Bishop of Coventry joins House of Lords: The Church of England Newspaper, January 17, 2013 January 24, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords.
Tags: Christopher Cocksworth
The Bishop of Coventry, the Rt. Rev. Christopher Cocksworth joined the House of Lords this week. On 15 January 2013 Dr. Cocksworth was introduced to the upper house by the Bishops of Birmingham and Exeter and becomes one of the 26 Lords Spiritual.
In a statement, Dr. Cocksworth said: “I greatly look forward to fulfilling the responsibilities of a member of the House of Lords and although my concern will be the good of the whole of society, I hope my contribution to the Lords will be of special value to the life of Coventry and Warwickshire.”
Foreign Office reports no govt persecution of Christians in the Sudan: The Church of England Newspaper, June 17, 2012 p 5. June 19, 2012Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church of the Sudan, House of Lords.
Tags: Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Ezekiel Kondo, Lord Howell, Omar al-Bashir, Peter Price, Rowan Williams
The Foreign Office reports there is no evidence of an anti-Christian pogrom being waged by the National Islamic Front government in Khartoum.
In a written statement given in response to a question from the Bishop of Bath and Wells, Foreign Office Minister Lord Howell on 23 May 2012 said “We have no evidence that there is a state orchestrated campaign against Christians. However, recent rhetoric by government leaders on the north-south conflict has led to tension between communities and fear of attacks against South Sudanese in Sudan, many of whom are Christians.”
The government’s view of the conditions in Sudan is at odds with reports from Sudanese Christians and NGOs. Southern Christians living in the North were stripped of their Sudanese citizenship and are being expelled to the South, forcing hundreds of thousands into refugee settlement. In a 12 Oct 2011 speech to university students in Khartoum, President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan stated: “Ninety-eight percent of the people are Muslims and the new constitution will reflect this. The official religion will be Islam and Islamic law the main source [of the constitution]. We call it a Muslim state.”
Last year Bishop Ezekiel Kondo of Khartoum reported that in his home province, South Kordifan, now on the Khartoum government’s side of the border between North and South, the Islamist government was engaged in the religious cleansing of the province, driving Christian Nuba across the border and burning the region’s principle town of Abyei.
The violence prompted a statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. “Numerous villages have been bombed. More than 53,000 people have been driven from their homes. The new Anglican cathedral in Kadugli has been burned down,” Dr. Williams reported, adding that “many brutal killings are being reported.”
However in his statement to Parliament last month, the minister said the British government was “very concerned by a recent attack on a church in Khartoum, although there was no evidence of state involvement. We welcome the announcement from the Ministry of Religious Guidance and Endowments of an investigation into the incident and urge them to ensure this enquiry is thorough, independent and timely. We continue to remind the Government of Sudan of their obligation to protect all of their civilians, including those in religious groups.”
In response to a second question from Bishop Peter Prince concerning the disputed border provinces, Lord Howell said the British government had pressed both sides to come to the negotiating table.
“We are also encouraging the Government in Sudan to put in place a political process of constitutional reform that will address the needs and views of all its people, including those in the conflict affected states of Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile and Abyei,” Lord Howell said.
In May 2011, the Sudanese army occupied Abyei following a three-day clash with South Sudanese troops. Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported that a dispute over who could vote in the independence referendum in the state led to the clashes. Sudan had argued that the Miseriya, a nomadic northern tribe that roam into Abyei in order to feed and water their livestock, should be included in the referendum, while South Sudan maintained that only the Ngok Dinka people who reside in Abyei should participate.
After the Sudanese Army entered the province, approximately 130,000 Ngok Dinka residents were displaced to the south and forced to seek assistance from aid agencies. Last week Sudan agreed to honour UN Security Council Resolution 2046 and pulled its troops out of Abyei.
CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said his organization welcomed the troop withdrawal. But the resumption of peace talks “must not be allowed to obscure the Sudanese government’s responsibility for the creation of humanitarian crises not only in Abyei, but also in Darfur and most recently, in the Nuba Mountains, where access is being denied to a civilian population that is deliberately targeted by the military and faces imminent starvation.”
Lord Howell told Parliament the UK has worked hard to “ensure United Nations Security Council Resolution 2046, which supports the roadmap, dealt with Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile State under a Chapter VII mandate.”
“We continue to remind the Government of Sudan of their obligation to protect civilians and allow humanitarian access to both states. I welcomed the news that South Sudan have withdrawn their remaining security forces from Abyei on 11 May, and we now urge the Sudanese security forces to do the same,” the minister said.
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.
Tags: Stephen Platten
The Bishop of Wakefield has questioned the wisdom of the government’s planned defence cuts in light of the coalition’s pledge to maintain an active foreign policy profile.
Speaking in the House of Lords on 17 May 2012 in response to the Queen’s Speech, the Rt. Rev. Stephen Platten stated the government had “not thus far made clear how they see the future role of Britain in international defence and security with the severe reductions in resources.”
Last month Defence Secretary Philip Hammond announced the MoD would scale back spending and reduce troop levels eliminate a £38bn hole in its budget. While the government had committed to spend £152bn over the next decade on new military equipment including two new aircraft carriers, six destroyers, and 14 Chinook helicopters, other programmes had been sharply scaled back or eliminated. The minister also said the government would also cut troop levels, with the Army falling from 102,000 to 82,000 and the RAF from 44,000 to 39,000.
“After two years’ work, the black hole in the defence budget has finally been eliminated and the budget is now in balance, with a small annual reserve built in as a prudent measure to make sure we are not blown off course by unforeseen events,” Mr. Hammond told Parliament.
Bishop Platten questioned the feasibility of the government’s plans in light of its foreign policy commitments.
“Not only is morale, especially in the Army, very low, following the reduction of resources and the planned future reduction, as well as the cut backs in manpower,” the bishop said, “there is also no real clarity about how the aims set out in the SDSR of a continuing high-profile role for Britain in international defence and security and how that is to be made into a reality.”
Bishop Platten spoke of the many pressing calls upon the military – including combating piracy in the Horn of Africa, peacekeeping in Afghanistan and nuclear proliferation, noting “we are living in unstable and unpredictable times.”
He stated he was encouraged by the government’s commitment “to support the Afghan national security force beyond 2014. It would press us beyond tragedy if the lives lost in Afghanistan in the past 10 years were seen to be of no avail by allowing that country to slide back into anarchy, civil war or fragmentation into provinces ruled by dangerous warlords.”
But peace would not come by force of arms alone, but through “effective engagement with the Taliban. The presence of US bases and Special Forces until 2014 seems to rule out the possibility of such engagement. Peace will come only with realism about this factor and not simply by force of arms. What is the Government’s response to this aspect of the peace process?” he asked.
“If we are to look toward a clear role for Britain in defence and security, we need a sharpening and filling out of the scenario with regard both to strategy and securing resources for the future,” the bishop said.
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.
Hypocrisy charge levelled against bishops in Parliament: The Church of England Newspaper, March 9, 2012, p 6. March 15, 2012Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords.
Tags: Seond Church Estates Commissioner
A conservative MP has chided the bishops in the House of Lords who voted against the government’s Welfare Reform Bill with hypocrisy.
In a 1 March 2012 exchange with the Second Church Estates Commission, Mr. Tony Baldry in Parliament, the member for Monmouth, Mr. David Davies (Con.) asked what the annual wages were for the chauffeurs working for the bishops of the Church of England?
Mr. Baldry responded that the commissioners employed 19 drivers at a total cost of £352,719, “which helps to ensure the best use of bishops’ time.”
Mr. Davies responded that he understood the average wage of a chauffeur to be £23,000 a year. “The Welfare Reform Bill has just become an Act, but does the commissioner believe that the bishops who voted against it—who voted to ensure that people who are not working should earn more than £26,000—should now feel a moral imperative to pay their chauffeurs accordingly?”
Mr. Baldry declined to concede the point, stating “My hon. Friend makes his own point in his own way.”
He then defended the bishops’ actions saying they were “not arguing for the abolition of the cap; they were arguing for child benefit to be exempted because they believed that the cap was not flexible enough to be fair to those with large families or those in areas with high housing rental costs.”
The Second Church Estates Commissioner lauded the role played by the bishops in the House of Lords. “May I say to my hon. Friend, who is an independent-minded Member of Parliament, that there are just 26 Lords Spiritual in a Chamber of nearly 800 Members and I suspect that all independent-minded Members of this House, wherever we sit, would think that from time to time it is no bad thing for the Lords Spiritual to rattle a few cages?”
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.
Bishops’ call to prayer for Egypt: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 21 2011 p 6. October 26, 2011Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & the Middle East, House of Lords, Persecution.
Tags: Egypt, Mouneer Anis
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has called for an investigation into the killing of 24 Christians by the Egyptian security services during a pro-democracy march in Cairo last week.
On 18 October Dr Rowan Williams asked the Foreign Office to press the Egyptian government to ensure the review would be impartial and there would be a “proper distance of that inquiry from the military establishment.”
Government indifference was exacerbating the crisis, he said, telling the peers there had been a “prolonged failure by the security forces to guarantee the safety of Christian personnel and property” in Egypt.
Foreign Office minister Lord Howell responded that Dr Williams was correct as there was “recent evidence of a rising tide of extremism in the clashes that have occurred,” adding that “I can only reassure you that the dialogue continues, the pressure is on.”
In a letter sent to The Church of England Newspaper and other supporters on 11 October, the Bishop of Egypt, Dr Mouneer Anis said Christians held a three-day fast last week in solidarity with those killed on 9 October 2011.
“It is now clear,” Dr Anis wrote, “that the demonstrations started by the Christians were peaceful.
“Some Muslims joined in the demonstrations in support of the rights of the Christians. But, unidentified persons were able to infiltrate the demonstrations aiming to make these demonstrations violent. They gave a false impression that Christians were violent and they were the ones who attacked the army soldiers. In response, the army fired against the demonstrators and used their tanks to run over some of them. The price was the death of 24 Christians and the injury of over 318 Christians and Muslims.”
The Bishop said the demonstrations began as a “reaction to the burning of the newly built church of Mari Nab” near Aswan by “Muslim fundamentalists” who set fire to the church “after Friday prayers.” The police declined to stop the arson attacks, he said.
Egypt’s Christian and Muslim leaders held an emergency meeting last week under the presidency of the Grand Imam of the al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed el Tayyib, and adopted a joint statement condemning the violence.
The interfaith council, the Beit el Aila – House of the Family – called for the government to deal with the root causes of “sectarian incidents”, and not seek “superficial and temporary reconciliations.”
