On 25th October 2016, the Government’s National Citizen Service Bill was debated at Second Reading in the House of Lords. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, supported the Bill, and talked about the desirability of widening access to the National Citizen Service.
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth My Lords, I too welcome and support this Bill, not only because of the impact, actual and potential, on building the confidence and contribution of participants but also for its intention to both formalise and improve the accountability and functioning of the NCS. It may seem obvious for us to support a scheme with such clear aims to encourage young people to engage with their communities and take responsibility for their transformation, and one that claims some positive impact on community cohesion.
Continue reading “Bishop of Portsmouth supports National Citizen Service Bill”
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.
The 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?
Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks about preventing violence against Muslims and raises negative media coverage”
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:
The 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”
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, 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”
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:
The 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.
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:
The 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.
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.
The 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”