Churches and Cities

– in the House of Lords at 11:00 am on 19th May 2006.

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Photo of The Archbishop of Canterbury The Archbishop of Canterbury Bishop 11:00 am, 19th May 2006

rose to call attention to the role of the Churches in the civic life of towns and cities, the Churches' partnership with other bodies and the part they play in addressing the problems of deprivation; and to move for Papers.

My Lords, urban regeneration is very clearly on the public agenda. Over some 15 years we have seen a series of major initiatives directed both at the physical infrastructure of urban communities and, more importantly, at the capacities of the people who live in them. Since 1998, the New Deal for Communities programme has been the chief focus for this engagement, and it has made an enormous contribution to changing the tacit presumption that either central provision or pure voluntary labour alone can meet the challenges. But in much of the discussion around sustainable communities and the like, many have become uncomfortably aware of a degree of uncertainty as to how to relate to religious groups as well as an unease about the democratic deficit that can appear in regeneration schemes.

I have asked for this debate, and I am grateful for the opportunity to air these matters, largely because of the conviction that the full democratising and localising of such schemes, and the proper kind of collaboration with the Churches and other faith groups, belong together. I believe this conviction can be amply justified by some of the stories and statistics I shall be sharing with your Lordships today.

All those who work most closely with urban communities, especially in the estates that surround urban centres, agree that the fundamental issue remains how to engage local people in a way that builds mutual trust, collective self-reliance and a conviction that change can be effected and sustained. In this task, the role of communities of faith is of central importance, as was flagged in the urban White Paper of 2000. And as we have learnt to talk more about social capital, it has been acknowledged that intentional communities which appeal to motivations beyond individual profit or short-term popularity have a unique role in galvanising urban, and of course not only urban, populations towards taking the kind of corporate responsibility for their future that they will need if change is to last. We are talking about a wealth of relatively small-scale projects and, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to outline a few examples that may illustrate the range of what has recently been going on.

One of the major issues in deprived urban estates is, of course, debt and the activities of numbers of wholly unscrupulous and unaccountable loan agencies. One of the most effective ways in which the capital of local churches and other faith groups can be mobilised is in providing reliable credit facilities. Noble Lords will no doubt recall the Tyneside riots of the mid-1990s associated with the Meadowell estate. Lately, this estate has seen the development of the Cedarwood Trust, a church-linked initiative in partnership with the local citizens' advice bureau, which addresses head-on a number of pressing concerns. It offers the facility of a credit union—it is no exaggeration to say that the credit union movement in England and Wales, still something of a Cinderella in terms of public awareness, would be substantially weaker without the widespread support of the Churches and faith communities—and makes saving as well as borrowing possible through loan redemption schemes. It also campaigns locally and nationally against the outrageous liberties of unregulated loan companies. The DTI, I am happy to say, has already responded by commissioning research on the need to cap interest rates charged by door-to-door loan companies whose unregulated activities continue to be such a scandal.

This instance pinpoints more general issues around the management of funding in the regeneration process. A depressingly familiar problem is what happens when significant sums are injected into communities that have not yet developed viable and trustworthy vehicles for deciding priorities and implementing programmes. My second case is from the history of the Braunstone Community Association in Leicester. This was one of the first Pathfinder Partnerships announced in 1998, with an initial grant of nearly £50 million to address the problems of a ward identified as the most deprived in the East Midlands. Within five years it was in what seemed to be terminal crisis.

"It was like staring at a road crash", was the view of a commentator in the New Start magazine. Spending authority had been withdrawn, leadership was in chaos and the entire grant was under threat. It was in 2003 that the Anglican diocese of Leicester became directly involved in salvaging this programme, with the Archdeacon of Leicester being appointed as independent chair and with Keith Beaumont, a committed Anglican in the diocese, as chief executive. In 2005, the Braunstone Community Association was runner-up in the Outstanding NDC Partnership of the Year awards and a finalist in the Deputy Prime Minister's Award for Sustainable Communities.

All this has something to do with three features peculiar to the involvement of religious bodies. These need some careful reflection from grant-giving bodies, governmental and voluntary. First and simplest, communities of faith commonly represent a long-term presence in a neighbourhood. Classically in the form of a parish church, they speak of a commitment and an availability of social capital that is not likely to be withdrawn when things get difficult. In a world of time-limited grants and often desperate scrambling to create leadership and management structures that will survive the somewhat breathless rhythms of funding regimes, they allow a longer view. They are likely to be there still when particular schemes end in wreckage. And it is a hugely significant fact that the clergy of the historic churches are almost certainly going to be middle to long-term residents of the area, visibly sharing the challenges of the community.

Secondly—and not at all unconnected with that first point—Churches and faith groups are still likely to be seen as trustworthy brokers in most communities. When substantial funds are made available, there is obviously a question as to who speaks for a community in identifying where and how these funds should be spent, and much energy can be expended in conflicts over this. I quote here from one parish priest who, with his small congregation, was intimately involved with an NDC project in Norwich. He writes:

"The transition from a hand-to-mouth family structure to an institutional model with clear roles and accountabilities was a painful one for some organizations, and vital energy was burnt off in exasperation".

Somehow, a forum has to emerge in such circumstances which has real legitimacy and which manages not to create further feelings of exclusion and victimisation or to convey to local people a patronising message about their need to be managed from elsewhere. For all sorts of reasons, the Church is regularly a body that is seen to be capable of giving that kind of legitimacy, not because people are necessarily looking for a transcendental ground for their political morality—although, of course, some of us would find that a very attractive possibility—but more because, simply, the Church is seen as not having a vested local interest to defend.

That this is the perception is surprising to many commentators, who still seem to view the Church as entirely a fading middle-class leisure occupation. To speak for a moment from my own experience in the south Wales valleys, I have regularly been challenged and sobered by the moral vehemence with which the Churches' necessary social role has been argued by some very secular local activists. I can recall attending a rally on behalf of the miners in Merthyr Tydfil in 1993—the only occasion when I had the remarkable experience of sharing a platform with Arthur Scargill—when the then secretary of the Welsh TUC introduced me as a speaker by saying that the Church was there in that particular context to speak for all those who did not have certain kinds of protection—the protection of trade unions, the protection of regular incomes, the protection of party interests of one sort or another. It was the group that had the freedom to hold other groups together because it was not simply fighting its own corner. That remark was, for me, one of the defining insights of my time as Bishop of Monmouth, and it remains so today.

The Church, then, has a freedom to convene interest groups to a table where some kind of common interest can be worked out. It offers, you might say, a necessary space in the social map beyond the stand-offs of rival bids and concerns. It can assist in creating a sense of legitimate authority and unified purpose. It should not need saying, but perhaps it does, that this credibility depends a great deal on Churches and religious groups not concentrating their energies on issues that affect only them, or, worse still, sending the message that they are looking for some kind of lasting control in a situation which they can exploit for the good of their own membership. It is good to know that that does not seem to be the perception on the ground.

But a third and final point about why the Churches and other religious groups have this kind of credibility is that, of course, very simply, they provide a pool of volunteer enthusiasm—a pool of people who are used to being motivated by the call to make a community work and who have some idea of the way in which healthy communities can live from an exchange of gifts and strengths. Research in 2001 concluded that 25 per cent of churchgoers from the main denominations were regularly involved in community work and projects of social welfare, so we are talking about a base group of volunteers amounting to, perhaps, 1 million or more.

It would be a great mistake to suppose that when we speak about the Church's involvement in regeneration we are primarily speaking of clerical professionals at work. The energy and the specific and relevant knowledge—and often the long-term commitment—are supplied by lay people, who hold together their awareness of what their faith makes possible with their sensitivity to local conditions and histories. I think here of a project in Deptford—the 999 Club—which, although originated by a local parish priest, now depends almost entirely on local people for its maintenance.

So if Churches are trusted, it is, as much as anything, because local people who worship in them are recognised as having credibility with their next-door neighbours. That means that the regeneration philosophy is not about an imported system but about ordinary people being assisted to communicate their own vision and sense of worth to ordinary neighbours.

In what I have said so far, I have concentrated mainly on work resourced by the Church of England, but this should in no way be taken to minimise the contribution of other Churches and other faith groups. Not least in the communities of West Yorkshire, the co-operation between Christians and Muslims in regeneration work is one of the most hopeful signs for the whole pattern of interfaith engagement. I have been delighted to see that at work. I saw it at work on 7 July last year, when I happened to be visiting precisely those areas as the news came through of the nightmare events in London that day, and I could see the reaction of both communities to that challenge and crisis.

However, the history of this country means that the Church of England generally remains a focal presence, even when its active numbers are small. Because of its universal material presence in the shape of parish churches, it embodies a sort of popular awareness of where this particular kind of social capital may be found. As a result, it is often in a position to open a surprising number of doors, both for and within a local community.

But let me mention one other notable example of work, done initially under Roman Catholic auspices, as it illustrates another and a deeper dimension of what we are thinking about here. Some years ago, three Roman Catholic nuns moved into a small maisonette in a tower block on the Heath Town estate in Wolverhampton, a notoriously deprived area. They organised no projects; they ran no campaigns. They simply went on with their life of prayer and attempted to be available to their neighbours. The sheer presence of the sisters proved to be the catalyst for a wide range of new developments—in literacy training, in computer skills, in holiday events for children and so on—in the estate. It was as if that presence acted simply as a reminder to the people around of what was possible for human beings, even in such circumstances. People had been taken seriously, listened to, shown respect and patience, and a difference was consequently made in how they saw themselves and their possibilities. In some respects, this is the most exciting story of all, since it demonstrates how much depends fundamentally on prayer and costly witness before anything else. This work is mostly and rightly hidden, and has nothing to do with funding and programmes.

I want to conclude by returning to this wider public world and noting one or two of the implications of all I have said for public policy. The recent report in March this year of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on Faith as Social Capital underlines the needs for change that can be identified within faith communities and public agencies. Religious communities often do not adequately utilise the potential of their membership. It is still a minority who are active; there are sometimes issues around authority in such groups in that unsympathetic, or simply unaware, leadership can block the best development of potential. They need to give fuller support to their members who are involved in significant regeneration work and look critically at some questions around gender and power that hold things back.

This, argues the Rowntree report, underlines the need for national and local government to invest in the training and capacity building of people within faith communities. And this, the report stresses, means looking hard at some of the current conventions of funding such as over-regulation and imposed models of management that do not fit a local and small-scale context, and the timescale on which many grants are premised. One of the most often-heard frustrations around all this is to do with, for example, three-year rhythms of grant-making which paralyse confident planning for the longer haul and consume huge amounts of energy and paperwork.

There needs also to be an awareness of how resources that are sometimes seen as internal to a religious group merit support because of their wider use in a community. This applies most obviously to religious buildings, an issue which has been much in the public eye in recent weeks. The endemic suspicion of local faith-based social initiatives shown by some local authorities needs to be challenged where there is solid and utterly uncontroversial evidence of social capital formation, to use the language of the report. We are not looking at some kind of franchising of essential community building to an eccentric and perhaps dangerous cluster of minorities, but at mobilising the immense capacity that religious communities embody for the health of all, in accordance with the many instances of good practice that are available. Last, but not least importantly, there must be a willingness to learn from local action and advocacy groups—religious and otherwise—what the hard issues are on the ground, a willingness to listen to bodies such as the Cedarwood Trust, referred to earlier, on matters such as the scandal of unregulated loan companies.

Next Monday will see the publication of the report of the Churches' Commission on Urban Life and Faith, chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Richardson. It is entitled Faithful Cities. It marks the 21st anniversary of the publication of the famous Faith in the City report, which prompted the creation of the Church Urban Fund. This fund has distributed more than £50 million since its foundation, resourcing nearly 5,000 faith-related initiatives across the country. The fund is also to be relaunched shortly, with a new and more focused remit.

The new report recognises the great changes that have taken place since 1985 but reinforces the conviction that the Churches have a key role. It speaks of the creation of what it calls faithful capital—that kind of social capital which builds trust and capacity for long-term faithful commitment. That is what this is ultimately about—meeting the hunger for dependable and stable support systems which allow communities to grow. Religious bodies are not the only source for this, but they have a unique reach and a unique hinterland. Our urban communities cannot do without this vital contribution. I beg to move for Papers.

Photo of Lord Haskel Lord Haskel Labour 11:24 am, 19th May 2006

My Lords, I am grateful to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for his letter telling me about this debate. I confess that I wondered why he wrote to me, a Jewish ex-businessman who normally speaks on the economy and technology and rarely about spiritual matters. But I am pleased that he did, and I congratulate him on securing this debate. I was a great admirer of Faith in the City when it was written 20 years ago. I thought the Church was absolutely right to draw attention to deprivation and need, and to hold the Government to account. I thought it was right then and I think it would be right now.

Twenty years ago I was in charge of a textile technology business in the centre of Leeds. Since then, there has been a lot of change, as the most reverend Primate pointed out. After a period of decline, there has been a lot of effort to reclaim the centre, not only by regeneration of housing, shops and offices, but with new workshops, arts centres, parks and sports facilities. Those living in the city centre are no longer just the poor, often immigrant workers. They have been replaced by more diverse religious, racial and income groups.

Many faiths now outnumber the traditional Churches. There are mosques with several hundred worshippers next to a church or synagogue with only one-tenth of the number. There are also evangelical churches of different sects with several hundred worshippers. There seems to be a great deal of religion going on. Obviously, faith matters in the inner cities. But in spite of all this, it seems to me that many faiths feel vulnerable, particularly Jews and Muslims over the Middle East. So it is right that the faiths should be talking to each other, perhaps forming a community of communities. It is right because what is important is not necessarily the numbers, but the network. This applies to many aspects of modern life. It does not really matter how many computers you have, what matters is the use to which you put the network—e-mails, information, shopping, work, research. Faiths talking to each other is a way of building the network. The challenge is to use the faith network constructively.

This is very much tied up with secular issues. The dialogue certainly does a lot to break down barriers and helps stop people from one faith demonising those from another with whom they disagree. Incidentally, it does not seem to stop people demonising others of the same faith but of a different sect, but that is a matter for each faith to deal with. No, the issues which bring faiths together are secular, and in cities they often relate to services and work.

In delivering services, everybody is now a devolutionist. Today, people recognise that you cannot deliver public services with a sense of place from a central office. Every tier of government thinks that the one above it is out of touch and the one below is inefficient. Central and local government are trying to overcome this by defining ends and letting the means be decided locally. Faith groups or Churches are as good an agent for the means as any. Resources are being given to local groups in lots of imaginative ways; the most reverend Primate gave us some very good examples. But how those resources are used, and whether they are used for wardens, playgrounds or local activities, is decided at neighbourhood level so that communal assets really do belong to the community and the community looks after them.

Only yesterday, we all received a report from the Audit Commission saying that people's perception of crime was strongly influenced by the state of their streets—hence neighbourhood schemes to tidy up the streets. But in truth, no one is really sure how to devolve to the neighbourhoods so that there is some accountability and trust. That is because every neighbourhood is different. Indeed, the most commonly heard complaint is the failure to take a joined-up view. Churches and faith groups can and do show the way.

The need for this lowest level of engagement was illustrated to me recently during the election campaign. I was canvassing in an inner-city area of London. The candidate I was with pointed out that there was a new health centre, new street lighting and a new school in the area. When we finally got to speak to somebody on their doorstep, it was obvious that their house had also been refurbished. What did the voter say? They said, "You politicians do nothing for me".

Of course, engagement will not solve all the problems. It was reported the other day that 50 per cent of Muslim men over 25 living in inner cities are out of work. Nobody knows whether this figure is correct; it sounds to me like a cry for help, because I have no doubt that there is plenty of work in cities. We read about immigrants coming from the new European Union member countries, such as Poland, who find it attractive to come here and work in our cities. Perhaps it is that they are better adapted to our way of life and our way of work. Twenty years ago, jobs in cities were much more protected and simpler. Today jobs demand more skill, more initiative, more trust to work unsupervised, and the ability to work as part of a team. If any faith acts as a barrier to this kind of work, it is the faith that will have to change, not the economy. Economists tell us that making this change can be left to the market. Why not to the Churches? They can help to marshal all the facilities provided to help find employment—Sure Start, jobcentre interviews, training and placements, grants and all the other aids to employment.

If these social barriers persist, there are good examples of Church groups and faith groups in city centres starting community projects and social enterprises where the work culture can be more suited to particular faiths and individual circumstances. Working hours and conditions can be adapted to the needs of women, to the disabled and to religious beliefs. In addition, these enterprises enable creative and innovative people who are unsure of themselves to start small and learn as they go along. Many social enterprises already provide local services such as home maintenance or home care, local transport, special restaurants, cleaning up graffiti or removing abandoned cars. Indeed, many local authorities have contracted out some of their services to enterprises of this kind, to make them local. There is even a department at the DTI to promote good practice. Some social enterprises have grown to employ several hundred people.

The Churches and faith groups are and should be active in this sector. Social enterprises are based on the kind of trust and ethos on which faith groups thrive. This is the kind of self-help that creates the social capital that city centres require. It is this social capital to which the most reverend Primate referred and which the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report in March identified as linking faith communities and society in city centres. I have tried to show how this can be done in practice, through work, through networks, through neighbourhood engagement and governance and through social enterprise. Social capital is just as valid when created by faith groups and churches as when created by politicians.

Photo of Lord Patten Lord Patten Conservative 11:33 am, 19th May 2006

My Lords, already, with only three speakers having been on their feet, this is turning into quite an ecumenical debate. The debate was splendidly introduced by the most reverend Primate, then there was the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, a Jew, and now there is myself—who was once described as a kosher Roman Catholic. There are not many people who could lure me to your Lordships' House for two Fridays running, and certainly not the Conservative Party Whips, but the most reverend Primate is one of the chosen, and I am glad that he has introduced this debate. For two Fridays running we have heard the authentic and important voice of the established Church taking part in authentically important debates. In no way should the Anglican Church be regarded as some minority bit-part lobbying group by anyone in this Chamber.

That said, I have a text for what I wish to say. I do not want to alarm the most reverend Primate or his colleagues into thinking that I might be seeking a free transfer to the Bishops' Benches; but the text for my speech comes from the late Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Suhard, who wrote of that post-war city in 1947:

"When I go round the suburbs with their dreary factories, or the brightly lit streets of the centre, when I see that mass of people, some refined, some destitute, my heart is torn with pain . . . It is always the same: there is a wall separating the Church from the masses. That wall must be levelled at all costs . . . But how is it to be done?".

If I may say so, the most reverend Primate has shown us this morning exactly how that can be done in his wide-ranging and challenging speech. He has given some very clear answers, certainly with regard to that group of people whom the cardinal in Paris all those years ago called the "destitutes". Perhaps the most reverend Primate is leaving the "refined" for another day.