They also asked the government fulfil its promise to permit the building of churches and to “investigate thoroughly these incidents and to bring to justice those criminals who were involved directly or indirectly … delay will only lead to a repetition of these incidents.”
Dr Anis added he was heartened by the goodwill of many Muslims towards Egypt’s Christians and thanked those who spoke out against their oppression. He asked Anglicans across their communion to pray for Egypt – for Christians and Muslims – and for peace.
No plans to update House of Lords prayers, govt says: The Church of England Newspaper, April 8, 2011 p 4. April 12, 2011Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
The government has no plans to alter or end the practice of reciting prayers before the start of business in the House of Lords.
The March 31 statement came in response to a question from Lib Dem peer, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, who asked whether it was now time for prayers to reflect the “different faiths and different denominations we have, not only in the House but in the United Kingdom”.
While Labour peer Lord Hughes of Woodside, the honorary vice president of the British Humanist Association, stated that his “personal preference is that we should not have prayers at all,” the sentiment in the Lords was against altering the current practice.
Lord Roberts, a one-time Methodist minister, suggested adding a “minute of silence or reflection” in addition to the prayer offered by bishops of the Church of England at to the start of business.
Lord Anderson of Swansea state that while he was a Welsh non-conformist, the Labour peer said he was “wholly satisfied with the timeless sentiments and superlative prose of the present prayers.” He added that it was his hope the House of Lords would emulate the House of Commons “all repeat the grace” at the close of prayers “as is done in the other house.”
Conservative peer Lord Cormack noted there were “many in this House who are not of the Christian faith, such as my noble friend who sits beside me and is a Hindu,” referring to Lord Popat, who nonetheless welcomed the “sentiment contained within the prayers and the majesty of the language with which they are uttered.”
The Chairman of Committees, Lord Brabazon of Tara, stated at attendance at prayers was voluntary, and noted that bishops sat as Lords spiritual “by being representatives of the established church and the prayers reflect that”.
The current practice of reciting prayers began in 1558, he noted, and reached its current form during the reign of Charles II, with slight modifications in 1970 and 1979 to allow for a range of Psalms. “It might be a little premature to consider changing them” at this time, Lord Brabazon added.
The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt. Rev. John Packer, told the House that Lord Roberts “makes an important point about how the House is to demonstrate its inclusivity while retaining what is good and worthwhile in its living heritage. In this year of celebration of the King James Bible, and its continuing inspiration 400 years on, will the Chairman of Committees comment on whether our Prayers, which date from the same era, also embody virtues which are simple, eternal and unifying?”
Lord Brabazon responded he was sure the “right reverend Prelate is right. If there are further recommendations for changes to the Prayers used, I would be happy to look at them.”
Bishop backs call for govt to implement the UK Bribery Act: The Church of England Newspaper, April 8, 2011 p 6. April 11, 2011Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Corruption, House of Lords.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
The Bishop of Exeter has joined with other public figures in endorsing a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron calling upon the government to bring the UK Bribery Act into force.
However, Treasury minister Lord Sassoon on March 17 said the government was committed to bringing the Bribery Act into force in “a way that tackles corruption while not imposing unnecessary cost and uncertainty on legitimate business and trade”.
The open letter endorsed by the bishop and seven other religious leaders and prepared by Christian Aid, Tearfund and Cafod called upon the government to implement the law, which was adopted with cross-party support in April 2010. “The Act will help to reduce the bribery that has such a damaging effect on poor communities worldwide and fulfil Britain’s international obligations – notably the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention,” the statement said.
Concerns over the mechanics of enforcement and implementation raised by industry caused the government to delay its implementation from October to April 2011, with the director general of the Confederation of British Industry, John Cridland, describing it as “not fit for purpose”.
In February the government said the implementation of the act had now been delayed indefinitely.
The delay has angered anti-corruption activists. “Bribery is neither the victimless crime nor the necessary evil that some UK companies may suggest,” said George Boden of Global Witness.
“It cripples development and it’s bad for our long-term business interests. British companies should back their superior technical capacity with high ethical standards, not compete in a race to the bottom to see who can pay the largest bribes – which we would likely lose anyway,” he said.
“’Bribery is already illegal, but companies are operating under laws which are chronically outdated,” argued Mr. Boden.
Opening a debate on the UK’s record on bribery and money laundering legislation, Lib Dem peer Baroness Williams of Crosby, who was a Labour cabinet minister in the 1970s, said Britain needed to “stand up and be counted” among countries which find “corruption and bribery utterly unacceptable”.
“To try to escape the bribery convention would be deeply damaging to British business, because it would suggest our business and our trade depends upon special deals often with very dodgy regimes indeed,” Lady Williams said.
Labour peer Lord Davies of Oldham noted his party was “anxious about the degree of delay not least because we look a lot weaker in this area than the US. We look a lot weaker than Hong Kong. We look a lot weaker than our direct international competitors.”
Treasury minister Lord Sassoon responded that the government did not consider bribery an “acceptable way to do business, it distorts markets and causes immense damage in developing and emerging economies,” he added.
The minister said guidance on the Act would be published “shortly” and the Act would come into force three months after that date.
Govt questioned on diversion of aid funds: The Church of England Newspaper, Nov 19, 2010 p 6. November 23, 2010Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Corruption, House of Lords.
The former Bishop of Oxford has called upon the government to explain the misappropriation of £94 million pounds of British development funds by Indian government officials.
On Nov 9, Lord Harries asked the government’s “assessment of the assurance given by the Government of India that special funds for the support of Dalits and other scheduled castes were not used to finance the Commonwealth Games?”
Lord Howell, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, told the House of Lords the government had been “monitoring this situation carefully.”
He noted that “following earlier reassurances from Delhi that the Commonwealth Games were self-funding, the Indian Home Minister has subsequently acknowledged that some moneys earmarked for Dalits and scheduled castes were in fact used to contribute to Commonwealth Games infrastructure projects and that, in his view, this was both wrong and inconsistent with Indian Planning Commission guidelines.”
The minister said he understood the Indian government was seeking to rectify the situation and were “seeking to find ways of returning the sums involved.”
Lord Harries thanked the minister for his reply, for having informed the House of the diversion of funds and that the “assurance previously given by the Indian government was in fact unfounded.”
The bishop pressed the government to state what mechanisms it would employ to prevent further abuses, and would it investigate cases of a “similar diversion of funds [that] has taken place in a range of states?”
The minister said he had no knowledge of any other cases of fraud, but would “look into them.”
However the minister added that in India the “sum diverted was £94 million. We are monitoring the situation very closely, and the British high commissioner is in discussion with the Indian National Commission for Minorities about these and other issues,” Lord Howell said.
Bishop of Birmingham seated in Lords: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 29, 2010 p 6. October 29, 2010Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
The Bishop of Birmingham was seated as the newest Lord Spiritual in Parliament this week. On Oct 26, Bishop David Urquhart was presented to the House of Lords by the Bishops of London and Wakefield in succession to the Bishop of Bradford, the Rt. Rev. David James, who retired in July.
Bishop Urquhart will be added to the roster of “duty bishops,” leading prayers in the Lords and participating in debates. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the Bishops of London, Durham and Winchester are seated by right of office in the House of Lords, the remaining Lords Spiritual are composed of the 21 other senior diocesan bishops
After taking his seat, the House of Lords discussed the former government’s plans to reform the House of Lords, replacing it with a directly elected second chamber.
Labour peer Lord Grocott urged the government to carry through with plans to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600, and reduce the membership of the House of Lords to 300, arguing that such a reduction would see cost savings of £60 million a year.
“At a time when the government is looking for any possible cuts in public expenditure that they can find, and given that none of these reforms have any support among anyone out in the real world, why does the minister not do the common-sense thing, save the money and scrap the lot?” he said.
The Minister of State for Justice, Lord McNally, said the estimates offered by Lord Grocott were “idle speculation,” and suggested they wait for the government’s white paper on reform before arguing over costs.
“The noble Lord is giving numbers for a reformed House of Lords and calculating on his own bases. We will have to wait for the bill,” Lord McNally said, adding that “he and I will then make calculations and be able to assess the cost.”
Bishops to lose the vote in a reformed House of Lords: The Church of England Newspaper, April 23, 2010 p 4. April 30, 2010Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords, Politics.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
Bishops will have a voice but no vote in a reformed House of Lords, a leaked government paper has proposed.
The number of bishops in the reformed second chamber will be cut from 26 to 12, Justice Minister Jack Straw has proposed according to extracts of the report published by the Guardian on April 19.
If Labour, or Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition government takes power after the May General Election, the proposed reforms will see the first substantive change in the membership and authority of the “Lords Spiritual” in almost 500 years.
Throughout its history the Lords Spiritual have had voice and vote. However, under Jack Straw’s plan the “Lords Spiritual who remain in the House after the end of the transitional period will have speaking rights, and will be able to vote on Church legislation but not on other legislation.”
The proposed reformed second chamber would have 300-seats. Its members would be elected by an open list, proportional system designed to ensure “no single party should dominate the second chamber and members should be able to bring independence of judgment to their work”.
The transition from the current House of Lords to an elected reformed second chamber “would not take place in one step, but in three stages over three elections,” the paper said.
“The government proposes that in the parliament of the second stage (when two-thirds of members of the second chamber will have been elected) there should be a review of the final stage in order to provide parliament with the opportunity to consider and ratify the removal of the last appointed element from the second chamber.”
The number of bishops seated in the reformed second chamber would be reduced over the next three Parliaments. “Up to 14 of those 21 who are in the House of Lords at dissolution immediately before the first second chamber elections may be selected to remain as Lords Spiritual in the first transitional period. At the time of the second election up to 7 of these Bishops may be selected to remain as Lords Spiritual in the second (and final) period of transition,” the paper said. Five of the 12 seats will be set aside by right for the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the Bishops of London, Durham and Winchester.
The loss of voting rights would occur after the transition had been completed the paper said.
The Lords Spiritual “have always held a special and different position in the House of Lords,” the paper said. “They do not sit for life, but only for their period as a Bishop or Archbishop of their diocese,” and “they sit as independent members of the Lords where they are widely regarded as representatives of the Church of England.”
However, Lords reform was not a stalking horse for disestablishment of the Church of England, the government said.
“The Government is and remains committed to the establishment of the Church of England, with the Sovereign as its Supreme Governor, and the relationship between Church and State. None of these reforms should or are meant to diminish establishment. The Established Church has for centuries played a seminal role in our national life and has played a major part in helping to shape the constitutional, legal and social fabric of the nation.”
