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Justin Welby says in House of Lords that parliament's reputation has sunk "very, very low"

Wed 25 Sep 2019
By Cara Bentley

The Archbishop of Canterbury has told peers in the House of Lords that transparency is one of the ways parliament can start to mend its broken reputation and joked that he knows a thing or two about division.

After Boris Johnson's prorogation of parliament was deemed unlawful by the Supreme Court on Tuesday, peers were summoned back to the chamber at 3pm on Wednesday - with MPs returning to the House of Commons at 11:30am. 

The Archbishop of Canterbury, sitting with Bishop Sarah Mullally and the other Lords Spiritual, asked the minister of state for departing the EU, Lord Callanan, whether there would be more openness if the government sought another Brexit extension. 

He asked: "Would the noble Lord agree with me that parliament has, justifiably or not, seen its reputation sink very, very low over the last few months and one of the ways of dealing with that is transparency.


"Will he therefore - regardless of how many letters there may or may not be - will he undertake that the government will be completely transparent and honest in the spirit, and not merely the letter of the law, about the actions they take over the next few weeks in connection with an extension?"

Lord Callanan replied: "We always endeavour to be as transparent as possible with regard to these matters whilst of course, still preserving the confidentiality of the negotiations."

Later on, the head of the Church of England joked that he knew all about big divisions, saying the debate going on "'demonstrates the total division across parliament, which is only a shadow of the immense divisions across the country, which the bishops find at every single level as they are immersed in every local community and the divisions are shaking this country apart.

"It is causing serious damage to our economy and what we're hearing in our debates here is the incapacity of parliament, not only to make a decision, but to find any way through a deadlock. The divisions are so deep that we cannot expect...that cross-party work could bring a decision on what we do but at least can we not ask the government to look for alternative means of setting a path to making a decision?

"Because at the moment, we sit here listening and all we hear is that the decision is one side says it's definitely this the other side says that - I'm used to this at an organisation that is split at every single level, I'm well aware of division. So, I'm speaking from deep familiarity! But the way forward must be, as we have done on numerous occasions, to work out how you get to a decision because the present means of handling it through parliament is not working and we need to draw on wider experience, on mediation, on other forms so that operation yellow hammer and the statement we have heard at least forms part of a clear plan which will arrive at a firm decision."


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