Bishop of Portsmouth joins calls for a full defence review

On Thursday 19th January 2018 Lord Sterling of Plaistow led a debate on the Lords on his motion “To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to conduct a full defence review, in the light of the capability of the Armed Forces to meet global defence needs.” The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, I confide in you. Priests— even bishops, perhaps particularly so—are inclined to repeat themselves. I imagine noble Lords might have noticed. I have heard it said that we ​have only one sermon in us and just dress the message up differently each Sunday. I will be repeating my message today, and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sterling, for the opportunity to do so. I am just as grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, for listening to my repetition with the grace, care and attention that we all appreciate.

My message is that I applaud the Government’s ambition for defence, which is about British power for good in the world—but as things stand, I doubt that we have the capability, or the defence budget to deliver the capability, to meet that ambition. Continue reading “Bishop of Portsmouth joins calls for a full defence review”

Bishop of Leeds calls for honesty and transparency over UK’s defence capabilities

On Monday 15th January 2018 the House of Lords heard the repeat of a Government statement on the National Security Capability Review. The Bishop of Leeds, Rt Revd Nick Baines, asked a follow up question:

The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, would the Minister agree with me that it is important in any public statement that the people of this country are properly apprised of the fact that, if we say yes to and prioritise some elements of our defence capability, we are inevitably saying no to others, and that we are given a proper appraisal of what our capability actually is? In this country, particularly in some of our newspapers, we still hear statements that imply almost that Britannia still rules the waves. Our rhetoric and prioritising ought to match the reality of the situation in which we find ourselves. Continue reading “Bishop of Leeds calls for honesty and transparency over UK’s defence capabilities”

Budget – Bishop of Portsmouth points to great silence on social care

On 4th December 2017 the House of Lords debated the Chancellor’s 2017 Autumn Budget Statement. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke in the debate, focusing on the lack of news on social care and on defence, and calling on Government to take further action on Universal Credit:

Last week’s Budget was characterised by a great silence on two issues, and that silence too hides, I suspect, feverish activity and fevered discussions on social care and defence.

Continue reading “Budget – Bishop of Portsmouth points to great silence on social care”

Bishop of Coventry: Britain has moral responsibility for long-term reconstruction, if involved in conflict

On 23rd November 2017 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Soley, “That this House takes note of the case for maintaining United Kingdom defence forces at a sufficient level to contribute to global peace, stability and security.” The Bishop of Coventry, Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Coventry: My Lords, I join others in commending the noble Lord, Lord Soley, for securing this debate and for framing it in this way. He made it clear that UK defence forces exist not only for the protection and promotion of immediate British interests but to contribute to global peace, stability and security. The scale of that task has obvious implications for the size of the defence budget and its distribution. Continue reading “Bishop of Coventry: Britain has moral responsibility for long-term reconstruction, if involved in conflict”

Bishop of Chelmsford asks Government why no UK representatives attended nuclear weapon ban UN Conference

Chelmsford 251115On 24th April 2017, the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, received a written answer to a question on the UN Conference to Negotiate Ban on Nuclear Weapons.

The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether their officials attended the UN Conference to negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons held in New York on 27 March; and if not, why not. [HL6462] Continue reading “Bishop of Chelmsford asks Government why no UK representatives attended nuclear weapon ban UN Conference”

Bishop of Leeds comments on the capability of the armed forces and the UK’s relationship with Russia

leeds-20117On 21st March 2017 the Government’s Armed Forces Act (Continuation) Order 2017 was laid before Parliament with a motion to approve. The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines spoke in the debate, commenting on the UK’s relationship with Russia.

The Lord Bishop of Leeds My Lords, I hesitate to follow such eloquent speeches on so much detail, but I want to make one or two general points about a more specific area. I do so from an interest that began when I was a Soviet specialist at GCHQ in a previous incarnation, although I realise that that is probably not the right religious phrase to use.

