Addressing MPs after Easter and for the first time since being fined for breaking Covid laws, Boris Johnson apologised for his ‘mistake’ 35 times. He said he had not realised he was breaking the rules but he accepted the police's decisions. MPs want to vote on a Labour plan for a Commons committee to investigate his past comments about Whitehall gatherings, but ministers now want the vote to wait until probes by the police and Sue Gray have finished. A delay in this decision will not remove the threat of a censure motion - which allows MPs to criticise government policy, an individual minister, or the government as a whole. Any MP can table one, and it only takes a simple majority to pass. If it passes, it would not force Johnson to do anything but would put him under far greater political pressure. See also

Ministers have been ordered to send their civil servants back to the office after it emerged that up to three-quarters of staff are still working from home. Jacob Rees-Mogg, the minister for government efficiency, has written to all secretaries of state saying they must send a ‘clear message’ to officials to end the work from home culture and ensure that taxpayer-funded offices are at ‘full capacity’. He wrote, ‘Now that we are learning to live with Covid and have lifted legal restrictions in England, we must continue to accelerate the return of civil servants to office buildings to realise the benefits of face-to face, collaborative working and the wider benefits for the economy. Whitehall sources accused civil servants who refuse to return to the office of failing to ‘pull their weight’. Efforts to get civil servants back to the office have been hampered by unions pushing for further concessions on flexible working.

The Queen

21 Apr 2022

We pray for our Queen on her 96th Birthday. Lord, You bless us that we might bless others and so in the Name of Jesus, we speak blessing over the Queen’s life. We pray for health, strength and long life, and for You to surround her with honour as with a shield. We pray for boldness and increased wisdom. In her 1978 Christmas message she said, ‘Christians have the compelling example of the life and teaching of Christ and, for myself, I would like nothing better that my grandchildren should hold dear his ideals which have helped and inspired so many previous generations.’ So we pray, in the name of Jesus, over her wishes for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, including Prince William and Prince Harry. May they not only hold to Christ’s ideals but know the God from whom they come and for faith in Jesus to lead and guide them. May they understand the gift of reconciliation and the power of forgiveness.

A recent study by scientists at the University of Sussex and Denmark’s Aarhus University found that if wind farms were established on the available and appropriate land, they could meet 140% of the UK and Ireland’s energy demand. Although not all this land would be used, in the interest of preserving biodiversity, they said the research showed how much potential onshore wind has to solve the energy crisis. Also, they need not blight the most beautiful parts of England because there is plenty of room for them next to rail lines and on brownfield land. In the recent energy strategy the Government decided to keep the curbs on onshore wind introduced by David Cameron; the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said the turbines were an ‘eyesore’. Boris Johnson emphasised his support for offshore wind but did not noticeably back onshore wind farms.

Justin Welby spoke against proposed plans for illegal migrants to be transported to Rwanda before being able to apply to live in the UK. He said, ‘The principle must stand the judgement of God. It cannot carry the weight of our national responsibility as a country formed by Christian values. Sub-contracting out our responsibilities, even to a country that seeks to do well like Rwanda, is the opposite of the nature of God, who himself took responsibility for our failures.’ Also Dr Rowan Williams said, ‘Is the policy sinful? In a word, yes.’ The Archbishop of York said, ‘We can do better than this.’ Priti Patel has fought back against the criticisms via an article in The Times. It reads, ‘We are taking bold and innovative steps and it's surprising that those institutions that criticise the plans fail to offer their own solutions.' 

Last week we prayed for better laws and legislation to safeguard children from online sexual exploitation. This week the Christian charity CARE said that the legislation - as it stands - falls short of safeguarding children. They said many amendments must be made to the bill, such as the issue of age verification measures. Tim Cairns said, ‘Last year, they drafted a bill that didn't cover all pornography websites. They amended the bill and the second reading was on 19 April.’ CARE said that there are still issues to be ironed out. For example, websites with self-selecting tick boxes do not meet the requirements for age assurance, or age verification. CARE said, ‘There is a moral duty to do this, given its broken promise to usher in age checks in 2017. Ministers can’t afford to let children down a second time.’

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said he does not believe the state should be ‘nannying’ parents about the way they bring up their children. He has rejected the call to ban smacking children in England, saying, ‘Parents are entitled to discipline their children. My very strong view is we must trust parents on this. They should be entitled to discipline their children. There is a very big difference between a “light smack on the arm” and child abuse.’ Dame Rachel De Souza, the children's commissioner, has signalled her support for changing the law to give children the same protection from assault as adults. Wales has made illegal any type of corporal punishment, including smacking, hitting, slapping or shaking illegal. In England and Northern Ireland, smacking a child is unlawful, but is allowed as long as it constitutes ‘reasonable punishment’.

The Russian Orthodox Church is echoing Putin to justify the war. Its stance is driving many Ukrainian priests and parishioners to reject its teaching and join the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Father Nicolay Pluzhnik said, ‘When the war started, I waited to hear from Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the “father” of our church.’ There was no reaction, and then Patriarch Kirill and most of Moscow’s priests gave blessings to the war. They failed to condemn killing innocent Ukrainians or call for a ceasefire. Instead, they held large, televised services in Moscow to bless Russian troops, with sermons proposing the Kremlin's war is a righteous war about the future of Christianity. Patriarch Kirill said, ‘What is happening today is much more important than politics. It’s about human salvation.’ Dr Rowan Williams said, ‘There are elements in the Russian Christian tradition that become toxic when they follow Christian nationalism. It’s a messianic approach to Russia’s fate.’