Church Commissioner Questions: church buildings, racial inequality, freedom of religion or belief, parenting and marriage, gay and lesbian Christians, Christians in the Middle East, church schools

On 27th January 2022 MPs asked the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered questions in the House of Commons chamber:

Churches and Cathedrals: Sustainability

Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con)

What assessment the Church of England has made of the steps needed to put the maintenance of churches and cathedrals on a sustainable basis. (905258)

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous): The Church estimates that over the next five years at least £1.14 billion of maintenance and repairs are needed for churches and cathedrals. The Church is very grateful that 550 churches and cathedrals have already benefited from the culture recovery fund, but there remains an urgent need for predictable and sustainable sources of funding, which enable us to keep skilled builders and craft people in work.

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Archbishop leads debate on freedom of speech

“When people are too scared to express their genuinely held and legally protected beliefs, that is very dangerous for democracy.”

On 10th December 2021 in the House of Lords the Archbishop of Canterbury held a debate on freedom of speech. His opening and closing remarks are below, and the full debate including the contributions of Peers and the Opposition and Government response, can be read in Hansard, here.

Moved by The Archbishop of Canterbury: That this House takes note of contemporary challenges to freedom of speech, and the role of public, private and civil society sectors in upholding freedom of speech.

The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Leader of the House, the usual channels, all noble Lords who have taken the trouble to be here today and, especially, the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, for answering on behalf of the Government in order that we may have this debate. It is a return to an Advent tradition, interrupted in recent years by elections and pandemics. Should your Lordships worry that I am infectious in some way, I have been tested to the limits of testing. I have my granddaughter’s cold, for which I would like to record my grateful thanks.

We on these Benches have our critics—I have a large number—but for all our present failings you would be hard-pressed to find a more disastrous move by the Lords spiritual than when, in 1831, 21 of them lined up behind the Duke of Wellington and opposed the Great Reform Bill. Had they voted the other way, it would have passed. The people, denied their rights, responded with riots, and bishops were particularly targeted, some with violence. In Bristol, the Bishop’s Palace was burned down. A dead cat was thrown at my predecessor Archbishop Howley, narrowly missing him but striking his chaplain in the face. “Be glad it wasn’t a live one,” Howley is reported to have responded.

I start with this dive into the past because it illustrates a present point. The grey area between, on the one hand, peaceful protest and reasoned criticism and, on the other, incitement to hatred or to violence is one that we are still trying to navigate today. The Church of England knows about that. I must start by suggesting that our society should never follow our historical example of coercion, Test Acts and punishment. There is still a prison at Lambeth Palace at the top of the Lollards’ Tower, with room for eight people. It was used for the Lollards—I have a little list.

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Bishop of Durham asks about children’s views of education during the pandemic

On 16th November 2020 Baroness Massey of Darwen asked the Government ” what plans they have to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into legislation.” The Bishop of Durham asked a follow up question:

The Lord Bishop of Durham [V]:  Regarding the voice of children and young people, if Article 12 had been in law, what might their input have been on their own situation in schools, universities and the like through the pandemic? Continue reading “Bishop of Durham asks about children’s views of education during the pandemic”

Bishop of Durham calls for postponement of Ofsted school inspections during ongoing covid-19 pandemic

On 29th October the House of Lords considered the Government’s Education (Exemption from School and Further Education Institutions Inspections) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 in Grand Committee. The Bishop of Durham spoke on the Regulations, highlighting the need for postponement of Ofsted and schools inspections whilst the vcovid-19 pandemic is ongoing:

The Lord Bishop of Durham [V]: My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register. In welcoming warmly this new instrument to ensure that all schools are subject to inspection in the same way, we recognise the continuing value of inspections as a whole. I want to associate myself warmly with the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, and the noble Lord, Lord Addington. However, although we welcome this instrument, we would also welcome the further postponing of Ofsted and school inspections, including the Section 48 inspections of schools with a religious designation, throughout the pandemic period. Continue reading “Bishop of Durham calls for postponement of Ofsted school inspections during ongoing covid-19 pandemic”

Bishop of Bristol asks Government to tackle school holiday hunger and long term child poverty

