Bishop of St Albans asks about preventing violence against Muslims and raises negative media coverage

On 1st December 2015 the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a question in the House of Lords about violence against Muslims and other minority groups following the terrorist attacks in Paris. He followed up with a question about negative media coverage of British Muslims.

StAlbans171115The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to prevent violence against Muslims and other minority groups following the attacks in Paris on 13 November.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport and Home Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con): My Lords, the Government take the safety of all our citizens and communities very seriously; indeed, this is at the core of counterextremism strategy. Following the tragic events in Paris, we are working to take all necessary action: police have increased their presence at important locations and events; advice has been given to places of worship; and we are working with organisations such as Tell MAMA to confront anti-Muslim hatred. The Prime Minister has also announced new funding for the security of mosques.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: I thank the Minister for his reply and am grateful for all that Her Majesty’s Government are doing already. Perhaps I may focus on one particular area. Since those terrible events on 13 November in Paris, some of our national newspapers have run some very disturbing stories about the treatment of British Muslims and minority groups, such as asylum seekers, here. Does the Minister agree that, in modern, democratic Britain, there is no place for misleading headlines and scurrilous cartoons designed to demonise minority groups? Many of us on these Benches have been involved in face-to-face meetings during the past three weeks with members of the Muslim community, who are deeply dismayed and angry at what has happened. What are Her Majesty’s Government doing to counter such unhelpful stories and narratives and to strengthen community relations between minorities and the wider British public?

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Bishop of Rochester highlights work of faiths in promoting community cohesion

On 26th November 2015 the House of Lords debated a motion from Baroness Mobarik: “To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the attacks in Paris on 13 November, what steps they plan to take to foster links between communities, as part of their counterterrorism strategy.” The Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, spoke in the debate:


RochesterThe Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I, too, am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, for initiating the debate and for the opportunity to speak in it. I am grateful, too, to the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, for saying some of the things about Near Neighbours that I might have said. That will save me having to do it. It is good to have other advocates of these things.

The point has been made already, not least by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, that the important issues raised in the debate, although perhaps prompted by part of the current world situation, have been there for many generations. Many of us have been working away at them for a good many years. None the less, one of the strands in the Government’s counterterrorism strategy, published last month, has been the building and strengthening of community links within and between communities. It is a very important strand that clearly builds on things that many of us have been involved in before. In many ways it is the most difficult strand, because it requires perseverance and hard work over many years. It requires commitment in local communities and all the things that lead to fruitful engagement. Continue reading “Bishop of Rochester highlights work of faiths in promoting community cohesion”

Shared British values – speech by Bishop of Derby

On 16th July 2015 the Bishop of Derby, Rt Revd Alistair Redfern, spoke in a debate tabled by the former Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries of Pentregarth “to ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their policy towards promoting the shared values that underpin British public life.”

The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I thank the noble and right reverend Lord,Bishop of Derby Lord Harries, for securing this debate. I suggest that shared values might be a dangerous focus and something of a displacement activity. Values are changing and are often vague. The Prime Minister wants to uphold freedom, toleration and the rule of law. My wife Caroline receives lots of information from Johnnie Boden about clothing and, this week, an email came with his values for being British: to be rebellious, daring and timeless. The point is that it is a shifting landscape, which can open up a lot of confusion and miscommunication. Continue reading “Shared British values – speech by Bishop of Derby”

Bishop of Peterborough highlights rural deprivation

On 25th March 2015 Lord Phillips of Sudbury asked Her Majesty’s Government whether they would establish a Royal Commission to investigate threats to community life in the United Kingdom and their effects; and to recommend counter-measures. The Bishop of Peterborough, Rt Revd Donald Allister, asked a supplementary quesion:

14.02 PeterboroughThe Lord Bishop of Peterborough: My Lords, community life struggles and suffers very much in rural areas as well as in urban areas. While welcoming the promise of a 95% rollout of superfast broadband, does the Minister appreciate that the other 5% represents more than 3 million people who are almost all in rural areas and will not have access to superfast broadband or, all too often, to post offices, gas supplies, public transport, local schools and so on? Is this not the time to have a royal commission?

Baroness Williams of Trafford (Lords Spokesperson, Department of Business, Innovation and Skills): My Lords, the right reverend Prelate is correct when he says that some of the infrastructure in rural communities, such as shops, schools, and post offices in particular, is their lifeblood. I commend the rural communities in, for example, Cumbria that have done their own social action project to make sure that broadband gets to their communities. The right reverend Prelate is right that the remaining 5% of the population do not having superfast broadband, but the Government are working on that.


Education Minister praises Church school record on inclusion and community cohesion

On 28th January, Baroness Massey of Darwen asked Her Majesty’s Government what are the conditions which must be met before a new state-funded faith school or free school is allowed to be established; who sets and agrees the conditions; and how the conditions must guarantee a broad and balanced curriculum for pupils. The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, asked a supplementary question:

14.04.01 Bishop of LeicesterThe Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, does the Minister agree that “faith school” covers a variety of different kinds of institution? Church of England schools are not faith schools in the narrow sense of providing an education for people of just one faith. In places such as Leicester they provide a rounded education for the whole community, including many of other faiths who value highly what they have to offer.

