On 30th January 2023, the House of Lords debated amendments to the Public Order Bill (2022) in the first day of the report stage. Votes were held on amendments to the bill, in which Bishops took part:
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Manchester and the Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham took part in a vote on an amendment to the bill tabled by Lord Coaker: “to insert a new clause: Meaning of ‘serious disruption.’”
On 10th January 2023, the House of Lords debated the Financial Services and Markets Bill in it’s second reading. The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke in the debate, highlighting the need for good practice and quality of service in the finance industry:
The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the final report of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, Changing Banking for Good. I declare my interest having served on that commission, and I welcome the presence in this debate of the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, who also served, as did the current Lord Speaker. I also welcome the maiden speeches of three noble Lords today: the noble Lords, Lord Ashcombe and Lord Remnant, and the noble Baroness, Lady Lawlor.
We need to remember that the extraordinary crisis in 2008—which led to the various commissions, reports and changes in regulations, including the financial services Act 2013, in which the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards played a part—caused huge and ongoing crises. While welcoming the Bill very strongly, I join some of the hesitations mentioned by the noble Lords, Lord Hunt, Lord Sharkey and Lord Vaux. It has been estimated that the financial services industry, and particularly the major banks, have an effective subsidy as a result of the implicit government guarantee that they receive, which is worth approximately £30 billion a year. If there is £30 billion a year going spare, many other industries and not a few churches would welcome that very warmly. However, that subsidy, which is at the risk of the taxpayer, as we saw in 2008 and 2009, is what gives the result of the banks having heavy social obligations; we must look carefully at that when the Bill reaches Committee, as has already been said. The issues of inclusion, stability and access at all levels, especially for micro-businesses, are very important, not least for levelling up.
On 9th December 2022 the Archbishop of Canterbury led a debate in the House of Lords on the motion:
That this House takes note of the principles behind contemporary United Kingdom asylum and refugee policy, and of the response to the challenges of forced migration.
The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, I am very grateful to the usual channels for facilitating this debate, to those among the staff of the House who have had to work extra hard to come in today, and to so many noble Lords for being present. I look forward to hearing the maiden speeches of the right reverent Prelate the Bishop of Leicester, the noble Lord, Lord Sahota, and the noble Baroness, Lady Twycross, on this subject.
On 9th September 2022 the House of Lords met to hear tributes to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, whose death had been announced. The Archbishop of Canterbury paid tribute, on behalf of the Lords Spiritual.
The Archbishop of Canterbury received the following written answers on 24th May 2022:
The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury asked Her Majesty’s Government:
what criteria they will use to determine whether someone arriving in the UK, outside of the authorised channels, is eligible for being relocated to Rwanda.
whether families will be split up through the new Asylum Partnership Arrangement with Rwanda; and if not, what evidence they have that the policy will not lead to increased trafficking of women and children.
The Archbishop of Canterbury asked a question during a debate on behaviour change for net-zero on 31st March 2022:
The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, like the Government, the Church of England has targets for reaching net-zero carbon, in our case by 2030. Churches across the Anglican Communion are deeply affected by climate change. For example, Madagascar recently had four cyclones in two months. We are working right across the communion on this question. This week, we have had a gathering of archbishops from across the communion representing more than 100 countries. Will the Minister set out the plans that the Government have to work further with faith communities, which have unique distribution and contacts, from the grass roots to the highest level, both nationally and internationally, and will he commend the work that they are already doing?
On 22nd March 2022 the Archbishop of Canterbury responded to a statement by the Government on the behaviour of P&O Ferries towards its workers. The Archbishop raised three points relating to reporting to Parliament on progress of talks, the wages of P&O staff, and the security of services in British waters.
“When people are too scared to express their genuinely held and legally protected beliefs, that is very dangerous for democracy.”
On 10th December 2021 in the House of Lords the Archbishop of Canterbury held a debate on freedom of speech. His opening and closing remarks are below, and the full debate including the contributions of Peers and the Opposition and Government response, can be read in Hansard, here.
Moved by The Archbishop of Canterbury: That this House takes note of contemporary challenges to freedom of speech, and the role of public, private and civil society sectors in upholding freedom of speech.
The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Leader of the House, the usual channels, all noble Lords who have taken the trouble to be here today and, especially, the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, for answering on behalf of the Government in order that we may have this debate. It is a return to an Advent tradition, interrupted in recent years by elections and pandemics. Should your Lordships worry that I am infectious in some way, I have been tested to the limits of testing. I have my granddaughter’s cold, for which I would like to record my grateful thanks.
We on these Benches have our critics—I have a large number—but for all our present failings you would be hard-pressed to find a more disastrous move by the Lords spiritual than when, in 1831, 21 of them lined up behind the Duke of Wellington and opposed the Great Reform Bill. Had they voted the other way, it would have passed. The people, denied their rights, responded with riots, and bishops were particularly targeted, some with violence. In Bristol, the Bishop’s Palace was burned down. A dead cat was thrown at my predecessor Archbishop Howley, narrowly missing him but striking his chaplain in the face. “Be glad it wasn’t a live one,” Howley is reported to have responded.
I start with this dive into the past because it illustrates a present point. The grey area between, on the one hand, peaceful protest and reasoned criticism and, on the other, incitement to hatred or to violence is one that we are still trying to navigate today. The Church of England knows about that. I must start by suggesting that our society should never follow our historical example of coercion, Test Acts and punishment. There is still a prison at Lambeth Palace at the top of the Lollards’ Tower, with room for eight people. It was used for the Lollards—I have a little list.
On October 22nd 2021 Peers debated the Assisted Dying Bill of Baroness Meacher, at its Second Reading.
The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and listened with great attention to her extremely powerful speech. This is an issue on which many of us have personal experiences, often painful and difficult. There is unanimity on these Benches that our current law does not need to be changed, but I know that people of faith hold differing views. No doubt we will hear those today and I look forward to them.
Everyone here shares the best of intentions. We should recognise that in how we listen and respond to each other. I hope no one will seek to divide the House today, but I welcome the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Winston, because it draws our focus towards our use of language. We need clarity and precision in our terms.
Christ calls his followers to compassion, but compassion must not be drawn too narrowly—a point made indirectly and powerfully by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher. It must extend beyond those who want the law to provide help to end their lives to the whole of society, especially those who might be put at risk. Our choices affect other people. The common good demands that our choices, rights and freedoms must be balanced with those of others, especially those who may not be so easily heard.
On 19th May 2021 the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke in the House of Lords on the fifth and final day of the debate on the Queen’s Speech.
My Lords, it is a privilege to speak in this debate on the Gracious Speech after the Noble Lord, Lord Hannay with his vast experience and knowledge, and I have learned much from his speech and agree with what he’s said.
The Integrated Review of Global Britain in a Competitive Age has much to be welcomed, including especially the thoughtfulness about the security implications of climate change, the strong commitment to Freedom of Religion and Belief and the commitment to restore the 0.7%. However, to speak of security, defence, development and foreign policy without a developed section on peacebuilding and peace-making, especially with competitors, is like speaking of the pandemic without mentioning vaccination.