This week in the House of Lords Lords Spiritual attended the Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament. The Bishop of Bristol made her first speech in the Lords during the subsequent debate on the address, and the Bishop of Coventry also spoke on relations with European countries. The Bishop of Leeds spoke about extremist elements affecting football, and the Bishop of Oxford urged swifter action to bring in online age-verification for adult websites. The Bishop of Coventry asked what funds were available to help pupils with sever needs, not covered by SEN funding. A Private Member’s Bill was introduced on behalf of the Bishop of St Albans, to regulate gambling. Continue reading “Week in Westminster,14th-18th October 2019”
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:
The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. Will he confirm how many organisations are currently receiving funding for the asylum, migration and integration programmes via the responsible authority in the UK, and whether these will be placed at risk from a no-deal Brexit? Continue reading “Bishop of London asks Government about no-deal risk to refugee funding”
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 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?
On 25th September 2019 the House of Lords reconvened and prayers were led by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Wallace of Tankerness tabled a Private Notice Question that asked the Government “what is their policy on the extension of Article 50”. The Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury: Does the Minister agree that Parliament has, justifiably or not, seen its reputation sink very low over the last few months and that one of the ways of dealing with that is transparency? Regardless of how many letters there may or may not be, will he therefore undertake that the Government will be completely transparent and honest in the spirit and not merely the letter of the law about the actions they take over the next few weeks in connection with an extension? Continue reading “Archbishop of Canterbury calls for transparency from Government in future Brexit talks”
On 5th September 2019 the House of Lords considered the European Union (Withdrawal) (Number 6) Bill at its Second Reading. It had been passed by the House of Commons the previous day despite Government opposition. Its effect would be to require the Prime Minister to request an extension of the Article 50 period beyond the current 31st October Brexit deadline, should the Prime Minister not have agreed a withdrawal deal or Parliament voted for no deal, by the 19th October. The Bishop of Leeds, Rt Revd Nick Baines, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, it is already evident in some of the terms of this conversation—of this debate—that we have to get away from this binary thinking about leave or remain. They were terms that pertained to the referendum in 2016 where the question was “what”. Where we have got stuck is on the question of “how”. You do not need a degree in logic or philosophy to recognise that they are different questions. The Members of the other place and of this House trying to take their obligations seriously under the constitution to serve the people of this country means that we have got to this sort of impasse. It is not because of negligence, or because of waging ongoing campaigns from three years ago. I deeply resent the constant insinuation that if you voted remain then you remain a remainer and anything you do has to be suspected as being a plot to ensure that we remain. Many people in this House who voted remain have gone on to say that the referendum result was to leave and we have to move on to the question of how to do that but with the responsibility to look to the interests of our country. Continue reading “Bishop of Leeds calls for end to binary leave/remain labels in Brexit debate and focus on values to shape shared future”