July 2017 – General Synod


Revd Dr Patrick Richmond: Thank you for all you are doing for safeguarding. The
Norwich Safeguarding Team are expecting and looking forward to a parish handbook on
safeguarding. Are they right to be expecting that? Is there a timescale?
The Bishop of Bath & Wells: Thank you for the question. It gives me the opportunity to
talk about three documents that may not have been seen by all members of Synod. They
are designed to be approachable and to be attractive. You have asked particularly about
support for parishes. Two things. One is that we are working on a safeguarding hub,
which will be a go-to place for all safeguarding questions, and also there is to be a parish
safeguarding handbook that will bring everything together. If we need change – and we
do need change – policies are only as good as our ability to deliver them, and that is what
we are working on at the moment. I will get back to you with a more detailed answer
about timescales. Progress is moving, I would want to say very encouragingly, towards
both of those.
13. Mr Martin Sewell (Rochester) asked the Chair of the House of Bishops: The Gibb
report on the Church’s response to the crimes of Bishop Peter Ball is lengthy, complex
and has serious implications. The equally important Carlile report on the Bishop Bell
Review is expected to be published later this year. Given the importance of transparency
and accountability in raising public confidence in our safeguarding culture, will the House
seek the co-operation of the Business Committee to ensure that members of Synod may
extensively evaluate the Church’s responses to these reports by no later than February
The Bishop of Bath & Wells (Rt Revd Peter Hancock) replied on behalf of the Chair of the
House of Bishops: The Independent Review by Dame Moira Gibb was published on 22
June 2017. It is available on the internet and I encourage all Synod members to read it if
they have not already done so. Synod’s particular role in safeguarding is to legislate, and
further legislation may come to Synod arising from the Gibb Review. Synod would then
be able to debate any matter brought before it. Synod last debated safeguarding
legislation in 2016. The National Safeguarding Team holds fringe events at practically
every Synod. Any Synod member is welcome to come and discuss safeguarding matters
with them. The Gibb Report makes clear that the House of Bishops is ultimately
accountable for Safeguarding in the Church of England. The House has not met since
the publication of the Gibb Report. The Carlile Report is not yet published. Both will be
considered at the next full meeting of the House.
Mr Martin Sewell: A supplementary. Can I also say thank you. You have the toughest
gig in the Church of England at the moment and you deserve all credit for standing up to
it. Thank you for that. I have already told you my question, but I have to read it. The
Secretary General tells us that Synod has a role beyond legislating and that we also
consider other matters of religious or public interest – see his answer to question 30,
paragraph 5. Bishop Peter, the written answer elegantly evades my requested
commitment. Did you bring into account that the public will be very interested if, in six
months’ time, they learn that we still have nothing substantial to say about safeguarding
The Bishop of Bath & Wells: Thank you, Martin. I also welcome that question because
it gives me an opportunity to give General Synod more details.
The first is what are we doing about this? I am meeting with both Archbishops on
Saturday evening to discuss this. Synod may not be aware, but on Thursday the Church
of England has a National Safeguarding Steering Group which will be receiving not only
the thinking that has come through Dame Moira Gibb’s Review but beginning to look
about how the Church might respond to Lord Carlile’s Review, and the question you have
asked will be discussed there. The House of Bishops has already agreed an extended
session, with an extra day to consider that question. More importantly, I shall be talking
to the Business Committee, as the lead Bishop on safeguarding, about just that matter.
Revd Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes (Durham): Your answer says that the Gibb Report
makes clear that the House of Bishops is ultimately accountable for safeguarding. Has
the House considered that the Gibb Report seems – it seems to me – to make it clear that
the House of Bishops probably should not be ultimately responsible for safeguarding,
particularly where the complaint relates to a Bishop? Is there any consideration being
given to having another body which could look at those complaints?
The Bishop of Bath & Wells: Consideration is certainly being given to that. I am not sure
that I quite agree with the premise that you give us as an introduction to that question.
I think I might be right in thinking that you are slightly misinterpreting what Dame Moira
Gibb has said.
14. Mr Martin Sewell (Rochester) asked the Chair of the House of Bishops: The
Terms of Reference of the Carlile Review provide that: “The Church of England will
determine whether the full report can be sufficiently redacted or otherwise anonymised to
enable its publication without risking disclosure of the complainant’s identity.”
So that there may be complete confidence in our transparency, how will it be ensured that
those whose original judgements may be criticised are suitably distanced from the
redaction of the report, and will Lord Carlile be free (should he so choose) to indicate
whether he agrees or disagrees with the redacted format when published?
The Bishop of Bath & Wells (Rt Revd Peter Hancock) replied on behalf of the Chair of the
House of Bishops: The redaction of the Carlile Review will be undertaken solely by
reference to the normal principles, including where appropriate the need to honour
assurances of confidentiality and to comply with the Data Protection Act. The redaction
will be overseen by the Secretary General to the Archbishops’ Council who was not
involved in the decisions being evaluated by the Carlile Review. It will of course be
entirely up to Lord Carlile to state whether he agrees or disagrees with the format upon
Mr Martin Sewell: The Carlile Review arose partly because the Church allegedly used
victim confidentiality to shield its own self from criticism. The answer that you have given
refers to confidentiality assurances having been given in the plural. Is that intended to
imply that the complainant to the Bishop Bell case will not be alone in the witness
protection programme?
The Bishop of Bath & Wells: By now General Synod is aware that Martin Sewell knows
a lot more about the Lord Carlile Review process than I do. It is right that I do not know
that level of detail. Where there is an independent review, it is very important that I stand
– and others stand – back from it. I am here to help the archbishops and the House of
Bishops respond to those reviews. So the answer, Martin, is that I do not know the
answer to that very detailed question, but I will get a written reply for you.
Mr David Lamming (St Edmundsbury & Ipswich): In the light of the answer referring to
the redaction of the report being overseen by the Secretary General to the Archbishops’
Council, are you able to give Synod a timetable as to when that is going to happen and
when the report is to be published, particularly bearing in mind your answer to the last
question that it is to be considered at the next full meeting of the House of Bishops?
The Bishop of Bath & Wells: You are talking about the Lord Carlile Review?
Mr David Lamming: Yes.
The Bishop of Bath & Wells: My understanding is that the work of the review itself will be
completed by the end of this month. It will then be down to Lord Carlile when he publishes
the report. At the meeting on Thursday of the National Safeguarding Steering Group, we
will already be giving consideration as to how and when we might consider the report
when it is made available to us in order that there may not be any delay once the report
is published.

1 thought on “July 2017 – General Synod

  1. Pingback: The Bell Chronology – 1883 to 2023 – Justice for Bishop George Bell of Chichester – The Bell Society

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