A lot of us are very interested in this issue. My contribution will be threefold. I shall first tread very cautiously into the spiritual environment, secondly into the built environment and, thirdly, I shall discuss the social dimensions of the issues that the most reverend Primate raised. Of course, I generally leave matters spiritual entirely to priests and bishops, but I think I can risk saying, particularly having heard the most reverend Primate's speech, that it is very important for the clergy to be seen. Here I find that in my prepared words I am actually echoing something that he said about visibility. It is important for the clergy, nuns and other religious people to be seen and recognised on the streets. I know that this might sound very much like those despairing calls for a bobby on every street corner—to have a bobby on a bicycle, bicycling up and down the inner city—but the effects of clerical visibility should not be underestimated.

Just to show how ecumenical I can be, I should say that I greatly admire one Anglican woman priest, a friend, who serves in a parish in one of those desolate, edge-of-conurbation housing estates built in the 1950s and 1960s, which these days often have even more severe problems than the inner-city areas, where those problems are more easily seen and where deprivation is so striking. She tells me that whenever she goes out, she always puts her clerical kit on; even when she feels like slipping into civvies and being anonymous, she feels that it is important to be there with her clerical collar on, being seen, to show that the Church is available if needed—even if it is rarely used, rather like those emergency handles in railway carriages. She also tries to keep her church open, not locked, and for as late as she can she tries to keep her church lit, not dark.

That brings me to my second point, again echoing a very brief reference that the most reverend Primate made to how the fabric of our churches should be preserved. In looking at the built environment, it is very important to consider the resources available to keep open and light our synagogues, mosques, churches and other religious meeting places in cities. That is why I think it is a good thing that money is spent on keeping up our churches. The argument is sometimes made that it should be spent on helping individuals or groups of people, but it is important that churches are there as beacons of light and have their doors open, as much for the busy and prosperous as for anyone else, including the deprived. When I am in the City of London, I daily see people—the refined of Cardinal Suhard's terminology—popping into those great Wren churches. We should not forget for one second our proper duties or our bias to the poor, but the refined—the rich and the better-off—have a central role in trying to help.

So I applaud the work of that generally excellent body, English Heritage, with its recently started campaign to preserve our best listed churches, which it sees at risk—and not just churches but synagogues, and I dare say mosques as well. English Heritage has tried to do this by introducing self-help groups to go around helping church wardens and parish priests and rabbis and others as to how best to maintain their buildings and to get the programme right so that roofs do not leak, and so on. English Heritage is seeking some state funding for this. I am generally against state funding for the churches, in the same way as I am against state funding for political parties, although in some European countries churches are kept up by state funding. But I see no harm at all in a bit of pump-priming within reason. If I were a Minister listening to the blandishments of the excellent Dr Simon Thurley, the chief executive of English Heritage, as far as the preservation of grade 1 and other city churches were concerned, I would say, "Sure, but it might be nice if in some of these applications we see some linked social purpose as well, not necessarily as the core of the funding but some spin-off, some attribute of that church being kept up and open rather than shabby, locked and unlit".

My third and last point is on the social dimension itself. I do not believe—it was manifest from the most reverend Primate's speech that he does not believe this either—that everything is a matter of money, or of Church and voluntary organisations simply co-operating better. In dealing with social problems, it is sometimes a matter of the Churches and others being fearless in what they say about the unquantifiable from their pulpits.

My right honourable friend Mr Duncan Smith in another place and his excellent Centre for Social Justice, which has attracted all-party support, have identified what he terms "four paths to poverty". I just happen to take that as the secular bit of my text. The centre's little list is as follows: family breakdown; educational failure, often so closely associated with family breakdown; economic failure; and, last but by no means least, addiction and indebtedness, something the most reverend Primate referred to precisely at the beginning and the end of his words, with which I agree.

I can well appreciate the delicacies of tackling family breakdown in particular. I would not want to be in the pulpit talking about it knowing that there were lone parents or the children of lone parents in the congregation, or a woman who sees herself as the innocent party when she has been traded in by her late husband for some younger model. These are very delicate issues to talk about, but marriage matters, and it matters to the social as well as the moral fabric of this country. It is one of those matters not mainly amenable to financial cure or better co-ordination.

The UK is the developed world's leader in family breakdown, with the highest level of divorce and lone parenting in Europe. We now have studies from Left, from Right and, most importantly, from the centre that so clearly link marriage breakdown—from a scholarly not a political point of view—to later child poverty and poor educational performance. This is now intellectual common ground. It is common ground in the seminar rooms. I believe it is still not spoken about enough, and loudly enough, in polite society.

It is not trite to shout that marriage matters. It matters terribly. It is uncomfortably difficult to preach about, but then Jesus Christ often preached the uncomfortable to individuals, as he often preached at authority when he judged authority was wrong. But it is not for me to advise the Bishops' Bench.

In this, we must also not be uncomfortable with the achievements of the fringe. I suspect there are a good number of people in my Church and the established Church who feel a bit nervous or apprehensive about the activities of some evangelicals, or even find them distasteful, but—to borrow a thought from Mr Blair in his pomp in the later 1990s—if it works, it is a good thing. Many of the things done by evangelicals—even if I do not like clap-happiness one little bit—seem to work. There are evangelical projects such as the Eden project in Greater Manchester, with its network of youth workers, or the Eastside project in Newham, mentoring once-disruptive African-Caribbean males. I admire, even though I am sometimes made uneasy by, the energy, enthusiasm and commitment of the evangelicals. We can learn as much from them as from other faith groups.

The Church's moral voice in these areas on marriage must be firm and clear. The rest of us are determinedly honest and realistic about the causes of poverty and deprivation, especially family breakdown. We do not attempt to manage problems—which is terribly easy for governments, voluntary organisations and Churches to fall into—but rather to tackle their root causes in the hope of helping people to break out of dependency. We are committing to the long term: giving people, particularly young people, role models that they can realistically aspire to in trying to find some of those critical life-changing relationships. Perhaps some of these approaches will indeed help to level the walls that Cardinal Suhard identified back in 1947.

Photo of Lord Roberts of Llandudno Lord Roberts of Llandudno Spokesperson in the Lords, International Development, Spokesperson in the Lords, Welsh Affairs, Whip 11:45 am, 19th May 2006

My Lords, with my background in the towns and villages of rural Wales, I hesitated to venture into this debate. Then I thought, "What is a city, but a village writ large?"

There was of course a time when the local community, chapel and church were one and the same. The larger the population, the more strained that relationship was. In some of our parish and town councils, however, the leaders of the churches and chapels would also be the local councillors—there was a sense of civic responsibility. Things have changed tremendously. Some small communities, even in my area, have blossomed. However, the most reverend Primate will know better than me how many of our industrial villages in the coal-mining and quarrying areas have largely become a shadow of their former selves. Sometimes, this has happened overnight. You close a quarry and, the next thing you see, people are packing to move. They must look for jobs elsewhere. That happened in the 1980s in the south Wales valleys.

At other times it is slow erosion, possibly because of rural depopulation, unemployment and agricultural decline, with the much lower number of agricultural workers. All these things added together have removed the heart from many of our communities. I was going around the villages in the Conwy Valley only a short while ago, and people said, "Well, there is no village shop here now". In 1946, there were 39 shops in Penmachno; not one is left. When the post office goes, everything goes from those communities.

The Church is finding it difficult to hold its own in those places. I can speak of a small village where I happen to be taking a service next Sunday afternoon. Once, there were five chapels there—well, one church and four chapels, to use Welsh terminology. Now we have seven or eight people there on a Sunday afternoon in one building, struggling to maintain the faith. These folk have a big problem. For many, the vision has gone, because the battle for survival is the only thing that they can tackle. They are getting no younger. A handful seek to maintain a building, to keep things going Sunday after Sunday, month after month, to raise the money. All their energies are concentrated not on outreach, vision, caring or taking their place in civic life, but just on keeping that building going. I ask myself whether there is any way that we can free these often wonderful people from some of the cumbersome burdens that they currently have.

My own Church is very good on form-filling and schedules. Do we need as many forms for a church of seven, eight, nine or 10 people as we do for the larger churches? Is there any way we can simplify the bureaucracy within our own denominations? How can we free resources to deal with some of the problems that we have with maintenance and repairs of buildings? How can we, somehow, relieve Churches of all denominations of 100 per cent of the VAT on church repairs and buildings? Can the Government make it easier for folk who want to do something other than maintain buildings to have the opportunity to do so?

Who will be the treasurer or the secretary in small congregations? Who will maintain the building? Some congregations may comprise a handful of people who cannot face those responsibilities. Could one, through co-operation within the Church, establish a small professional team comprising, say, an accountant and a surveyor, who could relieve local people of those tremendous headaches? Perhaps that already happens in some denominations. By removing the burdens that I have mentioned, we could free people from the sense of guilt that they sometimes feel. I have been a minister in churches suffering decline and I have asked myself what I have done, or failed to do. If we could remove that sense of guilt, or at least remove the burdens that I have mentioned, we would enable people to say, "Now I can do something else". People do not have to sit at home. They could put tiles on the chapel roof, undertake hospital visiting or work in their local hospice. They might even stand for their local council. They would be able to undertake such work if other responsibilities were eased.

This morning I spoke with one or two colleagues here about my next point. I would like to suggest the establishment of a partnership between the larger more prosperous churches and the smaller village rural churches to enable them to share the vision of a Church that is working in its community. Methodism has Central Hall in that regard. Village churches and small communities would thus feel that they had a share in that vision. Could that idea be explored more extensively? If it were adopted, it would be to everyone's benefit. People from the larger churches might even take a trip to the Conwy Valley to enable people to share that vision.

We speak of the Church in the city and the small village church. That reminds me of an incident that my colleagues may remember. A very important man came to a Welsh village. He was very pompous. He went to the small local railway station, which had a porter cum ticket collector cum station master. The train was late. The important man said, "Excuse me, is this Paddington?" The stationmaster cum ticket collector cum porter said, "No, sir, but it is the same company". Whether a church is large or small, by linking together in the cities, villages and smaller towns, we can share our vision.

Finally—I am speaking for far too long—we can also link with other faiths. Village churches need as much of an opportunity to recognise the multi-faith nature of our society as do the larger city churches. I suggest that that link might be one way forward.

Photo of The Bishop of Portsmouth The Bishop of Portsmouth Bishop 11:53 am, 19th May 2006

My Lords, 10 years ago during my first year in Portsmouth, I sat in the Guildhall listening to the Lord Mayor give his farewell speech on leaving office. He took as his theme the work of the voluntary sector in the city—probably one of the most densely populated areas of north Europe. He stated quite firmly that, without the voluntary sector, the community would collapse. Only a few years ago, our then Jewish Lord Mayor began her speech taking care to pay tribute in her opening paragraph to the work of the Churches in community building in our city. I found it quite telling that she considered it necessary and appropriate to say so. Portsmouth is a modern, secular city—a far cry from rural suburbia and rural Christendom.

I want in what follows to speak about Portsmouth and the surrounding area and then briefly to move north of the border to speak a little about the Church of Scotland. Finally, I will pose one or two questions about government strategy and policy. According to Home Office figures—accurate ones, this time—churchgoers are far more likely to get involved in community work than anyone else. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Hampshire Voluntary Care Groups' advisory service, run by the Church of England dioceses of Portsmouth and Winchester. It has been described as one of our better-kept secrets. A simple and useful organisation, it supports 105 care groups, also known as good neighbourhood schemes, in Hampshire, which involve such activities as driving people to hospital and GP appointments, and picking up shopping or prescriptions. Last year, 3,500 volunteers undertook 99,000 tasks. That helps to keep people in their own homes for longer, serves to unlock hospital beds, reduces health inequalities and assists in areas where GP surgeries have closed. It is funded largely by Hampshire Adult Services and local PCTs, which are reducing their grants rapidly. It costs funders just 76p per task to keep the advisory service going, which in turn helps the groups to survive and sets up new ones with two highly effective advisory staff. It would be hard to see any other provider get someone to and from hospital with such a personal service for less than £1.

I could mention many other initiatives, such as St John's, Ryde, on the Isle of Wight, which has a community initiative at Preston Close, or the way in which St Cuthbert's Copnor in Portsmouth is working towards a £3.4 million rebuilding project—it is £375,000 short at the moment—to release an old hall for sheltered housing for Portsmouth Housing Association. A new GP surgery is now housed within the main part of the church building. Perhaps also worthy of note is the work of the Portsmouth area refugee support, which subsists on lottery funding, receiving none from statutory sources. Although a secular charity, without all the Churches' involvement in providing volunteers, running the committee, fundraising and securing food for the destitute and hungry—and I speak for all the Churches here, not just the Church of England—it would not have survived.

Turning north, there is the impressive track record of the Church of Scotland CrossReach, which covers no less than 40 per cent of the voluntary work in the entire northern kingdom, covering everything from homelessness, addiction, mental health and the elderly. I am told that CrossReach—I grew up within its boundaries in another Church, the Anglican sister Church, and we learnt from it—has 2,000 employees and 2,000 volunteers. Its mission statement is a paradigm of Scots logical precision:

"In Christ's name we seek to retain and regain the highest quality of life which each individual is capable of experiencing at any given time".

That more than adequately expresses the motivation behind the work of the many residential and day care units throughout Scotland. Like so much Church-based social work, it is a child of the 19th century. Set up in 1869, it has moved with the times and is another well kept secret.

On government policy and strategy, we have reached the stage where we need to know what each other wants to do and what each other wants in the relationship; we need to know how the partnerships that the Churches and other faith groups are fostering in our communities can continue to intermesh with government initiatives, and how they cannot. One of the problems that Churches have in dealing with government is uncertainty. It would be good, for example, to have some clarity as soon as possible about the direction that the Government will be taking regarding city regions. We look forward to the White Paper, which we are led to believe is imminent, and we hope that its publication will not be delayed by the recent changes in the composition of the Cabinet.

Eight core cities have been identified: Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield. Perhaps the Bishop of Portsmouth might be permitted to add that it is a pity the list does not consist of nine. I am aware of talk about primary urban areas, including the Portsmouth/Havant/Fareham/Gosport conurbation, which makes a lot of sense. The major question concerns what kind of local government is being envisaged. The uncertainty surrounding these matters inevitably impinges on voluntary organisations and the Churches, and not just on funding.

We instinctively regard ourselves as rooted in our local communities, surviving with remarkable steadfastness the vagaries of the next reorganisation. We very often provide that indefinable but very real quality of stabilitas—a good Benedictine principle that is appropriately invoked on St Dunstan's day. He was a late 10th-century predecessor of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury—a reformer, like him.

Stabilitas really brings across the message that, with all these changes, we can easily be ignored. How committed are the Government to taking us seriously when decisions are taken? How can our membership be helped even further, perhaps by funding an initiative to look at how the Churches could better engage with the public service delivery agenda? I sometimes get a sense of hearing well intentioned government rhetoric in one ear, while in the other ear hearing of congregations that with better resources might achieve far more in the voluntary sector than they already do. Although we have managed—I speak for my own patch—to secure faith representation on all eight of the local strategic partnerships in the area, one still hears of other local authorities who tend to follow the secularist agenda, perhaps thinly veiled by an apparent desire for fairness, caricatured in these words, "Let's keep the established Church out because it would not be politically correct", when in practice it is really about ignoring all the faith communities.

I am aware that there are some rather inward-looking congregations here and there that do not always grasp the opportunities that are handed to them on a plate. Nevertheless, there is an issue of justice in a world where, whether we like it or not, religion is back on the agenda and is brushed aside to our common detriment. I am not thumping a tub for faith groups to take over everything; we could not and we should not. I am asking only for fair recognition of what we do.

The other question to which I want to draw attention was touched on by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury towards the end of his speech. I refer to English Heritage's recent initiative, Inspired! It is all very well to celebrate the good work that we do—I would not want this debate to be misunderstood as a kind of religious mutual admiration society—but, as the Government move social work more and more into the voluntary and community sectors, they put the Churches more and more into a position of picking up some of what was directly initiated by statutory services some time ago, instead of what we used to do, which was to look for where government and others had not yet been and to be a bit of a pioneer. That is a bit of a shift, which we are adjusting to.

We need our buildings, but perhaps not all the ones that we have at the moment. The time is soon coming when our congregations will no longer be able to foot increasingly expensive repair bills. I know that the VAT issue, which has long been a bit of a sore, is being looked at, but it is taking the Chancellor a bit of time to heed the wake-up call. As in so many other areas in the debate, we are—I speak for all the Churches, echoing some of the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Roberts—pleased that in the past two years we have been able to claim 100 per cent off VAT on church repairs, and in the recent Budget that has been extended to the often considerable VAT on architect and other professional fees. As the son of an architect, I feel a bit torn about that one. All this needs to go much further. The proposals recently put forward by English Heritage for churches and synagogues asked for £8 million per annum over three years for a maintenance grant scheme and for training grants and other things. All that is about the survival and adaptation of what are sometimes called "plants" in incarnating our faith communities in neighbourhoods up and down the land.

To extend some of the words of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, prayer and costly witness need a specific local base to have a context. The fact is that 86 per cent of the population visited a church last year, and 40 per cent of the population attended carol services last Christmas. It is also the fact that 48 per cent of the population in London attended carol services last Christmas; what, says a supporter of Pompey, is special about London? Those are rather higher figures than those given for participation in the recent local elections. All those facts and considerations speak for themselves, and perhaps the message of this debate is that our well kept secrets need to be not only recognised, but nurtured by all the so-called stakeholders.

Finally and briefly—and this is not just for the ears of the noble Lord, Lord Patten—I should explain that, if I am not in my place during the lunch hour, it will not be because of a Portsmouth/Liverpool allergy, looking forward to the words of my colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, nor will it simply be because of the call of my stomach. Lunch hour here in the House of Lords is the only time this early summer that the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham and I could meet—elsewhere in the building—with our respective national education officers. I assure your Lordships of the importance that he and I set by our ecumenical co-operation, which is anything but arms limitation talks.

Photo of Baroness Richardson of Calow Baroness Richardson of Calow Crossbench 12:06 pm, 19th May 2006

My Lords, this debate today puts me in a bit of a quandary. For the past two years, I have spent a lot of time with a group of people who are real experts in urban life and faith. Those experts have been drawn from different traditions—Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths—and I have teeming in my brain illustrations and stories, the recommendations that we are going to offer, all the implications that have arisen from our visits and our experience over the past two years. But we have given a commitment to each other that we shall not speak of these things and not reveal the material or our recommendations until after the launch of the report Faithful Cities on Monday.

So what can I say? I can offer only one or two fairly general points. I go back to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, who said that he would reform the nation by preaching scriptural holiness in the land. Your Lordships may be relieved, or perhaps a bit disappointed, that I do not intend to preach a sermon on scriptural holiness, though I was tempted to do so. I agree with what he said, in the sense that personal transformation has an effect on the way that societies behave. Individuals of faith and of strong principle, with deeply held values, can inform the policies that lead to the flourishing of our societies. Christians and those of other faith communities can offer a counterbalance to the competitiveness, the self-interest, and the ego-driven culture that is happy to say, "Because I'm worth it". Instead, we try to offer self-control, respect and patient attentiveness to others and to their needs.

