On Wednesday 28th November 2018 Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty’s Government “what assessment they have made of the case for the disestablishment of the Church of England.” Several Members asked follow-up questions, including the Bishop of Worcester, Rt Revd John Inge, and a transcript of the exchanges is below:
Church of England: Disestablishment
Lord Berkeley: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the case for the disestablishment of the Church of England.
Lord Young of Cookham (Con): My Lords, none. Continue reading “Bishop of Worcester – “the established church is a significant force for good”.”
On the 21st October 2016 Conservative Peer Lord Elton introduced the ‘House of Lords Bill’ – a Private Member’s Bill to reduce the size of the House of Lords. The Bishop of Birmingham, Rt Revd David Urquhart, spoke in support. A number of other Peers made reference to the Lords Spiritual and extracts of their remarks can be found after the Bishop’s speech, below.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I am resisting the temptation to tear up my notes and respond to the noble Lord’s last quote. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for again bringing before us this important matter. It is widely agreed in many places that as weseek to be effective as a House, the size of the House is of great concern. Of course, as has already been said by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, recent changes have attempted to alleviate the size of the House—we have adopted retirement provisions—yet they have not been sufficient to alleviate the flow of new Members. The statistics have already been referred to.
From this Bench, the Lords spiritual have spoken consistently over the past few years in support of reform aimed at addressing the size of the House—and we do so again, keeping in mind the aim of the House to improve the core functions of our scrutiny of legislation and government proposals from the other House, and of offering expertise and independence, which have already been referred to. Continue reading “Bishop of Birmingham supports Bill to reduce size of the House of Lords”
On 8th December 2015 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Scotland Bill at Committee stage. The Bishop of Chester, Rt Revd Peter Forster, spoke during debate on amendments to the Bill from Lord Norton of Louth and Lord Forsyth of Drumlean.
The amendment from Lord Norton proposed the removal from the Bill of two new clauses to be added to the 1998 Scotland Act, namely:
(1) The Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government are a permanent part of the United Kingdom’s constitutional arrangements.
(2) The purpose of this section is, with due regard to the other provisions of this Act, to signify the commitment of the Parliament and Government of the United Kingdom.
Lord Forsyth’s amendment sought to change the wording of (1) so that it instead read
(1) The Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government are recognised as a permanent part of the United Kingdom’s constitutional arrangements.
The Bishop argued against both amendments on the grounds that they conflicted with settled political reality and would send unwelcome signals. The amendments were withdrawn after debate.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, it is always dodgy for bishops to speak about Scottish matters. The kirk has sometimes considered the possibility of introducing bishops but the one condition it has always applied is that they must not be like English bishops—they must be quite different.
I have some credentials inasmuch as I have had a close association with Scotland for 40 years, since I went to Edinburgh as a student. I have had a house in Scotland for 30 years, I have two Scottish degrees and one Scottish wife, who has kept my feet on the ground over the years. I shall also retire to Scotland shortly, and very much look forward to doing so. Continue reading “Bishop of Chester supports measure in Scotland Bill stating permanence of Scottish Parliament and Government”
On 17th July 2015 the Bishop of Southwark, Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, spoke during the Second Reading debate of Lord Purvis of Tweed’s Constitutional Convention Bill. The Bishop welcomed the Bill and its efforts to include those from outside the political sphere in the decision-making process. He also said that the House of Lords needed to resolve the issue of its powers and functions before resolving questions about its membership.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, on securing time for this Bill—a Bill that, in making provision for a constitutional convention, I am happy to support. I note that a growing consensus is emerging for the constitutional questions that we face to be addressed. To use the terms of the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, when he recently addressed the House of Bishops, we are faced with a constitutional building site and no blueprint of what it is we are trying to construct. A convention could at least help provide that blueprint. Continue reading “Bishop of Southwark welcomes call for a constitutional convention”
On Thursday 2nd July 2015 Lord Forsyth of Drumlean asked Her Majesty’s Government ‘whether they plan to establish a Constitutional Convention to consider the implications of devolution for each part of the United Kingdom; and whether they plan to publish a white paper setting out the consequences for the rest of the United Kingdom of fiscal autonomy for Scotland’. The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a supplementary question.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, the Minister would have picked up concern on every side of the House on this particular issues and I, along with a number of Members on this Bench, share that concern. In principle we would like to explore the possibility of a constitutional convention. The pastoral letter that the bishops issued earlier this year stated:
“The impatience of politicians or the desire for party advantage must not be the driver for constitutional change”.
If we are not going to have a constitutional convention, how do Her Majesty’s Government intend to involve as many as possible of those people who are passionate to be involved in this so that together we can think carefully about the vital question of the future governance of the UK?
Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks Government about plans for a constitutional convention”
“Give a voice to the experience of those who otherwise are silenced. This is why the Lords spiritual are here, rooted in communities across the whole of our country, networked internationally, informed, often inconveniently and compelled to tell the truth as they see it. I hope to fulfil this vocation with the humility and confidence that it surely demands”. – Bishop of Leeds, 1/6/15
On 1st June 2015 the Bishop of Leeds spoke for the first time in the House of Lords. In his address, which came during the debate on the Queen’s Speech, he spoke of his background in the Church of England, his diocese, constitutional change, Europe and how economic and devolution proposals might impact on places such as Bradford. The full text is below and can also be watched online here.