On 27th October 2020 Lord Woolley of Woodford asked the Government “following the announcements of the Welsh and Scottish Governments, as well as local councils, whether they will end the free school meals postcode lottery and provide free school meals for eligible children in England during the school holidays until Easter 2021.” The Bishop of Bristol asked a follow-up question:

The Lord Bishop of Bristol [V]: My Lords, although I agree with the Government that free school meals are not the long-term solution for holiday hunger, the reality is that it is now half-term and children are going hungry. Does the Minister agree that although ​the current crisis demands short-term solutions, there is also a much bigger question at stake? Will she tell us what sustained support the Government will be offering to address the concerns up to Easter 2021, and their plans to tackle the underlying and increasing issues of child poverty in the longer term? Continue reading “Bishop of Bristol asks Government to tackle school holiday hunger and long term child poverty”

Bishop of Durham asks Government about access to computers for home learning use

On Monday 26th October Lord Carrington asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the impact of the COVID-19 catch-up premium on disadvantaged pupils.” The Bishop of Durham asked a further question:

The Lord Bishop of Durham [V]: My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register. I welcome the Government’s ongoing support of pupils through the catch-up premium and encourage the Minister to continue to give attention to disadvantaged pupils, who require significantly greater support than the average pupil. Given the specific difficulties relating to digital access for remote learning, can the Minister explain why access to computers for home use appears to have been drastically reduced just as schools have been legally required to provide online learning for those who have to stay at home? Continue reading “Bishop of Durham asks Government about access to computers for home learning use”

Bishop of Winchester asks about impact of COVID-19 on apprenticeship schemes

On 4th June 2020 Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale asked the Government “what action they will take to close any educational gaps arising from the school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The Bishop of Winchester, Rt Red Tim Dakin, asked a follow-up question on apprenticeships.

The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, I want to highlight another example of educational institution closures affecting the educational attainment of young people, particularly those aged 16 to 19. I refer to the report published recently by the Sutton Trust highlighting the impact of lockdown, with 36% of apprentices having been furloughed and 61% of apprenticeship providers saying that their apprentices had lost out on work and learning. What assessment have the Government made of the impact on apprentices unable to continue on-the-job training, particularly those from more disadvantaged backgrounds? What additional support will Her Majesty’s Government offer to these individuals? Continue reading “Bishop of Winchester asks about impact of COVID-19 on apprenticeship schemes”

Bishop of Winchester asks Government about reopening schools

On 20th May 2020, Lord Watson of Invergowrie asked the Government “what action they are taking to publish scientific evidence which (1) ensures the re-opening schools on 1 June will be safe for pupils, staff and parents, and (2) includes the impact on the (a) national, and (b) regional, reproduction rates (R number) of COVID-19. The Bishop of Winchester, Rt Revd Tim Dakin, asked a follow-up question:

The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, as with many schools, Church of England schools have remained open during the lockdown for the children of key ​workers and vulnerable children. Our teachers are working extremely hard to provide educational and pastoral support to our students at this time of unprecedented challenge. Can the Minister confirm whether school leaders will be granted the discretion to reopen at a pace dictated by their local circumstances and context, considering the significant mental, spiritual, physical and social impact that the current situation is having on children, especially those from the most disadvantaged and vulnerable families?

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Church Commissioner Questions – Coronavirus, Access to Worship, Family Life, Education, Clergy Discipline Process and Hospital Chaplains

On 19th May 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered questions in the House of Commons on coronavirus, access to worship, family life, education, the clergy discipline process and hospital chaplaincy. A transcript is below:

Church Commissioners

The hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—

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Bishop of Durham says disadvantage gap will widen the longer children have to learn from home

On 14th May 2020 a statement was given regarding the reopening and operation of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, asked a follow up question:

20.04.30 Durham 2

Lord Bishop of Durham: I am grateful to the Minister and the Secretary of State for meeting myself and the Church of England education team earlier in the week. The longer that children are learning from home, the wider the disadvantage gap that may well be developing. Does the Minister agree that the risks of not reopening schools in a managed and phased way are actually greater than the logistical challenges presented by reopening?

Continue reading “Bishop of Durham says disadvantage gap will widen the longer children have to learn from home”

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