On 25th September 2019 the Leader of the House of Lords repeated a statement from the Prime Minister on Brexit and the judgement of the Supreme Court on prorogation. The Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, contributed to the debate:
Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, speaking on behalf of these Benches, I struggle to have to say that I was shocked as I listened to the repeat of the Statement. I could not believe that I was hearing it, from someone who knows that the nation is deeply divided and needs to find ways of working together. We need humility, repentance when necessary and an approach that listens carefully to the views of others rather than simply “Attack, attack, attack”. The Leader was not in the House earlier when my most reverend friend the Archbishop of Canterbury was here, but I encourage her to read his comments about the need for reconciliation—to find a different way forward to work together that is good for the nation. In one sense I am simply adding to the mood of the House as a whole, but I come at it from a very different point of view; I am not part of a political party and I have no axe to grind. I simply want to reflect that this was terrible. It was shocking. It is not worthy. I am sorry.
On 25th September 2019 the Minister of State in the Department for Exiting the European Union, Lord Callanan,repeated a Government statement on ‘Brexit Readiness and Operation Yellowhammer’. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, spoke in response:
"The total division across Parliament is only a shadow of the immense divisions across the country, which the bishops find at every level. Divisions are shaking this country apart. They are shaking us apart in all our great institutions." @JustinWelby in the House of Lords today pic.twitter.com/Hs1Dibm7P3
The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, this debate —for want of a better word—demonstrates, I am sure the noble Lord would agree, the total division across Parliament. It is only a shadow of the immense divisions across the country, which the bishops find at every level, as they are immersed in every local community. The divisions are shaking this country apart. They are shaking us apart in all our great institutions, whether it is Parliament or the courts, which are portrayed as having launched a coup d’état—a slightly unlikely idea—and it is causing serious damage to our economy. We are hearing in our debates the incapacity of Parliament not only to make a decision but to find any way through the deadlock. The divisions are so deep that we cannot expect, I fear, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, suggested, that cross-party work could bring a decision on what we do, but can we not at least ask the Government to look for alternative means of setting a path to making a decision?
On 25th September 2019 the House of Lords reconvened and prayers were led by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Wallace of Tankerness tabled a Private Notice Question that asked the Government “what is their policy on the extension of Article 50”. The Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury: Does the Minister agree that Parliament has, justifiably or not, seen its reputation sink very low over the last few months and that one of the ways of dealing with that is transparency? Regardless of how many letters there may or may not be, will he therefore undertake that the Government will be completely transparent and honest in the spirit and not merely the letter of the law about the actions they take over the next few weeks in connection with an extension? Continue reading “Archbishop of Canterbury calls for transparency from Government in future Brexit talks”
On 5th September 2019 the House of Lords considered the European Union (Withdrawal) (Number 6) Bill at its Second Reading. It had been passed by the House of Commons the previous day despite Government opposition. Its effect would be to require the Prime Minister to request an extension of the Article 50 period beyond the current 31st October Brexit deadline, should the Prime Minister not have agreed a withdrawal deal or Parliament voted for no deal, by the 19th October. The Bishop of Leeds, Rt Revd Nick Baines, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, it is already evident in some of the terms of this conversation—of this debate—that we have to get away from this binary thinking about leave or remain. They were terms that pertained to the referendum in 2016 where the question was “what”. Where we have got stuck is on the question of “how”. You do not need a degree in logic or philosophy to recognise that they are different questions. The Members of the other place and of this House trying to take their obligations seriously under the constitution to serve the people of this country means that we have got to this sort of impasse. It is not because of negligence, or because of waging ongoing campaigns from three years ago. I deeply resent the constant insinuation that if you voted remain then you remain a remainer and anything you do has to be suspected as being a plot to ensure that we remain. Many people in this House who voted remain have gone on to say that the referendum result was to leave and we have to move on to the question of how to do that but with the responsibility to look to the interests of our country. Continue reading “Bishop of Leeds calls for end to binary leave/remain labels in Brexit debate and focus on values to shape shared future”
On 4th September 2019 the House of Lords considered a motion from the Leader of the Opposition to suspend the usual procedures for the taking of a Bill, in order to enable the House to take all stages of the European Union (Withdrawal) (Number 6) Bill 2017-19 on Thursday and Friday of that week.
A series of amendments were tabled to that motion by those objecting to that procedural change and those who disagreed with the Bill, which had been passed by MPs that day and would require Government to seek an extension of the Article 50 period for the UK to leave the EU.
A series of votes took place throughout the day and late into the night on the amendments tabled and also to bring an end to speeches by Members that were considered attempts to filibuster. A number of bishops took part in those votes, largely on the side of those Peers wishing to see the procedural changes made, and to ensure business could progress.
On 4th September 2019 the House of Lords voted on a series of amendments to a Motion from the Leader of the Opposition to suspend the usual procedures for the taking of a Bill, in order to enable the House to take all stages of the European Union (Withdrawal) (Number 6) Bill 2017-19 on Thursday and Friday of that week. Conservative Peer Lord True moved an amendment to the Motion to oppose the suspension of the usual rules for consideration. The Bishop of Leeds contributed to the debate:
Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, I strongly endorse what the noble Lord has said. It seems to me that we have to be realistic. I speak as a Lord Spiritual with an obligation to engage in what was called “high politics” earlier, as a Member of this House, noting that the Lords Spiritual cannot be whipped and that we are not a party.
It seems to me that we have to be realistic and say that this prorogation has been disingenuously propagated as being just a little extension to recess, when we know that it is of a completely different order.
On 30th July 2019 the Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, received a written answer from Government, in reply to three questions about children and vulnerable EU nationals and the EU Settlement Scheme:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: (i) HL17344 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the status of the guidance issued on 3 April to all local authorities and health and social care trusts in regard to the EU Settlement Scheme and looked-after children and care leavers; and whether it is mandatory for local authorities to follow that guidance.
(ii) HL17345 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what evidence was collected on the children who were non-UK European nationals accommodated under section 20 of the Children Act 1989, their family situations and possible vulnerabilities, before drafting the guidance on EU Settlement Scheme and looked-after children and care leavers issued on 3 April.