Bishop of Salisbury encourages political parties to ‘lay aside all private interests’ and deal with political party funding

On the 27th October the Bishop of Salisbury the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam spoke in the second reading debate of Lord Tyler’s Private Members Bill, ‘Democratic Political Activity (Funding and Expenditure) Bill’. The Bishop acknowledged that the House had achieved a consensus that we have a problem with funding of political parties and he encouraged all sides of the debate to lay aside all private interests, prejudices and partial affections, to sit down together and work out what best to do.

Continue reading “Bishop of Salisbury encourages political parties to ‘lay aside all private interests’ and deal with political party funding”

Bishop of St Albans asks about grassroots engagement to improve voter turnout

On 12th May 2016 Lord Kinnock asked Her Majesty’s Government “what steps they are taking to emphasise the importance to citizens, particularly young people, of registering to vote to enable them to participate in the referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union on 23 June.” The Bishop of St Albans asked a follow up question: 

St Albans 2The Lord Bishop of St Albans: In response to a previous debate, I worked with Bite The Ballot and got it into one of our church schools. The interesting thing for me was seeing not that people could not understand voting but that they did not know what difference it would make. Watching young people being taken through the process and the penny drop about the implications was fundamental. It seems to me that we need people to engage at the grassroots. What attempt is being made to use voluntary and charitable organisations, many of which—including the churches—have newspapers and all sorts of other publications and are in touch with millions of people, as a way of trying to raise the issue in the next month, as the noble Lord asked? Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks about grassroots engagement to improve voter turnout”

Bishop of Rochester on the role of churches, voluntary and community groups in building the common good

On 11th June 2015 the Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, spoke during the House of Lords debate on the Bishops’ Pastoral Letter for the 2015 General Election. The text is below and the speeches of others in the debate can be read here

Bishop of RochesterThe Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I, too, am grateful to my friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans for initiating this debate, and the opportunity to reflect on the House of Bishops’ pastoral letter, which, although issued in the context of an election, was written in the hope that it would provide an ongoing stimulus to thinking and reflecting on the shape of our society and the kind of society that we wish to be. Not least, it will provide something of a challenge to the churches, to which it is primarily addressed, but to others also, to discover afresh something that is a treasure and very much part of our story. Reference has been made to Magna Carta, and as Bishop of Rochester I would be remiss not to remind noble Lords of the existence of the Textus Roffensis, which predates the Magna Carta, although it is not quite so long, and which also merits celebration. Continue reading “Bishop of Rochester on the role of churches, voluntary and community groups in building the common good”

Bishop of St Albans leads debate on civil society, the common good and the Bishops’ General Election pastoral letter

“I am convinced that there is urgent work to be done to establish a new politics that seeks the common good. Indeed, I am keen that we will be able to explore the forms that such an approach to politics might take and the role that churches, charities and voluntary organisations, and indeed all intermediate institutions, can play in moving us in that direction.” – Bishop of St Albans, 11/6/15

On the 11th June 2015 the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, led a House of Lords debate on the pastoral letter of the House of Bishops for the General Election of 2015. The debate was titled:

‘That this House takes note of the role played by civil society, in the light of the pastoral letter from the Church of England’s House of Bishops, Who is my neighbour?’

The Bishop’s speech is below in full, along with his closing remarks and links to the speeches of the other 16 participants.The speech and subsequent debate can also be watched here.

Bishop St Albans June 2015The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, there is much in our nation for which we can be profoundly grateful. Next week, as we mark 800 years since the sealing of Magna Carta, we give thanks for the long, yet sometimes tortuous, path that has led us to becoming a modern democracy. That moment was if not the birth then perhaps at least the conception of civil society at the beginning of a long gestation.

Last month, we celebrated 70 years of peace since the end of the Second World War, by which time civil society as we know it today was coming of age. As a nation, we have experienced extraordinary levels of economic growth over recent decades. Life expectancy has increased significantly and, importantly for this debate, in many communities in our nations, civil society is still strong and thriving. I for one am immensely grateful to be living in modern Britain and do not want to give any time to sentimental talk about a bygone era that probably never existed. Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans leads debate on civil society, the common good and the Bishops’ General Election pastoral letter”

Mentions of Religion and Faith in Party General Election Manifestos

The manifestos of the main parties standing for the Westminster General Election on 7th May 2015 have now been published. There are many issues across the full range of policies on which Christians and those of other faiths will be interested. The following is not an analysis of these, but are manifesto extracts where religion, faith and belief are given explicit mention in the text.