Of course I know that the Church has no monopoly on virtue, and the dynamic of the modern city, which has such a diversity of faiths and cultures, has within it the potential for conflict. But the issues that we face together are much too important for those of faith and of no faith to make enemies of each other. We like to say that we share accountability to a higher authority and a commitment to seek the common good. There are many core values that we share that make for good community living.

As the reference in the title of this debate calls to mind, there are indeed in our cities and council estates areas of deprivation. Absolute poverty is less likely today, but relative poverty and social exclusion are all too real. There are areas where people are tired and dispirited or angry and frustrated, particularly among young people who face the challenge of gaining respect in a globalising and fragmenting world. Recent research showed that a fifth of young people held racist attitudes and about the same number said that they often felt depressed. Many are growing up without a sense of hope. Those who had a sense of purpose in life seemed to do better.

As has already been said so adequately in this debate, churches are in a good place in local areas to assist with all the language of regeneration. We have been there for generations and in some areas they are the only buildings that provide meeting places and facilities for community use. But that puts great demands on congregations; and while they have commitment and imagination, it is sheer dogged hard work to be involved in all these initiatives, apart from the willingness to hand over power to others. That is why partnership is so needed and so valued—with other faith groups and with the Government.

The Prime Minister said recently that the Government had to admit that they have not yet found a way of bringing the shut out into the mainstream of society. He said:

"If we are to change we need a different way for government to operate and we need different systems of delivery. The government in such cases needs to make full use of the voluntary and third sector, some of whom have greater expertise than the organs of government do".

I relish the compliment, but I am not too happy at the thought of being "made use of". We want a proper sense of partnership with a great respect for people in those areas.

There are wonderful stories of how local engagement has brought real hope in deprived areas. There are some stories of failed expectations, of competition among faith groups for short-term funding. There are stories of suspicion about the motives of faith groups involved in community development. These are testing times for our cities that demand genuine willingness to engage in the debate about what makes a good city and good citizens.

I trust that the report Faithful Cities that we shall launch on Monday will be a real contribution to that debate and I do hope your Lordships will read it. Maybe then you will see the sort of offering that I might have made to this debate, had it been held next week.

Photo of Lord Parekh Lord Parekh Labour 12:13 pm, 19th May 2006

My Lords, I thank the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for securing a debate on this extremely important subject and introducing it with characteristic wisdom and erudition. I am struck by the quality of the debate and by the way in which it has been formulated. I am struck particularly by the fact that this kind of debate has not taken place in many of the religious traditions that I have observed; and I have been asking myself: why?

A debate of this kind, talking about what the Church can do in relation to cities and towns, makes three assumptions. First, it assumes that religion is concerned not merely with the relationship between man and God, but with human beings and requires not withdrawal from the world but active engagement with it. Secondly, it assumes that when religion engages with the world, it is concerned not just with poverty, but with questions of social justice, deprivation and the quality of social environments. Thirdly, the topic assumes that while religion requires individual believers to act in certain ways, it places a special responsibility on them acting collectively through the Church. That collective responsibility becomes particularly important in England, with its established Church, which rightly sees itself, as Faith in the City puts it, as the,

"representative of the nation at large", as the,

"conscience of the nation".

The Church claims an equal right with the state to speak on behalf of the nation.

Those assumptions are the products of a long historical process in which Christianity critically examined its place in society. Other religious traditions have also undergone a similar kind of self-examination, but not quite in the same way. Therefore, the question that we are debating does not find a parallel in most of the religious traditions. Apart from the outcome of this debate, I very much hope that other religious traditions in our country will take a leaf out the book of Anglican Christianity and engage in a similar debate, because no inter-faith dialogue is possible if Christians are the only ones asking these kinds of questions. Other religious traditions must also ask them; otherwise there is no common ground and no common language in which to talk.

Theological engagement with the city has a long history. It occurred in its best-known form during the Victorian period; and the debate was resumed in the 1970s and early 1980s when the forces of the market were unleashed upon our society and caused havoc in our cities. The Church rightly asserted its reformist and redemptive role. In fact, with no other institution to check the Government, the Church courageously stepped into the vacuum and raised its sane and defiant voice. I want to use this occasion to congratulate it and thank it for standing up for some of society's important values.

I want to highlight four or five important issues that the Church needs to address—not in a programmatic way, because I am not concerned with specific problems, but in terms of guiding principles, which are just as important. First, city life, by definition, is characterised by anonymity, impersonality, diversity of lifestyles, alienation and a sense of powerlessness. All of these manifest themselves in mutual indifference, juvenile delinquency, drug addiction, alcoholism and mindless consumerism. Obviously, the state has an obligation to tackle those evils, but as the most reverend Primate rightly pointed out, its administrative and moral reach is highly limited. It cannot rebuild the social fabric, nor can it put together the broken selves. Here, the Church has an extremely important role, because it is able to address the moral roots of the problem and give individuals a sense of meaning, a sense of firm human dignity and personal responsibility. It is also able to customise its services and reach out to individuals in their uniqueness.

While the Church, therefore, has an important role, one needs to be cautious—and that is based on my understanding of what has happened in the United States. There is a danger of the Church becoming either an extension or a substitute for the welfare state. When President Bush, for example, issued his executive order on 29 January, 2001 asking faith organisations to help him tackle the problems of the disintegrating American society, he said that the Churches should act as the "armies of compassion". That was an extraordinary combination of words—"compassion" organised by "armies", with the Churches being seen as "armies of compassion". He thought that those armies would fight alongside his welfare state in tackling certain kinds of problems. I am suggesting that the Church must, obviously, help heal the wounds of society—but in its own way, for its own reasons and in its own language.

Secondly, the Church is a representative of the nation, but it is not the only one. In a diverse society such as ours, there are other religious organisations. The Church of England, given its history and central place in our national life, must take a lead in bringing together other religious communities and find areas of common concern. This is not just a matter of inter-faith dialogue about theological matters; it is primarily concerned with exploring shared ethical principles. I submit that there are no shared principles that are already given. I have studied different religions and it is difficult for me to understand even one principle that all religions share. For example, all religions respect life, but not the life of an apostate or someone who behaves in a way that is unacceptable to the organisation. Therefore, these common principles are not given. They have to be created by means of a common dialogue and action. This is important in a society such as ours.

The third important role that the Church has to play in the city has to do with the fact that every city is part of a global system of interdependence. It is a meeting place of strangers who come together from different parts of the world by different routes. In order to build up a civic sense of identity, the Church needs to explain each community to the other and create a common language, a common basis on which different communities can talk to each other. It also needs to stress the fact of human solidarity. It is in the city that strangers from all over the world meet, and therefore the city becomes a place where we need to emphasise the community of fate growing out of our interdependent world.

My fourth point is that our fragmented and atomised society badly needs vitally necessary moral capital. It also needs a social capital, but that term has been used in a largely civic and secular context. We need to be thinking of a moral and spiritual capital because that is what religion is primarily concerned with. This moral capital is concerned not just with building networks of contacts and mutual trust: it is concerned with mutual concern, common commitment to the victims of injustice, the spirit of mutual help and compassion and the love of goodness from which all morality ultimately springs. We need to encourage young people to take care of the elderly, the rich of the poor, those living in happy families of the lonely.

This can be taken further. I want to refer briefly to a social practice among the Hindus—the Swadhyaya in this country as in India. This movement insists on arguing that every individual owes his skills, knowledge and talents to society. Therefore, almost as a matter of regular practice, every doctor will give a few hours once a month to all those who want to consult him for free. Lawyers do the same thing as do accountants. In this way, it is not just a case of bringing people together, it is also a question of getting the individual to appreciate that society and his fellow human beings have claims on his talents. While he may use his talents to make money, which is a perfectly legitimate enterprise, part of his talent is also owed to society and he should therefore use it for his fellow human beings.

The Church's basic concern at the end of the day is with the quality of the human soul. What kind of human beings have we become? This question is constantly being asked and we must keep asking it. How can we be better human beings? The question is not just concerned with citizens. Citizenship is only the political level at which our humanity is articulated. It is concerned with how the "beautiful soul", as Hegel put it, is crafted by each human being in his own way—the texture of human relations. The Church therefore should constantly be asking, "How can we foster and encourage the noble qualities of compassion, kindness, charity and love without which all civic engagement ultimately amounts to nothing?"

My last point is that the Church, certainly the Church of England, has acted and should continue to act as a catalyst for the moral debate about where the country is going and what moral principles should govern our planning for the future. Although I would not pretend to have much familiarity with Christianity, in spite of having spent some time trying to understand it, I should have thought that one of the central principles of Christianity is love—love of God and, grounded in that love of God, the love of one's fellow human beings. Human beings are seen not just as equals but as brothers; fellows joined to each other in a spirit of fellowship. This love shows itself in nurturing and protecting life. But is that where it stops? Love goes much deeper. I can imagine situations where I might be able to say that I love someone so much and so deeply that I cannot bear the thought of him or her being reduced to a vegetable, stripped of all dignity and in excruciating and interminable pain. Love, in certain circumstances, may dictate a well calculated but loving attempt to release someone from the pain of death.

This has some bearing on the question of assisted dying and here I can quote no better authority than Mahatma Gandhi, who deeply loved Christianity and was profoundly influenced by it. He, having thought very deeply about this, was prepared to condone that in certain circumstances, where human dignity has been totally outraged and violated and where human beings are in unbearable pain, it may be possible, as an act of love, to release the person from that unbearable agony. I want to suggest that the Church, while debating religious principles of the profoundest kind, needs also to bear in mind that, in a world like ours, these principles can be interpreted in many different ways. While life is the central value, underlining that central value of life is the value of love.

Photo of Baroness O'Cathain Baroness O'Cathain Conservative 12:25 pm, 19th May 2006

My Lords, we should all be very grateful to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for initiating this debate and for introducing it so wonderfully. It is 21 years since the publication of Faith in the City, the report of the then Archbishop of Canterbury's committee on urban priority areas which was subtitled A Call to Action by Church and Nation. I saw in the press last weekend that a successor report will be published on 22 May, and the noble Baroness, Lady Richardson, confirmed that today and whetted our appetites. It is a pity that it was not published before this debate. However, I hope that we can have a further debate on it when it is published. One way or the other, I certainly look forward to reading it.

This debate gave me the opportunity to revisit Faith in the City and see, among a great deal else, how many main recommendations were made—a very comprehensive list of concerned action. There were some 38 for the Church of England and 23 for the Government and nation. On a fairly quick assessment, it seems that quite a few of the recommendations have been taken up. Those of us who are old enough to remember will know that the publication caused many ripples, which is probably the understatement of the day. Doubtless, that fact galvanised action.

Although I thought that I was fairly aware of what Alvin Toffler, in his book, called "the accelerating pace of change", re-reading Faith in the City some 21 years on made me realise just how radically the country has changed. Let us take comfort in the fact that in some ways it has changed very much for the better. At that stage, unemployment was the number one issue of the six indicators used in defining what the commission thought were urban priority areas. Indeed, I was horrified to read in the tables on page 198 the discrepancies between inner-city unemployment in places such as Liverpool and Birmingham compared with the national average. As a concerned and aware economist, I thought that I knew quite a lot about these, but it takes reading something like that to bring it home to you.

It is now quite a relief to know that inner-city unemployment in places such as Liverpool at 22.1 per cent and Birmingham at 21.8 per cent compared with the national average of 9.4 per cent are nothing like as horrendous now—at least I do not think so. There was then deep concern about how the country could cope with the transformation from being a major heavy manufacturing and extractive industry-based economy to a major service-based economy. I remember so many articles, as I am sure we all do, saying that we would all end up peddling little models of Beefeaters. It has not been like that, so we should always try to look to the future with hope and belief that we can, as sentient human beings, do something to make things better.

I believe now that employment is not the number one issue of the six issues that were drawn to attention in Faith in the City. I know that this might sound incredibly complacent to those miners who lost their jobs and to all those who worked in the major industrial complexes that have now closed. But successive Governments should be given credit for helping ease the impact of such a fundamental change in our economy. The Church of England, for its part, played a major role in alleviating the stress experienced in these areas in a practical and caring way. This is one example of the strong and ongoing contribution made by the Church to our civic life. The benefit of pastoral care should never, ever be underestimated.

In addition to unemployment, the five other issues used in Faith in the City to gauge the amount of deprivation were, in order of ranking: old people living alone; single-parent families; ethnicity: the proportion of households with a new Commonwealth or Pakistan-born head; overcrowding of homes; and homes lacking basic amenities. Of these, I feel that three give rise to even greater concern now. Before I say why I feel that, I wish to deal with the last two first, where I think progress has been made and is continuing.

There has been an improvement in both overcrowding and the state of the housing stock. Housing as an issue is still with us but the nature of the problem has changed. The affordability of homes for young people starting either their married life or life independent from their family is truly a serious issue—one, I fear, that the Church cannot do an awful lot about. However, I was heartened to hear about the Cedarwood project, which made me suddenly realise that the Church is very much involved in the financial sector as well in trying to alleviate the problems of what I call, and have called in this House, financial ignorance and illiteracy, whereby people get into a great deal of debt. Perhaps that could be channelled into getting greater funding to the young people who have to start off on the housing ladder; otherwise, we will return to the situation that pertained 21 years ago when Faith in the City was first published.

Homelessness, which is an adjunct to this subject, is still a totally unacceptable blot on our so-called civilised country. But we are all much more sensitive to it, and the combined forces of local churches and the secular voluntary sector focusing on provision for the homeless have achieved a great deal, much of it unsung. Sadly, we tend to take an enormous amount for granted.

I return to the three areas that I think are still really problematic. The issues of old people living alone, single-parent families and ethnicity are all linked in a way—linked by the word "deprivation". Deprivation is the word used in the title of this debate, but it seems to have changed its meaning over the years. Nowadays, we use the term as a synonym for poverty, rather than the definition in the Oxford English Dictionary of,

"the taking away of anything previously enjoyed".

But the dictionary goes on to give a more recent definition, which, I suspect, the most reverend Primate also had in mind—namely,

"the lack of benefit of normal home life, parental affection etc".

I suggest that deprivation has two meanings in our usage: emotional deprivation and economic deprivation. It is the first that I want to explore, having at its base the feelings of alienation, human isolation, aloneness and loneliness. Although they all sound similar and centre around deprivation, they are different.

This debate concentrates on towns and cities but deprivation, both economic and emotional, is not just an urban phenomenon; it is just as prevalent in rural areas. No one could have forecast some 21 years ago that people in rural areas would be so badly hit by events such as BSE, foot and mouth and a huge reduction in farm incomes, with the consequent impact on small businesses in the rural communities. But the overwhelming belief in some of these communities—I am quite close to some of them—is that they are not regarded by government or the urban population as contributing to the economy in any positive way. That lack of self-worth is yet another form of deprivation.

I return to the issues highlighted in Faith in the City. The situations of the elderly and single-parent families have not improved. Their economic deprivation is being tackled but the emotional deprivation, as I have called it, persists and is causing deep misery on a large scale. Not for a moment am I suggesting that all over the age of 60 feel deprived but, whereas decades ago the elderly probably lived near their families, that situation no longer prevails. The number of people aged 60 and over has increased by a staggering 11 per cent in the period up to 2004—the latest data that I have—since Faith in the City was published, but this sector now accounts for almost 19 per cent of the total population. Many of these people are chronically lonely. There is a deep need for that to be addressed and for neighbourly initiatives to be undertaken.

In many areas, the Church is at the forefront in tackling this problem. I know of a thriving, growing church that regards each member of the congregation as a family member. Not only that but it has monthly events to outreach to the whole community—not to try to canvass new members but to follow the second great commandment of "Love thy neighbour as thyself". It is interesting to note that the actions of this church often result in people being so enveloped by love and friendship that they become members. They feel that they want to belong and do belong. This is a wonderful way of tackling a really deep-seated problem and it is one that all churches should try to emulate.

In the case of single-parent families, much needs to be done to try to compensate for the bitterness of fractured relationships. Sometimes the stress of coping in an existence where there seems to be very little light and even less happiness is just unbearable. As an economist, I have been looking again at the statistics and at the trends in household types, and I found that the number of one-person households increased from 7 per cent of the total households at the time of the publication of Faith in the City to 16 per cent in 2004. Behind that cold figure lie sad situations that are, for a large part, hidden due to pride, isolationism and the feeling that no one really cares.

The ethnicity issue is well documented, and I am not competent or clever enough to come up with any novel suggestions. I know that we are all supportive of many measures taken by the state to alleviate the economic plight of many of our citizens who fall into the three categories that I have mentioned, but throwing money at the problems is not the only answer. Practical help—this has been mentioned several times today—by people who show that they care is often more welcome than additional monetary benefits. We do not realise that many people feel emotionally deprived even more than they feel economically deprived. Hopelessness is too common. For many hundreds of thousands of people, life is very difficult. How can we make it better?

I truly believe that Parliament is aware of, and has a deep social conscience about, these issues—even more so the Churches and particularly the Church of England. We constantly demand additional resources or better procedures in the allocation of available resources. This debate has given us, and will continue to give us, a chance to try to tease out whether there might be a better way. I am convinced that the Church has a role here—a most important role; a role that could transform lives in many communities.

Photo of Lord Dholakia Lord Dholakia Deputy Leader, House of Lords, Spokesperson in the Lords, Home Affairs 12:38 pm, 19th May 2006

My Lords, I add my thanks to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for this debate. I start with an example of a community which, despite all the adversity over centuries, has played a major part in the civil life of this country. On Wednesday this week, I was invited by the Ambassador of Israel to a gala concert in celebration of three and a half centuries of Jewish life in Britain. The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, had this to say in his message:

"For over 360 years, from 1290 to 1677, England was devoid of a Jewish community and was poorer for it. The expulsion of the Jews was a shameful moment in Britain's history. But the decision to reverse that expulsion was an important pre-cursor to Britain becoming a tolerant and multi-cultural society".

The Prime Minister is right—sometimes.

There has been desecration of Jewish graves, daubing of racist slogans on synagogues and physical attacks on this community. Despite all that, the Jewish community here has made a substantial contribution in all walks of life—in art, music, sport, business and politics. Britain's 300,000 Jews have played a positive role in enhancing British society.

Almost 60 years ago, the steamship "Empire Windrush" docked at Tilbury carrying with it the hopes and dreams of hundreds of men and women from the Caribbean. That was an event in which people from the margins of the empire came to build a new life in the metropolitan centre itself. We simply have to cast our minds to that period to remember the devastation in Britain inflicted by the war. The grip on the colonies was weakening.

The example of the Jewish community is not an isolated one. In the past 50 years, we have seen the migration from Commonwealth countries to Britain, and now look at their contribution to our social, political and cultural life. Again, that is a positive example of our diverse, multi-cultural society.

