On 28th July 2014, Conservative Peer Baroness Hodgson of Abinger asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that any future peace settlement in South Sudan is inclusive. The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, it is evident that the long-term process of finding an inclusive Sudanese-led reconciliation can begin only once hostilities cease and a political settlement and resolution is reached. This is why international diplomacy is so vital. Will the noble Lord tell the House what plans the Government have to address the current understaffing of the UK Sudan unit, which has a role in this?
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the number of staff in the UK Sudan unit has fluctuated over the past few months; my understanding is that it is now rather larger than it was two or three months ago. I do not think that we can wait until the fighting stops to begin negotiations; local fighting is likely to continue for some considerable time and we have to start to move to construct at least the basis of some form of government now.
Welcome to the Church of England’s weekly round-up of activity in Parliament by the Lords Spiritual.
In the past week, bishops in the House of Lords have spoken in debates on the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, human rights abuses in North Korea and international religious freedom.
They have also put questions to the Government on events in Ukraine, oversight of schools in Birmingham and LGBT rights in Uganda.
Monday 21st July
MH17 and Gaza – Government Statement
A Government statement on the Ukraine (Shooting Down of MH17) and Gaza was repeated in the House of Lords by the Leader of the House, Baroness Stowell of Beeston. The Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, asked a supplementary question. The question, and the response from the minister, can be read here.
Criminal Justice & Courts Bill – Committee Stage
The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, spoke during the Committee Stage of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. He spoke in support of an amendment to make assault on workers selling alcohol a specific criminal offence. Following the debate on the amendment, it was withdrawn without being put to a division of the House. The Bishop’s remarks can be read here.
“Freedom of belief, including the freedom to change one’s belief, is like a canary in the mine of human rights. Abuses of religious freedom are often an early indication that all is not well….Where religious freedom is abused, peace and security often become more elusive.”
On 24th July 2014, Crossbench Peer Lord Alton of Liverpool led a short debate in the House of Lords to take note of international compliance with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights concerning freedom of belief. The Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, spoke in the debate. He spoke of the role of religious freedom as a marker for other freedoms, and the positive role religious freedom can play in strengthening democracy and countering radicalisation and terrorism. He also spoke of the responsibility held by religious institutions to speak together on the importance of religious freedom for all, and to model these freedoms themselves.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: My Lords, like other Members of your Lordships’ House, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for securing this debate and pay tribute to his great efforts on this vital issue. I thank him for his reference to the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. I have a personal connection with the charter, as one of my predecessors, William, was among the reverend fathers who advised the King to enshrine its principles of justice and freedom, including freedoms of religion. Magna Carta, despite our own failings—to which reference has been made—to live up to its logic, remains the seed of a tree of which Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is part, and under the cover of which all the peoples of the world should be allowed to stand. Continue reading “Bishop of Coventry – religious freedom “canary in the mine of human rights””
On 23rd July 2014, Lord Lexden asked Her Majesty’s Government what action they propose to take over the abuse of the human rights of LGBT people in Uganda as a result of the passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act there. The Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: My Lords, I apologise to the Minister for my enthusiasm. I have not asked a question in this House before so I wanted to get on with it. The Minister will be aware that the most reverend Primates the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York wrote to the President of Uganda in January to reiterate a statement made by all the Primates of the Anglican Communion, in which they said:
“The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us”.
In that spirit, do the Government intend to provide asylum to those who are fleeing the worrying consequences of this law which enshrines such diminishment?
“There is great evil in the North Korean regime, which the civilised world cannot simply ignore…not to do anything about evil on this scale is to collude with it” – Bishop of Peterborough, 23/7/14
On 23 July 2014 Lord Alton of Liverpool tabled a debate to ask Her Majesty’s Government ‘what was their response to the work of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’.
The Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Rev Donald Allister, spoke about the importance of keeping diplomatic channels open, the situation of the Christian population in North Korea and the need to keep up pressure over human rights abuses. Drawing on his experiences of visiting South Korea, he spoke about the growth of Christianity there and the Anglican Church’s initiative, TOPIK—Towards Peace in Korea. Continue reading “Bishop of Peterborough highlights human rights abuses in North Korea”
On 22nd July 2014, a Government statement on Birmingham Schools was repeated in the House of Lords by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools, Lord Nash. The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, responded to the statement. He called for Government support of the Kershaw Report, asked for clarity on responsibility and accountability in the education system, and argued that the incident highlighted the need for greater understanding of faith and religion throughout civil society.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for bringing the Secretary of State’s Statement to the House and for the publication of Peter Clarke’s report. As he mentioned, this goes alongside Ian Kershaw’s report, which was published on Friday, about Birmingham City Council and it has the support of the Birmingham Trojan horse review group, of which I am a member. That group has published its own, wider recommendations in this complex and troubling period. Does the Minister agree that both reports are thorough and hard-hitting, and that there is much in common in their findings? Continue reading “Bishop of Birmingham responds to Government statement on ‘Trojan Horse’”
On 21st July 2014, the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, spoke during the Committee Stage of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. He spoke in support of an amendment to make assault on workers selling alcohol a specific criminal offence. Following the debate on the amendment, it was withdrawn without being put to a division of the House.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I have considerable sympathy for the amendment, although I wonder how it will interact with the remainder of the law on assault if this is criminalised in a specific way. I declare an interest in that I used to be a publican. When I was employed in a university, one of the members of staff had to go down to the magistrates’ court and swear that they were a fit person to keep order. That is the only time when I have been into a court of law in my life, and the magistrates were not quite sure that this young clergyman would be able to do so. My main task was to prevent the students drinking the profits rather than sorting out any brawls. Continue reading “Bishop of Chester supports amendment to Criminal Justice and Courts Bill”
On 21st July 2014, a Government statement on the Ukraine (Shooting Down of MH17) and Gaza was repeated in the House of Lords by the Leader of the House, Baroness Stowell of Beeston. The Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, asked a supplementary question.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: My Lords, perhaps I may return us to the tragic event of the downing of flight MH17 to join others in expressing deep and profound condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of those who died. In particular, I express the deep sympathies of those of us who spend quite a lot of our time caring for those who are bereaved and, in so doing, I pay tribute to the Protestant, Anglican, Old Catholic and Roman Catholic ministers who have been trying to care for the stricken families at Schiphol Airport. They have a very demanding task. Continue reading “Bishop of Coventry responds to statement on MH17 and Gaza”
On 21st July 2014, the Church of England’s Foreign Policy Adviser, Dr Charles Reed, gave evidence to the Public Bill Committee for the Government’s Modern Slavery Bill. The transcript of the evidence session, at which Dr Reed and Cecilia Taylor-Camara (Head of the Bishops Conference Office for Migration Policy, Catholic Bishops for England and Wales) gave evidence, is reproduced in full below.
Q24The Chair: For this session we have until 4.45 pm. Will the witnesses please introduce themselves for the record?
Cecilia Taylor-Camara: I am Cecilia Taylor-Camara, senior policy adviser to the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales.
The Chair: I ask the witnesses to speak up a little. This is rather a large room and the sound is not brilliant, so please shout if necessary.