The Right Revd, Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, today (Tuesday 10th June) delivered his House of Lords Maiden Speech in which he praised the role of the North East for making a significant contribution to the life of the nation; quoting the regions £14 Billion worth of exports and it being the only region with a positive balance of trade in the export market. He contrasted this with a stark reminder of the issues of deprivation and the need for sustainable long-term job prospects across the region.
Speaking during the ‘Debate on the Humble Address’ referring to business following the Queen’s speech last week, with focus in the area of welfare and employment he said: “I serve a wonderful area from the Tyne in the north to the Tees in the south and the wonderful Teesdale and Weardale in the west and the beautiful coastline in the east. The brilliance of Durham city which in Bill Bryson’s words, not mine, ‘the world’s finest cathedral’. It is a wonderful area in which to serve and I am proud to do so. But I have to add, 30% of the parishes in which I serve are in the 10% of the most deprived parishes in England, thats the kind of level of poverty that we have to tackle in the North East.”
Bishop Paul spoke about his granddad and how proud he had been at his graduation as Bishop Paul was the first in his family to ever get a degree. He talked about his granddads own hopes and aspiration in leaving Cornwall all those years ago to join the metropolitan police – not for himself but because he believed in the wider family, public service and serving the common good.
Talking about the hopes and aspirations of young people in the North East and wider, Bishop Paul Said: “I am both inspired by them but also deeply concerned. In school and in colleges I talk with young people who tell me of their concern that they are worried that they will never work. They see their older siblings and older friends not finding meaningful work they really want to pursue, struggling to find work of any kind let alone in the areas they would like to pursue. “For some hope and aspiration have already gone long before school or college have ended. They have been told that their value and contribution to the world is in work and the economic contribution; they have been told a lie. Their worth and their contribution is in being a great human being and we have to help our young people understand their true value as human-beings first and foremost, but yes we need to help them find meaningful work also.”
Bishop Paul referred to there being good news on employment across the region. He went on to speak about the positive impact that apprenticeships and the encouragement of small and medium size businesses was welcomed. He said: “There is much concern in my region that apprenticeships are established in a way that ensures they really do turn into long term jobs. Small and medium size businesses, often family ones, need greater encouragement to take the leap of taking on apprentices; for it is this sector that is really going to create the new jobs that we need.”
Talking about getting tougher on firms not paying the minimum wage he said: “Whilst the minimum wage proposals are welcome I hope that longer term more serious consideration will be given to implementing the Living Wage. It was my privilege to announce the new national Living Wage in Nottingham last autumn. I look forward to the forthcoming report of the Living Wage commission and hope it will be taken deeply seriously. Helping people move away from welfare dependency, which must be a laudable aim, would be greatly helped by ensuring decent wages being paid to all, and continually helping with the creation of new jobs in every part of this nation.”
He also talked about his passionate concern about children and young people coming from an almost lifelong engagement with them as a volunteer and through his calling. He talked about his work amongst the Bishops as an Advocate for Children and as Co Chair of the Church of England and Methodist Safeguarding work. He said: “I also serve as a Patron of the Prince of Wales’ Step Up to Serve campaign encouraging young people into volunteering. “My safeguarding role means that I take a very close interest in all matters relating to safeguarding and child welfare. This work is challenging for us all, and within the church we continue to have to face up to not only our current responsibilities but in some areas our serious past failures. It is uncomfortable work. So I welcome the proposals in the serious crimes bill to tackle the question of the systematic emotional abuse of children. The impact is horrendous and I promise to work hard on this. I am grateful that government has actually had the courage in the ‘Gracious Speech’ to tackle this issue at last.”
Before concluded his speech, Bishop Paul talked about his involvement in world development matters and how this has helped learn from these communities about rebuilding our own commitment to one another and seeking the common good at a local level.
His final comment was to say: “My Lords I look forward to serving with you in the work of this house. From the person doing their shopping stopping me in the street, through local community and local government leaders, headteachers, principals of colleges and university vice chancellors, to key business people all across my diocese I have been given a very clear message about my role. ‘Bishop’, they all say, ‘Speak up for us here in the North East. You can speak for us in a way very few can. Please try and help them in Parliament listen to all the good things of the North East, and to hear our needs.’ They expect me to speak for the whole community and that is indeed what I will seek to do.”
An audio interview with Bishop Paul – from just before making his speech is available here:
The official transcript from Hansard detailing the delivered speech is here: HOUSE OF LORDS MAIDEN SPEECH-Final-delivered
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