On 7th January 2020 the Bishop of Leeds, Rt Revd Nick Baines, opened the second day of debate on the Queen’s Speech, on the subjects of culture, language and foreign affairs:
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, following the last debate on Iran, I think it is wise to take a step back from the detail, to which we shall shortly return, to consider culture and principle.
Twenty-twenty vision is something that, if claimed, proves only that the claimant is deluded. However, leaving fantasists to one side for a moment, we might take some wisdom from the late former Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Helmut Schmidt. At the age of 91, he wrote a book called Ausser Dienst, or “out of office”, in which he advises young Germans considering a career in politics not to do so unless they speak at least two foreign languages to a competent degree. His reason? You can only understand your own culture if you look at it through the eyes of another culture, and to do that you need language; some things cannot be translated.
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.
On 23rd October 2019 the House of Lords considered the Statutory Instrument titled the Freedom of Establishment and Free Movement of Services (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. Two bishops voted to support the regret motion tabled by Lord Stevenson:
On 19th October 2019 Parliament sat on a Saturday for the first time in 37 years. The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Evans of Bowes Park) moved a motion to take note of Brexit, and repeated the Prime Minister’s statement on the deal he had negotiated with the EU. The Bishop of Leeds, Rt Revd Nick Baines, commented about issues of trust and humility:
Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, I have ditched the speech that I intended to give because of what I have heard. I particularly want to reinforce the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge. His warnings are prescient, although his conclusion reminded me of that of the General Synod on writing liturgy. It was unanimous that there should be only one form of the Lord’s prayer in our new liturgies. Everyone agreed; we ended up with three.
The “how” is a very difficult question.
From what we heard in the Statement earlier, it seems that the question at the root of all of this stuff is trust. Trust cannot be commanded, even by a Prime Minister; it has to be earned.
We have had three years or more of either learning to trust or becoming suspicious about trust, and that goes across the country. We heard in the Statement that we have been half-hearted in our commitment to the EU. We have not just been half-hearted. We have been told lies and there has been gross misrepresentation, including from the current Prime Minister when he was a journalist in Brussels.
Propagated through the media, these lies have been allowed to go on and have formed the way that we see and understand Europe, ourselves and our role. That raises a question about trust.
On 15th October 2019 the House of Lords continued their discussion of the Queen’s Speech. The Bishop of Coventry, Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, contributed to the debate on the issue of the EU:
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: My Lords, the Queen’s Speech made clear the Government’s intention,
“to work towards a new partnership with the European Union based on free trade and friendly co-operation”.
As we have heard, the noble Baroness the Leader of the House spoke yesterday of the Government forging,
“a new relationship with our partners in the EU that will cement our reputation as a strong and reliable neighbour”.—[Official Report, 14/10/19; col. 19.]
I declare a very personal interest in such friendly co-operation: a hope that we may indeed be a strong and reliable—good—neighbour with the sort of obligations and responsibilities noted by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter.
Last Tuesday morning, my German daughter-in-law gave birth to her first child in Cologne. I have spoken in your Lordships’ House before about her wedding to our son in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral: a place once desecrated by hatred and violence, sanctified by their vows of love, and witnessed—most movingly, I found—by their grandmothers, whose fathers and husbands had fought to kill each other in the First and Second World Wars. It was the fulfilment in two families of a 1940 Christmas Day commitment, broadcast by the BBC from the ruins of the bombed cathedral, to find a way to reach out to enemies and turn them into friends.
On 26th September 2019 the Minister of State, Department for Exiting the European Union, Lord Callanan, repeated a Government statement on the EU (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019. The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark, asked a follow-up question:
Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord for repeating the Statement and for making and underlining the commitment that the Government will obey the law. May I test that a little further? It seems to me that, in the current very fractious debate, what is needed is to respect the impartiality of those institutions upholding the constitution and the law. Will the Minister counsel his colleagues to use language that is appropriate and not excessive and that reflects respect for our institutions, the taking of personal responsibility and a degree of restraint? When Prayers are said by Bishops in this House, we pray every day for the well-being of all the estates in this realm. We all have a duty to make our own contribution towards that.
On 25th September 2019 the Minister of State in the Department for Exiting the European Union, Lord Callanan,repeated a Government statement on ‘Brexit Readiness and Operation Yellowhammer’. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, spoke in response:
"The total division across Parliament is only a shadow of the immense divisions across the country, which the bishops find at every level. Divisions are shaking this country apart. They are shaking us apart in all our great institutions." @JustinWelby in the House of Lords today pic.twitter.com/Hs1Dibm7P3
The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, this debate —for want of a better word—demonstrates, I am sure the noble Lord would agree, the total division across Parliament. It is only a shadow of the immense divisions across the country, which the bishops find at every level, as they are immersed in every local community. The divisions are shaking this country apart. They are shaking us apart in all our great institutions, whether it is Parliament or the courts, which are portrayed as having launched a coup d’état—a slightly unlikely idea—and it is causing serious damage to our economy. We are hearing in our debates the incapacity of Parliament not only to make a decision but to find any way through the deadlock. The divisions are so deep that we cannot expect, I fear, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, suggested, that cross-party work could bring a decision on what we do, but can we not at least ask the Government to look for alternative means of setting a path to making a decision?