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Do not abandon poor communities in the north, Bishop of Blackburn tells Government

11 September 2020


The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson, gives his maiden speech in the House of Lords, on Tuesday

The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson, gives his maiden speech in the House of Lords, on Tuesday

THE Government “must not be blind or deaf to the needs of the poorest and the most vulnerable communities in the north of our country”, the Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson, said on Tuesday.

He was giving his maiden speech in the House of Lords, during the Second Reading debate on the Government’s Trade Bill.

Bishop Henderson said: “[I] urge the Government, if this Bill grants them the powers they are seeking, to hear and to heed the voice of the north. This House may not be relocated to York during the refurbishment period, but its eyes and its ears must not be blind or deaf to the needs of the poorest and the most vulnerable communities in the north of our country.

“Talk of a ‘northern powerhouse’ must not be allowed to fade away into the history books, but energise the commitment to improve the infrastructure and the economy of the north. Better transport links around the north are long overdue, and would have a transformative impact on the local economy.”

Covid-19 had “exacerbated and increased the inequality between rich and poor”, he said. Blackburn had an unemployment rate of six per cent, “much higher than the national average; this could be as high as 18 per cent when hidden unemployment was included. More than 11 per cent of the Blackpool received welfare payments.

“It is statistics like these that require the powers granted by this Bill to be exercised with wisdom and skill, as new trade agreements are put in place for the post-Brexit era.”

Bishop Henderson also said that trade agreements provided an opportunity “to develop relationships with our global partners which will allow us to act as a critical friend when human rights are ignored”.

Elsewhere in his speech, he said that he would seek in the Lords “to draw attention to those many today, around the world, who are persecuted for their faith in [Jesus Christ], and then to advocate for the right for all to enjoy freedom of speech and belief, wherever they may live, and to do so in peace”.

Speaking in the Lords on Tuesday, the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, asked the Minister of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Lord Greenhalgh, about the Government’s programme to build more homes.

“The Minister will be aware that council housing lists are running at over one million, and in my diocese, private rental is a prohibitive drain on all but the most generous of incomes,” Bishop Chessun said. “Will he outline what proportion of the 300,000 new homes will be assigned to social housing?”

Lord Greenhalgh replied: “My Lords, in the last year, 57,000 of the 240,000 homes were affordable homes, and the Government have committed the largest single funding commitment to affordable housing in over a decade, with £11.5 billion out of the total £12.2 billion set to enable the building of affordable housing. This new programme aims to deliver more homes for social rent.”

Simon StanleyThe Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, in the Bishops’ Robing Room, before his introduction to the House of Lords, on Monday, with his sponsors, the Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart (left), and the Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge

The Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, took his seat in the Lords on Monday. “He will have a particular brief among the bishops to speak on issues of housing and international trade,” a statement from Manchester diocese said last week.

Before his introduction to the Lords, Dr Walker said: “I am looking forward to being a new voice for the Manchester city region; to engaging in debates on matters of public interest from a Christian perspective, and to joining other members of the House of Lords in holding the Government of the day to account.”

Last Friday, it was announced that the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams, had retired from the Lords at the end of last month. He joined the Lords as a life peer in January 2013, shortly after stepping down as Archbishop.

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