469px-Ballot_Box_Silhouette.svgLinks to the full manifestos of each party are to be found below, along with a collection of links to Christian and other faith bodies hosting material on the General Election. Continue reading “Mentions of Religion and Faith in Party General Election Manifestos”

Church Commissioner Questions – Bats, Buildings, Elections

During the regular slot for questions to the Church Commissioners in the House of Commons on 11th December 2014, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Rt Hon Sir Tony Baldry MP, was asked about maintenance of cathedrals, church repairs, bat damage in churches and general election hustings. A full transcript is below.

Church Commissioners

14.01 CCQ BaldryThe right hon. Member for Banbury, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—

English Cathedrals (Maintenance)

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): [Question:] What representations he has made to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on funding for maintenance of the fabric of English cathedrals that are older than 500 years. Continue reading “Church Commissioner Questions – Bats, Buildings, Elections”

Bishop of St Albans supports efforts to encourage young people to vote

On 1st July 2014, Liberal Democrat peer Lord Storey asked Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to encourage educational establishments to take part in National Voter Registration Day 2015. The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a supplementary question.

Bishop of St AlbansThe Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, the Question is about encouraging educational establishments to encourage a whole new generation of people to engage in the electoral process. Of course, next year is a hugely significant year, with the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. Can we not only encourage our schools to use this as an opportunity to really inspire people to think about civil participation, citizenship and so on but find some imaginative ways to give people the information in the educational packs that will be used next year?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, certainly. We trust that the churches will play their own role, and perhaps we will have mentions in sermons of civic duty and what one should render unto Caesar as well as unto God.


Bishops vote to make membership or support of BNP or NF disciplinary offence for clergy

(press release via

BNP and National Front incompatible with teaching of Church

03 June 2014

The House of Bishops of the Church of England have voted to make membership or support of the British National Party (BNP) or National Front (NF) a potential disciplinary offence for its clergy. Continue reading “Bishops vote to make membership or support of BNP or NF disciplinary offence for clergy”

Can Lords Spiritual vote in general elections?

Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

When Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury, revealed in 1983 that he had voted in the recent general election (though not who for), he was unlikely to have imagined that it would give rise to newspaper headlines and questions in parliament. He had not broken the law, though the subsequent debate shone a light on an otherwise little-known feature of the House of Lords.  Continue reading “Can Lords Spiritual vote in general elections?”

The Bishop of St Albans takes part in debate on the Charity Commission

During a debate on the effectiveness of the Charity Commission, the Bishop of St Albans welcomed the Government’s decision to extend exempted charity status to churches and similar charities by a further seven years but raised concerns about the capacity to register exempted organisations when they reach the registration threshold. He called on the Government to ensure that funding was maintained to ensure the Charity Commission could provide high-quality advice and support to charities and sought a specific assurance from the Minister that the Transparency of Lobbying Act would not affect a church’s ability to host hustings and similar events.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I will not reiterate what has already been said about the levels of underfunding of the Charity Commission. There is great concern that the vital work that is going on needs proper support if we are going to develop this very important sector in our country. A number of noble Lords have spoken about the need for proper resourcing.

I want to comment briefly on the group of charities that are described by the Charity Commission as excepted charities. These include not just churches and chapels but charities that provide premises for some types of schools and Scout and Guide groups, and charitable service funds of the Armed Forces. It is very significant and helpful that Her Majesty’s Government have decided to extend exception from registration for a further seven years beyond 31 March 2014. It is unclear whether there are any plans afoot for an orderly transition to registration in the lead-up to 2021. Of course, to some extent inflation will reduce the number of excepted organisations and other charities as they reach that £100,000 registration threshold, but unless some queuing system is agreed in advance, at the end of the seven-year extension there is a real possibility of a logjam. Continue reading “The Bishop of St Albans takes part in debate on the Charity Commission”

%d bloggers like this: