Bishop of Blackburn makes his valedictory speech in debate on the Union of the United Kingdom

The Bishop of Blackburn, Rt Revd Julian Henderson, made his final speech to the House of Lords during a debate on the Union of the United Kingdom, on 23d June 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane, for this opportunity to make a brief contribution to this debate on our union, although I have learned a new meaning of the word “brief” while I have been in your Lordships’ House: it does not always mean “short”. I am sorry if I disappoint the hopes of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, about my valedictory speech.

My time in your Lordships’ House has been limited—just over two years—partly because it has been right for my female colleagues to take precedence in joining your Lordships’ House and partly because it has been constrained by the pandemic. There has been a lot to learn as well as to admire in a place of such expertise and wisdom, but I regret that I have not been able to become more involved in the serious business of your Lordships’ House.

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Bishop of Blackburn on standards of behaviour and integrity in political life

On 23rd June 2022 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Morse, “That this House takes note of the impact on the democratic process of any reduction in the standards of behaviour and honesty in political life.”

The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Morse, for this debate because it gives us the opportunity to speak here about what the country is talking about: a general concern about behaviour and honesty in political life, and I trust, therefore, about the institution of Parliament and democracy. It raises the key question: are there standards and values that govern and guide our way of life and our dealing with one another? If so, what are they are where do they come from? Or is there a vacuum in which everyone decides what is right in their own eyes? I would argue that, without a moral framework, we are bound and dictated to by those who shout the loudest and make their voices heard. That is a dangerous path to go down.

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Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2022 – Bishop of Blackburn supports motion to regret

On 21st June 2022 the House of Lords debated the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2022, alongside a motion from Baroness O’Loan ‘that this House regrets that the Regulations (1) disregard the statutory role of the Northern Ireland Assembly and ignore the devolution settlement, and (2) make substantial constitutional changes via secondary legislation’. The Bishop of Blackburn spoke and voted in favour of Baroness O’Loan’s motion. At the end of the debate the Regulations were approved by the House and the motion was rejected by 28 to 181 votes.

The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: My Lords, I am conscious that it is not commonplace for Prelates to comment on matters that extend to Northern Ireland only. However, what made me reluctant to speak on this matter is the same driving force that has brought me to speak—the fact that this was, and should be again, a devolved matter. My desire and aim today is not to speak around the rights and wrongs of the matter but to state my discomfort that this debate is happening in this place at all.

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Bishop of Blackburn asks Government about link between covid-19 and poverty

On 27th May 2021 the Bishop of Blackburn asked a question he had tabled on the link between covid-19 rates and high levels of poverty.

Question Asked by The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made as to whether there is a correlation between areas with high COVID-19 infection rates and high levels of poverty; and if there is such a correlation, what steps they intend to take to address this as part of their levelling up agenda.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Bethell) (Con): My Lords, the facts are heartbreaking. Covid, like many diseases, has hit hardest those who are most vulnerable: the poorest, the most disabled and those who work in some of the most difficult jobs. The vaccine rollout and community testing programmes have shown what the country can do, but there is much more to be done. That is why we are publishing a levelling-up White Paper, and health inequalities will be central to that.

The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his reply and the work that he and colleagues are doing in a fast-changing scene. We know that it is not easy. Does he agree that care for the poorest, most disadvantaged and most vulnerable in the community is one of the signs of a healthy society? Can he be more specific about how equality of opportunity in the levelling-up agenda will be rolled out?

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Bishop of Blackburn raises local confusion over Covid-19 travel guidance

On Wednesday 26th May the House of Lords questioned Government on the local travel arrangement plans and the lack of consultation that had caused some confusion. The Bishop of Blackburn spoke from the experience of this in his diocese.

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Bishop of Blackburn asks about energy saving for schools and heritage buildings

On 25th May 2021 the Bishop of Blackburn asked a question about finding energy saving solutions for historic and educational buildings.

The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: My Lords, I am grateful for the Question and the Minister’s response. My question is about the outcome for the many heritage buildings and schools in this country, where the challenge is often the greatest. Will the Government do anything to make them part of the solution rather than the problem?

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Bishop of Blackburn asks Government about fire safety costs for leaseholders

On 24th May 2021 the Bishop of Blackburn asked a question on behalf of the Bishop of St Albans, on fire safety costs for leaseholders.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the (1) current, and (2) future, incidence of leaseholder bankruptcies attributable to remedial fire safety works and interim fire safety costs.

The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: My Lords, on behalf of my right reverend colleague, I ask the Question standing in his name on the Order Paper.

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Queen’s Speech – Bishop of Blackburn on the Union and constitution

On 13th May 2021 the Bishop of Blackburn spoke in the second day of the House of Lords debate on the Queen’s Speech, focusing on the Union and the constitution.

My Lords, I add my congratulations on both confident maiden speeches today. I note that in the gracious Speech two days ago several references were made to strengthening the ties and integrity of the union, making the United Kingdom stronger, healthier and more prosperous than before. The pandemic and the period that follows it will give us a unique opportunity to ask what kind of a society we want to be and what changes we need to make for our own good and, more importantly, for that of future generations. I understand the desire to return to greater freedoms, but we must resist going back to how things were. Instead, we must plan for a better future.

It is encouraging to hear that the Government intend to achieve this strengthening by levelling up opportunities across all parts of the United Kingdom and within each of our four nations. Levelling up has become something of a new watchword in political circles and appears as a welcome driver for many of the intentions outlined in the gracious Speech, seeking to remove those inequalities within our culture that prevent all people and communities from reaching their God-given potential and calling. The pandemic has brought to the surface a number of issues which have been hidden under the radar for far too long and not given the attention they deserve.

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Votes: EU (Future Relationship) Bill

On 30th December 2020 the House of Lords considered the Government’s European Union (Future Relationship) Bill at all stages. Three votes were held on the Bill, in which bishops took part:

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Bishop of Blackburn: covid provides chance to reset priorities, not just going ‘back to normal’

On 9th October 2020 the House of Lords debated the Government’s Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Obligations of Hospitality Undertakings) (England) Regulations 2020. Alongside that it also debated a Motion from Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, “that this House regrets that the Regulations include further restrictions for the hospitality sector without introducing the additional measures which are needed to ensure (1) financial support for the businesses, and (2) the retention of the jobs of employees affected by the restrictions”. The Bishop of Blackburn spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Blackburn: My Lords, I am very exercised, as I imagine we all are, with the challenge of not just restrictions but possible shutdown and closure of different industries. Hospitality is but one: there are also entertainment and cinema, theatre, concerts and opera, aviation and travel, to name but a few. Those closures and threat of closures and the way they have been communicated are bringing grief, anxiety, debt and mental health issues to many lives and families, especially, I would say, in the north.

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