We also need to remember the role of many Christians who fought for freedom and equality. I remember the sterling work of Bishop Trevor Huddleston. At one time, he was the president of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, a post he held until 1981. Who could have believed then that South Africa would be liberated from the grip of its White oppressors, ultimately leading to the release of Nelson Mandela? Bishop Huddleston was so appalled by the treatment of the Black community that he got involved in the political world by attacking the Government from his pulpit. I also remember the work of Bishop Desmond Tutu—his objective was a democratic and just society without racial divisions. His impact on South African politics must never be underestimated. He fought for equal civil rights for all, the abolition of South Africa's pass laws, a common system for education and the cessation of forced deportation to the so-called Black homelands. Again, he was a worthy recipient, in 1984, of the Nobel peace prize.

We should also remember the contribution of Martin Luther King, Jr. No one can talk about the American civil rights struggle without reference to him. Again, he was a recipient, at the age of 35, of the Nobel peace prize.

I cite those examples because the struggle for freedom and equality has not been an easy one. In many parts of the world, we still have not realised those objectives. The role of prominent Christians in promoting the aims of a multi-cultural society should never be underestimated. Churches have a useful role in the promotion of good community relations. There are other good examples. In 1965, the Wilson Government established the National Advisory Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants to work towards the integration of Commonwealth citizens and ensure their social welfare. Dr Michael Ramsey, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, was appointed as its first chairman. There are hardly any historical records of his work with that committee. However, I must tell noble Lords that he was instrumental in promoting the first ever Anglo-American conference at Lambeth Palace about equality legislation—a precursor to almost all race relations legislation in the past 50 years. His association as archbishop also galvanised local churches across the country to play a useful role in voluntary committees. We must never underestimate the important contribution made by churches across the land. I know that because I worked under his chairmanship at the national committee.

A visit to certain areas of London on a Sunday will show a stream of well dressed families on the way to church. It is likely that more than half of them will be from ethnic minorities. They form 7 per cent of worshippers nationwide but their contribution has hardly been recognised.

But how the pendulum swings. I was one of the members of the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, who I am delighted to see is in his place. The tabloids did not like what we proposed and the Government sided with them. I say straightaway that we were offended by the way in which the Government responded to our deliberations without studying the detailed recommendation to promote our multi-cultural Britain. The report involved two years of hard work and was undertaken by 22 distinguished individuals drawn from many backgrounds and different walks of life who had a long record of active theoretical and practical engagement with race-related issues in Britain and elsewhere. I am afraid that the Churches remained silent at that time.

However, as soon as the adverse press publicity had died down, the Government implemented almost all the commission's recommendations. Today, as I look around and see the rise of the British National Party preaching hatred on the doorsteps and local communities backing them with their votes, I ask myself, "Where is the voice of Churches?". We need as strong a voice from them as their condemnation of The Da Vinci Code. The debates on multi-culturalism have often been emotional. We have failed to reinforce among the population the view that ethnicity and multi-culturalism should not mean the loss of national characteristics and culture.

We do not need a melting pot that would deprive us of most of the benefits of our diverse community. This is where churches and local congregations have an important role to play. So what is the message for churches and our diverse communities? There must be a clear message for all communities: that cultures do not remain static, that communities change and that conflict often occurs on matters of gender, generations, religion, language and the community's relationship with the wider society. That is nothing to be frightened about. We are already witnessing fusion in music, the arts, fashion and food. The new emerging culture will be exciting and to an extent lessen the need to put too much emphasis on ethnicity and multiculturalism. Churches can provide leadership in that regard.

The aspirations of our many diverse communities are compatible with what we all want: the right to live in peace, to get an education, to get a job, to raise a family free from fear and, above all, to be treated without reference to race or colour and nationality or ethnic origins. These are the issues at the core of everything that needs to be done; they stand at the heart of every issue. They are as much part of Christian values and beliefs as is the case with black and ethnic minority communities. No longer can a society endure in peace, really live with itself or really prosper in all ways if discriminatory practices still exist in it.

So how do we proceed with social and community cohesion in a predominantly Christian society? That is not difficult. Churches must be at the forefront of tackling racism. We must impress on people the fact that we do so not because we are racist but because we all have a responsibility to tackle racism wherever it raises its ugly head. Deprivation and disadvantage are the most visible manifestation of the race inequality so often experienced by minorities in inner-city areas. We cannot talk about community cohesion unless we accept that we must tackle prejudice and racism. We must lessen the fear of change as a step towards reducing tension. We must work to realise the potential of all our citizens It is the citizens who produce the wealth that sustains our social and economic development.

We must also accept in a fast-changing world that there is a change in attitude and a new assertiveness: youngsters are better educated and more questioning than ever and they are better informed, too. Other factors are involved: the globalisation of power and the decline of class loyalty. They put great pressures on our antique structures and often our antiquated ways of thought.

The process of an integrated society is not one-sided. Of course, to many—particularly the first and possibly the second generations—challenge will be frightening. But Churches and communities must recognise what our youngsters are rejecting: class conflict, elitism and conformity. In turn, they are gaining interdependence, self-reliance, openness, diversity and pluralism. We are witnessing the birth of new values and a new culture that encompass all that is good in our culture and that of others. In turn, we expect the Church and our diverse communities of different faiths to promote the ideal of an interdependent, wholesome and organic community where diversity is a key thread.

We need to tackle racial and religious intolerance as a first step towards integrated ideals. There is of course at present a conflict between the concepts of what is appropriate and what is required. But there are other questions that we must ask. What sort of society do we want to take forward in this century and new millennium?

I believe that Churches and communities must build the confidence of minorities in the structures that are in place. We must ensure that we participate from within. Together, we communicate with the policy makers and, above all, identify as stakeholders in the process of citizenship that has as its root the process of multiculturalism embodied in law. A first step towards that ideal is to develop our views on citizenship. For all of us, it is not what we take for ourselves but what we put back in our communities that is the real test of citizenship. But it is much more than that. It is a process of citizenship that must encompass the rights of all people, irrespective of their colour, to live in peace, get an education, get a job and raise a family.

But citizenship means much more than learning English. No one disputes that the process of communication helps towards an integrated society, but citizenship is so much more than that. It is a social contract encompassing the whole community. Its aim must be social inclusion, tolerance and a diverse society where human rights flourish. It is also about balancing citizens' rights and responsibilities. But citizenship must also entitle individuals to state protection, respect for the diversity of their culture and freedom of expression. They are all encompassed within the framework of the Human Rights Act. It is not for the Government to pick and choose what suits them.

To take this to its logical conclusion, citizenship cannot be divorced from the needs of individuals. The social contract must also include decent public services and social support for the weak and infirm, including those who fear persecution. It must provide the community with a healthy and pollution-free environment. If individuals feel that they are protected from crime, that there is less oppression and that discrimination does not blight their lives, there will be respect for a healthy, decent society.

Let me conclude with a quote from the late Lord Boyle of Handsworth that the Churches and people of all faiths may find helpful:

"Political wisdom consists of trying to narrow the gap between the value which men and women place on their own personalities and the value placed on them by the community in which they live; furthermore no community can afford for long to deny the application of this principle to racial minorities as well".

Photo of Lord Ramsbotham Lord Ramsbotham Crossbench 12:52 pm, 19th May 2006

My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for enabling us to tackle this important subject and to cover so many aspects of it. I make no apology for referring to only one aspect, which has not, so far, been covered; namely, the resettlement of prisoners. I was interested that the Motion for the debate refers to,

"the role of the Churches in the civic life of towns and cities", in which that activity takes place and,

"the Churches' partnership with other bodies and the part they play in addressing the problems of deprivation".

Those problems include the people to whom I am referring.

In the wise and challenging speech with which the most reverend Primate introduced this debate, he mentioned that we are talking about communities taking corporate responsibility for their own affairs, that when talking about the Church we are not talking solely about the work of clerical professionals, and that we are also talking about interfaith activity, which the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, described as being a faith network.

In mentioning the resettlement of prisoners, I shall base my speech around two practical examples of what I mean. In about 1998, I heard of a development in Bristol called the community chaplaincy. The ministers of the various religions in Bristol came together and wondered what they could do to help returning prisoners settle back into the community. Very sensibly, they went to Bristol prison where, by chance, there was an extremely good governor and discussed the matter with him. He said that the greatest help would be if the ministers of all the faiths represented in the prison could help to prepare the communities to which prisoners were going to return for their return. That included work with their families and friends and the communities to which they were going to return, as well as the people who might make it possible for them to live a useful and law-abiding life rather than the opposite. That was picked up by the chaplains working in the prison, and they set out to make something work in the city of Bristol. As chief inspector, I was very taken with the idea and recommended it as a model that could well be copied in other cities and communities in other parts of the country because it seemed to be a practical linking. However, the idea has not been picked up everywhere.

Towards the end of last year, I was invited to take part in the opening of another community chaplaincy in London. It was the other way round: the multi-faith chaplains in Feltham young offender institution had come together and decided that they would approach the ministers of the various parishes of the various faiths to which young people were returning, and ask them to do the work with the young offenders and their families that had been pioneered in Bristol. I am delighted to hear nothing but good of that initiative and to know that it is taking off. When we look at why that is a good thing and to be encouraged, it is important to remember that imprisonment takes people away from their communities but that they will return to them. It is always said that three factors will most help people to resettle: a home, a job and a stable relationship. All three of those factors are put at risk by imprisonment; jobs and homes may have to be surrendered and relationships are put at risk, particularly if family or partners are separated by distance because people are moved around the prison system and away from them.

In addition to the role that ministers of all religions can play in helping people come to terms with and prepare for release, there is the vital task of helping them to settle when they come out. Other speakers have talked about the possibility of a relationship between the Church and the Government to do something practical. I put this model forward as an example that might be picked up by right reverend Prelates who sit in this House and by representatives of all other faiths, because I am talking about the Church as a whole, not any one religion.

Photo of The Bishop of Liverpool The Bishop of Liverpool Bishop 12:58 pm, 19th May 2006

My Lords, the city of Liverpool is experiencing a remarkable renaissance at the moment, as well as notable sporting triumphs. I bring condolences to noble supporters of West Ham and hope that they will bear with us in Liverpool.

In spite of the remarkable renaissance of the city of Liverpool, 45 per cent of the parishes in the diocese of Liverpool are in urban priority areas. They are areas of multiple deprivation. I am not here today to praise the work of the Churches and the faith communities, although I am constantly humbled by the sacrifice and generosity of people living in areas of multiple deprivation, members of faith communities and Churches, who give of themselves tirelessly to build up their communities.

I am acutely aware of the vulnerability of faith buildings, especially churches, in areas of deprivation. When people are in need, they come to those buildings because they see them as symbols of compassion. But if they are in trouble with the law or some other authority, those buildings then become symbols of authority and, if there is a brick around, it is only too easy for people throw stones at those buildings out of frustration. So people in these buildings are particularly vulnerable. They are there as symbols of compassion but also unmistakably as people of authority.

The fact that the Church of England, particularly of the faith communities, is in every single neighbourhood of our country, both rich and poor, gives the Church an authority to speak of and to both comfortable and uncomfortable Britain. In this very good debate, I would like to share with noble Lords my experience as a Church leader of those things that I have learnt from my involvement in community and urban regeneration. For four years, I have chaired the New Deal for Communities programme in Liverpool; I chair the governing body of a new city academy for 900 11 to 16 year-olds, which the Prime Minister recently opened; and I have brought into being an organisation called Operation EDEN, which works with all the faith communities across the region, helping those faith communities that are often strongest in hard-to-reach areas to be agents of the transformation of their local environment.

I was struck by the comments of the noble Lord about racism and multi-culturalism. In the Churches we take this very seriously—for example, I was invited to become patron of the refurbishment of the oldest mosque in the United Kingdom, which is in Liverpool. It was a profound theological question for me and in the end I decided to do it on the ground of that second great commandment, which was mentioned by the noble Baroness. How can we build up social cohesion? Indeed, the future stability of our society depends on a good relationship between the faith communities. To love our neighbours as ourselves is so important in this cohesion.

I had the poignant privilege of presiding at Anthony Walker's funeral. I spent many hours with his mother, Mrs Gee Walker—a remarkable lady. I pay tribute to her today. If it were not for her restraint and dignity, a great outburst would have been unleashed in that area because of the racism that has been experienced. Racism is endemic in our society and we stand with the noble Lord against all forms of racism. It is incumbent on us all to give that lead.

I want to share particular things from my experience, but mainly this: how do we involve local people in shaping their own futures? That is at the heart of community regeneration. Over recent years we have seen many groundbreaking initiatives in urban regeneration. I pay tribute to the Government for giving opportunity for new things to be done in new ways. Without any sense of criticism, I simply observe that what has happened in this process has been a subversion of local authority and local government. There was impatience with local government at not changing the local situation quickly enough. What happened? We set up para-governmental organisations in local areas. But then there was impatience with these organisations, because they were not delivering quickly enough. What happened? There was a re-engagement of the local authority, in an attempt to bring it back on board. I understand the desire to do these things, but it has often left local people feeling very confused.

In particular I want us to ask—maybe some time in the future your Lordships will consider this as a subject of debate—how we enfranchise, empower and remunerate local people who will be engaged in regeneration at a local level. When we talk about enfranchisement, we are only too well aware of the low turnout at the polls—maybe less than 20 per cent in local elections. There is no shortage of people coming to public meetings in these areas. I know because I have been there and often preside over them. People come in their hundreds; they even come with megaphones to make sure that their voices are heard. If you talk about housing, schools or streets being knocked down, people will be there. They are interested, but they do not vote. Why? There have been many debates and many commentators have written at length about why there is this democratic deficit. I offer noble Lords a couple of reasons. First, local people feel that if they vote it will make no difference to their situation. We have to take that seriously. Secondly, even after some of these groundbreaking initiatives, local people still feel that they are victims of too many top-down, outside solutions.

What I have learnt more than anything through my hands-on engagement in regeneration is that local people know the place and the problems. They have the skills, and the commitment and they know the solutions—local people have the science of the streets. We must listen to them and empower them. Some of my most moving experiences have been of seeing people who are engaged in, say, building a new school grow in stature. One young woman who would not say "boo" to a goose came to the planning meeting and spoke passionately, pleading the council to give permission for the building of a city academy. She found her voice. I am afraid that there are no boxes to tick on all the forms that we have to fill in about what progress has been made. But she has grown in stature. Sharing power with people is the only antidote to low self-esteem and low aspirations. People talk too easily about empowerment. Surely those of us with power will have a little bit less of it along the way if we have truly shared it with the powerless. We have to find new ways of empowering local people.

We have to find new ways of remunerating local people. Can we not be creative in our use of the tax and benefit system to engage and sustain local people in the regeneration of their communities? One young woman told me not so long ago that she had added up how many meetings she had been at in the previous year. It was 174, most of them lasting three to four hours. When I told that to a government Minister, he rightly responded, "But that's a full-time job". It is, but of course she was paid nothing for it. Can we not find some way of remunerating people in local communities? Can we not work with local businesses to find ways of supporting people like her? Very often they are young mothers who are committed to turning their neighbourhoods around to make them a better place for their children to live and work in.

If your Lordships listen carefully to the language that people use in urban regeneration, something very revealing is shown. Those of us who live in communities use organic language. We talk about "seeds", "planting" and "renewal". People who hold the money use mechanical language. They talk about "buttons", "triggers", "levers", "targets" and "outcomes". We need both languages, but we need people to understand one another across the language divide. We simply cannot provide mechanical solutions to organic problems; we must understand why communities die and how they can live again.

The Church knows something about dying and, if I may say so, living again. We have a sense of vocation to work with people of good will from all faith communities—with people of faith and of no faith— and to continue to work with the Government, so that we can discern those things that make for peaceful communities.

In the chapel at Bishop's Lodge in Liverpool, there is a sculpture. It is the figure of Christ bent over the city of Liverpool. It is based on the words that he spoke when he wept outside the city of Jerusalem, saying: "If only you knew the things that made for peace". The Church and the faith communities are committed to working with the Government so that we may discern and implement those things that make for peace in our communities.

Photo of Lord Ahmed Lord Ahmed Labour 1:10 pm, 19th May 2006

My Lords, I, too, thank the most reverend Primate for securing this debate and for giving us the opportunity to be able to say a few words. My experience of working with the Church was as a councillor in Rotherham, when we were able to get some funding from the Church Urban Fund to establish a centre there. With the local Church leaders, Father Matthew Joy and Father Hobbard, we were able to establish an advice centre that was a partnership between local people—the Muslim community as well as the Christian community—and the local authority. It was established to provide advice on welfare work and immigration, but it also brought together people from all communities in the area where I was a local councillor. It helped to empower the local community and to deal with deprivation.

There are many other examples of churches and mosques working together. The most reverend Primate mentioned experiences in west Yorkshire. I also visited a mosque that was working with a church to provide luncheon and dinner clubs for homeless people. The Christian volunteers went into a mosque and the Muslim volunteers went into the church to provide help and support for the less fortunate.

In Rotherham, I worked with Father Matthew Joy when there were tensions between the communities in 1994-95. That was one of the most wonderful experiences, for a Church leader, a local councillor and the local mayor all to be seen going together when there was tension to visit communities where we were able to give the impression that we can all work together to bring harmony and equality for our communities.

I will say a few words about the role of a mosque in the community and some achievements, challenges and failures that we have in the Muslim community. From the days of the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, the mosque has been a place of worship, but it has also played a pivotal role in the community. There are mosque schools. Mosques have been used as a sports hall, a court, a place of marriage, an advice centre, a welfare office and an institute of strategic planning and training. The list goes on.

We have up to 1,400 mosques in the United Kingdom. While some mosques have been used as an effective vehicle for social change by providing moral, social and spiritual development of individuals through worship, education and recreation, unfortunately, many are still run as tribal and regional centres, disconnected from the local British Muslim community and from the mainstream of British society. For instance, we know that an overwhelming majority of British Muslims attend Friday prayers, but 60 per cent of those who are British-born are disconnected in many ways because of the language spoken. Sermons are delivered in Urdu, Arabic or another language. Many imams and mosque leaders need to be able to speak English to connect with that 60 per cent of the British Muslim population.

Seven years ago, I remember going to an annual general meeting of the Muslim Council of Britain. I talked about making sure that our imams speak English during their Friday sermons. I was shouted down and made to sit down because no one was prepared to listen to my speech. Things have not changed much, and we need to put pressure on Muslim leaders to ensure that they connect with the 60 per cent of British Muslim youth. That should not be done in any way to undermine the old people who cannot speak English, but we must find ways to work with young people.

There are excellent examples of mosques working with churches to provide luncheon clubs and job training programmes. There are mosques working with local authorities and receiving urban regeneration funds to provide English and citizenship classes. There are education centres. The Government need to recognise that many of those centres need capacity-building, because most of the funds coming through the single regeneration budget or the urban regeneration programme are based on competition and many leaders do not even know how to bid for that money. So there needs to be an emphasis on capacity-building for those leaders. As the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, said, 50 per cent of Muslims are unemployed in city areas. Those mosques could also be centres to provide help to regenerate those communities.

