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Committee (11th Day)

Part of Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 19th January 2011.

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Photo of The Bishop of Wakefield The Bishop of Wakefield Bishop 6:45 pm, 19th January 2011

My Lords, I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Fowler. Having worked in the diocese of Portsmouth, which included the Isle of Wight, for some seven years, I always saw it as my international ministry.

I made several mistakes when I first got there. I remember going over there for the first time overnight and saying to some people, "Perhaps one of the best things that could be done here is to build a bridge". There was total silence at the table and I was never invited back.

The noble Lord, Lord Fowler, asked what the people on the mainland would think. The divide is seen just as seriously from the mainland as it is from the island. It was baffling that when people phoned me up in Portsmouth and asked "Is he there?", they were told "No, he is on the island", as though there was only one island in the world. I remember, for example, that we would organise diocesan synods to gather the whole of our diocese together, and that they were almost always held on the mainland. There were complaints about their being poorly attended by those on the Isle of Wight.

On one occasion I made the radical suggestion that the diocesan synod might be held in Ryde, which is the nearest place to anywhere on the mainland and the easiest place to get to. It was very well attended by members from the Isle of Wight, but there was a devastatingly low attendance by those on the mainland. That was because it requires a significant effort to make your way across to the island, and as the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, pointed out, it involves considerable cost. One of the things about living on the island is that there are more favourable ferry fares for those who live on the island to come across to the mainland.

As has been pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, I assume that this was an oversight, but if it was not, it jolly well ought to have been. I hope that the Government will consider rethinking this one.