return report of November 2011 and continued documented reports of ill treatment of those who return to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the Unsafe Return 2 report of this month, will the Government use the evidence provided to challenge the DRC authorities and to set up a monitoring mechanism for those returned so that there is a minimal safety measure for them in this very dangerous country?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, the Home Office works very closely with FCO staff here in London and with embassy officials in Kinshasa. The embassy staff participated in the DRC fact-finding mission and stated that they were not aware of substantial evidence of any returnee being ill treated. However, I assure the right reverend Prelate that the Home Offices investigates specific allegations of mistreatment on return.
On 24th October 2013, the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, received an answer to a written question on the development of credit unions.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to support credit unions as viable alternatives to payday lenders and other providers of high cost credit.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): While the majority of credit unions are not providing direct competition to payday lenders, credit unions are increasingly helping members who have become trapped with payday loans, offering them a way to consolidate and escape from the high interest rates, spreading out their debts over a longer, more affordable period.
Government has committed investment of up to £38 million in credit unions — to increase access to affordable credit for at least 1 million more people and save consumers up to £1 billion in loan repayments by March 2019.
We are also changing the maximum interest rate credit unions can charge per calendar month from 2% to 3%, coming into force on 1st April 2014.
This will enable credit unions to break even on their smaller, most expensive to issue loans, and to become more stable over the long term. This will give low income consumers greater access to reliable, affordable credit, without having to resort to more expensive means, such as home credit or payday lenders.
On 24th October 2013, the Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Revd John Inge, received answers to three written questions regarding Israeli settlement-based entities, activities and products.
The Lord Bishop of Worcester: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they intend to take to implement the new European Commission guidelines of July 2013 on the funding of Israeli settlement-based entities and activities.
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): The EU guidelines on the eligibility of Israeli entities and their activities in the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967 for grants, prizes and financial instruments, were prepared to implement the commitment made by EU Foreign Ministers in December 2012 to make a distinction in relevant EU programmes and agreements between the State of Israel and Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories. The guidelines themselves apply to EU, rather than individual Member State programmes, and will be implemented by the European Commission. The guidelines are due to be implemented in January 2014.