I totally agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, about the rehabilitation of prisoners. There is a role for churches and mosques, because there is now a greater number of Muslims in prison, in rehabilitation from drugs, theft, armed robbery, or whatever. That role needs to be taken up by the mosques. That challenge for the Muslim community needs to be taken up by the leadership. Mosques need to be debating chambers and a focus for the next generation, without alienating the elders. We need to ensure that we are creating partnerships with the churches, synagogues, temples and local authorities, as well as the Government and its departments, to fight poverty, deprivation and isolation.

There is a growing industry in the United Kingdom about which I need to say a few words. Muslim charities have been raising many millions of pounds, but very little of that money is spent on British Muslims, although there is deprivation in this country. The earthquake fund for Pakistan and Kashmir recently raised more than £40 million from here—and rightly so. More than £25 million is raised annually by Muslim charities, but almost all of it goes abroad and very little is spent in the United Kingdom. I hope that we can find ways of encouraging them to spend some of their money here.

Those charities have to be more transparent and accountable. The Charity Commission needs to ensure that they are, because it is much easier to monitor their invoices and to see what they are doing if they are working here. There is, for instance, a new and growing satellite television industry, which is fundraising during the month of Ramadan. Some channels were claiming that they had raised up to £8 million or £9 million from their appeals. They are obviously charging some of these charities a lot of money for a four-hour slot. Again, all that money is going abroad and not being spent on the eradication of poverty here in the United Kingdom. We need to encourage all these sectors to spend some of this money in this country.

I very much hope that the Government can tell us how many places of worship we have in the United Kingdom, rather than giving us estimates. Surely we need to know. How can we talk about the role of these places of worship and how they can help us with community cohesion if we do not know how many we are talking about? How can we talk about preachers, their minimum qualifications and their salaries if we do not know how many preachers there are? I could go on.

I have recently been consulting the Muslim community on the creation of a mosques and imams national advisory body. The community is being very supportive of such a body, which would be a training centre for imams and other Muslim leaders, who could help with community regeneration, inter-faith work, conflict resolution, drugs and other challenges such as teenage pregnancy. I therefore hope that the Government will do something to bring all of us into line with the good practices adopted by the Church in relation to community development, so that other communities can follow.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Spokesperson in the Lords (Id Cards & Charities Bill), Home Affairs

My Lords, the noble Lord talked of being shouted down when he urged his mosque to consider the use of English. I wonder whether there was any benign aftermath or movement in the opinion of his colleagues in the mosque.

Photo of Lord Ahmed Lord Ahmed Labour

My Lords, it did not happen in my mosque; it happened at the annual general meeting of the Muslim Council of Britain—the umbrella organisation. There has been a huge debate since then in the council. In fact, some of our surveys suggest that a very large percentage of mosques now have sermons in English as well as in Urdu, Gujarati, Punjabi and Bengali. Of course, all the religious teachings have to be done through the Koran and the Hadith, which are in Arabic, but I think that we should ask everyone to deliver their sermons in English and to translate everything into English so that they can connect with young people. The problem with extremists such as Abu Qatada, Abu Hamza and Omar Bakri is that their followers have chosen certain mosques, which has been of concern because the young people cannot connect. They stand outside with leaflets asking young people to come to a local centre somewhere where they preach hate. That is why I suggested that we bring these people into the mosques so that we can have a theological debate as well as an intellectual one by encouraging them to speak English so that people can understand.

Photo of Baroness Flather Baroness Flather Conservative 1:25 pm, 19th May 2006

My Lords, I, too, thank the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, particularly for the personal letter that he wrote to me, which encouraged me to put my name down for this debate. I am not a very spiritual person, nor am I a person of great faith, but I want to speak about my very personal experiences, starting with the first step which, although I did not know it at the time, I was perhaps taking towards your Lordships' House.

In 1968, I started teaching English to Asian boys who had recently arrived from the subcontinent. I was shocked at the way in which they were living and being looked after, so I went to visit their homes with them. I met a lot of women in the families who did not go out of the house, who had no opportunity to learn even the most basic English and who could not do anything for themselves. I wanted to start a club for Indian and Pakistani women to get them out of the house, which I felt was very important, so that they could meet each other and bring their children, for whom we would set up a sort of play group. We would try to teach them a little about the country and the language and how to cope with the climate. I was teaching at St Luke's secondary modern school for boys. The then vicar of St Luke's gave me all the support that I needed. I did not have a penny, nor did I have to ask for money. I am so glad that it has been said today that money is not essential for getting things done; so much depends on individuals.

The noble Baroness, Lady Richardson, spoke very eloquently about people. I, too, wish to speak about people. This ladies' club was my very first step into public life. I was helped by the Church, and the Mothers' Union made tea, but not only that, great friendships were generated through the club—friendships that lasted long after the club was gone and forgotten. The Church charged us no money because we did not have any. The club was made possible by the vicar, who felt that this was worth doing. I was invited to probably every church group in my area of Windsor and Maidenhead to speak about the newcomers, the immigrants—at that time, they were immigrants—and to tell the majority how many problems those newcomers were experiencing. The problems were very basic; the climate was a particular problem. They were not used to the climate and to so many other things. I used to go from house to house and see on the mantelpieces a row of brown envelopes, which they had not opened. Everyone came from an oral society, but we had landed straight into a society that worked on the written word. There was so little understanding. There was no one to read these written forms and letters. Even the children at that time were not able to read. It was a very interesting time. I thank St Luke's Church, which supported me throughout that.

I should like to talk about other inspirational figures I have come across in my life. I am sure that some noble Lords will know of Joan Bartlett, a Catholic nun, who started a great housing association, the Servite Houses. It caters particularly for the elderly with dementia or other problems. Today, it is a huge housing association, and one Catholic nun made that possible. I had the great privilege of knowing and working with Joan Bartlett. Such people fill you with energy and make you realise what one human being can do if he or she sets out to do it. You see people's enormous capacity to do good when you meet such individuals.

Another person who had a big impact on me was a woman in the Salvation Army, Colonel Evelyn Gaze, who worked tirelessly in the community. We became very close friends. We were friends until her death, when I was invited to speak at her funeral. I cannot think of anyone for whom I have more respect and from whom I derived more strength. So much depends on individuals, the catalysts who come into our lives, other people's lives and community life. Those people are inspired by their faith, which is wonderful. But they do not stay within their faith; they spread good works and do things for humanity.

Very recently a very dear friend, Sheikh Zaki Badawi, died. I counted him as a friend and someone to look to for advice at any time, anywhere. I thought of him with affection, respect and warmth. You do not need anything else to get on with people. You only need to respect each other and as the human beings that they are. It does not matter which faith motivates them; it is about who they are and how they work for other people.

A young man runs the huge Krishna Consciousness Temple in Watford. He is such a good person and is also my very good friend. Being with him makes me see how people of faith can generate goodness around them and inspire other people. Those of us who have the experience of being with people of faith are blessed. They are people who make a real difference in every way.

I once spoke at a hospital chaplains' conference. It gave me a booklet which described the major world faiths in about one paragraph on half a page. The description of each faith ended by saying, "In this faith it is perfectly acceptable for people to go and help a sick person". I was shocked by that. I said, "Do you think that there could be any great world faith which will say 'Walk on the other side of the road when you see a sick person?' It is not possible". People have to understand that we cannot just say "We are a religion or a faith, which we commit ourselves to". It cannot be that we do not commit ourselves to the sick and the deprived. That has to be one of the most important bases on which we function in whichever faith.

A horrible term, "Islamophobia", has been going around. How dare we be phobic about Islam? We could be Muslimophobic, but we cannot be Islamophobic. Islam is a great religion. It does not say "Go and kill innocent people". The Koran Sharif is the only religion that I know where God says, "Put the rights of human beings above mine". How can one be Islamophobic? It is people and social culture which spoil the great faiths. We must always carry with us the fact that it is not faiths, the Holy Koran or the Prophet which say those things or ask people to do such things. The Prophet was a great reformer. I was brought up in the Hindu tradition. From being children, we were always taught to respect everyone's faith, that people have different pathways to God and that we should respect everyone's pathway.

There are good people in the Churches. Trust me, I have been to many services. When I was mayor and deputy mayor, I went to up to three services in one day. There are very good people in the Churches who do very good things. It is interesting that some of the worst people are in the Churches as well; that is, people who will not accept change, or those who will not accept people of a different colour or faith. It is true that the best and the worst people are in each faith. It is very strange, but I have seen and felt it.

Finally, I want to talk about Michael Mann, who was dean of Windsor when I was the mayor. I liked his sermons. They were short and told you what you should do during the week. There was none of this lateral thinking or philosophical discussion: "Get on with it. You are not to do this and you are not to do that"—hellfire and brimstone. It was very encouraging. I will not forget Michael Mann. I still see him and he is still my friend. I liked his sermons.

Photo of Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Crossbench 1:37 pm, 19th May 2006

My Lords, like others who have spoken, I welcome the debate introduced by the most reverend Primate. I would like to talk about the Churches' partnership with the largest employer in this country—the NHS—and how it addresses deprivation in the broadest and most critical sense. These people are being deprived of health, livelihood and even life itself and the deprivation cuts across all socio-economic groups and ages, and every part of our society.

Hospital chaplaincy, rather like industrial chaplaincy and the forces chaplaincy, is a completely different model from church chaplaincy. The model of ministry does not radiate out from those with faith, but has a responsibility for the whole community: those with faith, any faith, all faiths or none. It addresses the patients, relatives, staff and everyone who comes into the service. Chaplains are the front line. In our 900-bed teaching hospital, it is the chaplains who get called into the most difficult situations. They are required—indeed, demanded—to be there 24/7. They go into people's lives at times when those lives are at their most terrible and chaotic. They are called to special care, intensive care, and accident and emergency, as well as chronic care and acute treatment situations. They are called in to be alongside relatives when staff cannot cope.

Perhaps I may illustrate that with an instance that happened a few days ago. A chaplain was called to accident and emergency. A 17 year-old who was involved in a terrible accident was dying of his injuries. His parents had arrived and their anger was completely blocking their ability to take on board that this boy was dying. It was the chaplain who helped them to set aside their anger for the time being so that they were able to be with their son as he died of injuries that were completely irretrievable and could not be managed at all. That was very hard for the chaplain, but he went straight on from there to other calls within the hospital. On the same day he dealt with members of staff who were having difficulty coping. All this is part of daily life in his work.

As I have said, incidents arise several times a day and chaplains are called to help those of every faith and none, showing in the process respect for denominational integrity. When it is required, chaplains do not walk away. Rather they fill in the gap until the rabbi, the imam or the representative of another denomination arrives. They ensure that they hand over the situation in a responsible way; what they do not do is walk away.

Chaplaincy in these situations is not a reactive role, but a proactive one. They deal with death and bereavement and help people to make sense of what is going on around them. Because they are on the staff and have a role in the hospital, they are not intimidated by the machines, the bleeps, tubes and bizarre, frightening sounds encountered in intensive care. They can help a patient's relatives, particularly their children, steer their way through the mass of equipment to the bedside of the person they love.

They are there, too, to help when a life is lost that has not even been lived. They see women who miscarry after IVF treatment, those with fertility difficulties, those with a stillborn child or the woman grieving after an abortion that she later regrets. They hold services of remembrance, and sometimes services of committal using for a coffin a box no bigger than a shoe box in the hospital chapel, helping parents to grieve for the life that was never lived. They help children facing loss, and aid dying parents to prepare their children to live without them. They are not social workers, but they can provide the language with which parents can express their love and wishes for their children's future, to be remembered long after the patient has died.

Sometimes they will help to legitimise children. When a patient of ours, a young woman with five daughters, realised that she was dying of carcinoma of the cervix, she wanted her children to be legitimised. To use her own words, she wanted the father to be, "proper in law". We did not have much time. Within hours our chaplain had arranged a special licence. One of our nursing auxiliaries went to Peacock's and bought five matching bridesmaid's dresses in different sizes for the girls. Flowers were taken from other people's bedsides, some bubbly and sherry were found, while the cook downstairs rapidly prepared a reception. The chaplain also negotiated with the prison authorities so that the patient's brother could be brought to the hospital immediately under escort so that he could give his sister away. After the ceremony a "Do Not Disturb" notice was put on the door. The patient, with her then husband and the five children, were left in peace and slept in the family room. She died shortly afterwards, but the experience had been rewarding for everyone. Our chaplain's record for arranging a wedding from start to finish is two and a half hours. That is no mean feat in this day and age, but terribly important for those left behind.

Chaplains have other roles to play in staff support and patient advocacy, as well as being a thorn in the side of doctors because they champion the quality of existence and challenge why things are done in a certain way. It is chaplains who uphold the quality of life. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, is not in his place at the moment because I would like to assure him that it is the chaplain who sometimes goes to members of my team saying, "You should be in there. That patient is not comfortable enough". It is the chaplain who is the advocate for patients in distress. Chaplains also serve on research ethics committees, have a role on IVF committees and make an enormous contribution to the teaching of undergraduates in medicine, nursing, physiotherapy and so on. They teach bereavement and communication skills.

In our hospice we set up a focus group to find out what patients wanted, not what the service wanted to give them. Some things came out loud and clear: patients wanted the chaplain to be informally "around"—actually, the tidier, the worse; the more untidy, the better. The dog collar awry was much welcomed. Many patients felt very disillusioned with the Church and were seeking meaning and hope.

Some reported that healthcare professionals were too busy to trouble with their worries and their problems and to engage in personal debate. But they also felt that chaplains could be uniquely helpful precisely because they had no practical, hands-on role in treatment and no power in clinical decisions, making them safe to talk to. Unlike social workers, they cannot be concerned with benefits or children going into care; they cannot be involved in drug administration or whatever. Their key role is listening and being there. One patient said:

"I'm not very religious but I need something. I don't want a vicar ramming religion down my throat but I honestly feel I need something".

Many patients described terrible hardships and deprivations from their childhood and earlier life—and sometimes, I am sorry to say, those deprivations were at the hands of what one calls "the Church"—and many were very wary of counsellors. So what were the attributes that they sought? They did not seek a religious presence—in fact, one patient described the chaplain coming to give communion as "the angel of death"—but a chaplain with genuine humility, who was sincere, approachable, caring, with a good sense of humour and who would muck in, make the tea and then wash the cups afterwards; they wanted someone with openness and an ability to listen. One patient said:

"I think people who come in as humanists or atheists or whatever need to be able to talk to someone", and the pastoral relationship went from comradeship to confidentiality. They felt the chaplain was seen to embody a particular identity and expertise, providing a reference point in the turmoil of disease. Patients could rail against their disease and against God, and yet, at the same time, feel glad that they had got this far.

Some patients said that they appreciated formal occasions; that the music and the hymn singing was helpful; patients enjoyed choosing hymns. Sometimes they did it to help the chaplain out, they said. But joining in was very therapeutic, particularly in regard to the singing—although, of course, I must say that that is in Wales. They also found that very simple prayers gave structure to their thoughts for other patients, especially those who were dying or had just died, and for their own families and loved ones. Patients appreciated this and expressed the value of the individual through very simple prayers.

On the question of availability, the chaplain had to be there when he was needed, not when it suited him. Patients felt that the chaplain could do what clinical staff could not do and they were able to talk safely to him.

I should like to finish by quoting a couple of patients. One woman said that the reason you could talk to the chaplain but to nobody else was:

"This inability to be able to share our thoughts with our family and friends, because we don't want to hurt them . . . You protect them . . . They have enough without you giving them any more".

Another woman, also in the hospice and also aware that she was dying, said:

"They have to live with it after you have gone and that's the hardest, what you have burdened them with is what they will remember".

If any healthcare commissioner is listening to this debate—and I rather hope that one is—I would advocate strongly that the team is completely cost effective. It plugs a gap. Its partnership with clinicians helps to meet needs, drives up the quality of patient care, ensures that people are not neglected, are not left without their dignity, and it supports patients and families alike.

It is like the woman who said:

"My boy said, 'Why are you always laughing, why are you always smiling?' I said: 'Because I don't want you to remember me as miserable. I want you to remember me laughing and smiling'".

It was our hospice chaplain who gave that woman her major support.

Photo of Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne Liberal Democrat 1:49 pm, 19th May 2006

My Lords, I thank the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and his fellow bishops from the Church of England very much for this debate. It impacts directly on my work as a politician and, I believe, on the work of all of us as politicians in the national and international Parliaments in which we have the honour to serve.

As a child, I was fascinated by what the Committee of Ways and Means stood for. Why was it there? I imagined all these eminent politicians of the House of Commons scurrying around trying to find methods of implementing their policies. As a child, that seemed so extraordinary. Surely if the adults decided what had to be done, they had the capacity to do it. Now, as a politician myself, I know full well that we may make policies, but it is their implementation that makes the difference and our competence in implementing them is severely limited.

The Church's mission is surely historically twofold: to love God and to love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two laws hang all the laws of the Prophets. As I read the Holy Koran as a child, it seemed to have the same messages, with the additional blessing of saying that for Muslims, Christians will be their closest friends. Reading the Bible, inevitably I took in the beliefs of all three Abrahamic faiths.

As a politician, loving God is entirely out of my competence—that is for you, not me. As for prayer, worship and dialogue, 79 per cent of the European Union's nearly 500 million citizens are Christians; a proportion is Muslim, another proportion Jews, a very small proportion is agnostic or atheist, and there are some other faiths as well. Here, perhaps, is where ways and means come in—it is how to implement the call to love thy neighbour which is essentially, if political policies are to be benign, what they are for. The greatest good for the greatest number of people must be combined with the maximum sensitivity, support and understanding of minorities of all descriptions.

That is my daily bread and butter, as it is of other politicians. In the European Union, we are wrestling daily with each other about the enlargement of the European Union, the massive corruption we face as we walk further into the communist past and the difficulties of coping with Turkey. It is not just the question of Turkey's value system, which is so close to our own—she is a sister under the skin as well as on top of it—but whether we can at last face resolving the conflict of the gates of Vienna.

On Palestine, we face failure again—the two-state solution. Enshrined in all the European Union's foreign policies since the early 1980s are democracy, the rule of law and our value system. The five secular institutions of the European Union are committed to that value system and the fundamental freedoms of democracy and the rule of law. The election of Hamas struck us in our political face; we found ourselves unable even to face Hamas in terms of supporting the Palestinian Authority with that election.

In Iraq, despite the difficulties that the coalition forces face daily, they are struggling for the hearts and minds of the local population. They face great hostility, not just locally but internationally, yet people such as Major-General Chiarelli and Major-General Cooper believe that the coalition forces are there to help the Iraqi people, not harm them. They need our prayers and support as well. As politicians, what are the ways and means? Now there are problems with the Islamic republic of Iran—its apparent isolationism, yet its reaching out.

These are the challenges we face. Domestic challenges are mirroring international ones—France and her banlieux, difficulties regarding the citizenship of one of the Netherlands' most prominent Members of Parliament. All these are our daily bread and butter. The Armenian massacre—or was it genocide?—was debated yesterday in France. There is also the Austrian presidency—and the next one, and the one thereafter. What can we do to conquer racism and the absolute determination of such large parts of the human race to harm each other? How can we do this while clinging to a mechanism that gives freedoms for all yet allows hurt to happen to many at the same time?

