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House of Bishops

Volume 594: debated on Thursday 12 March 2015

1. What steps the Church Commissioners plan to take in response to the House of Bishops’ pastoral letter on the 2015 general election. (908037)

A copy of the House of Bishops’ pastoral letter has been sent to every Member of Parliament. The letter makes it clear that it is not a shopping list of policies that the bishops would like to see, and that if anyone claims that the pastoral letter is saying, “Vote for this party or that party”, they have misunderstood it, but that there is a need to focus on the common good and the participation of more people in developing a political vision.

As this is the last Church Commissioners questions before Dissolution when my right hon. Friend leaves this House, may I place on record my thanks for all his work as the Second Church Estates Commissioner?

Is my right hon. Friend concerned that this letter, which is actually a 52-page booklet, may have been misrepresented in some quarters by some commentators, who have cherry-picked certain phrases and passages rather than looking at the document as a whole?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. I hope every parliamentary colleague will read the bishops’ pastoral letter. I do not expect everyone to agree with everything in it, but it is a thoughtful and thought-provoking document which makes it clear that the bishops believe that

“the great majority of politicians and candidates enter politics with a passion to improve the lives of their fellow men and women.”

Only yesterday the Archbishop of Canterbury made this observation:

“It’s just the reality; decisions have to be made and it is often unbelievably difficult. Politicians know that quite often they are doing the best they can and the more I see of them the more I reckon that it’s very rare to find one who isn’t doing the best they can but often in incredibly difficult situations.”