EU (Future Relationship) Bill: Bishop of Southwark welcomes deal, stresses interdependence of people and nations

On 30th December 2020 the House of Lords considered all stages of the Government’s European Union (Future Relationship) Bill. The Bishop of Southwark spoke at Second Reading:
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I am glad to follow the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, and agree with much of what he said. I congratulate Her Majesty’s Government on achieving a negotiated outcome with the European Union. In doing so, I pay tribute not only to the Prime Minister but to the negotiating team, which bore a weighty burden, the Civil Service support that provided them with necessary expertise and, last but not least, the chief negotiator the noble Lord, Lord Frost.

The wider debate requires a candid and truthful recognition of what has been a complex process, including an explicit acknowledgement that a successful negotiation requires significant compromise. Such truthful recognition makes for good civil discourse. This will be further helped by more accurate language about the good and less good aspects of the package and appropriate scrutiny of detail—sadly not possible today. I hope that the public debate is less about the intangibles of rhetoric and more about the true and honest cost of the investment, outreach and spiritual renewal needed if we are to flourish as a nation state, going forward.

My final point begins with comments from the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams of Oystermouth, recently retired from this House, who, early in the pandemic, spoke of what has become a much wider perception that our lives are bound together with those of every human being on this planet. That, he said, poses “the biggest moral questions”. A more positive focus on our continuing interdependence, not least with other European nations but more widely—globally—would be welcome and herald the future partnerships that are so essential to our national well-being.

Therefore, I hope that, as we consider the Bill and continue the shared endeavour that is our proud national story, we recognise that people and institutions flourish best under relational frameworks and that individualism, freed of obligation or collective provision, will ultimately fail. We are still in the season of Christmas, and the birth of a saviour transcends all national boundaries with a message of peace and good will to all people.

Bishop of Salisbury asks about environmental protection after end of Brexit transition period

On 10th December the Bishop of Salisbury received a written answer to a question on a potential environmental governance gap after the end of the Brexit transition period:

The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what measures are in place (1) to prevent, and (2) to minimise the impact of, any environmental governance gap after 31 December. [HL10783]

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Bishop of St Albans asks about Agriculture Transition Plan

On 8th December the Bishop of St Albans responded to a Government statement on its Agriculture Transition Plan:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]: My Lords, I declare my interest as president of the Rural Coalition and pay tribute to the Minister, who has worked so hard on getting this through.
In the ELMS policy discussion document, Her Majesty’s Government recognised the bureaucratic burden that the CAP had placed on farmers and administrators. We were optimistic that the rollout of rural broadband would help a great deal, although the comprehensive spending review seems to have drawn back, and many people in rural areas are deeply concerned about how these new processes will be worked through.
Can the Minister outline the plans for the ELMS application process and how it is intended to reduce bureaucratic constraints? Can he assure the agricultural community that there will be adequate helplines staffed by those who have been fully trained in these new processes?

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Bishop of Salisbury raises environmental implications of ship recycling regulations

On 18th November the House of Lords considered the Government’s Ship Recycling (Facilities and Requirements for Hazardous Materials on Ships) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020. The Bishop of Salisbury spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: My Lords, neither ship recycling nor Northern Ireland are my territory, though church is sometimes seen as an ark to gather people safely and hazardous materials are a concern for us all. It is important for Northern Ireland to thrive as best it can within the new political arrangements that are still unfolding. The purpose of this SI is clear and not controversial; it is to the benefit of one shipyard in Northern Ireland. The EU has developed a good scheme for overseeing this process and I am sure we will be glad to continue to use it. Continue reading “Bishop of Salisbury raises environmental implications of ship recycling regulations”

Bishop of Salisbury asks when trade deal uncertainty will end

On 17th November Lord Wallace of Saltaire asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the comments by the Prime Minister of Canada on 11 November about the United Kingdom’s prospects of a trade deal with Canada.” The Bishop of Salisbury asked a follow up question:

The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: My Lords, early this morning, I had breakfast on Zoom, hosted by my colleague the Bishop of Sherborne, along with people from the Dorset churches and community. A farmer and local businessman said that his greatest fear for the future was uncertainty. How will this uncertainty be ended so that he will not be left just watching this space but will know what opportunities there are? ​How will the House assess these both in relation to the economy and to the environment? Continue reading “Bishop of Salisbury asks when trade deal uncertainty will end”

UK Internal Market Bill: Bishop of Leeds supports removal of clauses on Northern Ireland and international law

On 9th November 2020 the House of Lords debated and voted on the Government’s UK Internal Market Bill during its Committee stage. A cross-party group of Peers had tabled motions that all the clauses of Part 5 of the Bill, which covered Northern Ireland, international law, and executive powers,  should not remain in the Bill. These successfully passed by large majorities across two votes. The Bishop of Leeds acted as a sponsor of two of those motions, and spoke in the debate on whether the clauses of Part 5 should ‘stand part’ of the Bill:

