On 19th May 2021 the Bishop of Leeds spoke in the House of Lords in the fifth and final day of debate on the Queen’s Speech. He focused on ethics, the EU and Russia.
My Lords, I am grateful to follow the Noble Lord Campbell and for the Noble Lady the Minister’s comprehensive and ambitious speech introducing this debate. I welcomed the Government’s Integrated Review as a necessary attempt to hold together the diverse interests, challenges and opportunities facing the UK in the future.
One of the things I learned in my early career as a linguist at GCHQ was that words and assumptions need to be interrogated as they can be used to obscure reality. For example, in our context, an increased “cap” on nuclear weapons tells us nothing about numbers that might actually be intended or the rationale for them.
So, I think it was remarkable that reference in the Review to the European Union was almost completely missing. Now, this had been widely predicted as it seems that, for the Government, any such reference might be heard as an ideological Remainer capitulation. Yet, the rationale for a tilt towards the Indo-Pacific only makes sense to a point: it is not just what we are “tilting towards” that matters, but also what we are “tilting away from” that has to be considered.
On 2nd and 3rd December 2020 the Bishops of St Albans, Coventry, Southwark and Leeds received written answers to seven questions about armed conflict, peace, reconstruction and religious and cultural sites in Nagorno Karabakh:
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have received from the Armenian diaspora about (1) the conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, and (2) the ceasefire agreement brokered by the government of Russia. [HL10643]
On 20th July the Rt Revd Nick Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, received a written answer to a question on the Intelligence and Security Committee and publication of its report on Russia. The question was tabled before the reconstitution of the Committee.
The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: HL6521 To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord True on 29 June (HL6029) and the remarks by the Home Secretary on 22 June that “appointments to the [Intelligence and Security] Committee are taking place and an announcement will be made in due course on when that will be coming forward” (HC Deb, col 1085), when they estimate they will be able to make the announcement about the appointment of the Intelligence and Security Committee; and what steps they are taking to ensure that the Committee is (1) appointed before Parliament adjourns for the summer recess, and (2) able to publish the report Russia, sent to the Prime Minister on 17 October 2019.
On 29th June the Rt Revd Nick Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, received a written answer to a question from Lord True on the redacted report of the Intelligence and Security Committee.
Lord Bishop of Salisbury: HL6029 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to facilitate the publication of the redacted report of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, Russia, sent to the Prime Minister on 17 October 2019.
On 19th April 2018 the House of Lords debated a Government motion “that this House takes note of the national security situation.” The Bishop of Coventry, Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, took part in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the Minister for bringing this debate forward at this pivotal time in our national security and foreign policy. It is a great honour to follow the noble Lord, Lord Owen, and other distinguished speakers with their panoramic perspectives. Given the timing of the debate, I shall offer some reflections on the Syrian situation, both the danger it represents for national security and the role it might play in recasting relations with Russia, even in the stressful times described so clearly by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup. Continue reading “Bishop of Coventry urges more effort on diplomatic solution to conflict in Syria”
On the 18th December 2017 the Bishop of Leeds, Rt Revd Nick Baines, responded to a Government Statement on the recent European Council Meeting: He asked about the UK approach to Russian foreign policy and the progress made with the Brexit negotiations:
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, the Leader seems disappointed that the Statement has not been welcomed as it might have been. I do welcome it but I do not think it is as it has been portrayed; that is, the progress that has been made thus far is simply the opening gambit and the real hard work is going to come in the next phase. It seems to me that so far not a great deal has been achieved, except that we can go on to talk about the next phase. I will make a quick observation and then put a question. Continue reading “Bishop of Leeds says conduct of Brexit is aiding Russian policy of destabilising the West.”
On 26th April 2017 Baroness Barker asked Her Majesty’s Government “what action they are planning to take in response to reports of the persecution and detention of LGBT citizens in Chechnya.” The Bishop of Newcastle, Rt Revd Christine Hardman, asked a follow up question:
On 21st March 2017 the Government’s Armed Forces Act (Continuation) Order 2017 was laid before Parliament with a motion to approve. The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines spoke in the debate, commenting on the UK’s relationship with Russia.
The Lord Bishop of Leeds My Lords, I hesitate to follow such eloquent speeches on so much detail, but I want to make one or two general points about a more specific area. I do so from an interest that began when I was a Soviet specialist at GCHQ in a previous incarnation, although I realise that that is probably not the right religious phrase to use.
It still seems to me that an SDSR should enable us to be flexible enough to cope with whatever changes are likely to come. My fear, which I have expressed in the House before, remains that in 15 to 20 years’ time we may end up with a force that meets the demands of now but perhaps not the demands of the situation 15 or 20 years down the line because the world changes so much. When I left GCHQ, the Soviet Union was intact, and we see what has changed since then. Therefore, I want to focus on Russia in particular. Continue reading “Bishop of Leeds comments on the capability of the armed forces and the UK’s relationship with Russia”