On 19th May 2021 the Bishop of Leeds spoke in the House of Lords in the fifth and final day of debate on the Queen’s Speech. He focused on ethics, the EU and Russia.
My Lords, I am grateful to follow the Noble Lord Campbell and for the Noble Lady the Minister’s comprehensive and ambitious speech introducing this debate. I welcomed the Government’s Integrated Review as a necessary attempt to hold together the diverse interests, challenges and opportunities facing the UK in the future.
One of the things I learned in my early career as a linguist at GCHQ was that words and assumptions need to be interrogated as they can be used to obscure reality. For example, in our context, an increased “cap” on nuclear weapons tells us nothing about numbers that might actually be intended or the rationale for them.
So, I think it was remarkable that reference in the Review to the European Union was almost completely missing. Now, this had been widely predicted as it seems that, for the Government, any such reference might be heard as an ideological Remainer capitulation. Yet, the rationale for a tilt towards the Indo-Pacific only makes sense to a point: it is not just what we are “tilting towards” that matters, but also what we are “tilting away from” that has to be considered.
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?
On 22nd July the Government’s Immigration and Social Security (EU Withdrawal) Bill was debated at Sec0nd Reading in the House of Lords. The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark, and the Rt Revd Vivienne Faull, Bishop of Bristol, spoke in the debate, highlighting modern slavery, work eligibility, EU citizens, visas for ministers of religion, tariffs, and children’s welfare.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, the introduction of this Bill in another place is a signal opportunity for Her Majesty’s Government comprehensively to reset the legislative basis for immigration control in this country, to set out a vision for doing so, and to rationalise and streamline the more than 1,000 pages of immigration legislation under which we labour. It is surprising, therefore, that, as other speakers have pointed out, this Bill is so narrow in scope. Continue reading “Bishops of Southwark and Bristol highlight concerns with Government’s Immigration Bill”
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?
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 8th October 2019 the Minister of State, Department for Exiting the European Union (Lord Callanan) repeated a Government statement about Brexit preparations. The Bishop of London, Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, asked a follow-up question:
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.