Government urged to create 'fairer and less divided' nation

(AP Photo/M Spencer Green)

The Bishop of Peterborough has given his first speech in the House of Lords, in which he called on the Government to establish a "fairer and less divided" nation.

The Right Reverend Donald Allister was introduced to the House earlier this month as a spokesperson for the Church on prisons and criminal justice, and farming and rural affairs.

In his speech, he welcomed as "excellent and challenging" Lord Low's report on 'Tackling the Advice Debt', which explores the reduction in government funding for legal services, and discusses the structures and policies needed to ensure that the most vulnerable members of society are still able to claim and receive support and professional advice.

Bishop Allister backed document's vision of equal access to justice and the emphasis on local provision.

"Those three themes, if implemented, would lead to better governance, fairer access and a less divided society," he said.

With the Diocese of Peterborough being home to rural as well as urban communities, he identified the wide range of people who struggle to access sufficient support, from isolated farmers to prisoners, psychiatric patients and former army members.

"[There are] many vulnerable people and groups whose lives can so easily break down without help and advice", the bishop noted.

"All these people and groups need to know that they are valued, that society cares for them and wants to help them and that our affluent country has time and resources for them," he said.

He concluded his address by reminding Parliament that "one of the tests of civilised society is of course the way in which it supports its weakest and most vulnerable members".

He also suggested that Christians especially have a duty to respond in a practical manner.

"The bottom line for me is the calling of all who think of ourselves as children of God to develop in ourselves, and demonstrate in our words and actions, his especial love for the poor and needy," he finished.

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