On 22nd July 2013, Baroness Bakewell asked Her Majesty’s Government whether they have plans to encourage religiously selective schools to adopt more open admission policies. The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: Does the Minister agree with the Secretary of State that Church of England schools are most often found in very challenging areas in our communities and provide excellent education? Would he encourage the expansion of religious schools of that kind in oversubscribed areas?
Lord Nash: Where we have areas of basic need, we are keen to encourage all comers to help us. I entirely agree with the right reverend Prelate about the performance of Church of England schools. Again, in respect of achieving five A* to C grades, including in English and maths, they score 62% versus 58%, and at level 4 of key stage 2 they score 82% as opposed to 78%. We would welcome expansion of these schools as they provide an excellent education.
On 22nd July 2013 the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, received an answer to a written question on the subject of freedom of religion.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the European Union guidelines on promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief, agreed by the Council of Ministers on 24 June.
The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi): We worked closely with EU partners to develop guidelines for EU country offices to strengthen their work on the right to freedom of religion or belief across the world. We were gratified that these guidelines took as their original inspiration the UK’s own freedom of religion or belief toolkit. We believe the guidelines are a valuable tool for EU country offices and the embassies of individual EU member states to use, and look forward to strengthened joint working with our EU partners to ensure that the right to freedom of religion or belief is more widely guaranteed and that any violations are tackled in the most effective manner.
On 18th July 2013, Baroness Prosser led a debate in the House of Lords on the future of civil society. The Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastiar Redfern, spoke during the debate. The Bishop concern that as the traditional elements of civil society – family, nation and church – had become weak, civil society had become an elective exercise and that people now had to be persuaded to come together to create the energy and momentum for human flourishing.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness for securing this debate. I shall pursue the definition that the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, began to open up in his speech with the notion of the three legs of the stool and what civil society means. I start from the presupposition that we live in an age of liberalism in the technical sense; that is, we are very concerned for the individual to be free, and to be liberal about all those freedoms. Those freedoms are very good things, but any good often creates a problem.
I want to preface what I am saying with some words from TS Eliot. He said that the danger in liberalism is that it releases energy rather than accumulates it. It releases energy and then it is difficult to gather it together, because everybody is free, to make the building blocks of a civil society. He said that it relaxes rather than fortifies. The more we create rights, the bigger the problem with what we call cohesion. The more we are concerned about individual good, the bigger the problem with the common good. The more people have individual freedom, the more chance there is of becoming isolated, lonely and marginalised. It is very important to debate the civil society at this time when we desperately need energy to be accumulated around people for their well-being and flourishing and not dissipated into people being atomised on their own. The Government want to work with civil society—for the state to co-operate in accumulating energy for good things to happen. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations defines civil society as when,
“people come together to make a positive difference to their lives, and the lives of others”—
accumulating energy, making a positive difference to their lives and the lives of others. Continue reading “Bishop of Derby takes part in debate on future of civil society”
On 18th July 2013, Lord James of Blackheath asked Her Majesty’s Government whether they will discuss with the Church of England how to commemorate the 304 British soldiers who were executed by the British Government in World War I and who are currently not commemorated in any existing war memorials. The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, while I am sure the Minister is aware that the Church of England does not have sole responsibility to add names to war memorials but would be glad to work with others on this important issue, is he aware of the work being undertaken by the Church of England, the Imperial War Museum and the War Memorials Trust together to develop educational materials linked to the centenary of World War I to help school children and the wider public to learn more about all the people commemorated and to cherish these memorials and all that they represent?
Lord Gardiner of Kimble: I entirely agree with the right reverend Prelate and I am aware of the very important work being done by the Imperial War Museum, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Heritage Lottery Fund. The important thing is that English Heritage is restoring, as we all see, the national memorial in Whitehall. I commend it for doing that and I hope very much that others will take that lead so that war memorials across the land, in whosever ownership or custodianship, are in very good order for the commemorations.
On 17th July 2013, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James took part in the debate on the Report Stage of the Mesothelioma Bill. The Bishop, recalling that the former Bishop of Peterborough Ian Cundy had suffered from Mesothelioma before his death in 2009, spoke in support of a group of amendments which sought to impose a levy to stimulate research. The Bishop argued that the proposed levy would stimulate more high-quality researchers to think that mesothelioma was a worthwhile and reliable area in which to have a sustained work programme. A division was called on Lord Alton’s amendment on research funding. More information can be found here.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, I support this group of amendments and I thank the Minister for his work, which was well illustrated at the beginning of this debate. I knew very little about mesothelioma until I saw its debilitating effects on friends, including the former Bishop of Peterborough, Ian Cundy, who some Members may recall died in 2009. The knowledge that the cause of this cancer has been lurking in one’s body for 20 years or more of active life may suggest in itself that more research into detection and treatment may prove valuable. There is nothing that can be done to rewrite someone’s life history, which may include often unwitting exposure to asbestos while young, but much can be done to promote research into a disease that will kill 2,400 people in the UK this year—the equivalent of wiping out one of Norfolk’s smaller market towns within 12 months. If that sort of tragedy happened it would be front page news but this passes us by too easily. Continue reading “Bishop of Norwich speaks in debate on Mesothelioma Bill”
On 17th July 2013, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon asked Her Majesty’s Government what further developments there have been since the publication of their response to the report of the Independent Panel on Forestry. The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, can the Minister assure us that the Government will keep faith with the recommendation to establish guardians of the public forest estate and, if so, tell us what their role will be in relation to the new management organisation that is being established?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, before I answer that perhaps I should reiterate my thanks to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool and his independent panel for the work that they did for us on this.
We envisage that there will be a group of guardians who will draw on the interests and expertise of public forest users and will be able to advise and support the delivery of the new body’s remit. The guardians will be focused on the outcomes that the management body delivers, such as environmental biodiversity and social benefits, and any questions of significant land acquisitions and disposals.
On 17th July 2013, Lord Bach moved a motion to regret on the Civil Legal Aid (Financial Resources and Payment for Services) Regulations 2013.The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, expressed concern that the level at which permitted disposable capital was set would render some older people in particular less capable of securing legal aid without selling their homes. He hoped that if vulnerable people’s access to legal representation were damaged by the regulations the government would change course on humanitarian grounds and not defend the regulations on the basis of a flawed ideology.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, a key reference in this Motion of Regret is to “vulnerable people”, which is why this non-lawyer dares to stand amid such legal luminaries and feels a bit vulnerable himself.
A civilised country is one where we are all free under the law and where vulnerable people are not left defenceless against unjust treatment by another person, organisation or even an agent of government. Vulnerability is relative, of course, but the calculations that inform the regulations under discussion concern people who may be a very long way, as we have heard, from financial comfort and security, and may have multiple other needs. Continue reading “Bishop of Norwich raises concerns with civil legal aid reforms”