This is a timely debate and one that I welcome, and for which I thank the Church. As I perceive it, some ways and means have been insufficiently explored. Churches—or mosques and synagogues—schools and primary health centres are surely the three foremost agencies for change for good in any community or country. They offer the ways and means to get it together with the community and with ordinary people, whom we politicians find it so hard to reach and listen to. All three have a role and responsibility to raise awareness of and develop levels of consciousness about the needs of the local and national community—and, internationally, the needs brought out and exemplified by the millennium development goals worldwide. All three can stimulate and initiate programmes of action that can help to alleviate the problems caused by deprivation, disadvantage and other difficulties. Why? Because all three are, and must always be, a part of the community and not apart from the community.

I suggest that schools, health centres and even churches, mosques and synagogues are hampered by the view of the population that they are confined physically in institutions. If they could break out of these and through into the intangible but real world of care, compassion and commitment to those in need, we would see nations transformed.

In our schools, and in schools internationally, we see a huge pool of young, active and dynamic people—boys and girls who respond so rapidly if you call on them and give them the chance to make a difference to the lives of those in need, at home or elsewhere. Churches, especially the Church of England, have an extensive network of contacts throughout the community because of their duty of care to all when help and support is needed. We should work at putting these two and the health centres together to make a difference in the community.

I have an example to share of where that is happening in eastern Europe—specifically, in Romania. The Romanian Orthodox Church was confined under the brutal Ceausescu regime to a strictly liturgical function, permitted only to conduct services within the confines of the church buildings themselves. Even that was severely restricted; priests were in constant danger and under great threat if they stepped inside this role in any way. Indeed, the Church lost 40,000 priests during the 50 brutal years of communism, through death or imprisonment. Therefore its pastoral care function almost disappeared, because it was not allowed to practise it. But since the revolution in Romania, the Orthodox Church has slowly but carefully recovered its liturgical, pastoral and spiritual functions and has become the essential and vibrant institution that it was and always needed to be. Priests have increased in numbers and, most importantly, in confidence, and the population look to them for leadership and example in important moral, spiritual and social matters. Some 87 per cent of the population of Romania today belongs to the Orthodox Church—and another strength is the Catholic Church.

The Church there has been very brave. It has been working on child trafficking; Romania is one of the key centres for human trafficking. The week before last, the United Nations published its first ever human-trafficking report. Of the top 11 international human trafficking nations, six are within Europe: Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Ukraine, Lithuania and Russia. The mafia is enormous and global, not just local: there must be a buyer to be a seller. The modern slave trade is human trafficking. I have been focusing on the children's trafficking out of Romania, where, as one of its former Prime Ministers declared in the European Parliament five years ago, Romania is both a source and a railway station.

The Church has been bold enough to stand up and talk about this phenomenon of human misery: the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church himself; the Bishop for Social affairs, Bishop Ciprian Câmpineanu, who has been magnificent; the Craiova Bishop, Bishop Teofan; the Catholic Bishop Ioan Robu—a roll call of wonderful men who have been brave enough to stand up and be counted early on in this trafficking misery. The trade has a minimum figure of $90 million a year for just one section of the children's export, through so-called intercountry adoption.

I cannot say how much I admire that Church. We have managed to twin them, through the unique efforts of the teachers—another wonderful profession in Romania and elsewhere—with Christ's Hospital School in the UK, with the assistance of the head of Community Action, Muir John Potter. Now we have 50,000 young people, with 32,000 in formal education—in fourth, fifth and sixth forms in our terminology—working on a weekly basis and sometimes more than once a week. We have 14,000 disadvantaged children in special schools and institutions, heavily handicapped. This has never happened before. Without the Church, it could not have happened.

This is one small example of the Church in action, what I would call "the Church militant". I call on the Church of England to be more bold and prominent, to recognise its strengths and the absolute value it has for us as politicians, and for the ordinary people. Its agenda, unlike that of almost every other institution in the world, has the worship of God and loving thy neighbour as thyself as its sole mission.

Photo of Lord Dearing Lord Dearing Crossbench 2:03 pm, 19th May 2006

My Lords, my contribution to this debate will be about the contribution of Church of England schools to our cities and towns, particularly in areas of deprivation.

Responding first to the point of the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, however, whereas unemployment was the big issue for faith in our cities, it is less so now. We have also heard that, among the Muslim community, it is still a serious problem. Last night I heard a lecture given by Prince Hassan of Jordan, who represented to us that the dignity deficit was one of the main, damaging evils of the world. It occurred to me, putting the two together, that it matters that the Government and the Muslim community address the issues of unemployment and, I understand, overcrowding in Muslim homes, perhaps by researching the reasons for them. If it is that the parents do not have a command of English adequate to get a job, that can be addressed. If Friday worship is a problem, that can be addressed. This issue matters a great deal.

Some time ago I was appointed, rather surprisingly, to chair a group established by the Church of England, of which the most reverend Primate was then a member as the Archbishop of Wales, to advise on The Way Ahead: Church of England Schools. That caused me to do a little research. I found to my surprise that in the early years of the 19th century, when the state did not provide education, the Church moved in in a massive way. By the 1851 census, there were 17,000 Church schools. In 1870, the state came into the game, but even so at the turn of the century there were still 14,000 Church schools, 1,000 of which were Roman Catholic, and 1,000 of which were Wesleyan and associated faiths. Why was that? First, parents wanted them. Secondly, if I may speak of the Church of England as an informed member, the Church feels that education is good in its own right and should be offered to people, and that, being engaged in education, it can help form young people to become good and sensible citizens who have a basis of values for life, a conscience and a basis for making decisions on future faith, and who will think about the great issues in life.

I no not want to go into the history of what happened thereafter but it struck me that the Roman Catholic Church was particularly courageous in establishing secondary schools to help, among others, immigrant communities after the Second World War, many of which lived in areas of great social deprivation. The Church of England was active in that regard, but much less so. My group found that, compared with five places in Church of England primary schools, there was only one in its secondary schools, and that there was a large unsatisfied demand. It is not surprising that we found, as the Sutton Trust subsequently found, that the middle classes have been adept at finding their way into schools that offer good education. If I remember rightly, only 15 per cent of the relevant children came from disadvantaged homes—they were entitled to free school meals—compared with 17 per cent generally.

Having reflected on all that, the group concluded that it wished to advise the Church of England to be active, in partnership with local authorities, in creating 100 additional secondary schools. The committee recommended that in doing so the Church should have a particular concern to help those who had least and children with special educational needs. When one has been engaged on a report, one takes some interest in the outcome, if any. Forty-six additional secondary schools have already been established, or have been firmly agreed, of which two-thirds are taking over schools that have failed or are in areas of social deprivation. I understand that there are good prospects of 100 being realised and of the two-thirds proportion being maintained. That gives me a great deal of pleasure.

The noble Lord, Lord Patten, is present. He will recall that some years ago a Secretary of State invited Ron Dearing to conduct some work for him on the school curriculum and national tests. At the conclusion of the relevant report—which, if I remember rightly, was published in 1993—I argued the case for value added as a good measure of what a school was contributing to its children. It was technically difficult to do it fairly. It is now an established measure, and among Church of England schools the value added for children from disadvantaged homes is quite a bit above the average; I am pleased to see that. Church of England universities and colleges too sense, feel and accept a mission of social service, which is reflected, for example, in two of them which I happen to know which are taking the lead in helping our inner-city areas that are in difficulty, or in setting up community learning centres in areas of difficulty.

Having looked at the past, I presume to say to the Church of England, not speaking for it but speaking as an individual, that there are further opportunities. One of the issues that has been engaged with in the debate is the value of living communities. I am conscious that in areas of social deprivation there can be a lack of a sense of community. Those schools have a natural opportunity to become centres of community. The Government have said—let it be so—that over the next 15 years they will rebuild or substantially refurbish all secondary schools. What a wonderful opportunity to think through the community role of these schools.

To develop that a little bit, one of the ways of engaging in the community is through sport and recreation. Schools often have good playing fields. Why should they be empty when the school is on holiday? There are opportunities here, and the Government might well research this, or commission someone to do so. This could be an opportunity for a joint enterprise, by the school with the grounds and a private enterprise with the capital, lifting those facilities to very high standards. For example, all-weather pitches could be available for the school during the school day, and the entrepreneur would get the return from his capital by letting the facilities out to the community during the rest of the time.

The Government are a strong advocate of lifelong learning, and they have created the University for Industry and learndirect. What an opportunity with the extended school day to bring in parents to use the computers—there are masses of them now—to engage in distance learning and to help their children, or to learn from their children how to operate computers. Schools as centres of community can give a lot to areas of deprivation.

Faith schools have a special responsibility not to be isolationist but to adopt an ethos of positive commitment, goodwill and respect towards other faiths, and to proactively seek opportunities to engage with the schools of other faiths or, where there are none locally, with community schools, which serve a large number of other faiths. There is such good will between the leaders of faiths, and I am sure that they could give a lead to their own faith schools to act on that ethos and do something to promote interfaith and interethnic relationships.

The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, has often espoused in this House the cause of children in care, or looked-after children as they are called nowadays. They are possibly, as a group, the most disadvantaged of all our children and young people. They are often moved from home to home, and they have no stable base. They typically fare worse than any other group in education, with a severe impact on their life chances. Why should they be born in this way to disadvantage? I say to the Church that these should be your special care.

If all the things in the Chancellor's Budget come to fruition—I read his words very carefully, because they were so good for schools—this could be the decade for schools and allow the faith communities to give so much more to our people.

Photo of Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Labour 2:15 pm, 19th May 2006

My Lords, I am grateful to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for bringing this debate to the Floor of this Chamber and for giving us an opportunity to share experience and to offer some thoughts about the most important aspect of our daily lives. This has been a truly ecumenical debate. It has brought together not only noble Lords from different Christian traditions to focus their thinking and share in the debate, but noble Lords from other faiths, and perhaps from between faiths, and those who would express no faith. So it has been a timely debate and I am delighted to contribute, perhaps as the only practising parish minister to do so. I run a church: I make the trains run on time instead of talking about a policy for public transport. As a Methodist surrounded by Bishops, an Archbishop and half the company of Heaven, I am delighted to be here.

Methodists are on the eve of the anniversary of the evangelical conversion of Charles and John Wesley. We are about to push the boat out and have great celebrations. Whereas others have champagne and canapés, for us, it is potted meat sandwiches and tea. But will enjoy them with great relish. John Wesley and his brother Charles were converted in 1738 and it was a cataclysmic, Damascus road-type of experience for each of them. It is astonishing that within a couple of years a shape had emerged and a seal of authority was stamped on something that was to shape, if not 18th century England, certainly, as Roy Hattersley said in his biography of the Wesleys, 19th century life in Britain. What was the essence of that?

The noble Baroness, Lady Flather, said that she admired an Anglican who could preach short sermons and I can assure her and all other noble Lords that Methodists suffer no such delusions. We like to go to town—indeed, I just might do that now. But, as well as preaching a wholesome and life-giving message, the other aspects of the faith were truly considerable. A ministry to Newgate Prison was asked for by the prisoners on death row. It was assiduously seen to and followed through. A school for the urban poor was soon up and running—for boys and girls who were clothed and fed when necessary. There was shelter for the indigent and the destitute, who were the most needy in Moorfields at that time. There was primary health care, free at the point of access for those in that burgeoning part of London, just north of the City wall. There was a revolving loan fund that got families out of trouble and, in addition, acted as pump-priming money for entrepreneurial enterprises; a man who was to become a leading bookseller in England started with 20 shillings taken from that fund. There were books and pamphlets, and life skills were taught as a matter of course to illiterate people and the poor. All of that happened within months.

Where you might have expected empty piety and fine theological words and slogans, the most practical things of all were provided. At the end of the day, what is Christian faith if it is not an attempt to follow the injunction of our Lord that we should love God with all that we have? That includes the mind, incidentally, as in this Chamber, I have often thought that those who are not of a religious persuasion suspect that those of us who are, are incapable of using our minds, following a logical path, weighing evidence and coming to sensible conclusions. Of course we are capable of that; we have not suspended all of that because we are people of faith. So we should love God and, of course, love our neighbour. The neighbour is the person who needs me most, not necessarily the person who lives on the other side of my fence or goes to the same church as me. There is a necessary correlation between loving God and loving our neighbour. John Wesley said that he knew of,

"no holiness but social holiness".

I can certainly concur with that.

I am the 58th successor to John Wesley at the chapel in City Road that bears his name. I need to establish my credentials, and since I am in the presence of the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury it is a good thing to do. There you are. We have a congregation, Sunday by Sunday, of something like 300 and 400 drawn from three dozen national backgrounds. Whenever anything happens in the world—whether political difficulty, civil strife, natural disaster, sporting success or whatever—we inevitably have somebody with a hotline to a cousin or a brother-in-law in those precise areas. I see the world in microcosm every single Sunday. That is a bracing experience. Wesley said:

"The world is my parish", a phrase that has come home to haunt him because the world is now our parish in our parish and it all comes to church every Sunday.

We have an attempt in a congregation as rich and diverse as that, to do what the Chief Rabbi says we should do—to honour the dignity of difference. We attempt to do that. At the same time and in parallel, we seek to transcend difference, to identify and to serve the common good. For beyond ethnicity, culture, colour, educational difference, or generational difference, there has to be some idea of a common good to which we will subscribe. If we can pull that one off, we have an opportunity to model social harmony for the pluralistic multicultural, post-colonial age in which we live.

If that is the congregation, I look at its reach. With my colleagues and members of the congregation, we are actively involved in school governance at primary and secondary level. I am a trustee of the Central Foundation schools. In the Central Foundation Girls' School, in Tower Hamlets, 50 per cent of the pupils are from a Muslim background. In Hackney and Islington, the Central Foundation Boys' School is as fantastically, kaleidoscopically and wonderfully varied as it is possible to be—in terms of faith, ethnicity and the rest of it. My colleague and I work in inner-city regeneration through the New Deal scheme for EC1. We work with refugees and asylum seekers constantly, addressing the nitty-gritty needs of people seeking to establish a right to be here and to affirm their dignity. There has been talk of a dignity deficit.

Another colleague works with people who are confused by their benefit entitlements—how to access statutory services and meet people's changing housing needs. We work with the elderly, tracing them sometimes as they are shunted from one place to another in the final times of their lives. Young people receive our attention and they are amazing. They are often people from an African or Caribbean background, who deal with street crime as an everyday occurrence, with drug dealers and all the rest of it, and they are a true inspiration to me as they share their problems and the ways that they have dealt with them.

We have interfaith relations through the Islington Interfaith Forum and are actively involved in that. We have the ministry of public issues which, in a non-threatening environment, raises the questions of values in public life with people in public life. Some noble Lords here have already been along and taken part in that and the others had better be careful because soon I will be after them. In every way, as an inevitable, logical and natural consequence of the simple faith in God and the need to serve our neighbours, we are out there doing it in the world at large as something that is compellingly natural and naturally compelling for us to do.

In the recent past, as the superintendent minister I had as a young curate the late Lord Soper who did everything I told him to do—except six days of the week when he did not. He undertook amazing social work at a bail hostel, a substance and alcohol-abuse centre and a day centre for elderly homeless people. I could go on.

The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, talked about chaplains in the health service. I was the first chaplain in the adolescent ward at the Middlesex Hospital, where I often came across youngsters with terminal illnesses and many of them died. If I learnt how and why to form a view that led me to vote in a particular way in last week's debate, it was from my direct experience with those youngsters, who taught me the value of their life in circumstances where often there was not much of that life left to live.

The invasion of civic life by the Church, not in terms of religion or of imposing a minority point of view on the population at large but as a natural outcome of what it believes, is something that I live with in my day-to-day life in my day job—I come here from doing it.

At this precise moment, when attendances at church are in decline, there are dangers for the Church. The first is that, with a spirit of defeatism—or is it determination?—the Church will retreat into sectarianism, shutting itself off from the world that it has hitherto served, perhaps for the sake of survival. The second is that there will be a spirit of despair and withdrawal—a sense of insecurity. If that happens and it is played out in social terms in the world at large, I suggest that something that has hitherto contributed to social cohesion will no longer be available. I want to encourage religious people to continue to be brave in the exercise of their faith in social terms. I also want to encourage political people to give what affirmation they can to the Churches to continue to play their role in society—not necessarily to be led by statistics or quaint notions of political correctness—so that Churches, with people of other faiths, can continue to be the oil that makes the wheels run smoothly and contribute to the social cohesion that I mentioned earlier.

I, as a Methodist, pay my full tribute to the Church of England, our established Church. We should not take the Christian Churches for granted. They need encouragement as much as any other faith community in the land. So I wish the most reverend Primate the Archbishop well and hope that airing these issues will raise our consciousness of them and lead to action and added value, as the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, mentioned earlier.

Photo of Lord Joffe Lord Joffe Crossbench 2:28 pm, 19th May 2006

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, I, as a Jew—and an atheist to boot—was rather surprised, but pleasantly so, to receive an invitation from the most reverend Primate to talk in this debate.

When I arrived in England from South Africa, I already had a positive view of the Church of England because of its support for the struggle against the apartheid regime and, in particular, because of the work of Canon John Collins, then a canon of St Paul's. He, almost single-handedly, raised the funds for the defence in almost every political trial that took place in South Africa, including that of Nelson Mandela. For his pains, Canon Collins was banned from South Africa but I thought that that was much to his credit. Of course, other British clergy played a prominent part in South Africa, including, as the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, mentioned in his eloquent speech, Bishop Trevor Huddleston, who made a significant contribution on his own to the fight against apartheid.

When I settled in England and went to Swindon in 1970, I came across another side of the Church's work. I discovered that the clergy were deeply involved in almost every charity in the town, ranging from housing to battered wives, from homes for those with learning difficulties to health and education and from care of the elderly to leadership of the local NCVO. I seldom went to a meeting or event at which one of the trio of the Reverend Derryck Evans, the Reverend Andrew Hake and the Reverend Graham Potter was not involved. Our wonderful bishop, Bishop Freddie Temple—affectionately known to us all as Freddie—chaired the Swindon community trust, and his wife Jean set up the volunteers bureau in Swindon. I found it fascinating that all this work was done without any explicit reference to religion and was in addition to regular pastoral duties. They seemed to be living their Christian beliefs through their actions rather than their words and were an inspiration to all of us who were privileged to work with them.

As I became involved in international development overseas I appreciated the extraordinary contribution of the Church—not only its mission work but through remarkable organisations such as Christian Aid, CAFOD and Concern. I noticed that, very interestingly, those organisations had worked in the immediate past with all the other organisations that are seeking to make the developing world a better place. For instance, the Church played a leading part in the Jubilee Debt Campaign and it, and its leaders, were at the forefront of Make Poverty History. The Church's commitment and ability to mobilise its congregations in support of a good cause and to use its influence and access for the good of society as a whole makes it a valuable partner in campaigns for justice throughout the world.

