“Democracy Denied” Report: Bishop of St Albans speaks in support of recommendations

On 12th January 2022, the House of Lords debated a report from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee: Democracy Denied? The urgent need to rebalance power between Parliament and the Executive. The Bishop of St Albans spoke in support of the report’s recommendations on legislation and regulatory powers:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, as has already been noted by other speakers in this debate, delegated legislation is indeed a necessary part of the process, but I echo the concerns about the increasing use of skeleton legislation, Henry VIII powers, disguised legislation and tertiary legislation. I support these two excellent reports that look at how we might limit the use of delegated legislation and address the culture that is now taking it for granted. Both committees highlighted very valid concern about the transfer of power from Parliament, with clear democratic oversight and public scrutiny, to instead ruling by Executive edict.

The past few years have been turbulent times, although probably if anybody looked back over any decade in the life of this nation they would see that there have always been turbulent things happening. Therefore, I guess it is easy to understand why the Executive may need to respond in unusual and challenging circumstances with delegated authority. However, it is absolutely crucial that this is done sparingly and in a transparent manner. The Government’s response to the pandemic is the classic example of this. Of course, there are times when a national emergency will demand that we fast-track legislation, or grant broad delegated powers, but those should be exceptional and rare cases. The Government must always recognise the importance and value of parliamentary scrutiny. What is concerning, as is brilliantly highlighted in these reports, is that the Government’s widening use of delegated legislation is not limited to emergencies but is now being used routinely.

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Bishop of Leeds asks about recent security breach by the Home Secretary

The Lord Bishop of Leeds asked a question about security breaches during a debate on use of private mobile telephones and email accounts by ministers on Wednesday 2nd November 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, I sympathise over the complexity of this matter, particularly given the technological developments, but there is the question of principle, which does not particularly relate to the recent cases cited. Several decades ago, when I was at GCHQ, the slightest security misdemeanour meant that you lost your job. Does that principle—that making a serious security error has consequences and a simple apology will not do—still apply? I cannot think of another circumstance in which an apology would have sufficed.

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Bishop of Oxford speaks about ministerial changes

On 7th September 2022, the House of Lords discussed the recent ministerial changes, with particular reference to the new Leader of the House of Lords, Lord True, and the outgoing Leader, Baroness Evans of Bowes Park. The Bishop of Oxford made the following speech:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, it is a joy to listen to these tributes. I associate myself with them and, on behalf of the Lords spiritual, add our thanks and appreciation to the noble Baroness for her service over this last six years. It is a happy thing that so many of my colleagues are also here to join in that tribute. It has been my privilege to serve in this House through the whole of the noble Baroness’s tenure. I believe that she has brought the gifts of stability and acuity to her leadership and that the House has functioned well in that time. So far as I can judge, she has increased the respect in which this House is held in the wider nation and country.

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Queen’s Speech: Bishop of Southwark speaks on legislature and the courts

On 12th May the House of Lords Debated the Queen’s speech. The Bishop of Southwark spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, the late Sir Winston Churchill said:

“To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years. To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day.”

I consider that a useful maxim for any Government’s programme, both to build up and, in modern speak, to level up. With that maxim in mind and looking at the Government’s concern in relation to the Human Rights Act, I say that the recently introduced measures on migration and further proposals on public order will inevitably impact adversely on the welcome of refugees, including Ukrainians, and on legitimate protest. I regret that we did not hear of specific action to insulate homes to tackle the energy crisis and measures to alleviate rising poverty, not to mention action on the climate crisis—in particular, an end to new fossil fuels. We must not allow these vital changes to be eclipsed by the Russian military escapade and its consequences in Ukraine.

However, important as that all is, I wish to focus on those elements in the gracious Speech that promise to address the balance between the operation of the courts and the legislature and to do so through a Bill of Rights. I note with appreciation the comments of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and other noble Lords.

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Prime Minister resignation statement – Archbishop and Lords Spiritual Convenor respond

On the 24th May 2019 Theresa May announced that she would be standing down as Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Birmingham, who is Convenor of the Lords Spiritual, issued the following statements in response: Continue reading “Prime Minister resignation statement – Archbishop and Lords Spiritual Convenor respond”

Service and trust: Bishop of Norwich speaks in Lords debate on religion and belief in public life

“Service, in the Christian tradition, is a vocation. When Jesus washed the feet of his disciples he reversed the power relationship between the teacher and his followers. Two thousand years ago, service never made you great; it was a sign of your enslavement. These days, by contrast, everyone wants to do us a service” – Bishop of Norwich, 27/11/14

On 27th November 2014 the House of Lords debated a motion from the Crossbench Peer and former Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, on ‘the role of religion and belief in British public life’. The Bishop of Norwich, Rt Rev Graham James, spoke in the debate, focusing on themes of trust and a vocation to service in public life.

14.06.12 Bishop of NorwichThe Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, like other noble Lords I am very grateful to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for securing this debate. I notice that the commission of which he is part is considering how religion may contribute to,

“greater levels of mutual trust and collective action, and to a more harmonious society”.

I will address the reference to mutual trust, especially with regard to our public life, which is far from well. The level of cynicism about our political structures and politicians finds reflection in an all too common assumption that many people in public life are not to be trusted. That is true for religious leaders, too, and for almost anyone in the public eye, and it generates cynicism about the state itself. Continue reading “Service and trust: Bishop of Norwich speaks in Lords debate on religion and belief in public life”

Bishop of Chester speaks during debate on constitutional role of Leader of the House of Lords

On 28th July 2014, former speaker of the House of Commons, and Crossbench Peer the Rt Hon. the Baroness Boothroyd, moved a Motion to Regret in the House of Lords. The Motion stated:

That this House welcomes the appointment of Baroness Stowell of Beeston as Leader of the House of Lords, but regrets the decision of the Prime Minister to diminish the standing of the House by failing to make her a full member of the Cabinet; and requests that the Prime Minister reconsiders this decision.

The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, took part in the debate on the motion. He spoke of the way in which power is distributed throughout the contemporary political system and how this distribution of power may need to be reconsidered if the public are to be re-engaged with the political process.

14.03 Bishop of ChesterThe Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I want to associate these Benches fully with both sides of the Motion; first, the welcome to the noble Baroness in her role as Leader of the House and, secondly, the regrets that have been expressed already in our debate. Rather than focus on the details, I shall make a few comments about the wider symbolic significance of these events. A healthy society distributes power. The banking crisis arose partly because power got too concentrated in certain institutions and in a certain section of the financial community. Government, if it is about nothing else, is about the exercise of power. We have to accept and acknowledge that, and not try to deny it. The exercise of power calls for clear leadership, which is right, too. Continue reading “Bishop of Chester speaks during debate on constitutional role of Leader of the House of Lords”

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