A sense of relief

chancellor-of-the-exchequer-george-osborne1For a number of months now, savers with the distressed Presbyterian Mutual Society have known some of the details of a proposed rescue package. The package required HM Treasury to approve a £175 million loan to the Administrator plus a £25 million cash pledge. At one stage in the spring we thought that this proposal was on Gordon Brown’s desk awaiting his approval, but that approval never came. Yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced that the package had been approved. What a relief! Continue reading “A sense of relief”

The end is near?

The Ministerial Working Group charged with resolving the PMS crisis met yesterday and the Secretary of State said that significant progress was made.

The Northern Ireland Members at Westminster continued to exert pressure at PMQs in the House today. It seems as though everyone is working towards an announcement being made next week. Could it be that the end is near for this long-running saga? We have had a number of false dawns before, and we hope and pray that a “just and fair resolution” will be forthcoming next week.

The BBC report seems to confirm that an announcement will be made next week. Let’s hope that we have another good rescue story next week to match that of the Chilean miners.

Here’s what was said today:

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): It is sometimes easy to forget how far Northern Ireland has come in recent years, but there are still immense challenges to stability. In the light of discussions with the Chancellor on the part of the Northern Ireland Executive and the recent visit by the Deputy Prime Minister, can the Prime Minister confirm today that he will stand by the formal guarantees given to the Executive at the time of the restoration of devolution, especially in relation to the financial package and capital investment stretching through to 2018? Those are critical matters if we are to establish and embed devolution in Northern Ireland in a power-sharing Executive.

The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman makes very good points on how far Northern Ireland has come. Everyone on both sides of the House wants to continue that process, make the institutions work and embed the peace that we have achieved in Northern Ireland. I pay tribute to my predecessors, who put so much hard work into that.

On the specific issues, the previous Prime Minister made a series of promises, particularly about policing and justice in Northern Ireland, which we discussed when we were the Opposition. We stand by those promises. On the Presbyterian Mutual Society and a group of people who did lose money in the financial crunch—I know how angry it can make people in Northern Ireland when people say, “Nobody lost money”, because they did—we are working very hard to try to find a fair and equitable solution.

Q8. [16437] Dr William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): The Prime Minister is aware that many small Presbyterian Mutual Society savers are at wits’ end corner. When do we expect to have a satisfactory conclusion to this whole issue, and will he assure the House that the Government will recognise the danger of a double-dip recession in Northern Ireland when the Chancellor makes his speech next week?

The Prime Minister: I know that the hon. Gentleman knows how difficult this issue with the PMS is. Achieving a fair resolution is not easy. I believe that we will have it done by the announcement of the spending review on 20 October. That is our goal. An announcement will be made, and he will be able to explain to his constituents what we are going to do.

Nick and Owen on the PMS

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, came to Northern Ireland yesterday, and had a number of things to say about the coalition government’s approach to Northern Ireland. You can read them here.

In the last paragraph he comments on the PMS crisis.

I should add that the new government is very mindful of the need to resolve the serious hardship faced by members of the Presbyterian Mutual Society. The Ministerial working group has been restored under the Chairmanship of the Secretary of State. And we are working intensively to find a fair and just resolution. And we know we must find it very soon.

It’s the “fair and just” phrase again. In the context of the UK where “no British saver lost a penny” in the financial crisis, we can only understand “fair and just” to mean that no PMS saver will lose a penny.

Earlier this week the Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, spoke at the Conservative Party conference, and he made this precise point about other UK savers. This is what he said:

And I want to say something today to one group of people. Last year, referring to the banking crisis, Gordon Brown boasted that ‘not one British saver has lost a single penny’

In saying this he completely ignored those investors in the Presbyterian Mutual Society who saw their money disappear. During the election David Cameron and I pledged a just and fair resolution of this crisis.

We’ve been working hard on this with the Northern Ireland Executive.

And we will honor that pledge.

It’s encouraging to hear two members of the Cabinet making the same point. We await the actions.

A Sample Response

Next May, the Church of Scotland General Assembly will debate the role of homosexuals in leadership in the church, and in preparation for that debate a report is being prepared by a special commission of the General Assembly in consultation with each congregation and presbytery. One congregation, Bothwell Church in Motherwell, has published the result of the discussion that has taken place in its session in the most recent edition of its church magazine. It makes for interesting reading. Continue reading “A Sample Response”

Webber Street

img_0455Patricia and I were in London for a few days this week catching up with our offspring who live there. For the past few months, our son has been working with a ministry to homeless people in the Waterloo area at Webber Street. We were eager to see the neighbourhood and the facilities at Webber Street, and to understand a bit more about this work.

The Webber Street ministry is currently carried on under the auspices of the London City Mission, but its origins date back to a ministry known as the London Embankment Mission which began in the 19th century. Each day they offer breakfast to around 100 rough sleepers, mostly men, who are known as their “guests”. With a mug of hot, sweet tea in their hands, the guests listen to short talk on spiritual matters before enjoying a hearty breakfast of toast, beans, tomatoes and bacon.

The Webber Street ministry also provides their guests with new clothes, hair and beard cuts, and medical advice. The shower facilities are limited so that they can provide showers for only 15 guests each day.

img_0457It is a challenging and exhausting ministry, both physically and spiritually. Many of the guests are Eastern European who have come to London looking for work, but who end up disappointed. For others, homelessness is a result of alcohol or drug abuse, failing relationships, unemployment or mental health issues. Many are lonely, disoriented, and in need of human friendship and support.

Those who work at Webber Street are committed to seeing their guests move on in their lives and they spend time talking to them, writing referrals, and helping them to find accommodation or work. By word and deed, they seek to share the love and grace of Jesus Christ. It is an impressive ministry among a group of marginalised and needy people.

img_0459This year the London City Mission celebrates its 175th anniversary. The mission of LCM is to share with the people of London, patiently, sensitively and individually the transforming love of God in Jesus Christ, and to enable them to join his Church. It’s track record of ministry and mission makes it a worthy object of our support through our prayers and our giving. In a wide variety of ministries, with a great team of gifted and committed people, LCM gives credibility to the gospel. Webber Street is a wonderful example of that credible, gospel-centred, mission.

As I walked around Webber Street, I thought that if Jesus was physically alive on earth today, I imagine that he would be there, showing love and support to the “guests”. And then I realised that by His Spirit He is there, in the words and actions of his servants.