The Archbishop of York asked a question on the effects of the benefit cap and two child limit on vulnerable families on 24th January 2023:
The Lord Archbishop of York: My Lords, it is encouraging to see that the Government are keeping a check on the numbers of people being affected by these policies, but I was not quite sure whether I heard that work is being done to measure the impact of the policies on families. I can say, and it gives me no joy to say it, that from where I serve in the north of England—I am thinking particularly of Middlesbrough and Hull—I see the disturbing impact of an increase in poverty, child poverty and families in very difficult situations, not least with the cost of living crisis on top of all this. My simple, genuine and heartfelt question is: how would you explain this to a mum expecting her third child, or a family with three or four children who have been pushed into benefits over the past couple of years? They do not understand why this is happening but they are suffering as a consequence of it. How do we explain to them the rightness of this policy?
On 9th December 2022 the Archbishop of York spoke in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s debate on the principles behind UK asylum and immigration policy.
The Archbishop of York: My Lords, despite my probably sensible and timely demotion on the speakers’ list*, I am nevertheless delighted to speak in this very moving debate and to thank my brother, the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, for bringing it to us.
I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, for his kind words about our preaching earlier this year. I can assure him that on almost every other occasion when I rise to speak, although not on this occasion, it is to speak about the Christian gospel, whose values underpin everything I am about to say. I was also very moved by the noble Lord, Lord Singh, who quoted the Jewish and Christian scriptures to us. That is such a powerful sign of the generous spirit of the Sikh faith, which we can all learn so much from. I am also grateful for the three powerful maiden speeches that we have heard today
I want to emphasise a small but significant point. Getting this right, and doing the right thing, is a blessing for everyone in our society and the best way of shifting the opinion of the public, whose anxiety about this issue is fuelled by the dysfunction of our current system. The hard truth is that our asylum system simply does not treat everyone the same. It does not give people the dignity, safety and agency that their humanity deserves. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, that everyone is our neighbour. Of course, we cannot take everybody, but that makes it even more important that we have a fair system for everyone.
The Archbishop of York asked a question about benefits rising with inflation on 19th October 2022, during a debate following a statement on the economy:
The Lord Archbishop of York: My Lords, I do not pretend to know the ins and outs of exactly where we find ourselves but I serve communities in the north. I think particularly of people I have met recently in Middlesbrough and Hull, where there were great hopes for levelling up. It now seems a distant dream. I recently visited a school where children go in the morning with an empty lunch box for them to fill up with food from the food bank in the playground at the end of the day. The budget for school meals has gone up by 2% yet food inflation has gone up by more than 10%. We need to make tough decisions—I am glad to hear that the triple lock will remain in place—but, on behalf of the communities where I serve, I must ask this: will benefits rise in line with inflation? If not, millions of people will be moved into poverty. Those who recently donated to food banks are now visiting them themselves.
The Lord Archbishop of York asked a question during a debate on the government’s Rwanda Asylum Partnership on 19th October 2022:
The Lord Archbishop of York: My Lords, the UK’s population, about 67 million, is five times that of Rwanda at about 13 million. Yet Rwanda, which is a country far poorer than us, as has already been pointed out, hosts one refugee for every 90 people whereas the figure here is one refugee for every 500 people. I do not think I can put my hand on my heart and say that the UK is doing its bit in a global crisis. I wonder whether the Minister would like to say what we are going to do to play our part in taking refugees here.
On 10th September 2022, the House of Lords met to hear tributes to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, whose death had been announced. The Archbishop of York paid tribute:
The Lord Archbishop of York: My Lords, like most Bishops from these Benches, I have stories to tell; stories of doing jigsaws in Sandringham on Sunday evenings and of barbeques in the woods at Sandringham in the middle of January—I even have a slightly scurrilous story about healing the Queen’s car. Perhaps I will tell it.
I had preached in Sandringham parish church. We were standing outside and the Bentley was there to get the Queen. It did not start. It made that throaty noise cars make in the middle of winter when they will not start, and everybody stood there doing nothing. I was expecting a policeman to intervene, but nothing happened. Enjoying the theatre of the moment, I stepped forward and made a large sign of the cross over the Queen’s car, to the enjoyment of the crowd—there were hundreds of people there, as it was the Queen. I saw the Queen out of the corner of my eye looking rather stony-faced, and thought I had perhaps overstepped the mark. The driver tried the car again and, praise the Lord, it started. The Queen got in and went back to Sandringham, and I followed in another car. When I arrived, as I came into lunch, the Queen said with a beaming smile, “It’s the Bishop—he healed my car”. Two years later, when I greeted her at the west front of Chelmsford Cathedral, just as a very grand service was about to start and we were all dressed up to the nines, she took me to one side and said, “Bishop, nice to see you again; I think the car’s all right today, but if I have any problems I’ll know where to come.”
The Archbishop of York received the following written answer on 26th April 2022:
The Lord Archbishop of York asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to ensure that a privatised Channel 4 will continue to have a duty to deliver diverse religious and ethical content.
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con): The consultation document on a potential change of Channel 4’s ownership outlined that Her Majesty’s Government sees the great value delivered to society through the remit obligations placed on Channel 4 to broadcast content which appeals to a diverse society.
The Archbishop of York asked a question about sports on 31st March 2022:
The Lord Archbishop of York: My Lords, I was not planning to speak, but I thought I might join in some of the fun. I refer the Minister back to her earlier answer in which she referred to football as the “national game”. I wonder whether she would like to confirm that it is the Government’s view that football and not cricket is now the national game, which is a cause of great shock to some of us on these Benches.
In the House of Lords on 18th October 2021 Peers paid tribute to Sir David Amess MP, following his tragic murder. The Archbishop of York, Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, spoke of his friendship with Sir David during his time as Bishop of Chelmsford, how his faith motivated him, and of the need for more kindness in politics.
My Lords, on behalf of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, the bishops of the Church of England and, I am sure, all Christian people and all people of good will, I am here to offer the family of Sir David Amess and the constituents of Southend West my condolences and the assurance of the prayers of the Church. I am very grateful for all that has been said thus far, and, certainly, we on these Benches wish to associate ourselves with those comments.
On 25th May 2021 the former Archbishop of York, Rt Revd John Sentamu was introduced to the House of Lords to sit as an independent Crossbench Peer. He will sit under the title Lord Sentamu of Lindisfarne in the County of Northumberland and of Masooli in the Republic of Uganda.
12.08pm The right reverend and the right honourable John Tucker Mugabi Sentamu, having been created Baron Sentamu, of Lindisfarne in the County of Northumberland and of Masooli in the Republic of Uganda, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Baroness Hale of Richmond and Lord Popat, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.