All 1 Debates between Baroness Flather and Lord Kennedy of Southwark

Local Government (Religious etc. Observances) Bill

Debate between Baroness Flather and Lord Kennedy of Southwark
Friday 13th March 2015

(9 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark
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My Lords, like the previous group of amendments, I do not think that any of the amendments in this group would improve the Bill. There is a possibility that they would make things very confused and potentially unworkable. That is not a good way to make legislation. As I said before, the Bill mostly affects lower tiers of local government and some combined authorities, and it is permissive in nature. Amendment 6 would remove the power to support, facilitate or be represented at a number of events.

As the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, said, at Second Reading I told noble Lords that while we do not hold prayers at council meetings, we do observe Holocaust Memorial Day. At our last meeting, which was close to the day, we invited the local rabbi to address the council meeting. He spoke to us and then led us in a short ceremony, which was very moving and was welcomed by everyone. As a council, obviously we support Remembrance Sunday. We have two prominent war memorials in the borough. Our elected mayor attends a ceremony at one and the chair of the council attends the other, while other members of the council attend both. The services are both led by local Anglican vicars and people of all faiths and no faith attend those events. This amendment could be confusing for them.

As I have said, I lived in the east Midlands for many years and I often attended the Diwali celebrations held there, along with members of the local council. I now regularly attend the Diwali celebrations which are held in Southwark with my good friend the leader of Southwark Council, Councillor Peter John. As I look at the Bill, those events would potentially be put at risk because the council would be participating in a religious event. I do not think that these amendments would help us at all and I hope that they will be withdrawn.

Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather
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My Lords, we have heard how councillors go to functions such as celebrations of Diwali and Eid, which are organised by other faiths, and that is wonderful, but they do not have anything to do with the council. It is not the council that is facilitating such gatherings. It is not the council saying, “We will help you to organise your Diwali function”. That needs to be borne in mind. Facilitating or supporting religious functions usually means facilitating and supporting Christian festivals, not others. If that could be included, I would be much happier.