However, the “nature of Establishment has changed down the years to reflect changing
circumstances, but a presence in the Lords has been a constant manifestation. Bringing this to an end would therefore herald a significant change to a constitutional arrangement that binds Monarchy, Church and State together in a variety of ways. These include the fact that the Church of England’s own legislation is subject to Parliamentary scrutiny, and it is the Bishops who speak to that legislation in the House of Lords.”
The “continued role of the Church would be guaranteed” in “commenting on legislative proposals” the Labour government said.
The rules governing the conduct of the Lords Spiritual would be controled by the Church of England, and not by Parliament. However, bishops could be expelled from the House for treason or mental illness.
Prior to the dissolution of England’s monasteries by Henry VII, abbots and bishops comprised the Lords Spiritual and were a majority of members of the House of Lords. Following Henry’s reforms and his creation of new dioceses, the number of Lords Spiritual in Parliament was fixed at the number of Bishops of the Church of England: 26.
Following the Act of Union in 1801 with the Church of Ireland, four Irish bishops were entitled to a seat in the House of Lords at any one time. However, with its disestablishment in 1871 these seats were eliminated.
Although new dioceses were created following the passage of the Diocese of Manchester Act in 1844, the number of Lord Spiritual was fixed at 26, with places allotted by seniority. The Bishoprics Act of 1878 refined the Lords Spiritual further, giving the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishops of London, Durham and Winchester a seat as of right. The disestablishment of the Church in Wales in 1920, removed its bishops from consideration for a place in the Lords.
Once the transition is completed, the seven open seats while be filled by the Church of England. “Those appointed to the fully reformed chamber or as replacements during the transitional periods may be selected freely from the bishops of dioceses in England,” the government said.
The new Lords Spiritual would “not be entitled to a salary or pension in the reformed second chamber,” and would be “exempt from the attendance requirement.” However, they would be permitted to “claim allowances” for expenses in attending Parliament the document said.
Devolution of police powers a ‘historic moment’ for Northern Ireland says Lord Eames: The Church of England Newspaper, April 10, 2010 April 16, 2010Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland, House of Lords.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
The devolution of policing and justice powers from Westminster to Stormont will be remembered as a “historic day for Northern Ireland,” the former Archbishop of Armagh, Lord Eames told Parliament last month.
On March 24 three amendments to the Northern Ireland Act 1988 were approved by the Lords, allowing the creation of a Department of Justice for Northern Ireland on April 12.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, speaking for the Government, said the three orders “represent the culmination of the peace process and the final working through of the plans for cross-community government in Northern Ireland that were set out in the Good Friday agreement.”
Lord Glentoran said the Conservative Party endorsed the Government’s initiatives, adding that “these orders give effect to the agreement reached between the DUP and Sinn Fein at Hillsborough Castle on Feb 5 and to the vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly on March 9.”
Following their approval by the House of Lords the “last major element of the Belfast Agreement, made almost 12 years ago to the day, will have been completed. For the first time since the powers were taken away from the Northern Ireland Government in March 1972, Stormont will once again exercise powers over policing, criminal justice, the courts and local security issues.”
“At all times our over-riding objective is a peaceful, stable and prosperous Northern Ireland where all of its people have a shared future,” Lord Glentoran said.
“Whether we remain in opposition or return to Government in a few weeks’ time, that is the approach we will continue to take.”
However, Ulster Unionist Party peer Lord Maginnis of Drumglass criticized the move. The prime minister had treated with terrorists and ignored the political middle in Ulster. Sinn Fein “has, as we all know, murdered its way to power”.
“It is led by murderers who not only will never be brought to justice in this life, but will never be publicly examined,” he charged.
Lord Eames noted that “we have heard in the speeches that we have just listened to praise for what has been achieved and genuine concerns about how it has been arrived at.”
However, he said that he had no “doubt that this House needs to send out a loud and clear message that, in terms of politics, this is a historic day for the people of Northern Ireland.”
Lord Eames reminded the House of the important contributions of John Major and Irish Taoiseach Albert Reynolds in bringing peace to Northern Ireland. “I am firmly convinced from having been involved in the preparation of the Downing Street Declaration all those years ago that it was a turning point in the political progress that has brought today about. I pay tribute to those two men. Sometimes history judges them ill when they deserve more,” he said.
The vote “today should mark a point at which healing can take place and that there can be a greater sense of unity in trying to incorporate all political parties in the way ahead,” Lord Eames said.
However, “political achievement is only part of reconciliation. The real battle, the real challenge and the real problem for Northern Ireland, its Assembly and its people are the hearts and minds of its people. You cannot legislate for reconciliation. You cannot compel people to be reconciled.”
However, “you can set in place the structure that will make it more encouraging and more possible,” to achieve a last peace, he said.
The three orders were passed without votes.
Lord Mandelson backs bishops in Lords: The Church of England Newspaper, April 1, 2010 p 6. April 12, 2010Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
The government’s plan to replace the House of Lords with an elected second chamber has run into a roadblock within the Cabinet.
On March 23 the Minister for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, Lord Mandelson, objected to plans put forward by Justice Secretary Jack Straw to have a wholly elected 300-member second chamber. Lord Mandelson, who is also a Church Commissioner, is understood to have expressed reservations concerning the reduced role of bishops in the restructured second chamber.
Under Mr Straw’s plan the bishops, as symbols of the established Church of England, would have voice, but no vote in the new “senate”. Other members of the Cabinet are believed to favour delaying plans for constitutional reform until the Labour Party manifesto is published.
In an interview with the Guardian published on March 29, Mr Straw said he would push ahead with Lords reform over Lord Mandelson’s objections, but would meet his Cabinet colleagues by placing the issue in the party manifesto.
“For the first time we will be able to go into the election with a clear and detailed set of proposals to replace the Lords with an elected second chamber,” he said.
“In terms of a debate which is 100 years old next year, this is a significant step, building on the way we have reformed the Lords since 1997.”
Under Mr Straw’s proposals, the second chamber would begin with the next general election, with the seats divided along European lines of proportional representation. However, voters would be allowed to choose from an “open list” from each party to fill the seats, rather than having candidates ranked by party leaders.
Labour’s first significant change to the House of Lords came in 1997 with the removal of most hereditary peers. Under a deal brokered by the government and the Conservative leader in the Lords, Lord Cranborne, a “rump” of 92 hereditary lords was kept in the upper house. Under the current plan, these remaining hereditary peers would lose their seats in the new chamber.
Mr Straw denied that the reform of the House of Lords was an electoral stunt, claiming that all parties had in principle backed an elected second chamber. David Cameron, who personally supports reform of the Lords, has not committed his party to constitutional change at this juncture.
There may not be a Conservative appetite for withdrawing the voting rights of the bishops in the second chamber, or the eventual disestablishment of the Church of England, which such a move would entail.
On Nov 25, Desmond Swayne MP told members of the Ecclesiastical Committee the Conservative Party was not in favour of relinquishing the crown’s prerogatives of choosing suffragan bishops.
According to a statement printed in Hansard, Mr Swayne said “as the Leader of the Opposition’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, I did ask him about [permitting the church to name suffragan bishops without reference to the government] this today and he is not content that this should be done.”
Mr Swayne objected to the arguments put forward by the Church of England and made clear that should the Conservative Party take power at the next election, it would not surrender the prerogatives of naming suffragan bishops. Whilst historically “two names have always been presented and the Prime Minister has chosen the first name, that does not mean that the choice was automatic,” he said.
He further dismissed objections that it was difficult for the church to present two names to the prime minister. “I fail to understand the difficulty if you have been through a selection process and an interview process and you have come up with a name and presumably someone who came close to it. I just do not accept that there is some difficulty in presenting the second name,” he said.
Government confirms bishops may vote in general elections: The Church of England Newspaper, March 24, 2010 April 6, 2010Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
Bishops are free to vote in general elections, the government told Parliament last week.
The question of episcopal suffrage arose during questions in the House of Lords over the government’s plans for a reformed second chamber.
On March 16 Viscount Tenby asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, Lord Back whether the government planned to change the law to allow peers who are members of the House of Lords to vote in general elections.
Lord Bach stated the government’s 2008 White Paper on House of Lords reforms proposed that members of a “reformed second chamber should be able to vote in elections both to the House of Commons and to the reformed second chamber.”
Viscount Tenby responded that as the government was planning on restoring the vote to felons in prison, only the insane and peers would not have the right to vote in general elections.
“With so much dissension about the constitutional reform of this House across and among parties, would not the Government welcome the chance to bring in a relatively easy amendment that would command support on all sides of the House” to give peers the right to vote?, he asked.
Lord Bach responded the government was not inclined to take up the issue at this time as “provisions on voting in general elections are best dealt with in the context of a fully reformed second chamber.”
The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds rose to ask Lord Bach whether under current law, was it “in order for Lords spiritual, who are not Peers, to vote in general elections?”
Lord Bach stated “There is no bar to the Lords spiritual voting in parliamentary elections. However, I understand that it has long been the tradition that they do not do so.”
Bishops who are seated in the House of Lords “are not Peers,” but “they none the less sit in this House and can therefore participate in person in the proceedings of Parliament instead of being represented in the House of Commons. There is no legal bar to the Lords spiritual voting in a general election; it is very much a matter for them,” Lord Bach said.
Bishops’ titles queried: CEN 1.29.10 p 5. January 29, 2010Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords.
Should the government grant courtesy titles to the husbands of the women members of the House of Lords, titles should also be given to the wives of bishops, the Bishop of Chester suggested to Parliament on Dec 14.
The question of courtesy titles arose in the Lords in response to a question from Baroness Deech to the Government asking if it “will make proposals relating to the titles used by the husbands?”
Lord Bach the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Justice responded the “Government have no plans to alter the existing arrangements in relation to the use of courtesy titles or styles for the husbands of women Members of the House of Lords.”
Baroness Deech responded this was “disappointing” in light of the government’s commitment to the principles enunciated in the Equality Bill “wending its way through this House.”
“If a male Peer’s wife is always a Lady, why should not the same courtesy be extended to the husband of a woman Peer,” she asked.
The situation was “anomalous” Lord Bach admitted, but he said the Government was “not aware of any great anxiety or urgent desire for change.”
Baroness Trumpington rose and told the chamber that her late husband “loved being called m’lord” and noted that his not having a title “added a certain frisson to staying in an hotel together.”
Lord Bach responded he was “absolutely delighted to hear that story” and hoped the other female members of the House of Lords “will bear it in mind.”
The Bishop of Chester, Dr. Peter Forster rose and told the Lords, “the House will be aware that the wives of Bishops need to be considered as well, as they do not have any title. If the Minister was minded to resolve the anomaly without addressing the concerns potentially of Bishops’ wives, he might have a deputation of them on his doorstep, which is not a prospect I should wish on him.”