From my work on the national Giving Campaign I came to appreciate that members of the Church or of other faiths are on average the most generous charitable donors. I also noticed that the Church's guidance of giving 10 per cent of income to charity was not as widely followed as we, at the Giving Campaign, would have liked. However, I was struck by a young woman whom I sat next to at one of our meetings. I had raised the question of why not everyone gave 10 per cent of their salaries to charity and she rather modestly mentioned that she and her colleagues in a small religious charity did give 10 per cent but she added, rather apologetically, that that was unfortunately not a great amount because the charity could not afford to pay them much.

In the context of religious charities and payments and the Church as a whole, I was also struck, when I advised a bishop on how to arrange his financial affairs—this may have been 10 years ago—by how little bishops received in their pensions in those days. One should have unbounded admiration for those who work in the service of the Church so hard for so little. But, having mentioned how hard they work, I recently wanted to make an appointment to have tea with the right revered Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, but his secretary could not fit me in in less than three months. Of course, it might have been that he did not particularly want to see me, but that was not her story.

When the Church launched its campaign against my assisted dying Bill, my first instinct was to question its right to get involved but, when I thought of the many campaigns in which it has been involved—on urban deprivation, Make Poverty History, and numerous others in which it has done so much good—I saw that it was obviously right that it should be involved in campaigns on issues in which it believes. Two thoughts came to me. The first was that any campaign run by the Church should be a model of how an honest, measured, well researched—not based on anecdote—accurate and fair campaign should be run. The second was that, where the majority of a Church's followers has a different view from its leadership, the leadership should focus initially on trying to convert its followers.

I find myself, as an atheist, in the surprising position of hoping for the growth of the Church with perhaps a greater emphasis on having fun and on doing good rather than praying for good to happen. The reason for my conclusion is that the Church brings a set of values to many members of our society that they may not otherwise get.

Finally, may I mention that after this debate I shall go to a celebration to meet Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who is one of my heroes? He is someone who is willing to risk his life for the good of his people. He was fearless during the apartheid era and is fearless today when injustice is concerned. He is an inspiration to everyone who cares about justice and the disadvantaged.

Photo of Baroness Neuberger Baroness Neuberger Spokesperson in the Lords, Health 2:36 pm, 19th May 2006

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I wish to congratulate the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury on gaining us this debate. I look forward to the publication on Monday of the report of the Commission on Urban Life and Faith. I wish that the noble Baroness had been able to tell us a little more about what is in it, but what she whetted our appetite with was tempting indeed.

This is a subject close to my heart, from my 12 years as a congregational rabbi of the South London Liberal Synagogue in Streatham, in the heart of south London. The community stretched from the heart of deprivation in Brixton to the leafy Surrey suburbs of Coulsdon, Purley, Warlingham and beyond. My time there spanned the Brixton riots, and my congregation played a part—a very small part—with the local churches in working together with the people of Brixton to put the area back together. Great tribute should be paid to the clergy of the parish church of Brixton, St Matthew's, the reverend Barry Thorley and his colleagues, and to the bishop at the time, Mervyn Stockwood, for what they did. To reassure the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, it is when I learnt that it was traditional at ministers' fraternal meetings at that time to be offered tea and potted meat. I had to explain that I would prefer to have potted fish and was told that that was even more disgusting.

The churches, mosques, Hindu temples and Sikh gurdwaras all contributed to working together with the people of Brixton, particularly the Black churches of Brixton, during those years. My congregation become acquainted with them, learnt to respect and work together with them and came finally to love them. The fact that those relationships were so strong meant that projects such as the truancy project in Brixton, a series of lunch clubs in the various churches up and down Brixton Hill and work with young women with severe learning disabilities in Streatham and Brixton could operate in an interfaith way that was critical in a mixed urban environment and was of huge importance in the ensuing 20 years.

Even more important than that was the early involvement of members of my congregation of very different political persuasions in the then new Lambeth Council for Community Relations and the extraordinary relationships that developed out of that. As a result of that, members of my old synagogue are still involved in the Lambeth multi-faith action group addressing precisely those issues that have been raised in today's debate. I am labouring the point. The noble Baroness, Lady Richardson, who chaired the commission, will know from her experience of my former congregation and her friendship with it how important it is to them.

In the multi-faith and post-faith environment of many urban areas, much of the work will have to be done by different faith communities working together, as the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, stated, and working with other non-faith-based organisations. The Rowntree report, as other noble Lords have mentioned, picked up the role of faith and the issue of gender and power within those faith organisations. We have a huge debate to be had about how faith organisations will play their role with national and local government. It is not yet clear how we will think about building up the capacity of faith communities to meet the challenge they so clearly have to meet.

That seems to me to be where we have missed a trick. The Church of England in its ground-breaking commission Faith in the City acted as a conscience for all of us. It was prophetic. This new commission has consulted widely with other faith groups and has some as members. One question, which must be in the work that churches, synagogues, gurdwaras and Hindu temples will surely be doing, is the extent to which they can truly work together. That is, as yet, unclear. Can they, for instance, institute faith schools in deprived inner-city areas that are truly multi-faith schools? The noble Lord, Lord Dearing, issued a challenge to us about friendship between different faith schools. Why can they not be multi-faith schools, educating those children together, but letting them learn about their own faiths as well?

Can the housing associations, many based on Christian and Jewish origins, have a truly multi-faith approach and encourage a sense of belonging, of being in shared space, of some spiritual sense of belonging and of learning from each other, which we all want to see? Last week in the United States I visited an organisation called Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly in Boston. Unlike most Jewish organisations in Britain, it is required, because of the grants it receives, to be open to all older people on low incomes. As a result its residents are Jewish, Russian and Chinese, by and large, with libraries to fit each community, but with shared space and a shared vision for everybody. Can our religious organisations, our churches, synagogues and mosques, match that? Not yet, I think. We have a multi-faith hospice in north London, but it is a rare exception of something we have achieved with the faiths working together.

Can we, as we think about the role of the Churches in civic life and addressing deprivation, look at whether we could do more of this together—perhaps some of it entirely local and some of it much wider spread? Can we deal with the issues of discrimination and disconnection, which the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, made clear? Can we deal with the issues of very deprived inner-city communities? There most people have no faith at all. Maybe they are looking for faith, but they certainly have not found it. Can we help bring disaffected and disturbed young people towards some sense of meaning in their lives—whether that is in our faiths or elsewhere? The Rowntree report has looked closely at that, but has not yet pointed the way. I hope that Monday's report will do so.

Can we, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, mentioned, help former prisoners get a real life in our cities and communities—as the Feltham Young Offenders Project has made clear is possible? Can we deal with the epidemic of young people's depression by holding out a non-judgmental helping hand? The evangelicals are doing that very well; some of the black churches are doing it; but the rest of us do not, as yet, have a terribly good record. Can we begin to use the evidence around wholeness and spirituality in debates about health and well-being in the cities without being thought crazy ourselves? And, can we encourage spiritual care as part of what needs to be offered within the urban NHS? The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, made a great call for the work of chaplains, but I believe it has to go beyond that, and that spiritual care must be part of the training of nurses and doctors as well.

Can we encourage befriending those who have come here as the most recent immigrants or as asylum seekers, given the harsh social and political environment for those groups? Can Churches and other religious groups really stand out against prejudice and discrimination? Can we encourage the giving of charity to those in our own midst who are desperately poor? Can we do it jointly? The Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, wrote a pamphlet, in the wake of Faith in the City, for the Social Affairs Unit back in 1985. I do not always totally agree with him, but he wrote something about charity that is key to all of this. He said:

"The conception of charity in Judaism is distinctive. Although I have used the word, the Hebrew term used by both the Bible and the rabbis—tzedakah—belongs to the notion of justice rather than benevolence; and reflects the idea that since all property ultimately belongs to God, it is a sense of equity rather than of generosity that commands giving to others. The giving of charity could therefore be coerced by communal sanction and was formerly organised on a community basis".

That should be music to the ears of the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, and the Giving campaign. Jonathan Sacks continued:

"Poverty was therefore given a definition which went beyond a lack of basic necessities, and which called for case-by-case investigation. The entire legislation was governed by fastidious regard for the feelings of the recipient of aid, for his preservation of self-respect", and dignity.

I do not believe that we can coerce charitable giving of that kind, although I believe that we could do more to encourage it—religious institutions have a key role in promoting it. I do not believe that charity is the only answer. Clearly, social justice requires more than that, but if the churches, synagogues and mosques and people of all faiths and of none stood together with a voice against deprivation and exclusion and preaching social justice, the population at large might respond.

We saw some of that with the Make Poverty History campaign last summer. It was an extraordinary experience to find myself embracing two cardinals and an imam on that Saturday afternoon in Edinburgh. It was a truly multi-faith and inter-faith occasion. It had a powerful effect both immediately and in the longer term. Locally in our society, it might be more difficult. After all, religious organisations have been picking up the pieces after the effects, perhaps unintended, of some government policies. Churches, synagogues and mosques have done much to help failed asylum seekers in our cities. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth mentioned that. There are asylum seekers who have become destitute, the truly poor who cannot return to Zimbabwe or Afghanistan, for instance.

Churches, synagogues and mosques have also tried to support people with severe and enduring mental illness, who have neither an institutional home nor sufficient care in the community. We could do more. The noble Lord, Lord Dearing, was right to draw our attention to looked-after children, where the role of the Churches and all faith groups bears close examination.

I could say much more, but I do not want to detain your Lordships for much longer. I want to give a few statistics. We know that 25 per cent of churchgoers are involved in voluntary groups. That applies across religious denominations. My noble friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury told me this morning that last year in Sudbury, at a voluntary organisation fair, 45 different Christian organisations were represented from 12 denominations, in a town of only 18,000 people. Some serious religious activity is going on in our country. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool told us, people in urban priority areas give of themselves tirelessly.

Churches support other faiths; they support figures from different religious faiths, as we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Flather. Religious organisations are founding and working with all sorts of innovative, locally based social enterprises. We have seen that over the years. The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, made that very clear. They have worked with problems of addiction, as raised by the noble Lord, Lord Patten, and with older people, about which the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, told us—although, as she rightly said, we need to do much more as older people find themselves with less and less meaning and purpose in their lives.

I could list issues for hours, as I know that we all could, but I give one final reminder before I sit down. Faith in the City 21 years ago quoted the Black report of 1980 about health inequalities. Since then, we have had the Acheson report. We have heard only too often in this House how the residents of Kingston-upon-Hull have 10 years' less life expectancy than the people of Kingston-upon-Thames, the other Kingston. Those inequalities are growing. One of the great injustices that religious organisations need to look at together is why those inequalities are growing. There is something there about speaking truth to power as well as power to truth and considering what is going on in our cities. I hope that we will hear more on Monday.

I end by thanking once again the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for introducing the debate and for asking whether we can have another one very shortly, as there is so much wit, wisdom, passion and interest here. But perhaps what we have not said is that there also seems to be a real desire for change here, some of which will be achieved with the Government. Critically, quite a lot of it needs to be achieved independently of government so that the integrity of our religious organisations can remain as it is.

Photo of Baroness Wilcox Baroness Wilcox Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, Constitutional Affairs, Shadow Minister, Work & Pensions 2:50 pm, 19th May 2006

My Lords, I, too, thank the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for initiating this excellent and timely debate. I, like the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, wait impatiently for the Faithful Cities report by the Commission on Urban Life and Faith and the noble Baroness, Lady Richardson, which will be published on Monday. We hope this will throw the spotlight on the work, especially by faith communities, that aims to make a real difference in disadvantaged urban areas. I guess that it will set out how the Church and the state, hand in hand, can and must improve the lives of those living in our cities today. I noted that, although perhaps tempted, the noble Baroness, Lady Richardson, did not talk about the report at all today. That must have been awfully difficult for her.

It is 21 years since the Faith in the City report was published. Much came out of that groundbreaking review that we have to be thankful for; I am sure the noble Baroness and the commission will have looked at the Church Urban Fund, for example, and thought about how that should be progressed. Many Churches and faith groups positively engaged in social action in the most deprived areas of our cities following that report, but not everything in the radical agenda proposed in 1985 for the revitalisation of the urban Church has worked out, or was even taken up, as my noble friend Lady O'Cathain outlined so well. It is time to look at it again.

It is time for a new partnership between Church and nation. This partnership must be a broad partnership, which is why it is right that today's debate has focused not only on the role of the Church in civic life, but also on its interaction with other bodies and organisations for which the welfare of those living in our towns and cities is an important concern. The breadth of views that have been shared today, and the different faiths of those who have expressed them, goes to prove how immediate and far-reaching that concern has become, and how solutions must be found that are innovative, practical and most importantly long-term in order to create that corporate responsibility for a future that will last. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury brought our attention to the Rowntree report, and to the tyranny of the grant system and how the foundation has made recommendations to help small groups in particular who have faced over-regulation and difficult funding regimes. I look forward to reading that report.

There is a real need to revive the sense of community that has been ebbing from our cities. We face not a single challenge that is not best tackled by recognising the truth that we are all in this together. The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, reminded us that very often our different faith groups divide us rather than bring us together, and that there is fear and worry among some of the smaller faith groups. He was joined by the noble Lords, Lord Parekh and Lord Dholakia, and I agree that we must break our mistrust of each other. I was particularly taken with the enlightened advice of the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, on divisiveness in the use of language. It rang very many bells with so many of us about how many times the language that we use divides us. I remember when I moved from being a businesswoman to being a public servant at the National Consumer Council. After about a month, the director said to me, "Chairman, we really must do something about your language". I thought he meant that I was swearing a lot. He actually meant that my business speak was upsetting every issue group there was.

What can the Churches do? The established Church of this country is the Church of England. It has always held curing the problems of deprivation, poverty and need at its very core. Its website states that,

"engagement with the public life of . . . society is an integral part of its calling to live out the Christian faith in England and internationally. It is a central aspect of the vocation of Christians . . . to seek to transform unjust structures of society".

Today's society can and should learn from our Church's inherent concern for others and its continual endeavour to raise people out of despair and poverty. As a national Church, the Church of England, with its buildings and structures of parishes in every rural and city area, is, by its very nature, a part of every community.

Arguably, the relationship between the Church and the state must also include the wider communities of many of our cities. In an age where individuals and societies are turning inwards, the Church must encourage an outward focus and encourage partnership. The multiple deprivation in some areas of our cities is too important and too urgent for the state, Church and other communities not to join forces. All three must work together as a broad partnership while respecting the differing motives that each has for trying to help the most vulnerable in our society.

The Government should create conditions that enable the voluntary sector to do a lot more than it does, linking society's problems with people's desire to do something worth while and of lasting value. The voluntary sector has a crucial role to play. Volunteers' Week—the UK's annual celebration of the work of volunteers—is in less than two weeks' time. During the week, events will be held across the country to recognise, reward and recruit volunteers. We have always had an absolutely amazing record of volunteering in this country. It forms a vital part of the social fabric of our country, which we need to encourage. It includes the CAB, the Guides, the Scouts and members of the Mothers' Union, of which I claim to be one. There are many groups, and groups of other faiths and volunteers, who work within this country.

Voluntary organisations, large and small, work at a human level. In an increasingly secular society, they have had to fill a role that used to be the sole preserve of the Church. Imagine what could be achieved if the Church and voluntary sector combined their knowledge and resources more and started a new wave of mutual responsibility and care that can work its way into the heart of every town and city. Enlightened government policy could encourage that. Perhaps the Minister will have news for us.

The Conservative Party is also thinking very hard about these issues, as noble Lords may have heard. We have established the social justice policy group, which was set up last year under the chairmanship of my right honourable friend in another place, Iain Duncan Smith. The group has highlighted the creation of social justice and cohesion as one of the six big challenges facing Britain today. It is working out how we can strengthen our society and aims to,

"develop ideas to empower the voluntary sector, to foster social enterprise, to increase the scope of community action and to encourage neighbourhood revival".

The group will study the nature and scale of social breakdown and poverty in Britain today—the causes of it and the solutions to social breakdown. As we all know, it is no easy task, but I am sure that noble Lords will agree that it is vital and we would encourage everyone who so wishes to take part with us.

There are intriguing and contradictory trends at work in society's culture and values. In some parts of society we see, sadly, a decline in respect and an increase in anti-social behaviour. Yet, in other areas, we see care and compassion flourishing, particularly among our young where I think that there is great hope.

The fight for social justice has always been fought on many fronts. There is no quick-fix solution and never will be. But that does not mean that we should shirk from doing everything that we can to strive to improve the lives of those in areas of urban deprivation and despair, which were so movingly described by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool.

I end on a more personal note, encouraged—unintentionally, of course—by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. He spoke of something that worries us all so much: the misery of bad debt as it is experienced in some of our most deprived areas. He told us about loan agencies and the high levels of interest being charged. Some 14 years ago I took on that work with the National Consumer Council. We looked at how to encourage the growth of credit unions in Great Britain. While we have never liked them much, they have been very successful in Germany, America and Canada. It has taken a long time for us to get even this far forward with credit unions, and I am delighted to hear that the churches work with them so well.

A couple of weeks ago I visited Ghana as chairman of the corporate and social responsibility committee for Cadbury Schweppes, on whose board I serve. I was there to encourage the small cocoa bean farmers, whose crops we buy, to form credit unions. Farmers in those villages get themselves into quite extraordinary debt. I had to turn to the churches to try to help them get out of that debt. We need church ministers to tell the local people that their family funerals and marriages do not actually have to include the whole of their villages at the same time. They often get into debt by putting on enormous feasts and events to mark those occasions. So there we are; we are all still trying. Some 12 years ago I was trying to get credit unions going; I am still trying to get them going now, and I was glad to hear the remarks of the most reverend Primate today.

I want to comment on why these interest rates remain so high. I do not know if the Minister will agree with me, but it is felt that if you cap interest rates, as is the case in Germany, France and some other countries, you will push this kind of lending into the black market where you have absolutely no way of knowing how much interest people are paying. It is a difficult problem and I shall be interested to hear the Minister's comments on it.

I finish by saying again that there is no quick fix. But a desire to make our communities is the glue that should bind us all. Faith in our leaders, from rabbis to akelas, from imams to cardinals, from bishops to government Ministers, should encourage us. It was Kierkegaard who said that faith is that step beyond human reason. Without faith, I believe that we would not have the courage to tackle the terrible and terrifying problems that our cities still pose, and we would not have the courage to believe that we can actually do something about them.

Photo of Baroness Andrews Baroness Andrews Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Communities and Local Government, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Communities and Local Government) 3:03 pm, 19th May 2006

My Lords, it is a privilege to speak on behalf of the Government in response to so rich and fulfilling a debate. We are very much in debt to the most reverend Primate for giving us the opportunity to listen to an extraordinary range of common and separate experiences. Many interesting things have been said, and I shall address them, but not the least of the debate is that, unusually, many of the challenges have been directed not just at the Government, but at the Church itself. The Church has been invited to be bold, to be brave, and to give short sermons. Whether all that can be done at the same time, I am not sure.

