On 27th May 2021 the House of Lords debated the Government’s Immigration Rules and Statements of Changes to them. A Motion to Regret the Statements was moved by Lord Green of Deddington, though not put to a vote. His Motion read:
“That this House regrets that the Statements of changes to the Immigration Rules (HC813, HC1043 and HC1248), published respectively on 22 October 2020, 10 December 2020 and 4 March, do not provide clear and comprehensible descriptions of the changes proposed, nor of their likely effect. Special attention drawn by the Secondary Legislation Committee, 33rd and 40th Reports, Session 2019–21.”
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, for securing this important debate on his Motion to Regret. Last year, several Members of your Lordships’ House cautioned against the major extension of the Government’s capacity to make law with minimal recourse to Parliament in the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act. Today, at the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, and not of Her Majesty’s Government, we have 90 minutes to examine three statutory instruments relating to the Immigration Rules, one of which runs to 507 pages. All three were subject to the negative resolution, which involved little or no scrutiny of such important areas of life. Your Lordships’ House last defeated Her Majesty’s Government by praying against a negative resolution 21 years ago. Is the Minister satisfied with the level of scrutiny that these statutory instruments have received? Would she agree with me that it would have been better to publish them first in draft and to seek the views of both Houses in a debate?
Asked by The Lord Bishop of Southwark: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the statement by the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches of Jerusalem on 11 May that the violence in Jerusalem “violates the sanctity of the people of Jerusalem and of Jerusalem as the City of Peace”; and what plans they have to call on relevant parties (1) to halt further violence, and (2) to ensure the safety of worshippers. [HL192]
The Bishop of Southwark: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the conviction of Sefer (Aho) Bileçen of the Mor Yahqup d-Qarne Monastery on terrorism charges in April, what assessment they have made of the government of Turkey’s policies towards freedom of (1) religion, and (2) cultural expression.
The Bishop of Southwark: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the statement by Patriarch Abuna Mathias in April (1) that the government of Ethiopia and its allies are committing genocide in Tigray, and (2) that rape is being used as a weapon of war in that region.
On 20th May 2021 the Bishop of Southwark asked a question in the Lords about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: Some of your Lordships may be aware that I returned from Jerusalem yesterday evening, where I attended the very joyful installation of the new Anglican archbishop there. From an earlier answer given by the Minister, I take it he agrees that, until the underlying causes that gave rise to the clashes on Temple Mount, in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood where I was staying, and the conflict between Hamas and Israel, are addressed, Israelis and Palestinians will not enjoy security, experience justice or build a relationship of mutual respect and regard? Does the Minister agree that, for violence to permanently end, Israel’s occupation must also end?
On 30th December 2020 the House of Lords considered all stages of the Government’s European Union (Future Relationship) Bill. The Bishop of Southwark spoke at Second Reading:
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I am glad to follow the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, and agree with much of what he said. I congratulate Her Majesty’s Government on achieving a negotiated outcome with the European Union. In doing so, I pay tribute not only to the Prime Minister but to the negotiating team, which bore a weighty burden, the Civil Service support that provided them with necessary expertise and, last but not least, the chief negotiator the noble Lord, Lord Frost.
The wider debate requires a candid and truthful recognition of what has been a complex process, including an explicit acknowledgement that a successful negotiation requires significant compromise. Such truthful recognition makes for good civil discourse. This will be further helped by more accurate language about the good and less good aspects of the package and appropriate scrutiny of detail—sadly not possible today. I hope that the public debate is less about the intangibles of rhetoric and more about the true and honest cost of the investment, outreach and spiritual renewal needed if we are to flourish as a nation state, going forward.
My final point begins with comments from the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams of Oystermouth, recently retired from this House, who, early in the pandemic, spoke of what has become a much wider perception that our lives are bound together with those of every human being on this planet. That, he said, poses “the biggest moral questions”. A more positive focus on our continuing interdependence, not least with other European nations but more widely—globally—would be welcome and herald the future partnerships that are so essential to our national well-being.
Therefore, I hope that, as we consider the Bill and continue the shared endeavour that is our proud national story, we recognise that people and institutions flourish best under relational frameworks and that individualism, freed of obligation or collective provision, will ultimately fail. We are still in the season of Christmas, and the birth of a saviour transcends all national boundaries with a message of peace and good will to all people.
On 17th December the Bishop of Southwark asked a question during exchanges in the House of Lords on the standard of supported accommodation for those seeking asylum:
The Lord Bishop of Southwark [V]: My Lords, in the light of the recent ruling by the High Court of Justice in London against the Secretary of State, what steps have Her Majesty’s Government taken to review the way in which the Home Office houses asylum seekers with disabilities in order to comply with the judgment of the High Court? The delays in providing accommodation in the cases before the court range from 45 days to nine months.
On 16th December the Bishop of Southwark asked a question in the House of Lords during exchanges following a question about prisoners with Covid-19:
The Lord Bishop of Southwark [V]: Your Lordships will have heard me mention that there are five prison establishments located within my diocese. In respect of one of them, will the noble Baroness join me in paying tribute to the governor of Her Majesty’s Prison Wandsworth, Graham Barrett, who was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for his sterling efforts during the Covid pandemic in keeping infection rates so low in the jail—and indeed to all Prison Service staff recognised in this way for achieving so much in such challenging circumstances?
As the noble Baroness is aware from the previous supplementary question, out-of-cell activity in many establishments is now limited to one hour or less in 24. Can she assure the House that such provision will not slip beyond the 24-hour period into longer periods of confinement, which happens when the 24-hour period is variable?
Will any priority be given to rolling out the vaccine to inmates and staff?
On 15th December the Bishop of Southwark asked a question during exchanges on the the impact of Covid-19 on the cultural and arts sectors:
The Lord Bishop of Southwark [V]: My Lords, will the Minister please comment on what is being done to support the huge supply chain of talent, materials and suppliers for live events and performances?
As the Minister is doubtless aware, there are decades of expertise within these sectors, which also support film production, television and festivals—everything from catering to lighting, scenery, special effects, equipment hire, publicity and venue hire. These are all in danger of being wiped out and will be extremely difficult to re-establish if businesses and freelancers are not supported at this stage.