On 26th May 2022, the House of Lords paid tribute to Her Majesty the Queen on the occasion of her Platinum Jubilee. The Bishop of Birmingham, Convenor of the Lords Spiritual, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I am delighted on behalf of the Lords spiritual to offer profound gratitude and hearty and—to echo the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge—joyful congratulations to Her Majesty the Queen on her Platinum Jubilee.
I may not have been aware of the events of 6 February 1952, unlike some of your Lordships, although, being born just two months later, I can claim to have been eager to participate in the new Elizabethan age. From these Benches, we reflect particularly on the solemnity of the Coronation, which happened nearly a year later, and the setting of the constitutional roles of the sovereign in the wider realm of faith. That faith has been evident, as the noble Lord, Lord Newby, mentioned, in the Queen’s consistent, unstinting and prayerful support not only for the Church of England as Supreme Governor but for the Church of Scotland and people of Christian faith across the United Kingdom and the world.
“civil society and faiths can create and convene safe spaces where difference can be spoken with care and understanding can be deepened, truth revealed and progress made towards a common good”
On 10th December 2021 the Bishop of Birmingham spoke in a House of Lords debate led by the Archbishop of Canterbury on contemporary challenges to freedom of speech and the role of the public, private and third sectors in upholding it
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, as we have been hearing, speech is one of the most precious gifts for humanity, freedom of which is easy to take for granted, as we may do from week to week in this House, but even easier to abuse. Speech is so important that, at this season of the year, for people of Christian tradition, we even call the son of God’s appearance the word of God—the word made flesh
In the same scriptures in which we read that story, there is warning of the danger of the use of the tongue:
“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”
Of course, I do not refer to anyone who stands on the platform at Speakers’ Corner or any other venue of that kind. We remember also
“the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!”—
the blaze of instant phone recordings or a tweet out of context.
On 20th May 2021 the House of Lords debated the changes made to its working procedures as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The Bishop of Birmingham, as convenor of the Lords Spiritual, spoke about the effect on the Bishops’ Benches and more widely in the country.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I share, from these Benches, our gratitude for all those who have worked so hard, with agility and rapidity, both the staff that serve the House and those who manage the business of the House, in a very challenging and, in fact, a unique time, as has been referred to several times already.
The noble Earl, Lord Howe, said that every aspect of life has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Even churches have become hybrid. Families have been separated and have kept in touch by Zoom. Employers and employees are now negotiating home and back-to-work settings. Online parents’ evenings at schools have become more popular than ever. As has been said already, I join those who are at a moment of learning lessons from what has happened to us, unexpected and unprepared, over the past 15 months. This great disruption means that we will face further change, not just here but in society as a whole.
The decisions we have to make are about what to keep that has been beneficial, or surprisingly new and advantageous, and what to go back to, as what works well for our purpose today. We do so in the context of an uncertain journey ahead, on the road map, and also with the priority to keep everyone safe and well in this terrible time of virus, as I believe we have tried to do in this House.
Following the Budget speech, the Bishop of Birmingham, David Urquhart, Convenor of the Bishops in the House of Lords, said:
“This is a time of great uncertainty, and while the Chancellor has rightly focussed on steps to get the economy moving, I’m concerned he has missed the chance to give certainty to those people and families who rely on Universal Credit, by not making the £20 uplift permanent.
“I’ll look at the details of the Budget closely for measures that will help the poorest and most vulnerable, especially access to sustainable jobs. The £19m for Domestic Abuse programmes is welcome as is support for schools to help get children back on the road of educational discovery. The lack of detail on social care is, however, a worry.
“The £300m additional funding for the Culture Recovery Fund is very welcome and will support the many small businesses and independent contractors our churches employ and support. I also note that the Levelling Up Fund prospectus specifically mentions cultural and heritage assets, including churches, and we look forward to churches and cathedrals particularly in areas of high deprivation taking part in this programme.”
In the House of Lords on 14th January 2021 the Bishop of St Albans received written answers to questions on vaccines for developing countries and the situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia while the Bishop of Durham received answers to questions on the recent updated report by the Child Poverty Action Group and the Church of England on Poverty in the pandemic.
Meanwhile in the Chamber, the Bishop of Birmingham raised the issue of devolution in England with the Government during Lord Young’s Oral question about the formation of a Constitution, Democracy and Human Rights Commission. Text below:
On 15th July 2020 the House of Lords approved a Motion to pass for Royal Assent the Church of England Channel Island Measure, which was introduced by the Bishop of Birmingham, Rt Revd David Urquhart. The full debate is below.
Channel Islands Measure
Motion to Direct
Moved by The Lord Bishop of Birmingham:
That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Channel Islands Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I shall give some brief historical and current background to the Channel Islands Measure, then outline its content.
Until the 16th century, the Channel Islands were part of the Church of France and the diocese of Coutances. In 1496, Henry VII obtained a papal bull transferring the islands to the English diocese of Salisbury, but it seems this was not put into effect. The islands finally became part of the Church of England in 1569, when they were transferred to the diocese of Winchester by Order in Council of Elizabeth I. Since then, the Church of England has been the established Church of the islands. Continue reading “House of Lords approves Church of England Channel Islands Measure”
On 14th July Lord Young of Cookham asked Her Majesty’s Government “whether they plan to relocate the House of Lords to York.” The Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham, asked a follow up question focusing on the relocation of the House of Lords.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: Does the Minister agree that, whether temporarily or permanently, it is better, in a bicameral system, as the noble Lord, Lord Lang, alluded to, for the two Houses to be placed together? In terms of reaching the people, would he also commend the Lord Speaker’s outreach programme to bring civic duties and understanding to schools as a good way of communicating? By the way, when this was last talked about here, the incoming Archbishop of York offered his garden, which is extensive, as a place. May I humbly suggest that there is a nearer alternative in Birmingham?
On 14th July Lord Haskel asked Her Majesty’s Government “whether clauses (1) protecting human rights, and (2) maintaining environmental standards, will be inserted in the trade agreements being negotiated as a result of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.” The Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham, asked a follow up question focusing on good working conditions.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, just this week we have heard reports of poor working conditions and pay in factories in Leicester, but the UK is also heavily reliant on international supply chains. Will the Minister specify what steps the Government are taking to ensure that trade agreements insist that all UK imports are produced by workers with good conditions and dignified pay?
On 6th July, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham, received a written answer on two questions from Lord Callanan.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: HL6040 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans are in place to ensure the UK’s continued access to critical minerals on the international market up to, and following, 31 December.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: HL6041 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the growth of UK-based green industries and the resultant need for high levels of critical mineral supplies.