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UK news in brief

26 March 2021

School uniforms should be affordable, says Bishop Butler

THE Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, has expressed “wholehearted support” for a Bill that would provide guidance to schools about the costs of school uniforms. Speaking in the House of Lords last Friday during a debate on the Second Reading of the Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Bill, Bishop Butler, who is the lead bishop on education, said: “In principle, uniform is a fantastic leveller: it can foster unity and provides an opportunity for students to worry less about the challenges of fitting in. It is therefore worrying to find that the cost of uniforms is instead causing division by highlighting disparities.” The Bill, he said, “would ensure that all families can afford uniforms”. He also said that providing affordable uniforms should “not result in suppliers using forced or cheap labour. It is vital that we ensure that the ethical sourcing of clothing is part of the consideration, too.” The Bill now moves to Committee Stage.


Northern Ireland abortion intervention criticised

BISHOPS in Northern Ireland have criticised the Westminster decision to allow the Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis, to introduce new powers compelling Stormont to implement new abortion law. Abortion was decriminalised for the Province in 2019, but full healthcare services have been not yet been implemented. The Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd John McDowell, said last Friday that the move was “a matter of regret” and that the issue was “clearly a devolved matter”. “There may have been an element of justification for seeking powers of this sort when the NI Assembly was not functioning, but such justification manifestly does not apply now.” On Monday, a statement from the Northern Catholic Bishops expressed deep concerns about the plans “to commission some of the most extreme and liberal abortion services on these islands”.


Christ Church Cathedral ‘praying for Dean Percy’

THE Sub Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, Canon Richard Peers, issued a pastoral letter on Wednesday to assure the congregation that the Dean, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, who has currently stepped back from duties while a complaint of sexual harassment is investigated (News, 19 March), is prayed for daily in the cathedral. He rebutted rumours on social media that Dean Percy, who is unwell, had been refused communion and was unsupported. He wrote: “Throughout all this, I have encouraged friends and colleagues to make contact with the Percys to offer love and support and prayer in what must be an extraordinarily difficult situation.”


Three Choirs Festival to resume in person

THE organisers of the Three Choirs Festival plan for it to take place in person in Worcester this year, from 24 July to 1 August. The full programme is due to be released around mid-April. The chief executive of the festival, Dr Alexis Paterson, said: “We’re preparing for the best possible outcome, in line with the government roadmap, while keeping contingencies in place should we need to scale back.” 3choirs.org



Portsmouth trial of former choirmaster begins

THE trial of a former choirmaster, Mark Burgess, 67, of St Chad’s Avenue, Hilsea, Portsmouth, has begun in Portsmouth Crown Court. He denies 52 counts relating to the alleged abuse of 13 children, between 1976 and 2009. The offences are alleged to have taken place when he was choirmaster of All Saints’, Portsmouth, and Westbourne Choir in West Sussex. 

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