The Lord Bishop of Leeds (Maiden Speech): My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate, especially given the kindness I have already met in this House since being introduced in February. I wish to express my gratitude to all sides of the House for the welcome I have received and particularly to the staff, who have assisted and advised me, sometimes on the same issue more than once. This coming Saturday I will be speaking in Stuttgart before thousands of people along with Kofi Annan and the German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. At least today I can address this House in English. Continue reading “Bishop of Leeds makes first speech in the House of Lords – constitution, devolution, economy”
“A no vote on the EU would hasten the demise of the Union and lead within a generation to a rump nation shorn of Scotland and of membership of the EU and without strategic influence internationally.”- Bishop of Leicester, 1/6/15
On 1st June 2015 the Bishop of Leicester, Rt Rev Tim Stevens, spoke in the debate on the Queen’s Speech, on constitutional, human rights, local government, devolution and welfare reform issues. The full text of his speech is below and it can also be watched online here.
The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, has reminded us, the Prime Minister has offered us what he calls,
“a clear programme for working people, social justice, and bringing our country together—put simply, a One Nation Queen’s Speech from a One Nation Government”.
It is therefore clearly our responsibility to evaluate the Government’s programme against that yardstick, and to measure the gracious Speech on its potential for national unity and social justice, at every point. Continue reading “Bishop of Leicester speaks on constitutional reform, devolution, human rights and welfare in debate on Queen’s Speech”
“Service, in the Christian tradition, is a vocation. When Jesus washed the feet of his disciples he reversed the power relationship between the teacher and his followers. Two thousand years ago, service never made you great; it was a sign of your enslavement. These days, by contrast, everyone wants to do us a service” – Bishop of Norwich, 27/11/14
On 27th November 2014 the House of Lords debated a motion from the Crossbench Peer and former Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, on ‘the role of religion and belief in British public life’. The Bishop of Norwich, Rt Rev Graham James, spoke in the debate, focusing on themes of trust and a vocation to service in public life.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, like other noble Lords I am very grateful to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for securing this debate. I notice that the commission of which he is part is considering how religion may contribute to,
“greater levels of mutual trust and collective action, and to a more harmonious society”.
I will address the reference to mutual trust, especially with regard to our public life, which is far from well. The level of cynicism about our political structures and politicians finds reflection in an all too common assumption that many people in public life are not to be trusted. That is true for religious leaders, too, and for almost anyone in the public eye, and it generates cynicism about the state itself. Continue reading “Service and trust: Bishop of Norwich speaks in Lords debate on religion and belief in public life”
On 27th November 2014 the House of Lords debated a motion from the Crossbench Peer and former Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, on ‘the role of religion and belief in British public life’. The Bishop of Birmingham, Rt Rev David Urquhart spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I am grateful to my colleague, the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for shaping this debate and for the remarks just offered by the noble Baroness. It may be a great surprise to many of our fellow citizens that public religious figures should be asked to play a part at all in 21st century society. However, the least surprised in the city of Birmingham are my interfaith colleagues. They expect the leaders and members at a local parish level and at a national level in what they regard as the indigenous national religion to play a full part in society and to articulate the needs, values and beliefs of those who have faith on things that are a matter of importance to the whole of society, whether they are faithful or not. Continue reading “Bishop of Birmingham in Lords Debate on Religion and Belief in Public Life”
“To regard the English-Scottish relationship as simply the primary and maximal example of broader devolved relationships in the UK would be to invite a repetition of recent errors of judgment.”
On 29th October 2014, the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, took part in a House of Lords debate on devolution following the Scottish referendum, led by Baroness Stowell of Beeston. The Bishop reflected on his own experiences of studying and living in Scotland, and the relationship between England and Scotland. He urged caution in how politicians and the public approach matters of devolution and nationhood, noting that the post-referendum landscape was a good opportunity to renew the Union, whilst respecting cultural differences and political realities.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, bishops need to tread warily when discussing matters Scottish. Although I am thoroughly English by birth and background, I can, I think, claim rather closer connections with Scotland than some whom I observe wearing the kilt at the Chester Caledonian Association dinners which I regularly attend.
Let me explain. I have a Scottish wife—my one and only wife, I hasten to add—and two Scottish degrees, all three from Edinburgh. I trained for ordination in Scotland as somebody sponsored by the Scottish Episcopal Church, and I have owned a house in Scotland for 25 years and will happily retire there in a few years’ time. I am Anglican co-chair of the current Church of England-Church of Scotland ecumenical conversations. So tread I shall, if nevertheless warily. If I have learnt one thing in my discussions with the Church of Scotland, it is that were the Kirk ever to contemplate having bishops, which remains, I think, doubtful, they would need to be very different from English bishops to be acceptable. Continue reading “Bishop of Chester takes part in debate on devolution and the Scottish referendum”