The Lord Bishop of Leeds [V]: My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie. I endorse completely the points made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, at the outset of this debate. I hope the Government will listen carefully to the advice from the noble Lord, Lord Empey, on the alternatives to what is before us. This is not an either/or situation.​

I have read every word of the Second Reading and Committee debates and the reports—especially from the Constitution Committee. I have even reread Tom Bingham’s book on the rule of law. I ask myself whether I am missing something, but I still come back to the point of principle. I accept the Government’s intention in this Bill, but not the means. Continue reading “UK Internal Market Bill: Bishop of Leeds supports removal of clauses on Northern Ireland and international law”

UK Internal Market Bill: Bishop of Leeds says trust, integrity and morality matter in international relations

On 19th and 20th October the House of Lords considered the Government’s UK Internal Market Bill at its Second Reading. The Bishop of Leeds spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Leeds [V]: My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, and look forward to her future contributions to this House. I fully endorse the arguments set out by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge. I concur with the concerns set out in the report cited by other noble Lords earlier. I even welcome the commitments articulated by the Minister, but I question how they can be trusted, given the underlying ethic of the Bill—and it is absolutely right for archbishops to ask questions of such matters.

Relations with potential partners usually depend on integrity. Trade, security, migration and so on all rest on fundamental trust. Trust cannot be one-sided, or it is not trust at all. Respecting one’s interlocutors is essential. This is inevitably evidenced in language. The Bill before us assumes that our interlocutors cannot be trusted and will behave in bad faith, and that we need to be protected from them. If they do not give us what we demand, we are free to do our own thing, including breaking the law and reneging on agreements made less than a year ago that were said at the time to be “oven ready”—a good arrangement that required “no more negotiations”. What the Bill does not ask is why our word should be trusted by others. Continue reading “UK Internal Market Bill: Bishop of Leeds says trust, integrity and morality matter in international relations”

UK Internal Market Bill: Archbishop warns of consequences for Northern Ireland peace and UK reputation if international law is broken

On 19th and 20th October the House of Lords considered the Government’s UK Internal Market Bill at its Second Reading. The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke in the debate, repeating the concerns he and his fellow UK Anglican Primates had raised about the rule of law, devolution and the Northern Ireland peace process, in an open letter published that day by the Financial Times:

The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, I look forward to hearing, here and online, the contributions to come, especially the maiden speeches of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman of Ullock, and the noble Lord, Lord Sarfraz.

I also concur totally with the powerful and remarkable speech by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge. What we are called to do above all in this country, deeply embedded in our Christian culture and history, is to act justly and honestly. We cannot do so if we openly speak of breaking a treaty under international law, reached properly, on which peace in part of the UK relies. My distinguished former colleague Sentamu, who paid with beatings for his defence of law and justice in Uganda would have spoken trenchantly. I regret his absence.

There are some who claim that I and my colleagues who wrote in the FT this morning are misinformed. But the letter—and this intervention—followed the lead of those who have spent their lives seeking peace in Ireland. Peace is surely something of which religious leaders should speak. We also listened to the Select Committee on the Constitution, to all five living former Prime Ministers, two former Conservative leaders, and distinguished judges, including former Presidents of the Supreme Court and the former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, to name but a few. Continue reading “UK Internal Market Bill: Archbishop warns of consequences for Northern Ireland peace and UK reputation if international law is broken”

Trade Bill: Bishop of St Albans supports amendments to ensure trade deals meet standards on climate, environment, food and animal welfare

On 1st October 2020 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Trade Bill in Committee. The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, spoke in support of amendments to the Bill to ensure that future trade agreements are fully compliant with international environmental obligations, and meet standards on animal welfare and food safety.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]: I plan to speak mainly on Amendment 12, but I also support Amendment 40 and, particularly, Amendment 69 in this group [texts below]. Leaving the European Union should not mean leaving our international obligations. Recognition of those conventions mentioned under Amendment 12 is, one would imagine, already accounted for in the existing trade agreements due to be transposed into UK law as a result of this Bill. However, without this amendment, these remain an expectation not an assurance.

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Bishop of Carlisle asks Government to reassure EU and UK citizens of their treaty commitments

On 15th September 2020 Lord Lexden asked the Government “what role the Law Officers have in ensuring that the rule of law is maintained in (1) the development of domestic legislation and (2) their policies relating to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from and future relationship with the European Union.” The Bishop of Carlisle, Rt Revd James Newcome, asked a follow-up question:

The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the Government recognise that any attempt unilaterally to modify the terms of the withdrawal agreement would adversely affect not only future trade partners but also the confidence that EU citizens resident in this country will place in the commitments that the United Kingdom has made under the agreement? The confidence of British citizens resident in EU countries would also be damaged if they saw that treaty commitments could simply be set aside. Can he offer any reassurance in either regard? Continue reading “Bishop of Carlisle asks Government to reassure EU and UK citizens of their treaty commitments”