On 9th February 2023, the House of Lords debated a motion to take note of the current situation in Ukraine, following Ukrainian president Zelensky’s vist to the UK. The Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham spoke in the debate, urging that efforts remain focused on supporting Ukrainians in the UK and supporting Ukraine’s own defence, while pressing for clarity on the government’s expectations of the future of the conflict:
The Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham: My Lords, like others in this House I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, for tabling this debate. I wish to convey the apologies of my most reverend friend the Archbishop of Canterbury, who, having recently travelled to Kyiv, wished to take part in this debate but is detained by the business of the General Synod. He will follow the deliberations closely in Hansard. My most reverend friend and several others from these Benches took time away from the General Synod yesterday and were delighted to join Members of both Houses to hear the President of Ukraine address us.
I count it a privilege and not a little daunting to precede the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Soames, whose insight and wisdom on the matters before us are truly formidable. On behalf of the Lords Spiritual, I look forward to listening to and learning from his contributions to the work of the House in the coming days.
The Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham asked a question on support for small and rural schools on 7th February 2023, during a debate on the risk of school buildings collapsing being raised to “critical – very likely” in the Department for Education’s Consolidated annual report and accounts.
The Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham: My Lords, the latest guidance from the DfE on reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete requires regular visual surveys of school buildings. In my diocese in Nottinghamshire there are many smaller, mainly rural schools that are unable to employ site managers who can undertake these surveys. They have to rely on head teachers and staff to make the necessary ongoing visual inspections. Can the Minister say what assistance can be provided to the teaching and leadership teams, particularly in smaller schools, where the budget is already under considerable pressure?
The Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham asked a question about the adequacy of support for bereaved children and families on 6th January 2023, during a debate on available resources for bereaved children in schools:
The Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham: My Lords, the Church of England educates over 1 million children in its schools and has produced highly accessible guidance and training for its school leaders on supporting students and families through grief, bereavement and loss. Recognising in particular the barriers to learning and flourishing that trauma may cause, would the Minister meet with the Church of England’s education team to see whether these outstanding resources could in fact help other students, teachers and families across the country?
Baroness Barran (Con): I thank the right reverend Prelate for the invitation; I would be delighted to meet with them.
On 30th January 2023, the House of Lords debated amendments to the Public Order Bill (2022) in the first day of the report stage. Votes were held on amendments to the bill, in which Bishops took part:
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Manchester and the Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham took part in a vote on an amendment to the bill tabled by Lord Coaker: “to insert a new clause: Meaning of ‘serious disruption.’”
The Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham asked a question on the length of waiting times for Children’s Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) for children in care on 5th December 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham: To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the length of the waiting times for children and young people in care who need to access the support of Children’s Adolescent Mental Health Services; and what steps they are taking to reduce those waiting times.
Lord Markham (Con): We do not have a national waiting time standard for these services, so this data is not available. However, increasing access to these services is a priority.
On 16th November 2022, the Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham spoke in support of an amendment to the Public Order Bill on behalf of the Bishop of St Albans, who was a signatory to the amendment. The amendment would provide a definition for the phrase “serious disruption” to the “community” used in the bill:
The Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham: My Lords, in the absence of my right reverend friend the Bishop of St Albans, who is a signatory to Amendment 17 but unable to be present in the Chamber this afternoon, I am pleased to speak in its support, as it provides much- needed clarity to the law. I am also very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, for explaining the amendments with such clarity at the beginning of this group.
I will make two main points. First, the Bill, in its present form, fails to provide a definition of what constitutes “serious disruption” to the “community”. I strongly support providing a strict statutory definition of this; it will give clearer guidelines to the police as to what is acceptable, as well as to those wishing to engage in lawful protest, and will provide much-needed democratic oversight to the Bill. Under the current law and the Bill as drafted, there is no clear definition of what disruption to the community means, and it would be subject to the discretion of the police themselves. A lack of clarity is not helpful to either the police or the community. As reported in evidence to the Bill Committee in the other place, many police officers have expressed a desire for clearer statutory guidance, and many are concerned that they will be asked to make decisions on matters which they do not have the confidence to make. If we are to reflect on the consequences of the amendment, we can see that it would mean that protesters would rightly be prevented from disruption to essential services—schools, hospitals or places of worship—but the right to reasonable democratic protest would still be protected.
The Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham received the following written answer on 8th November 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham asked His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the partnership between the conservation interests of the RSPB and the business Tarmac in the restoration of reedbeds at Langford Lowfields on the banks of the River Trent; and what steps they are taking to help landowners restore land in similar, environmentally-beneficial ways.
The Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham received the following written answer on 31st October 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham asked His Majesty’s Government when they plan to introduce the Renters Reform Bill; and, given the increase in mortgage costs may lead to tenants spending longer in rented accommodation, what consideration they have given to bringing forward their timetable for seeking to get the Bill passed.
On 21st July 2022 the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, Rt Revd Paul Williams, delivered his maiden speech in the House of Lords during Lord Alton’s debate, “that this House takes note of (1) the impact of the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports on food insecurity in developing countries, and (2) its contribution to the danger of famine in (a) the Horn of Africa, and (b) East Africa.”
The Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham (Maiden Speech): My Lords, I begin by thanking fellow Members for their gracious welcome and expressing my gratitude to the parliamentary staff and officers who have so kindly supported my introduction to the House.
It is an honour to make this maiden speech in such an important debate, which focuses so clearly on the needs of the most vulnerable: those affected by the sudden steep rise in global food prices resulting from Russia’s terrible war and blockade in Ukraine. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, both for bringing this debate to the House and for his long record of campaigning advocacy on behalf of those whose suffering is too often overlooked.
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