“The right reverend Prelate has scared me off already,” Lord Bach said, “so we will very much bear in mind what he says.”
He added in response to further questions, the Government was not of a mind to change the honours system of knighthoods, damehoods and knights bachelors as they “play a well respected, understood and valued part in our national life.”
Archbishop speaks out for sheep farmers: CEN 11.27.09 p 4. December 7, 2009Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, EU, Farming, House of Lords.
The Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu has urged the government to support sheep farmers facing financial ruin through the imposition of EU regulations requiring every sheep in Britain to be fitted with an electronic tag (EID).
Speaking in Parliament on Nov 4, Dr. Sentamu asked the government how it intended to support sheep farmers following the implementation of the tagging regulations in 2010, “given the current inaccuracies in tag reading equipment.”
In 2007 EU regulators mandated that by 2010 every sheep and goat in Europe be fitted with an EID device to monitor its movement. The costs of the programme to British farmers is estimated at £42 million annually, with each tag costing approximately £1.50 per sheep and monitors costing £5000 per farmer. Britain is home to over 40
On Oct 27, Jim Fitzpatrick, Minister for Food, Farming and Environment at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said the government had “no plans to fund any equipment or software required for compliance with electronic sheep tagging regulations (EID).”
The National Farmers Union has protested the introduction of the regulations, warning it would bankrupt small farmers. “These regulations make no sense and have the potential to decimate the sheep industry,” NFU livestock board chairman Alistair Mackintosh warned, and the “additional costs involved, coupled with the recording requirements, will force many producers out of business while having absolutely no cost benefit.”
In response to Dr. Sentamu’s question, Lord Davies, the Labour Party’s Deputy Chief Whip in the House of Lords said the government was “aware of concerns” about EID working properly, and did not “think that it is reasonable to penalise a keeper in these circumstances.” The government would not penalise farmers “when incomplete data are provided by a central point recording centre.”
Dr. Sentuma thanked the minister for his assurances that “a failure of equipment will not result in penalties through single farm payments. If it did, it would not be good for those farmers’ well-being or health. If tagging equipment fails on prisoners, those who use that equipment are never penalised in their pay, so why should the farmers be?”
Conservative peer Lord Vinson acknowledged the Government “have done their best to stop this unnecessary, expensive and crazy EU regulation,” and asked if this were not an example of a “triumph of EU bureaucracy over our democracy and an example of the democratic deficit that lies at the heart of the EU experiment, which will surely lead to its downfall?”
Lord Davies responded the regulation had been “imposed against the will of the British Government,” but the regulations had arisen in the wake of the 2001 foot and mouth disease epidemic.
But help was on the way as “we are on the brink of major negotiations regarding reform of the [Common Agricultural Policy], and, whatever their view of the European Community, I doubt whether there is a single noble Lord who does not agree that the CAP needs reformation—if I can use that word in this context. We are looking towards reform of the CAP that would give a better deal to these farmers.”
Bishop of Leicester in key Lords role: CEN 11.13.09 p 4. November 18, 2009Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords.
|First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
The Anglican Bishop of Leicester has been appointed convenor of the Lords Spiritual, the Church of England’s lead bishop in the House of Lords.
On Nov 2 the Rt Rev Tim Stevens said he was “pleased to have been asked to take on the role in order to ensure that the voice of the bishops is clearly heard in Parliament at a time of significant change and challenge for the nation.”
In announcing the appointment, Dr Rowan Williams noted the role of the convenor was “key to ensuring the contribution that the Lords Spiritual make to the life and work of the House is the best that it can be.”
He “brings great wisdom and the experience to the role,” Dr Williams said, adding “ I am sure that his wise counsel will be greatly valued.”
Bishop Stevens succeeds the Rt Rev Kenneth Stevenson as convenor of the Lords Spiritual. The Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Rev Michael Perham has been appointed to fill the seat in the Lords of Bishop Stevenson, who retired in September.
It’s an honour and a privilege to speak for the Church and to speak for Gloucestershire in Parliament,” Bishop Perham said. No date has yet been set to introduce the new Lord Spiritual to Parliament.
Two new ‘Lords Spiritual’ will be introduced to Parliament next month. On Nov 3 the Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt. Rev. Jonathan Gledhill will be introduced to the House of Lords by the Bishops of Wakefield and Ripon and Leeds, while on Nov 24 the Rt. Rev. Anthony Priddis will be introduced by Bishop Gledhill and the Bishop of Manchester.
The two will be added to the roster of “duty bishops,” leading prayers in the Lords and participating in debates.
Bishop Gledhill said he looked forward to his work in Parliament. “I have been surprised at the strength of conviction from people of other faiths and none who have said to me that they value the contribution of the bishops in the Lords and that this is part of the constitution which should not be meddled with,” he said.
“Christian leaders have played an active role in parliament since at least the time when the Witans, consulted by Saxon Kings, were attended by religious leaders. The very name ‘Westminster’ reminds us of the Christian origins of our constitution, and in each generation Christian leaders have been active in contributing to our laws and advancing the values which underpin them,” he said.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the Bishops of London, Durham and Winchester are seated by right of office in the House of Lords, the remaining 21 Lords Spiritual are composed of the 21 other senior diocesan bishops.
Bishop of Rochester’s suprise resignation: CEN 3.30.09 March 31, 2009Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper’s Religious Intelligence Section.
The resignation of the Bishop of Rochester has come as a surprise to leaders of the conservative wing of the Anglican Communion, American, Australian and Pakistani church leaders tell The Church of England Newspaper.
On March 28, a diocesan press statement said the Rt. Rev. Michael Nazir Ali would stand down on Sept 1 as Bishop of Rochester to “work with a number of church leaders from areas where the church is under pressure, particularly in minority situations, who have asked him to assist them with education and training for their particular situation.”
Dr. Nazir Ali appended a personal note to the announcement saying he and his family thanked “God for his blessings and for friends we have made in the Diocese in the past 15 years. I am so grateful to God for the friendship and loyalty of those around us and ask for people’s prayers as we take this step of faith ‘not knowing where we are going’ (Heb 11:8).”
Details of Bishop Nazir Ali’s new work have not been finalized, the diocese noted, leading to speculation that the 59 year old bishop might be preparing for another role in the Anglican Communion in light of his high profile stance within the conservative wing of the church.
However, the General Secretary of the Church of Pakistan, Humphrey Peters tells The Church of England Newspaper the news of the resignation came as a surprise. “So far we have no idea nor have we heard anything from Bishop Michael Nazir Ali. But, in case he feels like working for Church in Pakistan in these most critical times, the Church will be more than happy to welcome him.”
A spokesman for the Gafcon movement, stated while its leaders were generally aware of Dr. Nazir Ali’s wish to move on, they had no specific knowledge about his Saturday announcement.
Speculation that Dr. Nazir Ali might take a leadership role in the third province movement in the US was downplayed by its leaders, who noted that there was no shortage of bishops in the breakaway group. Dr. Nazir Ali had sought out posts in the US in the past, and in 2004 explored becoming dean of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, however US sources expect the conservative leader to lend his considerable talents to the church in the developing world.
In an encomium to Dr. Nazir Ali appended to the diocesan announcement of his retirement, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams said, “Bishop Michael’s decision to undertake this new and very challenging ministry will leave a real gap in the ranks of English bishops. His enormous theological skill, his specialist involvement in the complex debates around bioethics, his wide international experience and his clarity of mind and expression have made him a really valuable colleague, and he has served the Church and the wider society with dedication and distinction.”
“In his new work with churches in minority situations, he will need all our prayer and support. It is a courageous initiative and a timely one. I am personally very glad that I shall still be able to draw on his expertise and friendship, and wish him every strength and blessing in his work,” Dr. Williams said.
The Bishop of Chester’s call to allow science, not emotion, lead the debate on global warming has come under attack from environmental groups.
The green activist group, Friends of the Earth, denounced Dr. Peter Forster’s statements in the House of Lords last week that the causes of global warming remained a scientific “open question.”
The bishop’s remarks come in sharp contrast to statements made by the Bishop of Stafford who argued that failing to act on climate change was criminal. However, Dr. Forster’s comments find support from British-born theoretical physicist and mathematician Freeman Dyson, who writing in the New York Review of Books (NYRB), observed that “environmentalism has replaced socialism as the leading secular religion.”
Speaking in the debate on the government’s energy bill, Dr. Forster, a scientist by training, noted there was no consensus among climate scientists that “carbon dioxide levels are the key determinant”.
“Climate science is a notoriously imprecise area, because the phenomena under investigation are so large,” he said, making “precision difficult to achieve.”
A spokesman for Friends of the Earth told the Liverpool Daily Post we must “wake up to the threat posed by climate change.” The “debate is over” on the causes of climate change, the green group insisted. “The alarm bells are ringing” and action must be taken now.
Writing in the June diocesan magazine, the Bishop of Stafford Gordon Mursell said, “our refusal to face the truth about climate change” makes us guilty of “locking our children and grandchildren into a world with no future and throwing away the key”.
He linked the “monstrous and revolting” crimes of Josef Fritzl to the climate change debate, saying they represent the worldview that “I will do what makes me happy, and if that causes others to suffer, hard luck.”
While praising the aims of the environmental movement, “as a religion of hope and respect for nature” Dr. Dyson warned against an uncritical fanaticism.
“Unfortunately, some members of the environmental movement have also adopted as an article of faith the belief that global warming is the greatest threat to the ecology of our planet,” he wrote in the June 12 issue of the NYRB.
“That is one reason why the arguments about global warming have become bitter and passionate. Much of the public has come to believe that anyone who is skeptical about the dangers of global warming is an enemy of the environment. The skeptics now have the difficult task of convincing the public that the opposite is true. Many of the skeptics are passionate environmentalists. They are horrified to see the obsession with global warming distracting public attention from what they see as more serious and more immediate dangers to the planet, including problems of nuclear weaponry, environmental degradation, and social injustice. Whether they turn out to be right or wrong, their arguments on these issues deserve to be heard,” Dr. Dyson said.
The Bishop of Monmouth has criticized the Welsh Assembly for placing politics above good medicine. Bishop Dominic Walker told the Welsh Affairs committee in Parliament last week that the Assembly’s policy of providing all services to Welsh patients in Wales ran “counter to its policy of putting patients first”.
The problems arise with border issues when the ideologies seem to get in the way of the practicalities,” he said.
Joined by the Bishop of Hereford, the Rt. Rev. Anthony Priddis, on March 4 Bishop Walker urged the government to rethink the planned rationalization of health services.
