5 Lord Bishop of Gloucester debates involving the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

Occupied Palestinian Territories: Humanitarian Situation

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Thursday 9th November 2023

(8 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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I agree with the noble Lord about the issue of us reminding Israel of its responsibilities under IHL. I have said a number of times in public statements that we need to unpack it. It is not just a label; there are conditions and quite specific elements. This includes the forceful movement of people, for example. We are focused on that. The issue of how Israel is currently operating is also important. It is important to remind Israel of its obligations. I come back to a point I made in response to a question from the noble Lord, Lord Purvis. Israel is a state; in its operation it has obligations that it needs to stand by. Our job, as a friend and partner, is to work with Israel to ensure that those obligations are at the forefront of its operations.

I do not deny for a moment that the human cost of this conflict is immense. It is shocking to look at what happened on 7 October and to see the subsequent loss of life in Gaza currently. We have also seen what is happening in the West Bank. That is why we must focus on ensuring that contagion is prevented. The loss of life—every life, irrespective of who it is, whether Israeli, Arab, Christian, Muslim or Jewish, mother or child—matters. Every innocent life matters, and we are focused on that.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, I too thank the Minister for all he has said and all he is doing. As we have heard, international humanitarian law exists to protect humanity at times of conflict and to shield us from acts of barbarism. In very different ways, as we have heard, both sides continue to flout that law; it is shocking. I want to return to the situation in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Does the Minister agree that the rising settler violence and movement restrictions are a matter of real concern, in terms not only of individuals killed but of families displaced and the undermining of UNRWA’s ability to deliver much-needed humanitarian support there? The reports we are receiving from the Anglican diocese in Jerusalem indicate a perilous situation, and one that is going to worsen if steps are not taken to uphold the rule of law.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate. The insight of the faith communities is extremely important. The right reverend Prelate will know the personal prioritisation I give to this issue. Together with the political dialogue and the political track, we must ensure that communities are fully immersed. Ultimately, it is communities that deliver the outcomes.

The right reverend Prelate may be aware that I met my dear friend Archbishop Hosam when I visited Jerusalem, along with other Christian leaders. I have also engaged with other faith leaders. It is important that we keep the strength of what community and faith bring. I have visited Jerusalem on many occasions, and it was very sad for me that the silence of Jerusalem was deafening.

It is important that we once again look at how communities are working together. Faith leaders, particularly in the Holy Land, have a key role in ensuring that we return to that vision of sustainable peace. Let us not forget that in Israel 21% of the population is Arab; it is Christian and Muslim. We have very fine examples of how communities are working together. I have said it before and I will say it again: the exemplary example of what we see in Haifa is demonstrable. I have always said—I stand by this, and I challenge anyone to say it—that, even with the challenges in our country today, our country and any country is judged by the strength of its communities and the resilience and cohesion they bring. By God, we have challenges, but working together is how we solve them.

World AIDS Day

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Thursday 1st December 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I echo the noble Baroness’s remarks in relation to the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, who has a long and distinguished record of championing this issue and is widely respected for having done so.

The noble Baroness asked about UNAIDS. Of course, the UK is completely committed to UNAIDS. We will continue to work to ensure that UNAIDS leads the implementation of the ambitious new global AIDS strategy for 2021 to 2026 at the UN high-level meeting on HIV in June last year. The UK was at the forefront of working to secure the highest level of commitment from our global partners so that the world has the best chance of meeting those 2030 goals to end AIDS.

On the domestic question, I am afraid that I am not qualified to answer it, but I instinctively agree with its premise and I shall make sure that the Department of Health has a look at that.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, in sub-Saharan Africa, adolescent girls and young women are three times more likely to acquire HIV than adolescent boys and men. Can the Minister say what is being done to fund programmes which help to keep girls in education, which we know reduces their vulnerability to HIV by up to 50%?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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The right reverend Prelate is right. We continue to support stronger health systems around the world more broadly, because that in turn helps to end AIDS-related deaths and prevent new HIV infections. As was said earlier, women with HIV have the highest maternal death rates, which is why our ending preventable deaths approach remains a priority for the UK.

Education—particularly the education of women and girls—has for some years been a top priority, as enshrined in the integrated review and the international development strategy. It remains a priority and will remain one.

Environment Bill

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, when amendments are supported by noble Lords of the calibre of the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, a renowned scientist and environmentalist in the shape of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and a former Minister—the noble Lord, Lord Duncan of Springbank—if I were the Minister, I would roll over and accept them. I hope he will do just that. I cannot add to the lucid case made in support of Amendments 105 to 108 by those noble Lords I have mentioned, other than, in layman’s terms, to add my voice of concern about the proposed restrictions on judicial discretion to grant remedies when it is found that there has been a breach of environmental law on an environmental review and the limitations on the OEP’s powers to bring judicial review proceedings.

