Bishop of Rochester – national conversation with unifying narrative needed to overcome toxic public debate

On 9th May 2019 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Harris of Haringey, “to move that this House regrets the conduct, and toxicity, of debate in public life; of the divisions in society which result from that; and calls on Her Majesty’s Government to take steps to address such divisions.” The Bishop of Rochester spoke in the debate and a transcript is below. The Bishop of Leeds also spoke in the debate and his speech can be read here:

The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for bringing forward this debate and for his characteristically robust, thoughtful, clear and evidenced introduction. I also thank other noble Lords for their contributions. I look forward to reading in the Official Report what the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, has just said, because there is a lot to reflect on.

Others have spoken from these Benches in recent months on this and related matters, referencing a number of scenarios which have given rise to language and expression that cause hurt and offence and do no credit to our public life. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds will, I understand, speak later in this debate about the power and importance of language in our public discourse. My contribution, which I hope will be brief, is to raise a question about one part of the context in which such harmful, toxic, destructive and even violent expression may come to flourish.

The phrase attributed to Aristotle about nature abhorring a vacuum has many applications. I suggest that one of the reasons for this flourishing of destructive and harmful conduct and debate may be that these things are rushing in to fill a vacuum.

Bishop of Rochester suggests shared learning forum to improve diversity in public appointments

On 9th May 2019 Lord Holmes of Richmond asked the Government “what steps they are taking to increase diversity in public appointments”. The Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, asked a follow-up question:

The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I am conscious that these Benches may not embody everyone’s image of diversity. None the less, I was pleased to lead the final stages of the process by which these Benches were opened to women as well as men, although none of them is here today. I have also been chairing for the last five years a process within the Church where we are tasked with increasing the proportion of BME people in senior roles in the life of the Church. We have made some modest progress, though there is lots still to do. Nevertheless, we have learned that while legislation and processes are important, as has been indicated, so are culture, attitudes and bias. I wonder whether the Government might welcome some kind of forum within which quasi-public bodies might engage with public bodies so that we can share our learning on these matters. Continue reading “Bishop of Rochester suggests shared learning forum to improve diversity in public appointments”

Bishop of Rochester welcomes protective security funding for places of worship

17.10 RochesterOn 7th May 2019 Baroness Williams of Trafford repeated a Statement by the Home Secretary on protective security funding for places of worship. The Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, responded to the statement: 

The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I too am very grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement from the other place. From these Benches, I welcome it and echo some of the things that have already been said by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, not least about the wider context, although I recognise that this Statement has a limited focus.

The Minister has already observed the tragic events in Christchurch, Sri Lanka and San Diego. It seems to me that one of the learnings from those events is the impossibility of predicting where, or even when, a dreadful event might occur. With that in mind, I am particularly grateful for the broadening of the eligibility criteria in relation to potential grants from the fund, whereby it is now not necessary for places of worship to have experienced an incident of hate crime in order to make an application. That is an important loosening around the unpredictability of where things might occur.

Continue reading “Bishop of Rochester welcomes protective security funding for places of worship”

Bishop of Rochester highlights scandal of working homeless

On 20th December 2018 the Government responded to an urgent question on homelessness. The Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, asked a further question, about people who are working but who are homeless: Continue reading “Bishop of Rochester highlights scandal of working homeless”

Bishop of Rochester supports Bill to improve fitness of homes for human habitation

On 23rd November 2018 the House of Lords considered a Private member’s Bill from Lord Best, the ‘Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill’. The Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, spoke in its support:

The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Best, for his advocacy of this Bill in your Lordships’ House and for his customary detailed and lucid comments in introducing the debate. I also salute the indefatigable work of the Member for Westminster North, who has already been referred to, and look forward to what we all hope will be a positive response to this debate from the Minister.

Like many others, I am very supportive of any efforts to improve and assure the quality of accommodation in the rental sector, whether that be individual, corporate or social landlords. I did, however, have a slight moment of hesitation about speaking on this, as I became conscious that the Church of England, in its various national and local corporate guises, is a not inconsiderable landlord. Continue reading “Bishop of Rochester supports Bill to improve fitness of homes for human habitation”

Bishop of Rochester on success of faith-based partnerships in development

On 12th July 2018 the House of Lords debated a motion from Baroness Stroud, “That this House takes note of the steps being taken by Her Majesty’s Government to engage with small charities and faith-based organisations in delivering United Kingdom aid overseas.” The Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I had not intended to speak in this debate, because I did not think I would be able to be here, but I am prompted to do so in response to the mention of Tearfund by the ​noble Baroness. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for bringing forward this important debate on a significant part of our contribution to development in other parts of the world. Continue reading “Bishop of Rochester on success of faith-based partnerships in development”

Bishop of Rochester highlights social care challenges for prisons, and role of voluntary sector

On 5th July 2018 Baroness Brinton led a debate on the question to Her Majesty’s Government, “what steps they are taking to ensure that social care in England is adequately funded.” The Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I too join in with the general rejoicing on this the 70th anniversary of the NHS, but as others have observed, I am glad that this debate has been brought forward by the noble Baroness because it is a necessary counterpoint to that. I join the noble Lord in expressing slight surprise ​at how few people have wanted to contribute to this debate, but that does give those of us who are speaking a little longer to do so.

As the recent National Audit Office report, referred to by the noble Baroness, into the interface between health and social care indicates, the two areas are inextricably linked. Indeed, the dividing line can be quite hard to define, and that is one of the difficulties. Continue reading “Bishop of Rochester highlights social care challenges for prisons, and role of voluntary sector”