Queen’s Speech 2017: Bishop of Durham highlights opportunities and risks facing north east

durham-230117On 26th June 2017, the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Paul Butler contributed to the Queen’s Speech debate on business, economic affairs, energy, transport, environment and agriculture. He argued for the importance of investment in the North-East of England and including all groups in discussions around Brexit, the Northern Powerhouse and the Industrial Strategy.

Bishop of Durham: My Lords, perhaps I may add my welcome from these Benches to the noble Lord in his role as Minister. I also look forward to hearing the maiden speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Colgrain and Lord Mountevans, which will be made during this debate.

Since arriving in Durham, I have been struck that life feels more precarious for many in the north-east than it does elsewhere. There are lots of reasons for hope, not least the social regeneration in my home town of Bishop Auckland, but the sense of precariousness persists due to deep structural disadvantages that the region has faced for decades, even centuries. It is against this backdrop that some of the changes to welfare in the last Parliament felt particularly acute and remain of very deep concern. It is also against this backdrop that the uncertainty of the Brexit negotiation is felt. Continue reading “Queen’s Speech 2017: Bishop of Durham highlights opportunities and risks facing north east”

Bishop of Chester welcomes Government policy reversal on National Insurance contributions

ChesterOn 15th March 2017, a statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on national insurance contributions was repeated in the House of Lords. The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, responded to the statement.

The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I think I can paraphrase the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, by saying:

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”,

as Churchill said. It is a strength that the Government can change their mind so openly and directly, and I wish that politicians would more often simply and openly accept that they have changed their mind in the light of the evidence. So, in that sense, I welcome this announcement. Continue reading “Bishop of Chester welcomes Government policy reversal on National Insurance contributions”

Bishop of Chester speaks about national debt and expenditure pressures in Budget debate

Chester1On 14th March 2017, the Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, moved that this House takes note of the economy in the light of the Budget Statement. The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, spoke in the debate, focusing on national debt and expenditure pressures.

The Lord Bishop of Chester My Lords, it is not only the last spring Budget, it is the last Budget in Lent. If we had any doubts, then the early speeches in this debate brought that Lenten theme home rather well.

I do not want to get into the details of the Budget, which are very political, but to talk about two broader, longer-term issues to which the Chancellor referred in his speech. The first, which has already been alluded to, is our national debt. Its rate of growth is forecast to slow in this decade, but that is stabilisation at a very high level, representing nearly £62,000 for every household in the country. Even at the current very low interest rates, servicing that debt costs £50 billion a year—more than the combined costs of defence and police services in this country. Continue reading “Bishop of Chester speaks about national debt and expenditure pressures in Budget debate”

Bishop of St Albans asks about local business rates

stalbans190117On 1st March 2017, the Bishop of St Albans asked a follow up question to Lord Kennedy of Southwark’s oral question on business rates. Lord Kennedy asked what action the government proposed to take in light of concerns expressed about the increases in business rates.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, will the Minister inform the House whether Her Majesty’s Government would look at the feasibility of setting the threshold of business rate relief at a local level, thereby protecting small independent businesses, many of which are now at risk, especially in high-value areas? Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks about local business rates”

Bishop of St Albans asks Government about workplace access to mental health services

St Albans 2On the 8th February 2017,  Lord Harrison asked Her Majesty’s Government “what measures they are taking to improve productivity in the United Kingdom economy.” The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a follow-up question.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, one factor that influences productivity is issues of health, particularly mental health. Something like nearly three out of 10 employees are reporting some sort of mental health problem each year, which analysts believe is costing employers something like £30 billion a year. Will the Minister tell the House what the Government are doing to support employers in encouraging high levels of well-being and what is being done to lessen the stigma of mental ill health—in particular, encouraging employees to access mental health services that are already available to them? Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks Government about workplace access to mental health services”

Archbishop of York – free trade must also be fair trade

york-170117-bOn 17th January, Viscount Ridley asked Her Majesty’s Government “what plans they have to celebrate the bicentenary of David Ricardo’s principle of comparative advantage, and the case for free trade”. The Archbishop of York, Most Revd and Rt Hon John Sentamu, asked a follow up question. 

The Archbishop of York Does the Minister agree that the principle of comparative advantage works only if trade is not only free but also fair? Continue reading “Archbishop of York – free trade must also be fair trade”

Bishop of Leeds calls for greater integration and connectivity in northern communities

 The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, many of the points I wanted to make have already been made, and I will not repeat them, but I do want to emphasise one or two points. When we talk about the north, I sometimes think it is a bit like the way we talk about Africa, as if it was one monolithic place. The north is not. It is very diverse, differentiated and complex. For example, we have heard about Bradford having a very young population, 23.6% being under the age of 16. Where are the jobs for them?