The proposed statement of non-compliance is risible, since the public body can publish a response but carry on regardless, with whatever it has done wrongly remaining valid and in place. This is not a toothless remedy; it is no remedy at all and will bring the OEP immediately into disrepute. To make matters worse, a judge cannot issue a stronger remedy if it would

“be likely to cause substantial hardship to, or substantially prejudice the rights of, any person”

or

“be detrimental to good administration.”

We have heard cases from across the environmental spectrum from previous speakers. Can the Minister tell the Committee how this provision can possibly work, as there is bound to be an individual or group who could be shown to have suffered some adverse impact? It is called life, I think.

Environmental review is supposed to complement rather than replace judicial review, but the Bill allows the OEP to use judicial review only where an urgency condition has been met:

“to prevent or mitigate serious damage to the natural environment or to human health.”

Other similar bodies have access to judicial review at their discretion, and that cannot be denied to the OEP without it becoming ineffective in its enforcement role.

Amendments 106 to 108 would enable the OEP to exercise at least some effective powers to hold government and public bodies to account for compliance with environmental law. Personally, I would also give the OEP whacking great powers, as outlined in Amendment 105 from the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. There is nothing like an eye-watering fine of the scale that the European Commission used to apply as a last resort to change the mind of a government department or an agency that has gone off-piste.

I have chaired a regulatory body that attempted to regulate government bodies and the Government themselves, and I tell the Committee that it is not easy. If you do it with rigour and toughness, the Government hate you and take revenge. If you do it in a toothless way, the public lose confidence in you and take revenge. It is difficult enough with a full set of tools in the toolkit. Unless these amendments are passed, the OEP’s toolkit will be significantly bare.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, I add my voice in support of Amendments 105 and 107, and I shall speak to those amendments together. My right reverend friend the Lord Bishop of Oxford would have spoken to them, but is unable to be here, so I am glad to be able to speak and endorse what other noble Lords have said.

From this Bench, we welcome much of the content of the Bill, and we believe deeply in the importance of the good stewardship of creation. We recognise the need for global solutions to an international challenge and that any solutions will take leadership and require harmonising regulation on a global scale. As others have said, it is essential that the new OEP be given the appropriate teeth—not dentures, perhaps jaws—to hold business and government at all levels, national, regional and local, to account.

As drafted, the Bill centralises power and control into the Government’s hands rather than entrusting the powers to the regulator. If we truly want to be taken seriously as an international trailblazer for environmental legislation, we ought not to be afraid of creating a robust regulator. It would be a signal of confidence by the Government in their own programme to equip the regulator with the powers it needs to be properly effective. Although I recognise and applaud the passion with which the Minister has championed the Bill so far, if the Government are not prepared to support these amendments, I should like to hear more from him about how the OEP will be so equipped. Simply stating that it will be independent does not make it so. Given that the new OEP’s resources will be significantly less than its predecessor body, the new regulator will need to be more targeted and strategic about its activities. However, Clause 37 will significantly restrict the power of the courts to grant remedies, and I believe that the powers detailed in Amendment 107 will be essential for the OEP to do its job effectively.

In the year we are hosting COP 26, we should be showing the world that, even if we are to miss our climate goals, as the Committee on Climate Change has suggested we will, we have put in place a body that can genuinely help us to get the rest of the way to the target and beyond—especially when facing the tricky balance between competing commitments made in trade deals, environmental protection and agricultural production.

We know that the window to make a meaningful impact on climate change is closing. We need the Bill to be as fit for purpose as possible from the very beginning. I hope that the Minister will agree that an independent and effective OEP needs to have proper powers to hold to account, and I hope that the Government will support these amendments.

Women’s Equality

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Tuesday 9th March 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, we continue to champion the cause of education for girls both in conflict zones and around the world. That will continue to be a priority for the FCDO.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester [V]
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I understand that the Government are investing over £67 million in the What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls programme. What plans do they have to follow the lead set by Australia in developing a national primary prevention framework to tackle the root causes of bias and discrimination against women and girls?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, we have a range of programmes and projects that cover issues of discrimination against women and girls from an early age, including discrimination against their entry into education and their progress into employment. Of course, in conflict-related zones specifically, our initiatives such as the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative reflect the Government’s priorities in this agenda.

Gender-based Violence

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Tuesday 10th November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

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Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con) [V]
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I agree that we must have a focus on adolescent girls who, sadly, are at risk of exploitation and other forms of violence. We will do so as part of our co-chairing of the Action Coalition on Gender-Based Violence and we are also working hard to ensure that we are putting them at the centre of our response to Covid-19. We are funding UNFPA in order to make sure that it is addressing the supply shortages we have seen and we are pivoting our existing programmes to make sure that women and girls can continue to access support during the lockdowns we are seeing.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester [V]
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As has already been noted, if we are serious about eliminating gender violence worldwide, we have to address the root causes. What plans do the Government have to follow Australia’s lead and develop a national primary prevention framework to change the attitudes, behaviours and structures that underpin violence against women and girls?

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg (Con) [V]
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I am afraid that I will have to get back to the right reverend Prelate in writing on that issue, as I will need to follow it up with the relevant department, but I will ensure that I provide her with a full answer.