Public Order Bill: Bishop of Manchester supports amendments related to access to abortion clinics and to curtailing excessive police powers

On 22nd November 2022, the House of Lords debated the Public Order Bill in the second day of the committee stage. The Bishop of Manchester spoke regarding two sets of amendments: firstly, in support of amendments to Clause 9, pertaining to access issues around abortion providers, and secondly in opposition to clauses remaining in the bill which would grant excessive police powers, particularly regarding the right to protest.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester: I rise to address Amendments 85 to 88, 90 and 92, to which my right reverend friend the Bishop of St Albans has added his name. He regrets that he is unable to be in his place today. I also have sympathy with a number of other amendments in this group.

It is a heated and emotive debate on this clause, and it was heated and emotive when it was added in the other place. The danger is that we get dragged into debates about whether abortion is morally right or wrong. Indeed, I have had plenty of emails over the past few days, as I am sure other noble Lords have, tending in that direction. As it happens, I take the view that the present law on abortion strikes a reasonable balance; in particular, it respects the consciences of women faced, sometimes with very little support, with making deeply difficult decisions.

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Energy Prices Bill: Bishop of Manchester raises concerns on heating churches and the need for clarification of terms

On 19th October 2022, the House of Lords debated the Energy Prices Bill in its second reading. The Bishop of Manchester spoke in the debate, welcoming the bill whilst raising several points of concern:

The Lord Bishop of Manchester: My Lords, I am pleased to speak on this important and urgent piece of legislation. I declare my interest as deputy chair of the Church Commissioners’ board of governors. We own stocks in energy companies. In the light of today’s developments in the other place, I should perhaps also declare that I regularly eat tofu.

It is clear that the ongoing cost of living crisis and energy insecurity necessitate swift and comprehensive action. It is estimated that this will adversely impact up to 100,000 households in one of my local authorities, Manchester, this winter. A report published in August by the University of York predicted that more than three quarters of UK households—53 million people—will have been pushed into fuel poverty by January next. It is therefore very welcome that the Government are taking action to help the public and businesses survive the coming winter. It is also good to have the clarity set out in the Bill on the energy price guarantee and the energy bill relief scheme.

However, welcoming the Bill does not mean that I, or my colleagues on these Benches when they are here, believe that it is a latter-day Mary Poppins—practically perfect in every way. While we fully recognise the urgency of this legislation, we hope that His Majesty’s Government will take seriously the calls to amend certain of its details before we reach Committee next week.

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Bishop of Manchester speaks in a debate on climate change and food security

On 8th September 2022, the House of Lords debated the effects of climate change on biodiversity and food security. The Bishop of Manchester spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Manchester: My Lords, I begin by adding my own compliments to the noble Baroness, Lady Willis, on what was a most excellent maiden speech. I am very much looking forward now to her deep scientific learning informing many future contributions. We need good science in this House. I also echo the sentiments of my right reverend friend the Bishop of Durham in the previous debate, assuring your Lordships that Her Majesty is very much in the prayers of the Lords Spiritual at this time.

I am deeply grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, for securing time for us to discuss the important matters in this debate. I draw attention to my interest as set out in the register as a Church Commissioner; we are one of the largest owners of agricultural land in England.

This year we have seen unprecedented consequences of climate change, both at home in the UK and abroad: record temperatures, shifting weather patterns, rising sea levels and biodiversity loss. Climate change is alive and kicking, and we need to work together at all levels, locally, nationally and internationally, to address the crisis.

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Bishop of Manchester asks about freedom of religion

The Bishop of Manchester received the following written answer on 5th September 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Manchester asked Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the outcomes of the International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief on 5 to 6 July; and what steps they are taking, if any, to review their strategy on freedom of religion or belief following that Conference.

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Bishop of Manchester asks about blasphemy laws in Pakistan

The Bishop of Manchester received the following written answer on 5th September 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Manchester asked Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Pakistan regarding the cases of (1) Qaisar Ayub, and (2) Amoon Ayub, who have been imprisoned and sentenced to death for blasphemy.

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Bishop of Manchester asks about food supply to Northern Ireland

The Bishop of Manchester received the following written answer on 5th September 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Manchester asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure an (1) adequate, and (2) diverse, supply of food for those of (a) Orthodox Jewish faith, and (b) other faiths, in Northern Ireland.

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Church “has been levelling up the arts for centuries”: Bishop of Manchester on support for arts and music

On 7th July 2022 the House of Lords debated a motion from the Earl of Clancarty, “To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to improve the ability of musicians and other creative professionals from the United Kingdom to work and tour in the European Union.”

The Lord Bishop of Manchester: My Lords, like others, I thank the noble Earl for bringing us this debate. Noble Lords would expect a Bishop of Manchester to be passionate about music. Our vibrant popular and contemporary music scene is central to our local economy. The Royal Northern College of Music is one of our universities and we also have the leading music school for the north of England in Chetham’s, whose campus is next door to my cathedral and provides many of our choristers. We recently dedicated a brand-new, £2 million cathedral organ. It was the donation of a single—as it happens, Jewish—businessman, Sir Norman Stoller. Our music matters to us in Manchester. We invest in it and in the diverse young people developing their skills in it. It is a great force for levelling up.

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Bishop of Manchester affirms support for action against Putin and role of church and faiths in aid effort

On 4th July 2022 the House of Lords heard the repeat of a statement made by the Prime Minister in the Commons, on the Commonwealth Heads of Government, G7 and NATO meetings.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester: My Lords, we on these Benches support Her Majesty’s Government in their response to President Putin’s invasion, as I am sure will our General Synod which is debating the matter this weekend. Aggression must not be rewarded. My right reverend friend the Bishop of St Albans has previously assured this House that the Church stands ready to use its reach and connections to pave the way to a solution, and we also stand ready to use our extensive links to humanitarian organisations.

May I therefore ask the Minister to expand on what is being done to ensure UK aid support reaches all those who need it, particularly through the informal volunteer groups, which have so far received only 0.24%—less than £1 in every £400—of direct donations, and to consider how faith organisations, including the Church, can pay their full part?

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