The Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham received the following written answer on 8th November 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham asked His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the partnership between the conservation interests of the RSPB and the business Tarmac in the restoration of reedbeds at Langford Lowfields on the banks of the River Trent; and what steps they are taking to help landowners restore land in similar, environmentally-beneficial ways.
The Bishop of Oxford tabled a question for short debate on 20th October 2022, concerning the pathway to net zero emissions:
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: To ask His Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to support behaviour change as part of the pathway to net zero emissions.
My Lords, I appreciate the time given to this debate, despite all that is happening elsewhere in Westminster today. We face many challenging issues as a country and a world, but none is more serious than climate change and the environmental crisis. The context of our debate is the real prospect of global heating of more than 1.5 degrees by the middle of the century, with escalating extreme weather events in the UK and across the world, rising sea levels, devastating fires and floods, significant loss of life and damage to infrastructure, wars over scarce resources, shifting patterns of harvest, an increase in zoonotic disease and a massive displacement of people as large parts of the earth become uninhabitable.
Your Lordships may well have seen the final episode this week of BBC documentary “Frozen Planet II”, detailing the effects of global warming on people and wildlife. The most sinister pictures for me were of the small bubbles of trapped methane being released in great quantities from the permafrost, with devastating consequences for the earth.
The House of Lords debated a motion to take note of the government’s Economic Growth Plan on 10th October 2022. The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich: My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Gohir, and look forward to working with her. I also add my lament at the departure of our dear right reverend friend, who has to me also been a great friend and a great encourager.
Two of the most important lessons many of us learned during the pandemic were, first, that we were all in it together and that none of us was immune, and secondly, that no one should be left behind, which meant focusing on the most vulnerable, with all of us sharing the load. As His Majesty’s Government embarks on this bold and, I believe, risky economic experiment, I urge that those two lessons be heeded, for we ignore them at our peril.
The Bishop of St Albans asked the following question on 21st July 2022:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked: My Lords, it is right that we think about the effect on human beings, but these high temperatures have a huge effect on our agricultural sector, particularly on livestock. Extreme heat reduces milk yields from cattle, for example, and reduces fertility and increases the number of miscarriages.
What work is being done by government scientists to prepare our agriculture industry if this continues, and what advice is being given in the short term to help our first-class British agriculture sector adapt and continue to provide the food as it does so well?
On 19th July 2022 the House of Lords debated the Government’s Energy Bill at its Second Reading:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, I take many of the cogent and very well-informed points that have already been made in this debate, not least the one made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, on the need for international co-operation. Even so, I welcome all three pillars of this Bill. Its stated direction could offer at least a step forward towards the goal of net-zero carbon.
I suggest in particular two rather domestic but, I hope, practical areas that could, in my view, do with further development in the Bill; namely, local renewable energy generation, as raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and carbon capture, which has been addressed by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan.
In both cases, I hope noble Lords will forgive special reference to Cumbria, where I live. It is currently engulfed in a very contentious debate about the Woodhouse Colliery near Whitehaven that is not nearly as straightforward as it might first appear. Cumbria also has the “energy coast”—originally coal, then nuclear and now, increasingly, renewables. It has the Walney Extension offshore wind farm, which has more than 20% of the UK’s wind farm generating capacity. What is more, as a county, we have more than 50% of all the potential small-scale hydropower generation in the north-west.
On 15th July 2022, the Climate and Ecology Bill, a Private Member’s Bill, was considered at Second Reading in the House of Lords. The Bishop of St Albans spoke in the debate – his speech is below, along with contributions from other peers:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, for this Bill. I know he has made many contributions about diversity in the past. I seem to remember that red squirrels are something we have discussed on a number of occasions, and I am glad he still works on that.
This debate is taking place at a crucial moment in our country’s battle against climate change. Despite the circumstances that have led to a change of Prime Minister, there was at least genuine confidence in the urgency and seriousness with which he was approaching the issue of climate change—he spoke out on a number of occasions. Therefore, it seems all the more extraordinary that, in the current events going on, we are hearing virtually nothing from candidates who want to be the next Prime Minister about this vital area. It is as if the only thing that matters is taxation. Taxation is important for all sorts of reasons, but where are the prophetic voices speaking about where we must be for the sake of vital future generations?
On 7th July 2022, the House of Lords debated a motion put forward by Lord Oates on Sewage Disposal in Rivers and Coastal Waters. The Bishop of St Albans spoke in the debate – the Bishop’s speech is below along with contributions by other peers:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Oates, for achieving this important debate. Many of the horrifying facts and statistics have been laid out with great clarity before your Lordships’ House.
I live in the city of St Albans, which is built next to the ancient Roman city of Verulamium. We have a 17-mile chalk stream which runs through the city called the River Ver, based on its Roman name; it flows eventually into the River Colne. We have a thriving local group of activists, the Ver Valley Society, which was set up and continues to work with great vigour to protect this really important chalk stream—it is really a stream rather than a river.
In 2021, the sewage treatment works at the top of the river spilled for 2,646 hours—just over 100 hundred days, so nearly a third of the year. Not only was that appallingly bad for this unique ecosystem—chalk streams and chalk rivers are mainly found here in this country—it was also bad because of the residual nitrate in the aquifer and it has led to a very poor state of the chalk stream. Insects at the bottom of the food chain are not as plentiful as they once were. Likewise, aquatic plant life is also suffering. It is unacceptable for this lovely, delightful small river, that many of us walk along regularly for leisure, that goes through our park, to be treated so badly.
On 24th May 2022, the Bishop of Oxford asked a question during a debate on establishing a zoonosis research centre in the UK:
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I am sure the Minister is aware that the rapid increase in zoonotic diseases has its roots in the environmental crisis: deforestation, habitat destruction, intensive farming and unregulated trade in wild animals. Therefore, as well as the vital areas of medical research and response to disease, how are the Government focusing their intervention on prevention as well as diagnosis and cure?
On 16th May 2022 the Bishop of St Edmundsbury an Ipswich, Rt Revd Martin Seeley, gave his maiden speech in the House of Lords, in the debate on the Queen’s Speech.
The Lord Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich (Maiden Speech): It is a huge honour to be able to address your Lordships’ House today. I thank noble Lords for kind words and acts of welcome. I have been very struck by the kindness and warmth of the staff who work here and who have supported me in my early faltering steps. I regret that a bout of Covid last week prevented me attending at all, but I look forward to building a pattern of regular engagement in the work of this House.
I have had the joy and privilege of serving the people of the diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, which comprises most of the wonderful county of Suffolk, for the past seven years. I previously served in Scunthorpe, New York City, St Louis, Missouri, Westminster, the Isle of Dogs and Cambridge, and I simply reflect on the curious ways of the Church of England that I ended up serving a largely rural diocese.
On 11th May 2022, the House of Lords debated the Queen’s Speech. The Bishop of Oxford spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, it is a privilege to share in this debate, and I thank the Minister for her careful and thoughtful introduction. I particularly look forward to the maiden speech of my colleague, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford. I have heard him speak before, and it is always a profitable experience.
I congratulate the Government warmly on the priority given to the levelling-up agenda and the ambition of 11 of the 12 missions outlined in the White Paper. I know from my seven years as Bishop of Sheffield that the gap between different parts of the country has been widening for many years, and it is very good that this is being addressed.