Bishop of Rochester highlights needs of vulnerable women prisoners

17.10 RochesterOn 25th July 2019 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Farmer (Con) that the House “takes note of the needs of women in the criminal justice system”. The Bishop of Rochester contributed to the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, for obtaining this debate and for his unstinting efforts in this area, not least the welcome emphasis in his most recent report on relationships, which he expounded so clearly when introducing this debate.

I am sorry that the right reverend Prelates the Bishop of Gloucester and the Bishop of Newcastle are not in their places today, because they both take a very close and informed interest in the issues around women in the criminal justice system. However, I have visited a good number of women’s prisons over the last few years and, in making those visits, I have been both shocked and inspired.

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Church Commissioner Questions: digital connectivity, ordination of women, Easter

On 28th March 2019 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP, answered questions from MPs on digital connectivity, the 25th anniversary of the ordination of women, and Easter church attendance.

Church Commissioners

The right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—

Church Land and Buildings: Digital Connectivity

Mrs Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall) (Con): To ask the right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, what progress has been made on implementing the joint accord between the Government and the Church of England on the use of Church land and buildings to support digital connectivity. [910102]

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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 St Albans asks Government to work with community leaders to change culture and practice of FGM

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, the Government are to be congratulated on the various pieces of legislation that have been taken through. However, this is much more complex and is not simply a legal issue, as we have heard. That does not seem to solve the problem; it is clearly a cultural issue. The Minister has already referred to some of the attempts that have been made to change culture. What efforts are being made to talk to community leaders, who are some of the key people in those more traditional and sometimes hierarchical communities, to try to get the cultural change, so that this becomes an unacceptable practice and something which we really can see addressed?

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Bishop of St Albans highlights Church investor pressure on companies without female directors

On 5th March 2019 Baroness Nye asked the Government “what steps they are taking to address the gender pay gap.” The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a follow up question:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, this week the Church Investors Group, which has assets of £21 billion, will vote against the chairs of boards of big firms that have poor policies on tax and climate change. From now on, the 67-member group will put pressure on companies that have no women directors. Does the Minister agree with that approach? Does she also agree that it is a welcome step that companies can no longer get away with such dire records of female representation in management positions?

Bishop of Durham asks Government about support for Police widows

Durham040219On 6th February 2019 Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, received a written answer to a question about Police widows pension entitlements.  

The Lord Bishop of Durham: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by the Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service on 24 January 2018 (123402), what plans they have, if any, to amend the Police Pensions Regulations 1987 and the Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006 to equalise the support given to the widows of police officers. [HL13065]

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Bishop of Gloucester asks Government about progress on female offenders strategy

On 31st January 2019 the Bishop of Gloucester, Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, asked a question she had tabled to Government on its female offender strategy:

Female Offender Strategy

The Lord Bishop of Gloucester: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made in implementing the female offenders’ strategy.

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Keen of Elie) (Con): My Lords, the Female Offender Strategy, published in June 2018, outlines the Government’s long-term vision for improving outcomes for female offenders in custody and in the community. The strategy sets out a programme of work that contains a number of commitments that will take some years to implement. A new women’s policy framework was published last December, and my noble friend Lord Farmer’s review of family ties for female offenders is expected to report in the coming weeks.

The Lord Bishop of Gloucester: My Lords, I welcome that information from the Minister, which follows many positive commitments to the female offender strategy. However, we are still awaiting news of residential pilots, action to strengthen links between probation services and women’s centres, the report from the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, and a national concordat. Given that many of the strategy’s commitments have no clear timescales—indeed, in some cases the suggested deadline has already passed—how does the Minister plan to effectively monitor progress and stay on track?

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