The debate has also been gloriously ecumenical and intensely personal. It has gone beyond the domestic boundaries of the inner cities to the wider shores of the globe, thanks to the noble Baronesses, Lady Nicholson and Lady Flather, and the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, when speaking of his experiences in South Africa. It has gone deep into the roots of Methodism and the roots of social holiness. Indeed, listening to how the Methodist Church is still active, yet another quotation from Wesley comes to mind, that of going to those who need us most.

We have heard challenging calls for greater partnership from the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, and my noble friends Lord Ahmed and Lord Parekh. We also learnt from the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, of an extraordinary range of compelling examples of people and agencies that have transformed lives. Who will ever forget the example given by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, of the NHS chaplain? At the same time, I hope that we will not forget the call that the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, made for links between spirituality, social justice and the health service. We have also been challenged by the great many gaps that there are in what we provide—not least in terms of reoffending, a matter referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and in terms of the loneliness of the elderly.

There has been so much in such a short debate. There is no doubt that it has come at the right time. It has been 21 years since Faith in the City—I do not think that any of us will forget the impact that that has made. I share the frustration of the noble Baroness, Lady Richardson, but I am sure that when we see the report it will reflect her great gifts and her ability to bring together argument and ethics, as she always says in this House. It will be challenging—it is the job of the Church to be challenging and to speak truth to power—but I think and I hope that it will also reflect the intentions of government and the way in which we have tried over the past 21 years not only to create a better partnership between the Church and the state, but also to bring about greater justice.

We celebrate, certainly, the progress of the partnership because of the shared values that it reflects and the shared aspirations that underpin good citizenship. Much of the debate has been about what constitutes good citizenship. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, for example, for his insight into the passage of progressive politics over the years as we reach out to better citizenship.

The debate is also timely for two other reasons. First, it is timely because it is almost a decade since this Government first challenged social exclusion—a relatively unknown term in 1997—so that there would be, in the Prime Minister's words,

"no forgotten people and no no-hope areas".

Secondly, it is timely because of the launch of the new Faith Communities Consultative Council this April, which will take forward the work of its excellent predecessor, the Inner Cities Religious Council.

The most reverend Primate spoke of the democratic deficit, of the need to engage communities in a way that builds long-lasting confidence and trust, of the unique role of the Church in terms of its unique reach and hinterland, and of the way this is being achieved by following innovative partnerships in many places. This is at a time when the diversity of faiths is posing new challenges, as many noble Lords have said, and the opportunities are there for the Government, the faith communities and the Churches to do things differently. It is a field of compelling interest.

One of the opportunities that the debate offered me was to do some reading, which I had not been able to do before, about the way in which faith communities are looking at themselves in terms of their contribution, not only through the Rowntree Foundation report but through the De Montford University report on faith and civil renewal and the William Temple Foundation report. These all explore not only the good that is being done but, just as important if we are going to do things better, the need to recognise what sometimes holds partnerships back. There is no monochrome way of doing this; there is no one way. The gift of diversity, I believe, also deepens and challenges the complexity itself—and that is reflected in our urban environment. All this means that we must have a broader and deeper discourse and debate—not least because so many of those who are at the sharp end of deprivation now belong to other faiths.

There is a paradox and a challenge here because when Faith in the City was published—the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, discussed this very passionately, as did the noble Lord, Lord Roberts—the spiral of decline was accelerating and deepening; as the jobs went, the people left and the shops closed, crime, vandalism, drugs and despair moved in to occupy what was left behind. These were ideal conditions for that toxic mixture of hopelessness. One of the few things that remained was the Churches. I reflected on that as the most reverend Primate was speaking of his experience in 1993 of the trade unions. Fifty or 100 years earlier, certainly, it would have been very different—the chapels represented the trade unions at prayer for many generations, of course.

We have made a priority of putting investment into people, reducing child poverty and pensioner poverty, creating a thriving economy, increasing training and skills for new jobs, and investing in schools and the health service. Alongside that, we have tried to make our cities cleaner, safer and greener, specifically in new and focused area-based programmes for community development and renewal, building social networks and the social capital that comes from confidence.

There are a few results of which we should all be proud: a 75 per cent reduction in rough sleeping, for example. There are 800,000 fewer children in low-income families in 2004-05 than there were in 1997. In February, the figures for people in employment were the highest since comparable records began in 1971. That is documented in the State of the English Cities report, which offers us hope. There is indeed an urban renaissance; it is a physical renaissance, which we see when we go to Sheffield, Nottingham, Manchester or Liverpool.

It is extremely gratifying that progress has been made. Yes, we have a major housing challenge, and we are trying very hard to meet it by our ambitious house-building programmes. That is where the paradox lies. Despite the growth in investment and change, there are places in our towns and cities and on the periphery where multiple deprivation over many years and generations will not be defeated by universal benefits, job creation schemes and improved hospital services. What we need and are trying to deliver in new ways is intensive and integrated sustainable development which connects those communities strategically to skills and jobs, second-chance learning—which I know is an ambition of the noble Lord, Lord Dearing—and decent homes. In the front line of that is the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool.

In the Department of Communities and Local Government we have a new task but a clearer focus as we bring together what we were, which was the department of place—and, my goodness, place impacts on people's life chances in a way that is quite hard to determine—with what we are, which is the department of people. We have an opportunity to bring together the strategies of sustainability and cohesion as we look at what makes for a kind and tolerant, as well as a prosperous, community. We have a long way to go before we can say that no one is disadvantaged by where they live.

Much of the work that we have been doing has been overseen by the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit, which manages that strategy. There are three things that help to address the concerns of the most reverend Primate and the tyranny of short-termism, referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox. First, it is recognised that change in the worst-hit areas takes a long time to achieve. You have to work at it and be there, with people, for a long time. Secondly, the complexity means that it has to be intensive and holistic. It cannot be just the health service or schools—the programme has to be across the board. Thirdly, and crucially, if a community is to be rescued, regenerated and sustained, that can only be done by the people who live there.

We are putting a large amount of money into the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund programme over a 10 to 15-year period. That works out at more than £500 million a year for 2006-08. The money goes into our most disadvantaged communities; in the early 1990s, those communities had 20 per cent unemployment and only 20 per cent of children stayed on at school after GCSEs. Those figures set them apart, and still do, from the rest of the country. We have to have a programme that brings together and shapes local services with a concentration on the things that blight neighbourhoods, such as drugs and crime, teenage pregnancy, violence and anti-social behaviour. There are also problems of loneliness and vulnerability.

Those are the communities in which such partnerships are most crucial, and those are the places where the science of the streets is at its most forensic and where we must work alongside people. That work is being done in places such as Shoreditch, where the sorts of innovations that we are discussing have resulted in a neighbourhood restaurant, which is becoming the talk of London because it is so successful. There has also been investment in a wide range of environmental and learning programmes. There is also Greets Green in West Bromwich, where a youth forum is enabling young people to develop the skills which we would assume that they should have, such as team building, organising or planning their lives, and public speaking.

There are 39 partnerships in the New Deal for Communities programme, and the results are beginning to show, primarily in the perception of residents themselves, who see improvements around them—whether it is new activities for young people or a new health centre. The fear of the place itself has been reduced—the fear of crime and of being mugged—and we are seeing objective improvements in that the gap is being reduced between those areas and the rest of the country in what is being achieved by children and in terms of morbidity levels, health and crime. I wish occasionally that we had an overhead projector in this House so that I could show noble Lords graphs. I cannot, but I am very happy to send noble Lords very detailed and well documented information on those issues. It has been as much about regenerating individuals and personal transformation, to use the term that the noble Baroness, Lady Richardson, used.

That is also the Church's message, as it is the only way in which to realise the hope of a better place to live, by building the confidence of individuals to take responsibility. That is the root of social capital, and that is where we are most in need of and most grateful for the partnership offered by the Churches and faith communities. Without that persistence and passion and without all the faiths together, we would not be able to recruit the people whom we need for the work or to reach the people who need to be helped. Many faith groups, either singly or in partnership, have taken up the challenge, and we have had many different examples across the Chamber today.

Many projects have been supported by government in partnership with the Churches, which have been alongside us—primarily through the Inner Cities Religious Council, which worked with three New Deal projects in Bradford, Tower Hamlets and Wolverhampton. In Bradford, it has achieved a marvellous phenomenon, with the Trident Faith Forum. Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs have met since 2003 to encourage fuller faith community participation. In effect, what has been achieved is that places of worship and teaching have become places where the community meets for everything, from after-school clubs to food for poor people and ICT training. There are many different examples, all manifest in the annual faith festival there. Half the NDCs have had faith representatives working with them either as chairs or board members, and it is no surprise therefore that the North-West Development Agency's report, Faith in England North West, found that faith communities are strongest where the social need is highest and are a key to delivering agents of care in their local communities. Yes, they stimulate, encourage and sustain volunteering, which is often the challenge, and play a crucial part in regeneration. None of that should surprise us.

Alongside the tradition of Church schools, community buildings and volunteers is what the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, referred to as the opportunity that we have now for a decade of developing schools. He and I know how closely we share the ambition that schools should be at the heart of the community, driving regeneration and creating those safe spaces where people who have a fear of authority can find networks and opportunities to grow their own as well as their children's skills.

Many noble Lords, including the right reverend Prelates the Bishop of Portsmouth and the Bishop of Liverpool and the noble Lords, Lord Roberts and Lord Patten, referred to the fabric of church buildings. Of course, they are precious to us for so many different reasons, and the closed church—as I discovered last Sunday as I was looking at churches in Sussex—is an awful thing to bear. But we have put in place a range of funding programmes to support church and cathedral buildings, which will total over £60 million for 2006. We remain committed to a permanent reduced VAT rate for repairs to historic churches. In the mean time, the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme, which returns the equivalent of VAT incurred on repairs to listed ecclesiastical buildings, has been extended to 2011 and, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth pointed out, broadened in scope. Rather than go into a fair amount of detail, I would prefer to write to noble Lords and bring together what we are doing to help church fabric.

Photo of The Bishop of Portsmouth The Bishop of Portsmouth Bishop

My Lords, it would be good if we could also have a response about the city regions.

Photo of Baroness Andrews Baroness Andrews Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Communities and Local Government, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Communities and Local Government)

My Lords, we are completely committed to continuing the agenda to ensure that our cities become competitive with the rest of Europe. In developing our cities, we should not draw the life-blood away from the regions but should make a proper partnership between the region and the city. The new Secretary of State is committed to that.

I have many examples, which I cannot go into, of how the Church is working in different ways. I will mention one, however: the Peace Alliance, a Black-majority church initiative based in Haringey, well known for its work on gun crime and other violent crime, which holds "peace weeks" to engage the local community and other partners.

We ask a great deal of the Church. We ask it to offer a safe place, to broker, to befriend, to remove the barriers that stop things happening, and to improve and provide our shared vocabulary. Many noble Lords have spoken about the difficulties of language. We need a shared vocabulary as well as faith, in what are often uncertain waters. If we ask that of the Church, we in the Government must be prepared to do more too, to enable partnerships, enhance capacity, share objectives and galvanise the civic community.

The partnership that I spoke about in the ICRC has been continued now in the Faith Communities Consultative Council, a national forum that is addressing issues of common interest between the faith communities. It will be supporting interfaith activity at regional and local level and crucially—I say this to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth particularly—will, for example, advise the local strategic partnerships to build up better relationships between the voluntary sector and local government itself. The right reverend Prelate is right when he says that it must be a partnership, not a competition for power and influence. We want that help to go right down to the neighbourhood groups and to the community.

The second task is to help build capacity—the capacity to do good, as the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, put it. We are very much aware of that. The Government have already set up the Faith Communities Capacity Building Fund. It was originally £5 million; it is now £2.5 million more, and another £5 million is committed for 2007-08. Along with the other things that we are doing in the voluntary sector to build up capacity through funds like Future Builders and Change Up, we want to see the voluntary sector community at every table working with the partnerships. It is a challenge to those voluntary organisations that sometimes cannot get near enough to enable themselves to do what they can do best. I hope that this definitive work will help.

I want to pay tribute to the work of Doreen Finneron, the executive director of the Faith Based Regeneration Network, who has done excellent work in helping the churches themselves to build up their own capacity to do this. We are able to support that in many different ways. All the challenges are about how we want a stronger partnership in the future. There will be new patterns of partnership in local government. We want to put power in the hands of people who can make things work and make a difference.

The debate is essentially about civic renewal. We have to ensure that economic and social renewal do not end with a solution that may be material but leads to a genuine democratic engagement. It is not easy to do, but that is where the shared values of the faith communities that underpin good citizenship, such as altruism, respect or community solidarity, are most vitally expressed.

I agree entirely with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool that people are not apathetic. They are widely concerned and enthusiastic. We do not make it easy for them to engage with formal structures of politics, but, when they are offered the opportunity to change the conditions in their neighbourhoods, they take that opportunity and commit to it. They are committing to matters such as the housing respect standard and to the improvement of our neighbourhoods in many different ways. In July last year we published a paper on citizen engagement in public services and why neighbourhood matters jointly with the Home Office to demonstrate how important it is that we get government at neighbourhood level.

I wish to reflect a little on the notion of community cohesion. The importance of the faith communities in community cohesion emerged during the northern disturbances in 2001. The complexity to which I referred earlier also embodies the tensions which can emerge when community relations are under pressure and when communities are vulnerable to extremism. The rise of extremism is, indeed, a wake-up call. It emphasises the importance of working harder to challenge racism, inequalities and misrepresentation. That is very much at the heart of the Government's strategy to tackle racial inequalities and to build community cohesion, improving opportunity and strengthening society. The Prime Minister has asked the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to chair a commission on integration and cohesion, which will take that work forward. We hope to announce more details soon.

I conclude by thanking the most reverend Primate for enabling us to discuss both the comfortable and the uncomfortable aspects of life in Britain. No manifesto can put the notion of neighbourliness into policy. However, we should think about how we can express it better, how we can audit it and how we can bring together neighbourliness, charity and good governance, which are all encompassed in the notion of "love thy neighbour". Perhaps our next manifesto could reflect that.

Photo of The Archbishop of Canterbury The Archbishop of Canterbury Bishop 3:26 pm, 19th May 2006

My Lords, I am enormously grateful for the quality of the debate. As the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, has just reminded us, challenges have come not only from but to the Church. I hope that your Lordships will allow me to respond to one or two of the challenges which have arisen, and to speak a little about how we go forward from there.

The observation of the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, on the length of sermons is one challenge, at least, on which I can promise reasonably prompt action. The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, spoke about employment issues. I note the involvement of many Churches in the development of local employment forums across the country. That is clearly a growth point where the Churches and other faith communities have enormous potential. I am most grateful for that point and hope that we can do more about it.

The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, spoke to great effect about issues concerning racial tension and racial prejudice that afflict us constantly. It is true that the Methodist Church, the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church all issued denunciations of the BNP, through various bodies and leaders, in the run-up to recent elections. It is also true that more concerted action on that is needed from the Churches. I take that very much to heart and promise that it will be picked up.

The noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, spoke about sex trafficking. It may be of interest to noble Lords to know that about a year ago a charity was set up, Churches Alert to Sex Trafficking Across Europe, which has already grown a great deal in scope and energy in the past 12 months. I declare an interest as its patron. This is one element of the Churches' response to what I am sure noble Lords will agree is one of the most appalling social tragedies that we face.

The noble Lord, Lord Dearing, spoke about interfaith work in and through schools. Other noble Lords spoke of the desirability of multi-faith school institutions. I have discussed that issue with the Chief Rabbi in the past year. We are looking at initiatives that might be taken to forward that agenda. The further agenda of what the Churches might do in that and other contexts with children who are being looked after is one which I take very much to heart. I promise that the Churches will want to consider that.

Finally among those challenges, I note with appreciation the very gracious and generous remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, and I take to heart once more his observations on methods of campaigning in what we might call areas of high passion and strong principle. I am sure that the noble Lord will accept my assurance that certain of the methods used in the recent campaign were not those which any on these Benches or any in the mainstream of the Churches would wish to endorse.

Two issues of some interest arose, which merit further exploration. One is a point raised by a number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Patten, about the physical or built environment in which we live, as it affects not only church buildings but the entire physical environment, which is affected and dictated by planning policy and planning vision. There are many questions to be asked about how the planning of the built environment in communities of deprivation has in recent years not often served the best interests of true community cohesion. I take encouragement from the observations of the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, on the subject of "place" in that connection.

Another issue of great significance that has been raised is monitoring as a means of bringing constructive, behaviour-changing influence to bear, especially in the lives of young people. That is one of those areas where we are bound to recognise, as has been said so often in today's debate, that our main resource and source of capital is people, and in a very particular sense in many communities it is young people. To encourage further the practice of monitoring and the highest possible standards in implementing it is surely one step that needs to be taken in that context. As for the capital that is represented by local people, several noble Lords, including the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, have spoken about the problem created by the lack of remuneration or simple practical and financial support for volunteers. Is it time for us to think, in the middle to long term, of some kind of national capacity fund, which would be applicable to the needs of the many, many people in that sort of position?

In sum, a number of noble Lords speaking in today's debate have in effect expressed their sense of what might be called a "not only" element in our policy. We are committed to healthy and democratic citizenship, but not only citizenship. It was the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, who phrased it in that way. It is not only citizenship but something rather more, which has to do with a vision of what is appropriately human and what kind of change human beings can bring about. We have heard of our shared commitment to the improvement of material conditions and the material environment, but not only that, because several noble Lords have referred very powerfully to the problems of emotional deprivation. I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, for her remarks on that subject. Emotional privation is very hard to address by statutory and public instrument, yet no society can finally live and flourish without addressing it.

We have noted the commitment to work and employment, yet not only employment. Simply having something to do is not enough if a sense of worth and a sense of liberty do not go with it. We have expressed, quite properly, our commitment to human rights, yet we have noted that human rights in themselves fall short of that active, celebratory, mutual spirit that makes a society a place of not only legally enforceable claims, but mutual appreciation and mutual service.

For all those "not only" elements to be kept in play in the public discourse of this country and of other countries, there needs to be what the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, called the "space", or the "brokering space", that is offered by Churches and other faith communities. It is a space in which questions about the kind of persons and society we wish to see can be raised and discussed with honesty. I conclude by reassuring your Lordships that the keeping open of that space is a primary and lasting commitment for the Churches and for other faith groups. I hope that the forthcoming report, about which much has been said, will open up that debate further, and I trust that the noble Baroness, Lady Richardson, will agree that she owes me at least a cup of tea and a potted-meat sandwich for all the publicity that I have given the report this afternoon.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, reminded us, we have seen evidence of a high level of common will on this subject. We have seen an awareness of, as the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, put it, the desirability of partnership between Church, including other faith communities, and nation. That convergent and constructive vision has been celebrated appropriately today. I am deeply grateful for all the observations that noble Lords have offered on this subject and, accordingly, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before four o' clock.