Bishops challenge government on cost of living and climate crises

Bishops in the House of Lords continued to challenge the government’s response to the cost of living and climate crises this week as debates over last week’s Queen’s Speech (News, May 13) began their fourth day.

On Monday, the debate focused on economic development, energy and the environment. The Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, the Rt Revd Martin Seeley, said: ‘The climate crisis is the multiplier for every other crisis we face.

In his first address, Bishop Seeley devoted much of his time to environmental issues. “Rising global temperatures will dramatically increase the global refugee crisis and food shortages, and the geopolitical impact will continue to be amplified,” he said.

“We must continue the determined course set at COP26, where we take action – inspiring action – now, for the long term.”

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, who is the C of E’s Senior Bishop on the Environment, wrote of the agreement at COP26 that “progress has been made. . . but not enough” (Comment, November 18, 2021).

Bishop Seeley acknowledged the leadership shown by Bishop Usher and concluded his address by saying, “It is time to implement and act – to act now for the long-term future and to act with a clear and committed leadership”.

Baroness Penn opened the debate for the government. Speaking about the Financial Services and Markets Bill, she described the government’s intention to “reduce red tape” in the financial services sector.

“Our departure from the European Union means that there is now an opportunity to better adapt our legislation to better respond to our markets,” she said.

Baroness Kramer, a fellow Liberal Democrat, however, suggested that ‘this is an issue we need to be extremely careful about’, arguing that any attempt to ‘win the race to the bottom on competitiveness’ in financial regulations risked causing a further crash in 2008.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch, a Labor counterpart, criticized the government’s economic record and its response to the cost of living crisis. “The Conservative Party has become the party of high taxes and low wages, and the latest National Insurance increase means millions of people will earn even less,” she said.

On Tuesday, the focus turned to education, welfare and health policy. The Schools Bill was introduced by Baroness Stedman-Scott, a government minister, as a chance to “raise standards”. The bill proposes changes to the academy system to ensure greater accountability and give local authorities some power to establish academies.

Responding on behalf of the Labor Party, Baroness Wilcox of Newport said ‘one-size-fits-all academisation’ was all the government was offering and was ‘an ideological approach, rather than looking at the evidence’.

She asked, “How many more times will the government rearrange classroom desks, hoping for a better outcome?”

The Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Paul Butler, has welcomed reforms that will make it easier for denominational schools to join academic trusts (News, April 1). He warned, however, that it would be expensive. He expressed his hope that the government “will be adequately resourced for this through a budget that shows its commitment to the holistic well-being of children through education.”

He continued: “Talking about the well-being of children makes me see the lack of action [in the Government’s agenda] to alleviate the cost of living crisis.

Last month, Bishop Butler urged the government to “act with compassion and give people the dignity to be able to put food on the table” (News, April 29).

He also repeatedly called for the removal of the two-child limit for Universal Credit, previously describing it as “the main driver of rising child poverty” (News, July 20, 2021). On Tuesday, he announced he had introduced a private member’s bill to abolish the limit.

“Each child is of great value and, as education is a priority, we must recognize children as whole persons whose well-being needs are inextricably linked to their education,” he said. declared.

The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, a former chief nurse, focused her speech on the government’s health policies. “The vision we should seek is one of mutual fulfillment, generosity and abundance,” she said. “This is also known as the Jewish and biblical concept of shalom, which can be summarized as the experience of wholeness, or a state of being without gaps.”

Currently, she said, the decline in the number of medical staff in the NHS means that “we are neglecting the prevention of health problems and, by not investing enough now in health coverage, we are accumulating increased expenditure in the NHS in the future…

“I would like to see this government adopt models and practices that embody efforts to design a more holistic health service. This is an approach that needs to happen if we are to take the leveling program seriously.

Baroness Stedman-Scott also introduced the Conversion Therapy Bill and confirmed that transgender conversion therapy would not be covered, but that the government would “look into the issue of transgender conversion therapy”.

Baroness Brinton, a Liberal Democrat counterpart, said ‘banning conversion therapy is absolutely the right thing to do’. She went on to say, however, that “it’s not fair to exclude trans and non-binary people from the ban.”

Last week, after the bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech, Jayne Ozanne, who campaigns for LGBTQA+ inclusion, particularly in the Church, said: “The government’s own research shows that people trans are twice as likely to be offered conversion therapy, and it is utterly immoral that they deliberately omitted them from the ban” (News, May 10).

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