On 17th July 2013, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon asked Her Majesty’s Government what further developments there have been since the publication of their response to the report of the Independent Panel on Forestry. The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, can the Minister assure us that the Government will keep faith with the recommendation to establish guardians of the public forest estate and, if so, tell us what their role will be in relation to the new management organisation that is being established?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, before I answer that perhaps I should reiterate my thanks to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool and his independent panel for the work that they did for us on this.
We envisage that there will be a group of guardians who will draw on the interests and expertise of public forest users and will be able to advise and support the delivery of the new body’s remit. The guardians will be focused on the outcomes that the management body delivers, such as environmental biodiversity and social benefits, and any questions of significant land acquisitions and disposals.
On 17th July 2013, Lord Bach moved a motion to regret on the Civil Legal Aid (Financial Resources and Payment for Services) Regulations 2013.The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, expressed concern that the level at which permitted disposable capital was set would render some older people in particular less capable of securing legal aid without selling their homes. He hoped that if vulnerable people’s access to legal representation were damaged by the regulations the government would change course on humanitarian grounds and not defend the regulations on the basis of a flawed ideology.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, a key reference in this Motion of Regret is to “vulnerable people”, which is why this non-lawyer dares to stand amid such legal luminaries and feels a bit vulnerable himself.
A civilised country is one where we are all free under the law and where vulnerable people are not left defenceless against unjust treatment by another person, organisation or even an agent of government. Vulnerability is relative, of course, but the calculations that inform the regulations under discussion concern people who may be a very long way, as we have heard, from financial comfort and security, and may have multiple other needs. Continue reading “Bishop of Norwich raises concerns with civil legal aid reforms”
On 15th July 2013, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, took part in the Third Reading debate on the Government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. The Bishop spoke in support of a group of amendments seeking to remove inequalities in relation to survivor benefits under occupational pension schemes and thanked the Minister and the Government for accommodating the needs of the Church of England and other faith traditions within the Bill. As the Third Reading is the final opportunity for debate in the legislative process, Baroness Stowell of Beeston noted the work of the Bishop of Leicester during the passage of the Bill.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, I support this group of amendments. A review of the benefits accruing to all survivors under occupational pension schemes is both desirable and necessary. The principle of equity under the law for those whom the law holds to have the same status in relation to the deceased is a sound one. Hard-pressed pension schemes must be tempted to limit benefits, and the complexity of some schemes may hide inequity, so this principle is clear and just and I support it. Indeed, the Church of England pension scheme already treats surviving civil partners in precisely the same way as widows and widowers.
There is a wider reason for supporting these amendments. It is no secret that the majority of Christian churches and other world faiths do not believe that same-sex marriage accords with their understanding of marriage itself. However, many of us, including on these Benches, welcome the social and legal recognition of same-sex partnerships and believe that our society is a better and healthier one for such recognition. That is why I support this group of amendments. This point has sometimes been obscured in public commentary on what has been taking place here, but not in the debates in your Lordships’ House. The courtesy and clarity with which your Lordships have listened to each other represent our very best traditions, and I echo all that has already been said in this brief debate. Continue reading “Bishop of Norwich debates pension provisions in Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill”
On 9th July 2013, two bishops took part in a division on the Government’s Offender Rehabilitation Bill, during its Third Reading.
Labour Peer Lord Beecham moved amendment 2, which sought to introduce a pilot scheme, and a permanent scheme if successful, of veterans’ courts for ex-service personnel, following the precedent set in the United States.
The Bishops of Chester and Norwich, the Rt Revds Peter Forster and Graham James, voted ‘content’. No bishop voted ‘not content’.
There were: Contents: 186 | Not Contents: 205 | Result: Government Win