In a statement to the committee Bishop Priddis said, “While reconfiguration of hospital services has been mooted in North Wales, it is hard to see how that could ever be achieved given the rural geography and population distribution served by Wrexham District General Hospital along with the other hospitals along the border.”
Under plans currently under review by the NHS neurosurgery patients in Liverpool would now have to travel to Swansea for care, while Welsh patients in England would find problems with their prescriptions.
“There is currently no prescription charge in Wales,” Bishop Priddis said, “but if someone living in Wales receives a prescription written by a doctor or dentist working in England, then they do have to pay at a Welsh or English pharmacy.
“The situation can result in Welsh patients who are seen in the emergency department of an English hospital decline a prescription that is then written for them because they want it written by their own Welsh GP, so as to avoid a prescription charge. This adds to everyone’s time and other costs,” he noted.
Both bishops urged the government to review the disparities in health care coverage on either side of the border, arguing it was unnecessary and ill-advised to foster incompatible health care systems between the regions.
The Bishop of Hereford, the Rt. Rev. Anthony Priddis
Government chided over inaction: CEN 3.07.08 p 4. March 8, 2008Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea, Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, House of Lords.
Speaking in the House of Lords on Feb 26, Lord Harries said the government’s “bland disingenuousness” over West Papua had been discreditable. The Indonesian government was guilty of torture, “systematic brutality” and “genocide” against the indigenous people of Papua he said.
Foreign Office Minister Lord Malloch-Brown conceded “the claim that there are major human rights abuses,” but noted the British government sought to work with the Indonesian government to “see it improve the conditions in Papua and to respect its special autonomy legislation.”
Lord Harries opened his remarks by saying that when he went shopping, he carried a bag displaying the West Papua “morning star” flag. “If I shopped in West Papua with that bag, I would immediately be labelled a separatist and treated with brutality” and imprisoned, he said.
The government responded that Indonesia was making provisions for Papuans to be permitted to fly flag. Lord Malloch-Brown called for “some understanding” for Indonesia as “flags are provocative things even in democracies that put an absolute premium on freedom of speech.”
“The Confederate flag in the United States continues to cause eruptions in every presidential campaign that I can recall,” the minister said.
Liberal Democratic peer Lord Avebury responded that “you do not go to prison for 20 years for flying the Confederate flag in the United States.”
“West Papua is a small country a long way away,” Lord Harries said, while “Indonesia is a big player with which we have major trade deals.”
“There are those who think that if only they stall long enough the problem will go away,” he said. However, Lord Harries assured the government and the West Papuan people that their friends in the West would not abandon their cause in the face of economic self-interest or realpolitik, and asked the government to pursue this issue “with very great seriousness, conviction and urgency.”
Zimbabwe action ‘needed’: CEN 2.15.08 p 7. February 16, 2008Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords, Zimbabwe.
The Bishop of Southwark has urged the government to rally the international community to take action on Zimbabwe.
Speaking in the House of Lords on Feb 6, the Rt. Rev. Tom Butler said that it was “incomprehensible” that the government had been unable to achieve an international consensus in the face of the “suffering” and “total collapse of the economy” facing Zimbabwe.
Bishop Butler said that while President Mugabe’s popularity among African leaders rested on his “apparent ability to act decisively on land reform,” the Zimbabwe strongman’s “short cuts” by means of “violent farm seizures” had been “disastrous” for the people.
Land confiscated from white farmers had been turned over to cronies of the regime resulting in the “devastation of Zimbabwe’s agriculture.” The “bread basket of Africa” had been turned “into an unproductive wasteland” through government malfeasance, he said.
Dr. Butler urged the government to be clear in its commitment to help a “legitimate Zimbabwean Government” enact “land reform that is equitable for all Zimbabwean citizens.”
However, change was in the air, he said, pointing to the Feb 3 consecration of Bishop Sebastian Bakare in place of the Mugabe-loyalist Dr. Nolbert Kunonga. “The good news is that this demonstrates how the brave people of Zimbabwe, given the opportunity, are more than ready to take responsibility for governance,” he said.
“What can happen at the heart of the church can happen at the heart of Government. Please, God, may it do so before too long,” he said.
Dr. Butler’s call for international pressure is being mirrored in acts of small civil disobedience within the country. On Feb 8, 69 members of the Mothers’ Union of St. Andrew’s, Glen View in Harare were arrested by the police after they attempted to forcibly evict a Kunonga loyalist from the parish rectory.
The Mothers’ Union demanded the Rev. Martin Zifoti vacate the rectory and broke several windows, a French door, and knocked over a fence in their zeal. Sixty-one members were released by the police, but eight were bound over by a magistrate to face charges of malicious mischief.
On Feb 11, the eight were arraigned before the Mbare Magistrates Court and released on bail. Press reports of the proceedings stated that the court room was packed to capacity with members of the Mothers’ Union, dressed in blue skirts and white blouses, offering a public display of solidarity for their jailed sisters.
New Guinea rights call: CEN 1.18.08 p 6. January 17, 2008Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea, Church of England Newspaper, Civil Rights, Free Speech, House of Lords.
In July the NGO, Human Rights Watch, accused the Indonesia of mounting a campaign of repression including extrajudicial executions, torture and rape against Papuan separatists. A November report by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture also recorded instances of police misconduct.
“Conditions in Papua’s Central Highlands are an important test of how Indonesia’s security forces perform when political tensions are high and regions are closed to outside observers,” said Joseph Saunders, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch. “The police are failing that test badly.”
“No one is being prosecuted for the crimes we documented,” Mr. Saunders said. “The police are acting as a law unto themselves.”
The Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua are closed to the press and outside aid agencies. It has been the scene of a low-level insurgency by guerrillas of the Free Papua Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka, or OPM). The guerrillas have mounted a series of hit and run raids in recent years on the Indonesian security forces, who have responded by conducting anti-terrorist sweeps through remote jungle villages suspected of providing sanctuary to the OPM.
The former Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries asked the government what measures it had taken to “promote peaceful dialogue between West Papuan leaders and the Government of Indonesia;” what it had done in response to published reports by the UN and Human Rights NGO’s “on the use of torture by Indonesian security personnel in West Papua;” and whether it would press Jakarta to “freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly” and allow the West Papuans to fly their flag in public.
Speaking on behalf of the government, the Foreign Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN Lord Malloch-Brown responded on Jan 8 that the British government endorsed the call for dialogue and had queried Indonesian government leaders about the “situation in Papua, including human rights.”
The government also welcomed the UN’s November 2007 report on West Papua and looked forward to the final report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Dr Manfred Novak. However, the UN’s initial findings were that “notwithstanding the very real concerns about treatment of detainees,” Indonesia had “come a long way in recent years and is trying to make positive progress on human rights,” Lord Malloch-Brown said.
Britain “supports the territorial integrity of Indonesia and therefore does not support independence for Papua,” Lord Malloch-Brown said, and would not press Jakarta on the question of flying the Papuan flag.
Child poverty blamed on family breakdown: CEN 1.04.08 p 4. January 4, 2008Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords, Youth/Children.
Speaking in the House of Lords on Dec 18 during the second reading of the government’s Child Maintenance Bill, Bishop George Cassidy applauded the government’s commitment to “ending child poverty by 2020.” However, putting the government to work at tackling the problem of broken families would have a more immediate and lasting effect, he argued.
A significant factor in the rate of child poverty was the failure of absent father’s to provide for their children. Only “one in three” one-parent families “receives any support from the non-resident parent, Bishop Cassidy said.
“If we are going to achieve the Government’s targets on child poverty, it is vitally important that this issue of maintenance is sorted out properly, particularly for the most vulnerable in our communities. Children are a gift, but creating a child also creates positive responsibilities towards that child. I sincerely hope that the Bill creates a commission that will play its part in helping parents to live up to their responsibilities, with enforcement as a last resort.”
He also supported the government decision to increase the “maintenance disregard for those on benefits” and for having understood that the child welfare agency’s “main purpose is to promote the welfare of the child rather than to claw back benefits. That should directly affect child poverty,” he said.
Minister praises Dr. Sentamu: CEN 1.04.08 p 4 January 4, 2008Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of York, Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords, Zimbabwe.
The Foreign Office Minister for Africa has commended the Archbishop of York for his support of democracy in Zimbabwe. Lord Malloch-Brown (pictured) backed Dr. John Sentamu’s words on Zimbabwe, and told Parliament on Dec 17 Britain will continue to support democracy in the beleaguered African nation.
During the debate on the EU-Africa summit in Lisbon last week, the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt. Rev. Tom Butler asked whether the “cutting up of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York’s clerical collar live on television as a protest was a helpful gesture?”
“I certainly do, my Lords; I just wish that I was bold enough to cut up my fine necktie too,” he said.
Britain’s representative to the EU-Africa summit, Lady Amos laid “out unequivocally [Zimbabwe's] disastrous economic and human rights situation” to the summit delegates. “There was no ambiguity” from Britain on this point, Lord Malloch-Brown.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government stood “four-square behind honest and fair elections in Zimbabwe. It is not enough for President Mugabe to agree to a piece of paper as a result of this mediation; he must be seen to change the laws and respect them and to allow genuinely free and fair elections”
“If those do not occur, we will in no way lessen-rather, we will increase-our objections to the Government of President Mugabe,” Lord Malloch-Brown assured Parliament.
Government challenged over MDG implementation: CEN 12.21.07 p 4. December 23, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Development/Economics/Govt Finances, House of Lords.
The Bishop of Liverpool questioned the government last week on its efforts to implement provisions of the Millennium Development Goals, and asked if it would support international treaties to manage fresh water resources.
On Dec 11, Bishop James Jones tabled a question in the House of Lords asking what progress had been made in implementing the UN’s Convention on the Law of Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses “which seeks to alleviate tensions between nations with shared water resources.”
The Minister of State for Africa, Asia and the UN at the Foreign Office, Lord Malloch-Brown responded the government had “no immediate plans to accede” to the treaty as only 16 nations had so far endorsed it.
“With 35 countries required, there is little prospect of the convention entering into force,” he said.
Notwithstanding its failure to garner support, Lord Malloch-Brown said “its principles are widely applied.” The government had implemented water-sharing processes in the Middle East and Africa and would pursue this work independently of the UN convention.
Bishop Jones expressed his disappointment at the failure of the treaty to move forward and questioned the minister about the consequences. “Given the warnings about the impact of climate change on fresh water resources, and given the millennium development goal that hopes to reduce by half the number of people without access to fresh water, will the United Kingdom ensure at the Bali conference that priority is given to the allocation of funding for the management of fresh water resources?”
Lord Malloch-Brown agreed that Bishop Jones had raised “an important point” and assured him the government would draw the attention of the Bali conference on the environment to this issue.
