On 30th December 2020 the House of Lords considered all stages of the Government’s European Union (Future Relationship) Bill. The Bishop of Southwark spoke at Second Reading:
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I am glad to follow the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, and agree with much of what he said. I congratulate Her Majesty’s Government on achieving a negotiated outcome with the European Union. In doing so, I pay tribute not only to the Prime Minister but to the negotiating team, which bore a weighty burden, the Civil Service support that provided them with necessary expertise and, last but not least, the chief negotiator the noble Lord, Lord Frost.
The wider debate requires a candid and truthful recognition of what has been a complex process, including an explicit acknowledgement that a successful negotiation requires significant compromise. Such truthful recognition makes for good civil discourse. This will be further helped by more accurate language about the good and less good aspects of the package and appropriate scrutiny of detail—sadly not possible today. I hope that the public debate is less about the intangibles of rhetoric and more about the true and honest cost of the investment, outreach and spiritual renewal needed if we are to flourish as a nation state, going forward.
My final point begins with comments from the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams of Oystermouth, recently retired from this House, who, early in the pandemic, spoke of what has become a much wider perception that our lives are bound together with those of every human being on this planet. That, he said, poses “the biggest moral questions”. A more positive focus on our continuing interdependence, not least with other European nations but more widely—globally—would be welcome and herald the future partnerships that are so essential to our national well-being.
Therefore, I hope that, as we consider the Bill and continue the shared endeavour that is our proud national story, we recognise that people and institutions flourish best under relational frameworks and that individualism, freed of obligation or collective provision, will ultimately fail. We are still in the season of Christmas, and the birth of a saviour transcends all national boundaries with a message of peace and good will to all people.
On 15th September 2020 Lord Lexden asked the Government “what role the Law Officers have in ensuring that the rule of law is maintained in (1) the development of domestic legislation and (2) their policies relating to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from and future relationship with the European Union.” The Bishop of Carlisle, Rt Revd James Newcome, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the Government recognise that any attempt unilaterally to modify the terms of the withdrawal agreement would adversely affect not only future trade partners but also the confidence that EU citizens resident in this country will place in the commitments that the United Kingdom has made under the agreement? The confidence of British citizens resident in EU countries would also be damaged if they saw that treaty commitments could simply be set aside. Can he offer any reassurance in either regard? Continue reading “Bishop of Carlisle asks Government to reassure EU and UK citizens of their treaty commitments”
On 8th September 2020 in the House of Lords Government Minister Lord True responded to a question from the Opposition frontbench on the prospects for a Brexit trade deal in October, and the upholding of the Northern Ireland protocol in the withdrawal agreement should a deal not be agreed. The Bishop of Southwark, Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, given the concerns in the House about any attempt to derogate from an international treaty and the implications for the peace process in Northern Ireland, will the Minister confirm that the Government are aware that any attempt unilaterally to modify the terms of the withdrawal agreement will adversely affect the confidence of EU citizens resident here, and of British citizens resident in EU countries, in the United Kingdom’s commitments under the agreement, if treaty commitments may be set aside?
What can the Minister say to reassure both categories under these circumstances, other than to undertake to honour the treaty in full? Continue reading “Bishop of Southwark says failure of Government to honour international treaty means EU and UK nationals need new reassurances”
On 21st January 2020 the House of Lords debated and voted on an amendment to the Government’s EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill from Lord Dubs, which would restore measures for refugee children family reunion. The Bishop supported the amendment as a co-sponsor and in the subsequent vote it was passed by 300 votes to 220. It returns to the Commons to be voted on by MPs.
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I speak once more from these Benches, recognising that the argument has been made again and again. I am honoured to follow the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, and to concur with all that he said. As my right reverend friend the Bishop of Worcester reminded the House last week—he kindly spoke for me because I could not be present in Committee—this debate resonates with the nativity story, the story of a child fleeing persecution. The voices of these children are too often drowned out by conflict and violence, by traffickers and by political leaders. Let this House speak on their behalf by voting for the amendment. Continue reading “EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill: Bishop of Durham urges support for Dubs amendment on refugee children family reunion”
On 20th January 2020 the House of Lords voted on amendments to the Government’s EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill. The Bishop of Birmingham voted on an amendment from Lord Oates to allow EU citizens covered by the settled status scheme to have the right to a physical form of proof of status. Continue reading “Votes: EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – Proof of settled status for EU citizens”
On 15th January 2020 the House of Lords considered amendments to the Government’s European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill at its second day in Committee. The Bishop of Worcester, Rt Revd John Inge, spoke in support of an amendment in the name of Lord Dubs and the Bishop of Durham, to ensure the continuation of the refugee children and family reunification provisions of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. The amendment was withdrawn by Lord Dubs at the end of the debate, with a commitment to return to it at a later stage.
Clause 37: Arrangements with EU about unaccompanied children seeking asylum. Debate on whether Clause 37 should stand part of the Bill.
The Lord Bishop of Worcester: My Lords, I am pleased to support this amendment, to which my friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham has put his name. He is sorry not to be able to be in the Chamber today. A few weeks ago, we celebrated the story of Christmas. In the nativity, the happy events in a Bethlehem stable were followed by the more dramatic flight of the holy family to escape the violent persecution of King Herod. As we discuss this amendment, that story of the child Jesus and his parents fleeing from violence to a foreign land resonates loudly.
Children are among the most vulnerable victims of conflict, persecution and violence around the world. We all know that they do not choose to become refugees separated from their families. We as a nation can choose to reunite some families torn apart by conflict by offering children shelter, hope and a future. That is what I believe the majority of people in this country wish, and I am sure that is what the Government wish. This amendment seeks to ensure it by guaranteeing a safe, legal, effective and managed route for child refugees to join their families in this country. Continue reading “European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill: Bishops support Dubs amendment on refugee children family reunion”
On 14th January 2020 Lord Oates (LD) moved Amendment 2 to the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill during its Committee Stage*. The Bishop of Leeds, Rt Revd Nick Baines, spoke in the debate on the amendment:
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: I thank the Minister for giving way. Does she agree that many of the 2.5 million people who have registered have done so resentfully and unhappily, because the process that they have been made to go through is effectively applying for a status that many of them have for decades felt that they should have had automatically?
Continue reading “European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill: Bishop of Leeds cites dissatisfaction with EU citizens registration rules”
On 7th January 2020 the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, received two written answers from Government, about agriculture in future trade deals, and the Agriculture Bill:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: HL71
(i) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have, if any, to exclude agriculture from future trade deals.
HL70 (ii) To ask Her Majesty’s Government when the Agriculture Bill will be introduced to Parliament.
Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks Government about post-Brexit trade deals and agriculture”
On the 5th November the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, received a written answer from the Government, in reply to his question about EU-related immigration funding:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: HL92 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what guarantee, if any, has been provided to charities and non-governmental organisations who currently receive funding from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund through the UK responsible authority rather than through direct bids to the European Commission. Continue reading “Bishop of Durham asks Government about pre-Brexit guarantees for Asylum, Migration and Integration funding”
On 23rd October 2019 Lord Duncan of Springbank moved a Statutory Instrument for approval entitled “Freedom of Establishment and Free Movement of Services (EU Exit) Regulations 2019”. The Bishop of Salisbury, Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, responded to the debate and subsequent regret motion from Lord Stevenson of Balmacara.
Continue reading “Bishop of Salisbury responds to a motion to regret the Freedom of Establishment and Free Movement of Services (EU Exit) Regulations 2019”