Bishop of Derby on the role of chaplaincy in the First World War and ‘Woodbine Willie’.

On 19th October 2017 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Black “That this House takes note of the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele and of Her Majesty’s Government’s plans to commemorate it.” The Bishop of Derby, Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, spoke in the debate, highlighting the role of chaplaincy in the First World War and the example of ‘Woodbine Willie’, Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy:

The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Black of Brentwood, and associate myself with the lovely phrase that it is both a privilege and very humbling to be part of this remembrance.

Passchendaele is, as we have heard, a symbol of war: the human cost, the sheer complexity of leadership and the sheer complexity of operations. Commemoration is not simply to remember but, as the noble Lord, Lord West, has just pointed out, to learn, to take something, to honour what people gave in their lives and commitment, and to see how that can inspire us and point us forward positively. It is a sign of huge issues in international relations, warfare and military and political leadership. Continue reading “Bishop of Derby on the role of chaplaincy in the First World War and ‘Woodbine Willie’.”

Votes: Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Bill

On 11th October 2017 the House of Lords voted on an amendment to the Government’s Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Bill [HL]. Two bishops took part in the vote. Continue reading “Votes: Armed Forces (Flexible Working) Bill”

Bishop of Leeds comments on the capability of the armed forces and the UK’s relationship with Russia

leeds-20117On 21st March 2017 the Government’s Armed Forces Act (Continuation) Order 2017 was laid before Parliament with a motion to approve. The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines spoke in the debate, commenting on the UK’s relationship with Russia.

The Lord Bishop of Leeds My Lords, I hesitate to follow such eloquent speeches on so much detail, but I want to make one or two general points about a more specific area. I do so from an interest that began when I was a Soviet specialist at GCHQ in a previous incarnation, although I realise that that is probably not the right religious phrase to use.

It still seems to me that an SDSR should enable us to be flexible enough to cope with whatever changes are likely to come. My fear, which I have expressed in the House before, remains that in 15 to 20 years’ time we may end up with a force that meets the demands of now but perhaps not the demands of the situation 15 or 20 years down the line because the world changes so much. When I left GCHQ, the Soviet Union was intact, and we see what has changed since then. Therefore, I want to focus on Russia in particular. Continue reading “Bishop of Leeds comments on the capability of the armed forces and the UK’s relationship with Russia”

Bishop of Portsmouth calls for review of defence priorities in light of changing global situation

On the 12th January Lord Robertson of Port Ellen hosted a debate “that this House takes note of the future capability of the United Kingdom’s armed forces in the current international situation”. The Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster,  highlighted the need for a new Strategic Defence and Security Review, alongside recognition of new partnership and leadership roles.

BishPortsspeechtaxcreditsThe Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, agree with it or not, Brexit was a decision to determine our own path. This debate requires us to consider critically whether we have the capacity to determine our own strategic path in the realm of defence and security. The extent of our global reach must reflect our economic and strategic interests as well as our security and military concerns in these changing times, which now make these considerations, as one analyst has put it, “supercharged”.

My anxiety is that there is a gap, if not sometimes a gulf, between rhetoric about our concerns and ambitions on the one hand and our constrained capability on the other.

Continue reading “Bishop of Portsmouth calls for review of defence priorities in light of changing global situation”

Bishop of Portsmouth leads debate on welfare of armed forces and their families


portsmouth241016On the 9th January 2017, the Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, led a short debate in the Lords, to ask the Government “what is their assessment of the role of the Armed Forces Covenant in ensuring that those who serve or who have served in the Armed Forces, and their families, are treated with fairness and respect.” Earl Howe, the Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence, responded on behalf of the Government. Both their speeches are reproduced below in full. The speeches of other Members in the debate can be read here.


The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, it is both a privilege and a responsibility to ask this Question and open this debate on the impact of the Armed Forces covenant. It is a privilege because, despite my day job, opportunities to talk about good news do not occur as often as you might think, and a responsibility because it is clear that there is work to be done as service personnel and their families still suffer disadvantage and do not always receive the consideration that they need. Continue reading “Bishop of Portsmouth leads debate on welfare of armed forces and their families”

Queen’s Speech 2016: Bishop of Carlisle responds on international affairs and the armed forces

CarlisleOn 23rd May 2016 the Bishop of Carlisle, Rt Revd James Newcome, spoke in the second day of debate on the Queen’s Speech. He focused his response on the Government’s proposals to tackle tax evasion and extremism, as well as calling for a renewed focus on international development and the military covenant. The Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence, Earl Howe, responded on behalf of the Government.
Continue reading “Queen’s Speech 2016: Bishop of Carlisle responds on international affairs and the armed forces”

Bishop of Portsmouth calls on UK Government to ratify Hague Convention for Protection of Cultural Property in Armed Conflict

On 14th January 2016 the House of Lords debated a motion from Baroness Andrews “to ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their plan for ratifying the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict”. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke in the debate:

14.04.09 Portsmouth maiden speech 1The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, for this debate and for the very important Question that she asks of the Government Front Bench. In June 2015, the Ministry of Defence answered a Written Question, as we have heard, on the timetable for ratifying the Hague convention. A Minister stated:

“The Government believes that protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict is a priority and remains committed to that task”.

She confirmed the,

“plan to introduce legislation to ratify the Convention”,

as we know,

“as soon as Parliamentary time allows”.

The Answer continued with a reassurance:

“Respect for cultural property is already upheld across the Armed Forces and they currently act within the spirit of the 1954 Convention. This respect is incorporated into military law”.

I wholeheartedly welcome that commitment and ask the Minister if she can recognise both the embarrassment of the present and lengthy delay in ratification, which successive Governments since 2008 have pledged to end, and the compelling practical, cultural and humanitarian reasons for speedy rectification of this inordinate delay. Continue reading “Bishop of Portsmouth calls on UK Government to ratify Hague Convention for Protection of Cultural Property in Armed Conflict”