“Africa is the region that is most vulnerable to climate change,” he said. “It is projected that by 2020 between 75 million and 250 million people will be exposed to an increase in water stress due to climate change, and that agricultural productivity will have been severely compromised by at least a 10 per cent decline in rainfall.”
Britain would press this point at the Bali conference and at other international gatherings seek “to secure more resources to redress the matter.”
EU ‘not to blame for Britain’s woes,’ says Archbishop: CEN 12.16.07 December 17, 2007Posted by geoconger in Archbishop of York, British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, EU, House of Lords.
Don’t blame the EU for Britain’s troubles, the Archbishop of York told the House of Lords on Dec 5.
“May we please stop blaming the EU for all our ills?” Dr. John Sentamu said during a debate on the European Council meeting in Lisbon. “We are responsible for our economic policy, education, health, security and international affairs. If those policies are not working out, please do not look over the border and blame others; what we are not doing is our own fault, because we are responsible here.”
“I call it BSE-always blaming someone else, instead of taking responsibility for ourselves,” he said.
Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.
Bishop’s worries for ‘precarious’ hill farmers: CEN 12.14.07 p 4. December 16, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Farming, House of Lords.
Farmers were facing the unprecedented combination of disease, low prices and unequal EU subsidies, with many about to go under, Bishop Graham Dow said on Dec 6.
While “hill farming is precarious financially at the best of times,” he said, “this year it has been disastrous.” The ban on livestock shipping in the wake of the foot and mouth outbreak in Surrey could not have come at a “worse time.”
The ban can “at exactly the point in the year when hill farmers sell their lambs and around one-third of the lambs are normally exported for food. When the auction marts reopened, the prices collapsed, both for the farmers on the higher fells and for those lower down. Those who kept their animals instead of selling them have had to buy winter foodstuffs, and the price of lamb has not recovered,” Bishop Dow said.
Even with the government’s financial support package the average family farm profit was “just £2,000 per farm family, which compares with £18,000 two years ago,” he said.
Farmers were unable to pay their bills and many were “borrowing more and getting deeper into debt.”
Beef and dairy farmers were trying to “keep afloat, but they have no possibility of investing capital in the future of their businesses. As they see it, their counterparts in Belgium and France receive much more support and competing with them in a European market is very difficult.”
Bishop Dow urged the government to seek a “level playing field across the single market of the EU” and introduce “clearer policies to support food supply and livestock.”
“If hill farming were to fade away, the Cumbrian fells would become wild and the well cared-for landscape would change dramatically, as would biodiversity,” he said, and the “social glue of rural communities” would vanish also.
The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds endorsed Bishop Dows’ remarks and told Parliament “there must be a greater control of prices and a fairer market.”
“Unless more is done to end the silent collusion over the continued rush to cheap food, we shall continue to see decline particularly in the dairy and beef industries,” Bishop John Packer said.
No farming help yet, says Minister: CEN 12.14.07 p 4. December 16, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Farming, House of Lords.
The government has dismissed calls by the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds to give expedited financial assistance to farms infected with foot and mouth disease, saying the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) response was well in hand.
On Dec 6 Bishop John Packer tabled a question in the House of Lords to the government asking if it would begin making partial payments this month to farmers impacted by the recent outbreaks of livestock and poultry diseases.
The Minister of State for Sustainable Farming, Food and Animal Welfare at DEFRA, Lord Hooker said no, the government would not honor such a request. The Rural Payments Agency planned to “make more full payments to more farmers earlier than last year,” he said, but the government would not undermine its work “by insisting on a particular start date for payments.
Thanking the minister for his forthright answer, Bishop Packer responded by asking the government to form a blue ribbon panel to study the “full economic impact of animal disease outbreaks in order to establish a system which will respond quickly and sensitively to what I fear threaten to be increasingly frequent outbreaks?”
Lord Rooker declined to consider the proposal, but noted the government “is looking at the review of this year’s animal disease outbreaks.”
The animal disease outbreaks had “cost the taxpayer an absolute fortune,” the minister said and the total costs of “bluetongue, foot and mouth and avian influenza” were still being tabulated. “These matters are being reviewed so that we can learn lessons,” Lord Hooker said.
Bishop’s plea to protect Northern Rock: CEN 12.14.07 p 4. December 16, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Development/Economics/Govt Finances, House of Lords.
Speaking in the House of Lords Dec 3 debate on the global credit crunch, Bishop Martin Wharton asked the Government if it would commit to keeping Northern Rock “intact and hence safeguard the jobs of 6,000 people? Does he agree that if the Rock were to be sold off piecemeal, it would cause incalculable damage to the north-east?”
Deputy Chief Whip Lord Davies responded that the government sought to save Northern Rock and to “ensure that it gets back on to a stable basis with exactly the significant advantages that the right reverend Prelate identified.”
However, there were larger issues at play, Lord Davies, said: “namely, the stability of the financial system and confidence in the banks. That is why it was necessary for the Bank of England to act as it did, while at the same time guaranteeing as far as possible the security of public moneys in Northern Rock.”
Speculation as to the fate of the ailing bank is rife, with the Bank of England on Monday denying it favored nationalization and a Treasury spokesman saying the government’s preferred option was a sale of the entire institution. However, “As the Chancellor said, we are looking at all options.”
The Newcastle-based bank has been forced to borrow £25 billion from the Bank of England over the past two months to stave off insolvency. Northern Rock is weighing rival bids from a consortium led by the Virgin Group and the investment firm Olivant for its assets. A final deal is unlikely before the New Year, Northern Rock Chairman Bryan Sanderson said.
Prison reforms ‘must help rehabilitation’: CEN 12.14.07 p 4. December 16, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Crime, House of Lords.
On Dec 5 Justice Minister Jack Straw announced the government would increase prison capacity in England and Wales to 96,000 by 2014, and “build up to three large ‘Titan’ prisons, housing around 2,500 prisoners each.”
Straw stated the government would spend an additional £1.2bn, on top of £1.5bn already allocated for the building programme, while also adopting an early release plan for non-violent offenders making the “eligible for release at the half-way point of their sentence, remaining on licence to the end of their sentence.”
Straw also announced plans for a working group to study Lord Carter’s “far-reaching proposals for a judge-led sentencing commission”, to prepare sentencing guidelines and monitor prison capacity. However the Justice Minister said the government’s plans had “nothing to do with linking individual sentences to resources.”
Bishop James Jones, the Church of England’s Bishop to Prisons, welcomed the spending increase, but asked had “a figure been attached to the extra expenditure on restoration, education and training programmes?”
The success of a penal policy, he observed, was measured by recidivism, and that “depends very much on education and training programmes in the prison.”
Speaking for the Ministry of Justice, Lord Hunt conceded the importance of prison training programmes. He announced a “research report looking at the cost effectiveness of restorative justice, which will help us plan for the future.”
Lord Hunt assured Bishop Jones that “matters of education, health, restorative justice and rehabilitation are all germane to taking forward a much more rational approach to prisons and sentencing, which is what the Carter review is designed to achieve.”
In his speech to Parliament, the justice minister said the government was winning the battle against crime. “This is the first Government since the war under whom crime has not risen, but has fallen by a third. Violent crime is down, burglary and vehicle crime are down, and the chance of being a victim of crime is now lower than at any time since 1981,” Straw said.
There was a need for new prisons, however, due to an increase in crime detection and longer terms of incarceration, the Justice Minister said.
Moral values ‘are needed in reforms’ : CEN 12.07.07 December 7, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Education, House of Lords, Youth/Children.
| THE BISHOP of Portsmouth has pressed the government not to overlook the moral foundations of education in its plans to reform primary school curriculums.
Speaking in the House of Lords during the debate on primary schools testing on Nov 27 initiated by Lib-Dem peer Baroness Sharp, the Rt Rev Kenneth Stevenson observed the government’s reform plans called for a ‘widening and deepening’ of educational standards.
Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.
Call for more homes: CEN 11.30.07 p 4. December 3, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords, Politics.
However Bishop William Ind urged the government not to overlook the housing needs of rural England, saying the lack of affordable housing was strangling rural life.
Housing prices had risen “in excess of 20 per cent a year” over the past 20 years, he told the House of Lords on Nov 13, adding that “many in your Lordships’ House will have children and grandchildren who simply cannot afford to buy a new house in the place that they want to live.”
Government support for home building “will begin to address the enormous shortage of supply for families who are unable to afford the market price for houses and it will at least begin to offer hope to the 1.6 million families who are currently on council house waiting lists.”
However, “good new houses are not enough,” Bishop Ind said. “If we are going to help to create sustainable, organic communities, there need to be facilities such as schools, medical centres, shops, pubs, halls and churches; all of them are an essential part of the whole enterprise and cannot be added later as a kind of afterthought.”
Bishop Ind urged the government not to overlook rural England in its scheme, as in Cornwall may “local people simply cannot afford to live in the area in which they were born and brought up.”
In some areas over 50 per cent of the homes were second homes, he said. “It is not for nothing that the area around Polzeath is known as ‘Fulham and Chelsea-on-Sea’.”
The rural house problem was “with us now. It is breaking up rural communities as well as families, as younger families are simply being forced to leave, causing bitterness and division” and if not addressed soon, could lead to the “death” of England’s rural communities, Bishop Ind said.
Bishop Defends Councils: CEN 11.30.07 p 4. December 3, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords, Politics.
The Bishop of Portsmouth has urged the government not to fund its budget on the back of local councils, nor to shortchange the South of England of its fair share of government spending.
Dr. Kenneth Stevenson told the House of Lords on Nov 13 that Britain was “arguably the most centrally controlled nation in Europe.” There was a danger that underfunded mandates from Westminster would have the perverse affect of harming the social services provided by local councils to the aged and the young.
“To pay for each new programme or initiative, the Government are reducing funding to local authorities, which then will have less money to spend on their core work,” he said.
“As the greater part of this money goes on the social care of adults and children, they are always the worst affected,” Dr. Stevenson argued, noting that the point would soon be reached where local councils would only be able to “afford to do the statutory minimum.”
This would shift more of the burden onto the “voluntary sector where the churches and faith communities are prominently industrious,” he said.
The government’s legislative agenda held “much promise” Dr. Stevenson said, but urged an equitable balance be found between “central and local” government.
He also urged the government to invest more in the development of the Isle of Wight, which he said had the “second lowest wage level in the country and more than 25 per cent of the population on benefits.”