Lord Nash: I agree entirely with the right reverend Prelate. Many church schools are highly inclusive. A study by the University of York undertaken in 2009 praised the record of church schools on community cohesion.


Bishop of Durham speaks during debate on Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill

On 13th January 2015, the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, spoke during the Second Reading debate of the Government’s Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill. In his remarks, the Bishop praised the collaborative working between the Department for Communities and Local Government and local community projects aimed at community cohesion and the prevention of radicalisation. He noted that prevention was most effective when tackled at the long-term grass-roots level. He urged caution over the implementation of parts of the legislation that deal with placing obligations on public institutions, at the risk of creating climates of fear and suspicion within these institutions.

14.06.10 Bishop of Durham 5The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I share with every other reasonable person a horror of the evil actions and effects of terrorism, grief for the suffering caused by terrorist acts and a heartfelt concern for those whose lives are lost or wounded through it. Events in Paris last week clearly illustrated this to us all. However, those events also highlight the need to ensure that we keep a global awareness and perspective, as the fresh Boko Haram attacks in Baga and its surrounding villages last Friday show us. Here, around 2,000 were killed. As we consider counterterrorism and security here in our land, we must stay aware of the global nature of the issues. Continue reading “Bishop of Durham speaks during debate on Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill”

Bishop of Rochester calls for greater security in tenancies for pensioners

On 14th October 2014, Lord McKenzie of Luton asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to improve housing stability for those renting in the private sector, particularly families. The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, asked a supplementary question:

Bishop of RochesterThe Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his assurance that the Government are aware of the needs of families in relation to the length of tenure for tenancies. Is the Minister also cognisant of the needs of retired persons, where length and stability of tenancy are important not only for their well-being in old age but also for their contribution to the communities where they are living in a sustainable way?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The right reverend Prelate again raises an important point at the other end of the age spectrum, and the Government are very much cognisant of ensuring stability for residents and that their needs are met. One thing on which we are clear is our approach to the private rented sector, through landlords, through providing greater protection and a greater sense of professionalism for both landlords and agents. We are also helping provide an increased level of guidance to tackle any perceived rogue landlords and making more help available to tenants in this particular sector.


Bishop of Chester highlights impact of built environment on well-being of society

On 28th July 2014, the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, took part in a short debate in the House of Lords on the Government’s response to the Farrell Review of architecture and the built environment. He supported the relaxing of planning laws, to enable people to have a greater say in the built environment in which they live. He also argued that architects should play a more significant role in issues of planning, cautioning that houses built in the past 20 years risked becoming the slums of the future.

14.03 Bishop of ChesterThe Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, reference to the Tower of Babel earlier stimulated me to speak in the gap, and I believe that there is time to do so. Skyscrapers are quite ambiguous—they work in some places but not in others. Why does the Shard work but the Cheesegrater look completely out of place? Maybe that is just my own subjective judgment. Why do some cities that have no need of skyscrapers feel they want them? Some cities in Australia that have all the space they could possibly want still have an instinct to build skyscrapers. It indicates how important the environment is for us. We see no skyscrapers in Paris or Rome. The urban planners there do not allow them. Continue reading “Bishop of Chester highlights impact of built environment on well-being of society”

Bishop of Birmingham takes part in debate on autonomy and accountability of educational institutions

01.04.14 Bishop of BirminghamOn 24th June 2014, Baroness Perry of Southwark led a short debate to ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the appropriate balance between the autonomy and the accountability of educational institutions. The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, took part in the debate and spoke of his involvement in the investigation of allegations of mis-management in schools in Birmingham. The Bishop told the House how autonomy and accountability have been reconciled in Birmingham through setting up a diocesan board of education trust which has published an academies accountability framework. The Bishop argued for local and trusted arrangements to be developed, which are trusted by pupils, staff and parents, by the whole community and the Secretary of State.


The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to address the topic of autonomy and accountability in our educational institutions, particularly in our schools. As noble Lords can imagine, coming from Birmingham, this is a very pertinent topic. We are experiencing a perfect storm of anonymous allegations. Birmingham City Council is conducting various investigations, of which I am a part, into those allegations. Continue reading “Bishop of Birmingham takes part in debate on autonomy and accountability of educational institutions”

Bishop of St Albans speaks in support of greater availability of defibrillators in public spaces

Bishop of St AlbansOn 24th June 2014, Lord Storey led a short debate in the House of Lords, to ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they will take to ensure that all schools, sports clubs and public service buildings have defibrillators as part of their first-aid kit provision.The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith spoken during the debate, and expressed his desire to see a greater number of defibrillators in public spaces including churches and church halls. The Bishop commended the work of charities such as the British Heart Foundation and the Community Heartbeat trust as well as the efforts of the community first responders.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Storey, for raising this important issue and for keeping it to the forefront. When I was training to be ordained, I became used to some people going off for a little doze while I was preaching. What I did not know was that, during my very first sermon, somebody—a very nice lady—would have a heart attack. Fortunately, she did not die and I got to know her and her family very well during her convalescence. I saw something of the impact of such events on families; indeed, my sympathy goes out to those who know something of this in their own family.

Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans speaks in support of greater availability of defibrillators in public spaces”

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