Bishop of Bradford asks peers to ‘hear the cry of the poor’

May 8, 2009 at 1:38 pm 1 comment

by Tony Grew

The newest member of the Lords Spiritual spoke in the chamber for the first time yesterday.

The Bishop of Bradford, who took his seat in the Lords in March, chose a debate on the country’s economic prospects for his maiden speech.

Rt Revd David James, who became Bishop of Bradford in 2002, described himself as a “new boy on the block.”

“It is my privilege to make my maiden speech in your Lordships’ House and to contribute to the debate from the perspective of the diocese of Bradford, which I am proud to serve,” he said.

“I do so aware that I lack the gravitas, wisdom or wit of a number of my predecessors.

“One managed to spark the abdication crisis; another became Archbishop of York and then moved on to Canterbury, which in Yorkshire was regarded as a downward move; and a third, with Irish charm, became personal chaplain to Sir Terry Wogan.

“I have none of those aspirations.

“When I went to Bradford, I was surprised by the poverty that I encountered among the hill farmers but especially in the city.

“I saw the same poor-looking people in Bradford in 2002 as I had seen when I grew up in the inner city of Nottingham 50 years earlier.

“Studies show that children who experience poverty are more likely than others to be young for their age: young physically, mentally, socially, emotionally and intellectually; and they are disadvantaged throughout the whole of their lives.

“It is on behalf of these children and their prospects that I speak today.

“I welcome the reduction in child poverty that has been achieved in recent years and the heavy investment in school buildings.

“However, I worry about any cuts in these initiatives as we seek to make amends for the financial debacle that we are debating.

“If these levels of poverty become embedded in the fabric of our society, this will be extremely costly for the country in the future because it will affect these children for the whole of their lives.

“Bradford is second to London as the fastest-growing metropolitan district in the country. It is expecting something like a 15 per cent increase in population in the next 20 years.

“Most of that increase will be among young adults who can and will contribute to the economic and social well-being of our country provided that we continue our efforts to eradicate poverty and continue investing in our young people’s education.

“We must start now to create jobs that are sustainable for the future.

“One of the psalms tells us that the Lord hears the cry of the poor. I ask that noble Lords, too, hear the cry of the poor.”

Lord Eatwell congratulated the Bishop of Bradford on an “excellent maiden speech.”

“As a scientific priest—he has a PhD in chemistry—he will bring a wide range of expertise and experience to your Lordships’ House, an expertise no doubt enhanced by his enthusiasms for bird-watching and cooking. We look forward to many future contributions to our deliberations,” he said.

Later the Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury, Lord Myners, praised his “speech full of sunshine and hope.

“I can imagine him sitting there in the grandstand at Valley Parade, looking out across the sunlit roofs of Bradford and celebrating the excess, or rather the success, of his community. To the extent that they were excesses, they would be good Yorkshire excesses, which would, no doubt be slept off by the following morning.”

26 diocesan bishops of the Church of England sit in the House of Lords.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishops of London, Durham and Winchester automatically get a seat.

The other places are taken on the basis of seniority.


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