The Isle of Wight Council, he noted was seeking to be “carbon neutral” within a decade, and had “high hopes” of becoming a “major exporter of green energy from tidal power.” However the current Energy Bill needed to be “far more robust, as this kind of project will need careful nurturing, particularly as the South appears to have received what I am told is the worst settlement from government in 20 years,” he said.
| THE BISHOP of Liverpool has challenged the necessity of the proposed amendment to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill criminalising anti-gay speech. Speaking in the House of Lords on Nov 12, Bishop James Jones stated that current laws were sufficient to deal with problems of homophobic behavior.
Last month the Justice Secretary, Jack Straw (pictured), announced plans to amend the Criminal Justice Bill, extending the protections against hate speech provided to religious and racial groups to homosexuals.
Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.
Stronger communities are needed, says Bishop: CEN 11.27.07 November 28, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords, Multiculturalism, Politics.
|STRONG communities cannot be created by government fiat, the Bishop of Salisbury told the House of Lords, but can only arise through the moral regeneration of society.
Speaking in response to the Queen’s speech, Bishop David Stancliffe questioned the government’s drive to define Britishness by means of a constitution and chastised its shallow vision of ‘community’.
Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.
Government urged to invest in inter-faith dialogue to combat terror threat: CEN 11.25.07 November 25, 2007Posted by geoconger in British Foreign Policy, Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords, Interfaith, Multiculturalism.
|INTERFAITH dialogue is a worthwhile investment in the war against Islamist terrorism, the Bishop of St Albans has said.
Speaking in response to the Prime Minister’s national security speech to the House of Commons, Bishop Christopher Herbert told the House of Lords the government would benefit from the experiences of the church’s interfaith dialogue.
Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.
Prison reforms ‘aren’t working’: CEN 11.23.07 p 4. November 24, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Crime, House of Lords.
Bishop John Packer said the current scheme of work opportunities programmes for prisoners was unimaginative, inadequately financed and did not build skills useful for the reintegration of convicts into society.
“Far more common,” he told Parliament on Nov 15 was “menial and boring work, which comes over as part of the punishment rather than an opportunity for the future. We are not far from the era of stitching mailbags.”
The problem was compounded, however, by the lack of a work ethic among criminals. While there were “excellent training and skills development” in some Young Offenders Institutions (YOIs), the prison service was often unable to capitalize on this due to the “unwillingness of the young men there to take part in employment.”
The issue was, at its heart, one of moral education, he argued. “Young men [in prison] have very little experience of a work environment; they find it difficult to adapt to the environment being sought within the prison. They need that opportunity if they are to take advantage of their future lives outside the prison.”
There was also “little incentive” for prisoners serving longer terms of incarceration to “develop patterns of work which will benefit them or society,” he said.
Bishop Packer urged the government to “look outside the box and provide a greater variety of opportunity for our prisoners in ways which will encourage them where they are, and into the future.”
Reintegration of prisoners into society would be helped the creation of “public/private partnership” that provide skills training, as well as a link to the community.
He urged the government to use the resources and skills provided by prison chaplains. “One way to do this is through chaplaincy not being confined as it now often is to the prison itself but linking up with the local parishes, so that those from the parishes have the opportunity to go into the prison and feel that they are a part of that,” Bishop Packer said.
He urged the government to develop programmes that will benefit “prisoners, the prison regimes and our whole community [so] that people will be drawn back into a proper place within our society and our communities.”
Northern Rock queried: CEN 11.23.07 p 4. November 24, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Development/Economics/Govt Finances, House of Lords.
Speaking in response to the Northern Rock banking crisis, Bishop Christopher Herbert called for a fresh approach to restoring damaged trust in the banking industry. Lending money to customers who “are not really aware of the risks they are taking,” was financially and morally unsound, he said.
“Woe to you who join house to house, field to field, until there is room for no one but you,” Bishop Herbert reminded the Lords, citing Isaiah 5:8.
The Bible spoke cogently and repeatedly about the “relationship between social morality and economic affairs,” he said. Then as now “greed began to prevail over justice, oppression was rife and mercy was no longer part of the social or political vocabulary.”
Press and political comments about the Northern Rock crisis had missed the “much bigger issues concerned with the probity of institutions. It misses those situations that are about the moral relationship that exists between trust and risk and reward; about the moral accountability of those who have financial control over the most vulnerable; and about the morality of a society in which the gap between rich and poor remains achingly large,” he said.
“In a democratic society, banking necessarily depends on trust,” Bishop Herbert said. If “moral trust” is absent the “banking system will collapse.”
“The current failures in the system are as much to do with morality as with economic mechanics,” he said, urging the Treasury to rethink its response to the credit crisis. The government should “call together senior bankers with ethicists, philosophers, theologians and academics to reflect on the moral values which underline banking practice in our country to see whether there is any room for improvement.”
While such an approach may appear “a touch academic and self indulgent” it would go a long way towards restoring confidence in the “financial rectitude” and moral probity of the banking system, Bishop Herbert said.
Government is failing farmers says bishop: CEN 11.23.07 p 4. November 24, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Farming, House of Lords.
Speaking during the debate on the government’s response to the outbreaks of Foot and Mouth disease, on Nov 14 Bishop Michael Langrish (pictured left) questioned Lord Rooker, the Minister of State for Sustainable Farming, Food and Animal Welfare about the government’s farm polices.
Was not the minister aware, Bishop Langrish asked, of comments made by a ministry spokesman that “It is up to the market to decide food prices. The UK can source efficiently food from a wide variety of stable countries, and that enables Britain to obtain the best value for money”?
This statement indicated the government continued “take food security insufficiently seriously,” he said.
The government appeared uninterested in the plight of rural Britain he charged, and was “prepared to see the terminal decline of the UK farming industry through the pursuit of cheap food and the concomitant exploitation of UK farmers by the retail food industry,” Bishop Langrish said.
Bishop Langrish’s intervention comes at a difficult time for British farming. On Nov 13, Jill Hopkinson, the National Rural Officer for the Church of England based at the Arthur Rank Centre reported that Agriculture in Great Britain was plagued with outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease, Bluetongue Disease and Avian Influenza.
On Nov 9 Bishop Langrish, the chairman of the Church’s Rural Strategy Group, called for fair trade for farmers, saying the pursuit of cheap food coupled with the buying power of the big supermarkets is putting farming livelihoods at risk.
“The business practices of the major food retailers have placed considerable stress on the farming community through the use of methods which we believe to be unfair and of which consumers seem to be unaware,” he said.
“As bishops of a church which is a major investor in the retail food industry and which is also the landlord to many tenant farmers, we have a duty to consider the relationship between these two areas of business.”
“In particular we have to ask whether this relationship is fair and whether it operates within what we consider to be the principles of Fair Trade. Are human beings treated with dignity and respect, or is there some exploitation of one group of people for the unfair gain of another?” Bishop Langrish asked.
Government is ‘failing Africa’: CEN 11.16.07 p 7. November 17, 2007Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of the Congo, Arms Control/Defense/Peace Issues, Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords, NGOs.
The Bishop of Winchester has lambasted the government for backing away from its commitments toward Africa. Bishop Michael Scott-Joynt told the House of Lords on Nov 7 his ears were “cocked for one word in particular-Africa-but cocked in vain,” as he listened to the Queen’s speech.
Bishop Scott-Joynt urged the government to turn its attention towards the Congo and address the on-going instability in the Great Lakes Region of East Africa.
He asked the government what it was doing to ensure land reform, the demobilization of militias, and the support of nascent democratic institutions. Why would it not “funnel aid through church-based organisations? How [did] the Government view the contemporary scramble for Africa by China and a range of Islamic states?”, he asked.
He asked the government to tell Parliament who was funding the wars across the region, “because it would be good to get to the bottom of the matter.”
“Who is running the Great Lakes region,” Bishop Scott-Joynt demanded to know.
“Human rights abuses and impunity from them” were the rule in the Congo, he said. While there had been great strides in democratic reform, the “the place is very little better,” he said.
“There is a crying need for the accountability of the justice and police systems to be worked at and, if security sector reform is not given priority, there will be no peace and security within Congo or along and across its borders, no containing of pillage of mineral resources, and no working at good relationships with the countries of the Great Lakes region,” Bishop Scott-Joynt argued.
He asked the government where had “gone the front-line commitment-the concentration of the last Prime Minister and the present one when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the Commission for Africa?”
It had been fobbed off “to a thing called the Africa Partnership Forum, whose latest report the Government have not thought worth bringing to Parliament,” Bishop Scott-Joynt said.
Stability and nation-building in the Great Lakes Region was a matter “of deepest urgency” he said, urging the government to honor its commitments to the people of Africa.
Planned reforms ‘long overdue’: CEN 11.16.07 p 5. November 17, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords, Youth/Children.
Bishop Tim Stevens, who also serves as chairman of the Children’s Society, welcomed the Children and Young Persons Bill and the Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill, saying reform of the government’s child care system was “long overdue.”
“The Government’s aspiration to reduce the outcome gap between children in care and their peers and to improve the experience of education for children in care is clearly right,” he said, but noted strict attention must be paid to the details of the legislation as “for successive generations we have not satisfactorily looked after our children and young people in care.”
The Children and Young Persons Bill gives councils powers to organise children’s care and ensure children do not move schools in Years 10 and 11, except in exceptional circumstances. By raising the standards for those children placed in care the Queen said the government would see that young people were not “forced out of care before they are ready.”
The Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill creates a Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission to replace the Child Support Agency. The government says it will have tougher powers to force absent parents to pay for their children.
Bishop Stevens urged the government to fund the progammes as “policies without people and resources, however, are empty shells and doomed to failure.”
The government’s plans reflect “high ideals about what children need,” but council taxes alone would not cover the costs. “I wonder how the local authorities are going to find the money to make these proposals work, when the Pre-Budget Report failed to show how we are going to make the painful decisions needed about the redistribution of wealth,” he asked.
Bishop Stevens noted the Child Maintenance Bill was a “focus of enormous concern.” He urged the government not to replicate the failed policies of the Child Support Agency, and to pursue a “radical rethinking” of the child maintenance system, encouraging parents to be “generous towards their children according to their own means.”
He also urged the government “to be bolder” and create a “right to advocacy for children with disabilities.” The 13,300 disabled children living outside their homes needed to “get their views heard” and to take a “proper part in the decisions that affect their lives.”
“This is what gives them dignity, respect and independence, which they are so often unintentionally denied, and it can provide a source of protection by ensuring that their voices are heard within what is otherwise experienced by them as a closed system,” he said.
Bishop backs raising school leaving age: CEN 11.16.07 p 4. November 17, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Education, House of Lords, Youth/Children.
On Nov 8 Bishop John Packer endorsed the government’s plans to require by 2015 all 16 to 18-year-olds to be enrolled in school or vocational training programmes, however, he urged the government to ensure that provisions for their moral and spiritual education not be overlooked in the new bill.
