On 28th and 29th January 2014, the Bishop of St Albans took part in two votes on the Government’s Children and Families Bill, during its Report Stage.
The Bishop of Leicester spoke in the debate on the Report Stage of the Children & Families Bill. He spoke in favour of Amendment 53, on behalf of the Bishop of Oxford, who co-sponsored the amendment. The amendment called for guidance on sex and relationship education to be updated in light of technological changes. He spoke of the need for holistic education of children, and reflected on the conclusions of the ‘Good Childhood’ commission that children themselves are keen to develop strong and healthy relationships. The amendment was not pressed to a vote.
The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, I support Amendment 53 and speak in place of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford, who has lent his name to it but cannot be in his place today. Personally, I find myself on the side of those who want PSHE to be a formal part of the curriculum and Amendment 53 goes some way in that direction.
I have three brief points to make. First, we on these Benches see social, emotional and spiritual intelligence as a vital part of a child’s development. We are not just interested in raising children who can pass exams, but in creating opportunities for young people to take control of their lives and values. Secondly, it is clear that there is a strong and growing coalition of organisations involved in this work, which have some knowledge in this area, and which support this proposal, including the Children’s Society the Mothers Union and many others.
Thirdly, I speak as a former chair of the Children’s Society and as a member of the Good Childhood commission, which reported four years or so ago, and which took evidence from more than 5,000 children. It was not evidence on this specific point, but it was evidence on the general point of what children understand makes for their well-being. Over and over again, children said that one of their top priorities was their friendships. They were trying to find their way through a complex, labyrinthine world in which friendships, intimacy and relationships had to be understood in this technological age, which has been so vividly described by previous speakers, where it was children who were asking for help in this area.
That is the most telling contribution I want to make to this debate. We do not have children in this House; we do not have the voice of children here. If we listen carefully to what they are saying to us through the Good Childhood Report and in other ways, we will find that they want our generation to help them to understand who they are and who they are with others in this completely new world, which has not shaped the relationships or outlooks of any Members of your Lordships’ House. For that reason, I strongly support Amendment 53.
On January 7th 2014, the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds spoke in favour of an amendment to the Government’s Children and Families Bill, during its Report Stage. The amendment, moved by Crossbench Peer Lord Rix, sought to place the duty of social care provision with the responsible local authority. Following assurances from the Minister, Lord Rix withdrew the amendment. The Government amendments on this topic, tabled at Third Reading, were warmly welcomed by Lord Rix and subsequently accepted as part of the Bill.
On 9th and 17th December 2013, a number of bishops took part in votes to amend the Government’s Children and Families Bill, during the bill’s Report Stage.
On 9th December 2013, the Bishop of Truro spoke in favour of Lord McColl’s amendment to the Government’s Children and Families Bill, during its Report Stage. The amendment sought to create child trafficking guardians for children who may have been victims of human trafficking. The amendment was later voted on – see here for more details.
The Lord Bishop of Truro: My Lords, I support the amendment and declare an interest as chairman of the Children’s Society. The noble Lord, Lord McColl, has already mentioned the report, Still at Risk, published jointly by the Children’s Society and the Refugee Council.
On 20th November 2013, the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, took part in the Committee Stage of the Government’s Children and Families Bill. He spoke in favour of amendments to the Bill that would ban smoking in cars when children are present, and also in relation to measures to standardise the packaging of cigarettes.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I will speak very briefly. Over the years I have been attracted by most vices, but never to smoking, so in the circumstances it is easy to speak against it. I will add that it is not just a domestic issue. The noble Lord says that he has an interest in BAT. What astonishes me is the way in which the growing awareness in this country of the dangers of smoking seems to be so slowly taken up in the developing world. We have a moral need, not only in relation to our own children but to the developing world, to make clear the dangers of smoking. It really is a global issue. It behoves particularly the wealthier countries—not least if the interests of big business are engaged, as undoubtedly they are, or those of the Exchequer—to give a proper lead. I think these amendments do just that.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): …The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester rightly suggested that this is a global issue. I agree. We are, however, considered to be a leader in tobacco control internationally. The World Health Organisation has assessed us to be number one in Europe in this area, and through the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control we share this good practice as much as we can…
On 11th November 2013, the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, took part in the Committee Stage of the Government’s Children and Families Bill. He spoke in favour of two amendments – one of the duty of schools to promote the academic, spiritual, cultural, mental and physical development of children and the second on the welfare of children who are asylum seekers. Neither amendment was put to a division of the House.
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I also would like to speak briefly in support of Amendment 233, which was so ably and vividly introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones. I have a particular responsibility in the Church of England for education, so I am pleased to be able to bring that authority and support, as it were, on behalf of all the schools that I represent. This is a small but important and crucial piece of work. Continue reading “Bishop of Oxford supports amendments to Children and Families Bill”
On 21st October 2013, the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, spoke during the Committee Stage of the Children and Families Bill. He raised concern about the wording of an amendment tabled by Lord Lloyd of Berwick on the standard of proof required in cases where children are taken into care, suggesting that the amendment be altered before being re-tabled at a subsequent stage of the Bill. The amendment was withdrawn following the debate.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, at the risk of lowering the tone of this extraordinarily learned exchange, in the church we face a similar issue when trying to discern when someone poses a potential risk but nothing can be proved. It is a difficult line to establish. In the drafting of this amendment, my eye has been caught by the juxtaposition of the words “likely” and “possible”. I wonder whether there is a better way of phrasing it. The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, used the word “might” at one point, but interestingly then corrected herself and said “was likely to”. There is a real difference between someone being assessed as “might” be a threat and “is likely to” be a threat. I think that I come down on the side of the noble and learned Baroness. However, it is good to know that the lawyers have only two views in these situations.
If this comes back, I hope that we will be able to look at the phraseology. To deduce that something is “likely” from a certain level of possibility seems to carry a stigma that we should not attach unless we really have to do so.