Bishop's voice in the Queen's Speech debate

Published: 10th May 2013

 Having been present for the State Opening of Parliament at which the Queen announced the government's plans for legislation in the coming year, Bishop Jonathan took part in the debate on the Queen's Speech in the House of Lords concentrated on caring for the disadvantaged.

"There is much in this programme to welcome" he said, "but one must emphasise the priority that needs to be given to the most disadvantaged within our borders.

He quoted from President Kennedys famous inaugural speech:
'If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich' .

"The Government have focused in particular on their proposals on immigration. There are real complexities involved in removing a small number of people who are considered very dangerous to us, but these hard cases should not detract attention from the human impacts of the immigration system. I will not forget the experience of joining the wrong queue for immigration at Heathrow, having to wait ages to be seen, and watching the distress of the families and elderly being poorly treated by overworked staff. "

The rehabilitation of offenders is a topic that he has taken great interest in, valuing particularly the work of professional and volunteer chaplains, both lay and ordained, in the prisons around the diocese. Plans to extend supervision for ex-prisoners who serve sentences of less that twelve months were welcomed by Bishop Jonathan and although he has reservations about outsourcing probation services, he took the opportunity to fly the flag in the House of Lords for the highly successful RESTART programme in Stoke, initiated by the diocese and now developed by the charity Saltbox saying:

"On reform of the way in which offenders are rehabilitated in England and Wales, I warmly welcome the plans to extend post-sentence supervision to those serving sentences of less than 12 months. It is certainly true that the reoffending rate of more than 70% among young men in particular is shocking. However, there are organisations such as the churchs scheme in the Potteries that have succeeded, even in the most difficult cases, in bringing that figure down to 10%. I am sure that the Government will want to listen more carefully to such organisations."

He concluded his speech recalling St Paul's words, passing on in his letter to the Galatian churches the instructions given him by James, Peter and John "about building successful multinational communities."

'All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor'.

"The citizens of this country rightly have an interest in maintaining an orderly and just society. Immigration, anti-social behaviour, gambling, alcohol control and all the aspects of ordering our society covered by the Governments proposals present legitimate points of concern for us all. In addressing them, at a time of financial stringency, we must ensure that the solutions that we adopt do not tear us apart by bearing down disproportionately on those least able to make choices for themselves. We should continue to remember the poor."

Page last updated: Friday 10th May 2013 3:29 PM
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