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Rt Rev. Julian Henderson, the Bishop of Blackburn, has praised the County of Lancashire for its diversity, beauty and achievements; while urging the Government to ‘heed the voice of the North’ particularly in relation to inequality between rich and poor.

Bishop Julian was making his maiden speech in the House of Lords and said he was hoping ‘to speak in this House for the great people of the North’.

Despite the ongoing limitations as a result of the pandemic, the Bishop was able to deliver his speech (an allotted 4 minutes) in person in the House of Lords chamber. Maiden speeches take place during debates already scheduled.

Bishop Julian initially gave the oath of allegiance and became one the 26 Church of England bishops (the ‘Lords Spiritual’*) in the House of Lords in February of this year.

In his maiden speech, which formed part of the Second Reading on the Trade Bill, Bishop Julian said: “I come first and foremost as a Christian and will seek opportunity to support the convictions and values foundational to our faith in Jesus Christ and to draw attention to those many today around the world who are persecuted for their faith in Him, and to advocate the right for all to enjoy freedom of speech and belief wherever they may live and to do so in peace.

The Bishop spoke of the remarkable diversity of Lancashire’s communities; its achievements, past and present; the beauty of the landscape and the attraction for tourists … 18 million of whom visit Blackpool in Lancashire every year for example.

The Bishop continued: “And yet Blackpool includes one of the most deprived wards in the country. And it is for that latter fact that I wish to speak in this debate, to urge the Government, if this bill grants them the powers they are seeking, to hear and heed the voice of the North.

“Talk of a Northern Powerhouse must not be allowed to fade away into the history books, but energise the commitment to improve the infrastructure and economy of the North.

“The impact of Covid 19 has only exacerbated and increased the inequality between rich and poor. Blackburn has an unemployment rate of almost 6%, much higher than the national average and, according to a recent Lancashire telegraph article, could be as much as 18% when hidden unemployment is included.

“More than 11% of the Blackpool population are claiming support through welfare payments, the highest in the country. It is statistics like these that require the powers granted by this bill to be exercised with wisdom, as new trade agreements are put in place for the post Brexit era.”

  • The full text of Bishop Julian's speech follows on at the end of this story. 
  • Listen to Bishop Julian speaking on BBC Radio Lancashire here (from 3h 51m 40s)
  • Watch a video of the speech, and response from Lord David Alton of Liverpool, below. The video (and associated still images) are courtesy of Parliament TV. 

After delivering his maiden speech, the welcome and response to Bishop Julian came from Lord David Alton of Liverpool who said: “On appointment to his vibrant and diverse Diocese (Bishop Julian) pledged himself to promote respect for people from differing faiths and the right of all to freedom of religion or belief.

"He has said his experience in Lancashire on a wide variety of issues will inform his contributions to your Lordships’ House. On the basis of today’s curtain-raising maiden speech we will look forward to those contributions with great anticipation.”

Speaking later, Bishop Julian added: “To be able to represent Lancashire today was a great an honour and privilege.

“Having spoken for the first time in the Lords I now look forward to continuing to be a new voice in Parliament for the County and, in particular, being able to engage in debates from a Christian perspective.”


* The Lords Spiritual are made up of the Archbishops of Canterbury and of York, the Bishops of London, Durham and Winchester as well as specific bishops of the Church of England.


FULL TEXT OF BISHOP JULIAN'S MAIDEN SPEECH

My Lords, I am extremely grateful for the warmth of the welcome I have received in my introduction to this House. When I told my elderly father in 2013 that I had been appointed to serve as the next Bishop of Blackburn, many miles away from his Sussex home, he was very quiet and somewhat disappointed that my wife and I would be so far away. But then a light came into his eyes, and he asked, does that mean you may be invited to enter the House of Lords? When I replied in the affirmative, he said, well then, that makes it all right!

I come first and foremost as a Christian and will seek opportunity to support the convictions and values foundational to our faith in Jesus Christ and to draw attention to those many today around the world who are persecuted for their faith in Him, and to advocate the right for all to enjoy freedom of speech and belief wherever they may live and to do so in peace.

As my accent betrays, I come also as a Southerner, having worked in London, Sussex and Surrey, but for the last seven years have been in the North West, serving most of the Red Rose County of Lancashire. Lancashire is remarkable for the diversity of its communities and achievements, past and present, boasting the cotton industry, a strong connection with Her Majesty the Queen as the Duke of Lancaster, the vision of James Fox on Pendle Hill, the name Sirloin beef from Hoghton Tower,  the annual shield hanging ceremony in Lancaster Castle which goes back to Richard the Lion Heart, and the beautiful Trough of Bowland.

And Lancashire’s glory is not just past – the North West is the home of Graphene, a new ‘super material’; the well-known golf course at Lytham St Anne's; strictly come dancing in the iconic ballroom at Blackpool tower; nearly 200 clearly and distinctively Christian Church of England schools and three universities, as well as the 18 million tourists who visit Blackpool each year for its different attractions. 

And yet Blackpool includes one of the most deprived wards in the country. And it is for that latter fact that I wish to speak in this debate, to urge the Government, if this bill grants them the powers they are seeking, to hear and heed the voice of the North. This House may not be relocated to York during the refurbishment period, but its eyes and ears must not be blind or deaf to the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the North.

Talk of a Northern Powerhouse must not be allowed to fade away into the history books, but energise the commitment to improve the infrastructure and economy of the North. Better transport links around the North are long overdue and would have a transformative impact on the local economy.

The impact of Covid 19 has only exacerbated and increased the inequality between rich and poor. Blackburn has an unemployment rate of almost 6%, much higher than the national average and, according to a recent Lancashire Telegraph article, could be as much as 18% when hidden unemployment is included. More than 11% of the Blackpool population are claiming support through welfare payments, the highest in the country. It is statistics like these that require the powers granted by this bill to be exercised with wisdom, as new trade agreements are put in place for the post Brexit era.

As Bishop of Blackburn I hope to speak in this House for the great people of the North. And as a Christian to speak for the human right to believe and express that belief in public without fear or favour. Good trade arrangements can be a way to achieve prosperity for all, as well as develop relationships with our global partners which would allow us to act as critical friends when human rights are ignored. I hope this bill will assist us in both these noble goals.

 

 

 

 

Ronnie Semley, September 2020