By raising the school-leaving age, the Queen said the government would “raise education standards and give everyone the chance to reach their full potential”. The speech also announced new rights to skills training for adults and draft legislation to reform apprenticeships.
Bishop Packer told the House of Lords the Church of England had “long been committed to a full and engaging educational experience up to the age of 18. We welcome the opportunity to work with the Government to meet those aims in schools and FE and HE institutions.”
“This Bill will provide opportunities for those from deprived backgrounds to achieve greater status and recognition because of the higher status that should be accorded to skills education from 16 to 19,” he argued.
Bishop Packer urged the government “to correct the anomaly over the entitlement to provision for spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, which 16 to 19 year-olds have in schools but not in colleges.”
It would be “extraordinary to concentrate on specific skills and not to take account of those moral and social values that need to be at the heart of our community culture and therefore of our education system,” he said.
The contribution of young people to society was fostered by a sound provision for
“education in moral and social matters within the work of the FE colleges,” Bishop Packer argued.
Opportunities to “celebrate and value faith and to explore social development” were an important task of higher education. “It cannot simply be left as an optional extra. Values appropriate to our multi-faith society need to be inculcated in the overall provision made through these groundbreaking proposals,” he argued.
Lord Harries calls for embryo regulation: CEN 11.16.07 p 4. November 17, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Health/HIV-AIDS, House of Lords.
Speaking in the House of Lords on Nov 8 in response to the Queen’s Speech, Lord Harries stated that the rapidly increasing rate of scientific change required new rules and new thinking.
A member of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, Lord Harries said there had been a shift in “social attitudes” in the 17 years since Parliament adopted its first regulations.
“There was a time, as the old song put it, when love and marriage went together like a horse and carriage,” he noted.
“They went also with sex, pregnancy, birth and children being brought up by that couple. In the 1960s, with the advent of reliable contraception in the form of the pill, the link between sex and pregnancy was decisively broken.”
Scientific advances and changing social mores had served to “break the nexus of marriage, sex, pregnancy, birth and upbringing at every point,” Lord Harries said, noting that earlier this year “a single Japanese woman in her 60s, who had gone to America to have a donated embryo implanted in her womb, had given birth to a child.”
The “one moral principle” that had emerged in this process of scientific and social change had been “that of informed consent.”
However this led to the moral question of when might fertility treatments be refused?
Parliament must legislate in this field, setting forth the “wider, social reasons for particular requests not being granted,” Lord Harries said. “If such requests are to be refused, there must be good, convincing, grave reasons; otherwise, the principle of informed consent will remain the only and the overriding consideration.”
The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt. Rev. Tim Stevens told Parliament the Church of England remained “deeply cautious” about cloning and “especially about the creation of human/animal hybrids.” The Church would continue to press for “very tight controls on embryo experiments and for constant review of the licensing of research into hybrids to ensure that the claimed therapeutic benefits are the only rationale for continuing research programmes.”
Dr. Andrew Goddard, Tutor in Christian Ethics at Wycliffe Hall urged the Church to watch closely the debate. Writing on his blog “Theology & Ethics”, Dr. Goddard noted the possibilities created by scientific research in the life sciences held significant moral questions.
“The problem is certainly compounded when we replace these connections simply by an appeal to human will and desire, often cloaked in the language of rights,” he noted.
Female mutilation worry expressed by bishop: CEN 11.02.07 p 4. November 7, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Crime, Health/HIV-AIDS, House of Lords, Multiculturalism.
THE GOVERNMENT has been challenged to do more to educate young people about the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation.
The call came from the Rt Rev George Cassidy, Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham. His intervention came during a debate initiated by Labour peer Baroness Rendell who asked the government about the Metropolitan Police’s efforts to combat the crime.
Lord West noted that the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 made it an offence for women to betaken abroad for female genital mutilation or circumcision: a cultural practice followed in a number of African and Arab countries that has come under harsh criticism from health and rights activists and has been condemned by the African Churches.
The government was currently investigating the prevalence of FGM among migrants to the UK and had ‘instigated awareness raising initiatives, including the training of health professionals.’ He noted the Metropolitan Police was investigating approximately 30 cases reported since July.
Lord West told Bishop Cassidy the police were investigating suspected cases of FGM through its child abuse investigation command under Project Azure. “This is an enforcement campaign, but it also focuses on raising awareness within communities that this is an illegal practice,” he said.
There was a ‘cultural dimension’ to FGM, Lord West said. “But that does not mean that the practice is not still barbarous. Some communities used to practise cannibalism, but that would not be accepted today. It is a difficult issue but we are doing as much as we can to stop this dreadful practice,” the minister explained.
Call for Uganda action: CEN 11.02.07 p 4. November 7, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Uganda, House of Lords, NGOs.
THE GOVERNMENT has been questioned over its efforts to ensure access for aid agencies to the people of Northern Uganda.
The call came from the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Rev John Gladwin, who also serves as chairman of Christian Aid, on Oct 29 asked Baroness Vandera, a DfID Minister, if the government was talking to the Ugandan authorities to help development agencies operate there.
The question arose during a debate initiated by Baroness Cox on the government’s support for the peace process in Northern Uganda. Baroness Vandera said the bishop’s concerns were well stated, as a recent report from the World Food Programme found that food aid was not reaching an estimated 150,000 people.
The British government was responding to the problem by providing ‘support for emergency rations to be airlifted to areas that were not accessible by road. Efforts have also been made to improve road access,’ she said with Britain ‘bearing some of the costs of engineering to rebuild some of the roads to ensure that access is available for basic services.’
Baroness Cox urged the government to ‘make peace a priority’ in Northern Uganda.
Asylum seekers ‘deserve rights’: CEN 11.02.07 p 4. November 7, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords, Immigration.
THE ARCHBISHOP of York and the Bishop of Winchester have endorsed Lib-Dem Home Affairs spokesman Lord Avebury’s call to give asylum seekers the benefit of British civil liberties and greater access to legal protections.
Lord Avebury’s amendments came in the third reading of the UK Borders Bill. He argued that a clause in the proposed legislation imposed ‘residence and reporting conditions on any person whatever granted leave to enter or remain in the UK unless that grant is for an indefinite period.’
“Hundreds of thousands of immigrants therefore face the possibility that they may be required to report monthly, weekly or even daily to an immigration officer, to reside at a specified address or to be present at that place of residence at particular times,” Lord Avebury said
Bishop calls for Sabbath observance: CEN 11.01.07 November 2, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Health/HIV-AIDS, House of Lords.
|Sabbath observance would promote the physical and moral health of the nation, the Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham has told the House of Lords during a debate on health and working hours.Bishop George Cassidy asked the government ‘what are the consequences for the health of individuals and for demands on the NHS of people regularly working for more than 48 hours per week?’
For the government, Lord Davies noted that research suggested that giving ‘people choice and control over their working time can enhance occupational health,’ but it was not conclusive.
Read it all in the Church of England Newspaper’s online section Religious Intelligence.
Bishop asks for more support for credit unions: CEN 10.26.07 p 4. October 28, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Development/Economics/Govt Finances, House of Lords.
The Bishop of Coventry, the Rt. Rev. Colin Bennetts has urged the government to support credit unions as a tool to promote thrift and broaden the access of low income wage earners to banking services.
Following upon a 2006 Treasure Select Committee report which suggested a free financial advice service be introduced to support the 8 million people who earn £10,000 to £20,000 per year in Britain, on Oct 15 Liberal Democrat peer Lord Oakeshott asked the government what work was being done to support low and middle income wage earners to find “debt and pensions advice.”
“The queues outside Northern Rock hammered what is left of the savings culture in this country” Lord Oakeshott said, noting the one remaining trusted advisor, Citizens Advice, was being starved for resources by the government. He urged the government to reverse course saying “surely it should be made the key to giving advice to the many people with deepening financial problems in this country.”
Bishop Bennetts asked the government whether it agreed that “credit unions are an excellent way of helping those on low incomes to manage their finances, in contrast to some of the unregulated savings schemes that have proved so disastrous?”
Gambling survey finds problem gambling is stabilising: CEN 9.28.07 p 5. September 30, 2007Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Gambling, House of Lords, Popular Culture.
Over a quarter of a million people are addicted to gambling, a government report has found. The Gambling Prevalence Survey 2007 found that those hooked on gambling numbered over 284,000, while over 68 percent of the population played games of chance last year in Britain.
The study, prepared on behalf of the Gambling Commission, found that 32 million adults had participated in some form of gambling activity within the past year. A similar study in 1999 found that 33 million adults or 72 percent of the population were gamblers.
The most popular form of gambling is the National Lottery draw with 10 million participants or 57% of the population.
Scratchcards (20%), betting on horse races (17%) and playing slot machines (14%) also topped the list, while internet gambling rounded out the top five at 6%.
Problem gamblers were estimated to comprise 0.6% of the adult population, or 284,000 people. The 1999 survey identified 0.5% of the adult population with a gambling problem, or around 236,000 adults.
The British Gambling Prevalence Survey was undertaken by the Gambling Commission to quantify the “nature and scale of gambling in Great Britain.”
“It was commissioned as part of the Gambling Commission’s commitment to the licensing objectives of keeping crime out of gambling, ensuring gambling is conducted fairly and openly, and protecting children and vulnerable people from harm from gambling,” the government said.
However the Rt. Rev David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane argued the “key message” of the report is that problem gambling had not increased. “This is a complacent statement” he argued as those affected by problem gambling were not just the gamblers, but their families and society as a whole.
“Gambling is now mainstream in British life through the presence of the National Lottery and scratch cards,” he said. “Its presence steadily corrodes the quality of our national life” while the “dream of instant wealth creates empty hopes,” Bishop Chillingworth argued.
“The support of ‘good causes’ is not an adequate justification for institutionalised gambling on this scale. It creates issues of values for voluntary organisations and for churches who are forced to seek funding from the Lottery in spite of their opposition to gambling,” he argued.
On March 28 the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops of Peterborough and Southwell and Nottingham backed Liberal Democrat Lord Clement-Jones in opposing plans for a Manchester super casino, defeating the governments Gambling Order.
Speaking in the House Dr. Williams said his “unease” with the Gambling bill was with the “sleight of hand by which the whole business of the gambling industry has become coupled with the regeneration theme in ways which-I have to be candid-I find quite baffling.”
“While it is undoubtedly true statistically that casino gambling represents a relatively small segment of the overall problem of addictive gambling, none the less it represents a significant part and a social factor whose impact on its immediate environment is not restricted to addictive gambling,” he argued in opposition to the bill.