Bishop of Durham introduces Bill to abolish two-child limit

On 8th July 2022 the Bishop of Durham brought forward his Universal Credit (Removal of Two Child Limit) Bill, to be debated in the House of Lords. His speech introducing this Second Reading debate is below, followed by those of other Peers and the Government Minister responding:

The Lord Bishop of Durham:
My Lords, I am glad to bring before you this Bill, which would abolish the two-child limit to universal credit. In doing so, I declare my interest as patron of the North East Child Poverty Commission.

When this policy was originally debated, I made it clear that we would seek to hold the Government to account for its impact. Working with others, including the Child Poverty Action Group, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and many others, I have sought to do this. Before the policy was rolled out, its impacts were predicted—notably, that many children would pay the price. They are, with more families affected every year.

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‘I joined 25 Bishops in condemning plans to send refugees to Rwanda – here’s why’ – Bishop of Durham


The following article by the Bishop of Durham appeared in the Independent on 15th June 2022

The Bishop of Durham,
Rt Revd Paul Butler

It is a deeply regrettable moment for us as a nation that the government is pursuing a policy that intends to transport asylum seekers to another country thousands of miles away, before and without considering their claim to asylum in the UK.

We have a rich history of providing sanctuary to those around the world fleeing war and persecution, and it is intolerable to see us abdicate both our moral responsibility and commitment to international law. This week, all of the 26 bishops of the Church of England who serve in the House of Lords signed a letter voicing our alarm over the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

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‘Rwanda refugees plan flies in the face of Christian teachings’ – Bishop of Durham

This is the text of an article published in The Independent on 26th April 2022.

Bishop of Durham

The government’s plan is troubling because we are discharging our responsibility to welcoming the stranger, writes the Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler.

In the House of Lords over the past few months, I have been contributing to debates on the Nationality and Borders Bill – engaging with the government’s desire to reform the asylum system. My starting point is the Christian commitment to welcoming the stranger, treating them as we would each other.

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Bishop of Durham responds to Government’s Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Review.

On the 30th March the Bishop of Durham spoke in the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Review debate.

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I declare my interest as chair of the National Society, which leads the Church of England’s education work.

I hope the Minister will be pleased to hear that, in response to yesterday’s Green Paper, the Church of England has established a national network for SENCOs at primary and secondary levels, partly to get their opinions on how we should respond but also to offer development in future. However, I want to continue to pursue the early years question. Understandably, this is about education and social care. The first 1,001 days of life are the most crucial. Nothing here refers to the development of family hubs and the work of health visitors in the pre-two context, where some discernment ought to be available. Can the Minister comment on the join-up between the development of family hubs and the really early years?

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Bishop of Durham asks Government to include faith and voluntary sector in new coronavirus inquiry

On 13th May 2021 the House of Lords heard the repeat of a Government statement on a Coronavirus Inquiry.

The Lord Bishop of Durham: The pandemic has highlighted the vital role that the faith and voluntary sectors play in our society, particularly in the poorest communities, but initially our engagement was not as well done as it could possibly have been. Will the Minister comment on how the Government intend to include the faith and voluntary sectors in the inquiry so that their role is guaranteed in the future?

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Bishop of Durham asks about security of local jobs following Hitachi train defects

On 13th May 2021 the House of Lords considered the recent train delays caused by defects in the Hitachi stock.

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I declare an interest as a regular LNER user—indeed, I experienced disruption to the service on my trip down from Darlington. While it is essential that the defects are addressed, I am very aware of the jobs and investment brought to County Durham by Hitachi. Can the Minister confirm that this issue will not impact the investment in the region and the security of the jobs?

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Queen’s Speech – Bishop of Durham on children, young people and immigration

On 12th May 2021 the House of Lords debated the Queen’s Speech. The Bishop of Durham spoke, focusing on its impact on children and young people, and on the proposals for immigration.

“My Lords, it is a privilege to be the first to speak from these Benches on Her Majesty’s gracious Speech. I look forward to the valedictory speech of my colleague, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth, who has served the House so well during his years as a Lord spiritual. I also look forward to the maiden speeches of the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, and the noble Lord, Lord Lebedev.

“I make my comments within a very specific framework: are the measures contained in the gracious Speech good for the children and young people of our land? At the outset of her tenure as Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza commented: ‘I want to see childhood right at the top of the Government agenda. That means every speech from the Prime Minister and Chancellor mentioning children, and every Government department constantly pushing to improve the lives of children’— so it was good to hear a range of references to children. Having the best start in life by prioritising early years is essential. There is no debate any longer that the months in the womb and the first 1,001 days of a child’s life are absolutely critical to lifetime development. Much deeper investment in all aspects of early years well-being—mental, physical, social and spiritual—is essential.

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Bishop of Durham pays tribute to retiring Lord Speaker

On 12th May 2021 tributes were paid in the House of Lords to Lord Fowler, the retiring Lord Speaker. The Bishop of Durham spoke on behalf of the Lords Spiritual:


The Lord Bishop of Durham: It is my privilege to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, from the Spiritual Benches. I start with a specific reflection from these Benches on our leading of Prayers at the start of each day. The noble Lord was consistently considerate and courteous, taking the time to personally thank the duty Bishop for their prayers on each occasion. It was a small, kind gesture that meant more than he may have realised.

We all know of the noble Lord’s long-term, ongoing dedication and perseverance in addressing HIV. His patient persistence is admirable and notable. As he continues with this commendable work, as a UN ambassador, we trust he will further help it move forward. As it happens, this morning, before we began business, I was on a call with Christian Aid, for Christian Aid Week, with people from Kenya who were reflecting not only on climate change but the ongoing impact of AIDS in their country. It is work that needs to continue.

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Vaccines for developing world, poverty in the pandemic, devolution and Ethiopia  

In the House of Lords on 14th January 2021 the Bishop of St Albans received written answers to questions on vaccines for developing countries and the situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia while the Bishop of Durham received answers to questions on the recent updated report by the Child Poverty Action Group and the Church of England on Poverty in the pandemic.
Meanwhile in the Chamber, the Bishop of Birmingham raised the issue of devolution in England with the Government during Lord Young’s Oral question about the formation of a Constitution, Democracy and Human Rights Commission. Text below:

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‘Spycops’ and gambling related harm

In the House of Lords on 13th January 2021 the Bishop of Durham spoke during the debate on the Covert Human Intelligence Bill and the Bishop of St Albans received a written answer to a question on support for those living with gambling-related harm. Details below:

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