Digital Economy Bill: Bishops argue against relaxation of blocking powers on online pornography

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On the 20th March 2017, the House of Lords debated a Government amendment to the Digital Economy Bill at its Report Stage, on access to online pornography. Original Government proposals were that the threshold of censorship and prohibition should be as consistent as possible for material distributed online and offline. In a new amendment the Government offered a revised approach, with a higher threshold for prohibiting material online alongside a focus on age verification measures. The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, and the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, spoke against the amendment, arguing to keep the original approach. The amendment was however agreed without a vote. The Bishops’ speeches are below, with an extract of the Minister’s reply. The full text of the debate on the amendments can be read in Hansard, here.


leeds-20117-bLord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, it seems odd in a society such as ours that we are even thinking about how to give access to violent pornography or trying to mitigate it in some way. It seems clear to me is that most of us sitting in this House probably have less idea of how online digital communications work than a five year-old. Children—my grandchildren’s generation—are very adept and almost intuit how to do this stuff. Continue reading

Votes: EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill – ping pong

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On 13th March 2017, the House of Lords considered the Government’s EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill during ping pong, after the Commons had refused to accept amendments from the House of Lords. A vote was held on two amendments tabled by the Liberal Democrats to reinstate previously accepted amendments on the status of EU nationals and on parliamentary scrutiny. Five Lords Spiritual took part.  Continue reading

Bishop of St Albans supports Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Bill

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On 10th March 2017 the House of Lords considered at Second Reading the Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Bill, a Private Member’s Bill that originated in the House of Commons, sponsored in the Lords by Baroness Gale. The Bishop of St Albans spoke in support of the Bill.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: We on these Benches also give our wholehearted support to the Bill. I have been following this issue for some while—indeed, I have participated in previous debate and tabled some Questions. I congratulate Dr Eilidh Whiteford in the other place and the noble Baroness, Lady Gale, on the hard work that they and others have done in getting the Bill so far, and the many agencies involved in getting it to us today, including IC Change. Continue reading

Bishop of Oxford welcomes Criminal Finances Bill, calls for further action on tax transparency in UK overseas territories

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On 9th March 2017 the House of Lords debated the Government’s Criminal Finances Bill at its Second Reading. The Bishop of Oxford, Rt Revd Steven Croft, spoke in the debate, supporting the Bill and calling for action on tax transparency in UK overseas territories and Crown dependencies.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking the Government for introducing this Bill. I support it. The Government have led on tackling corruption since the then Prime Minister set the issue of tax transparency at the heart of his G8 summit in 2013. He should also be thanked for hosting the anti-corruption summit in May last year. The Bill follows this good record and takes some further welcome steps to try to tackle corruption. The unexplained wealth orders will provide stronger powers for UK law enforcement to seize and repatriate the proceeds of grand corruption. The new corporate offences of failure to prevent the facilitation of tax evasion should be particularly praised because they will apply all over the world. I hope that in due course these offences will apply to all economic crime. Continue reading

Higher Education and Research Bill: Bishop of Oxford moves amendment on Archbishop degree awarding powers

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14.03.27 Bishop of SheffieldOn 8th March 2017, the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, moved an amendment on behalf of the Bishop of Winchester to the Government’s Higher Education and Research Bill. The amendment, which was accepted by the Government, meant that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s historic powers to award degrees would be unchanged by the Bill. 

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, my right reverend friend the Bishop of Winchester is unable to be in his place this evening, but I bring before your Lordships his Amendment 119A. I am grateful to the Minister for the constructive discussions we have had with him and his officials, and for co-sponsoring this amendment. Continue reading