The Lord Bishop of Chester asked Her Majesty’s Government what amount and proportion of the United Kingdom’s electricity requirement in 2013 was met by inputs through interconnectors with other countries; and how much electricity the United Kingdom exported during 2013.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma) (Con): The table below shows UK imports and exports of electricity, in GWh, January 2013 to September 2013. Data for 2013 as a whole will be available on 28th March 2014.
Imports and Exports in the UK for January-September 2013 in GWh
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps are being taken to increase the number of people who are registered to vote in the United Kingdom.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, noble Lords will know that churches and the ancillary buildings connected with them are often the places where hustings take place, and indeed are used as polling stations. This is a key way of engaging local people in the democratic process. With the recent passing of the transparency of lobbying Act, will the Minister reassure us that churches and such places will continue to be used and will not be affected by the passing of that Act?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I cannot see any way in which the use of churches as polling stations, and indeed the role of the clergy in encouraging people to do their community and civic duty, will be adversely affected. I very much hope that the church will continue to encourage all those who are part of its community to take a full part in civic, social and political life.
On Tuesday 4th February 2014, Donald Spargo, Lord Bishop of Peterborough, was introduced and took the oath, supported by the Bishop of Wakefield and the Bishop of Birmingham, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.
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.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Desai, made the point that using force to resolve a situation is nearly always counterproductive and has results that you do not anticipate. Are there two additional lessons from this? First, the speed with which this report has been produced is commendable. I think of the Chilcot inquiry that we are still waiting for. This has been done in a few weeks and it seems to me to be a lesson for other situations in which a bit more speed can help the reconciliation process. Secondly, is one of the lessons that understanding religious sensitivities is something the modern world can find hard to do? One thinks of Ariel Sharon going to the Temple Mount and starting the second intifada, with all the consequences that have flowed from that. Is that a lesson that we should draw from these events?
Baroness Warsi: I thank the right reverend Prelate for his warm words in relation to the way in which this inquiry was conducted quickly. It was certainly part of the clear remit set by the Prime Minister at the outset. The right reverend Prelate makes an important point. To understand the sentiment within the British Sikh community it is important to understand the significance of Sri Harmandir Sahib; the significance of the timing of Operation Blue Star; the implications in relation to the damage that was done to Sri Harmandir Sahib; and the basis of some of the concerns that were being raised by the dissidents. It is an important point. This is the challenge that I have in a sometimes aggressively secular world; some of these sensitivities are not properly explored and understood.
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.
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.