It still seems to me that an SDSR should enable us to be flexible enough to cope with whatever changes are likely to come. My fear, which I have expressed in the House before, remains that in 15 to 20 years’ time we may end up with a force that meets the demands of now but perhaps not the demands of the situation 15 or 20 years down the line because the world changes so much. When I left GCHQ, the Soviet Union was intact, and we see what has changed since then. Therefore, I want to focus on Russia in particular. Continue reading “Bishop of Leeds comments on the capability of the armed forces and the UK’s relationship with Russia”

Bishop of Portsmouth calls for review of defence priorities in light of changing global situation

On the 12th January Lord Robertson of Port Ellen hosted a debate “that this House takes note of the future capability of the United Kingdom’s armed forces in the current international situation”. The Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster,  highlighted the need for a new Strategic Defence and Security Review, alongside recognition of new partnership and leadership roles.

BishPortsspeechtaxcreditsThe Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, agree with it or not, Brexit was a decision to determine our own path. This debate requires us to consider critically whether we have the capacity to determine our own strategic path in the realm of defence and security. The extent of our global reach must reflect our economic and strategic interests as well as our security and military concerns in these changing times, which now make these considerations, as one analyst has put it, “supercharged”.

My anxiety is that there is a gap, if not sometimes a gulf, between rhetoric about our concerns and ambitions on the one hand and our constrained capability on the other.

Continue reading “Bishop of Portsmouth calls for review of defence priorities in light of changing global situation”

Bishop of Portsmouth leads debate on welfare of armed forces and their families


portsmouth241016On the 9th January 2017, the Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, led a short debate in the Lords, to ask the Government “what is their assessment of the role of the Armed Forces Covenant in ensuring that those who serve or who have served in the Armed Forces, and their families, are treated with fairness and respect.” Earl Howe, the Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence, responded on behalf of the Government. Both their speeches are reproduced below in full. The speeches of other Members in the debate can be read here.


The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, it is both a privilege and a responsibility to ask this Question and open this debate on the impact of the Armed Forces covenant. It is a privilege because, despite my day job, opportunities to talk about good news do not occur as often as you might think, and a responsibility because it is clear that there is work to be done as service personnel and their families still suffer disadvantage and do not always receive the consideration that they need. Continue reading “Bishop of Portsmouth leads debate on welfare of armed forces and their families”

Bishop of Portsmouth on defence and diplomacy challenges post-Brexit

On 8th December 2016 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Sterling of Plaistow, “That this House takes note of the impact of the withdrawal from the European Union on the United Kingdom’s armed forces and diplomatic service.” The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke in the debate:

portsmouth241016The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, there are few constants or certainties in Brexit other than that Britain’s future will be markedly different. Brexit will have far-reaching implications for our place in Europe and the wider world. From a security perspective, the decision to leave the EU represents as significant a shift as the decision in the late 1960s to withdraw from bases east of Suez. If that was not daunting enough, Brexit also represents the biggest administrative and legislative challenge that a Government have faced since 1945, and is likely to shrink government departments’ bandwidth to engage with other issues. Continue reading “Bishop of Portsmouth on defence and diplomacy challenges post-Brexit”

Bishop of Chester questions case for renewal of Trident nuclear deterrent

On 13th July 2016 the House of Lords debated a Government motion “That this House takes note of the Government’s assessment in the 2015 National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review that the United Kingdom’s continuous at sea nuclear deterrent should be maintained.” The Bishop of Chester, Rt Revd Peter Forster, spoke in the debate:

ChesterThe Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, the issue before the other place is the procurement of four new submarines, but it is not unreasonable at this time to contribute to our ongoing reflection upon why we have a nuclear deterrent at all. It is often said that countries and armies tend to prepare to fight the war that was fought 50 or more years ago without noticing how the world has changed, not least technology. Indeed, our recollection of the Battle of the Somme—when infantry charged machine guns—brings that rather vividly to mind. Continue reading “Bishop of Chester questions case for renewal of Trident nuclear deterrent”