Bishop of Portsmouth on women’s equality in the Church of England and the distance still to travel

On 7th March 2019 the Government Minister Baroness Williams of Trafford led a debate in the House of Lords, “That this House takes note of International Women’s Day and the United Kingdom’s role in advancing gender equality globally.” The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of PortsmouthMy Lords, I rise with some caution, conscious of the considerable risks as a man speaking on International Women’s Day. But dwelling in ambiguity is perhaps the lot of those occupying these Benches. I am acutely aware, for instance, that as a Lord spiritual speaking on defence matters, I interest myself in swords and in ploughshares.

It was sporting those two hats that I recently watched the RAF’s current recruitment advertisement. Its images depict the reality of women in a service in which every role is open to everyone. We see women readying themselves for combat, as engineers and pilots. The voiceover, alas, articulates a more familiar reality, in which women are told, predominantly by men, that their concerns centre on lip gloss, skincare and the contents of their wardrobe. The disparity between voice and image strikingly expresses the distance travelled, but also the many miles we have yet to traverse. I sensed some of this while listening to this week’s Questions and debates in your Lordships’ House. We have reflected this week on FGM, on consent, on pay and abuse, on how much has been done, on how much we want to do and on how much there is to do.

Bishop of Portsmouth asks Government if new frigates will be built in Portsmouth

Portsmouth 150318On 6th March 2019 Lord West of Spithead asked the Government a question about contracts to build  five Type 31e frigates. The Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster, asked a follow up question: 

Lord Bishop of Portsmouth:  My Lords, will the Minister confirm that these frigates will be based in Portsmouth, and when a decision will be announced to this House? As the home of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth is the obvious home for these frigates, not least because the general purpose Type 23 frigates are currently based there. This decision would bring much support and give reassurance to the city, community and the diocese I serve. Continue reading “Bishop of Portsmouth asks Government if new frigates will be built in Portsmouth”

Bishop of Portsmouth – national crisis of poverty must be urgently tackled

On 21st January 2019 the House of Lords debated a motion from Baroness Stroud “To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of metrics to measure United Kingdom poverty, in the light of the report from the Social Metrics Commission.” The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, Stalin, not often quoted on this Bench, is said to be the author of the maxim:

“A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic”.

On that, and indeed on everything else, I disagree with the Marshal. A single person living in poverty is a tragedy; that millions do so is an affront to our values, our common decency and how we think of ourselves as a nation.

Continue reading “Bishop of Portsmouth – national crisis of poverty must be urgently tackled”

Bishop of Portsmouth asks Government about impact of welfare benefit two-child limit on families

On 4th December 2018 the Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, received written answers to four questions on welfare benefits and the two-child limit:

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the statistics they published on 28 June, how many (1) families, and (2) children have been affected by the policy to provide support for a maximum of two children in each month since that policy came into effect. Continue reading “Bishop of Portsmouth asks Government about impact of welfare benefit two-child limit on families”

Bishop of Portsmouth challenges Government to address the two-child limit for welfare claimants

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, one of the pleasures of your Lordships’ House is the range of views we hear and the expertise of those who express them with integrity and conviction—among them Baroness Hollis speaking from the Bench opposite ours.

The same is true of the Church. In one recent elegant, erudite theological treatise, the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Williams of Oystermouth, wrote of how the words of an act of worship are pregnant with meaning, but greater significance is often discerned in the silence in between. The same is true in relation to this debate of Monday’s Budget. Its silences were just as significant as the words of the Chancellor, especially for families with children, as they are disproportionately represented among those in poverty. Continue reading “Bishop of Portsmouth challenges Government to address the two-child limit for welfare claimants”

Bishop of Portsmouth leads debate on health consequences of problem gambling

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On the 1st November the Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster led a short debate in the Lords about gambling addiction, numbers of people being hospitalised and the cost to the NHS. A full trancript of the debate is below:
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to (1) reduce the number of problem gamblers hospitalised each year, and (2) protect vulnerable people from gambling addiction.
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans has had, at very short notice, to remain in his diocese. He apologises for being unable to be here and to ask this Question. On his behalf and with his permission, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in his name on the Order Paper. He and I are grateful to those participating in this short debate, and look forward to their contributions. There is a seamless transition between the last item of business and this one. The right reverend Prelate’s interest in this subject comes from the people who have contacted him directly to explain how gambling has destroyed their lives. The Church has often campaigned on behalf of victims, and we on these Benches want to contribute towards some solutions.

Continue reading “Bishop of Portsmouth leads debate on health consequences of problem gambling”

Bishop of Portsmouth responds to Government statement about Fixed Odds Betting Terminals

Portsmouth 150318On the 1st November 2018 the Rt Revd Christopher Foster, Bishop of Portsmouth, responded to a Government statement about Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals: 

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, may I briefly make two points? The Minister has indicated that he is aware of the strong feelings in this House. He and other members of Her Majesty’s Government must have been aware, particularly on Tuesday when this matter arose at Question Time, that that concern comes from all sides of this House. He may not be aware that after playing a part on Monday, as I sat in the Commons Gallery for the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget Statement, I used the word “disappointed” about the Chancellor’s decision to delay implementing this change. The Minister may not be aware that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has subsequently gone further and described it as appalling.

Continue reading “Bishop of Portsmouth responds to Government statement about Fixed Odds Betting Terminals”