On 11th May 2023, the House of Lords debated the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill in committee. The Bishop of St Albans spoke in support of an amendment tabled by Lord Coaker which would provide for the potential of financial compensation for victims of economic crime:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: I am sorry I have been unable to engage more fully and consistently with this Bill, but this amendment prompted me to come here when I had a few minutes. I was recently speaking to someone I met at a social gathering. In the course of the evening, we were talking about a whole range of things, and he was talking about the fact that he had been defrauded of some money and how it is now materially affecting his retirement. His comment was: “I feel so embarrassed, because I’ve always tended to think it was simple people who didn’t understand financial matters who were likely to lose money. I’m highly literate, I’ve done all the right things, but I’ve been defrauded”. This is having a big effect.
On 10th May 2023, during a debate on the Illegal Migration Bill, the Bishop of Gloucester made a speech expressing concerns regarding the bill, with particular reference to the risks it would pose to women who are victims of domestic violence, sexual exploitation, and human trafficking:
My Lords, it is a privilege to add my voice to this debate. I echo much of what has already been said, including by my friends the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham. I will focus my remarks on the impact of this Bill on women, including victims and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence—all of it set, as you might expect, within my belief that every person is created in the image of God. We are talking here about people with names, not faceless numbers.
I hear the Minister’s concerns about the statistics around modern slavery but this issue needs much more careful analysis, as the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, said. Other noble Lords have highlighted many of the issues around modern slavery. Surely it cannot be right that no one who arrives here by irregular means will be eligible to receive modern slavery support. As we have heard, this Bill proposes that victims of modern slavery will instead be subject to detention and removal. This seems wrong on so many levels, not least morally, but it will also be a substantial law enforcement issue. Why would anyone come forward as a victim of modern slavery and risk being sent to Rwanda? My right reverend friends the Bishops of London and Bristol will be following these issues with interest and concern.
On 10th May 2023, the Bishop of St Albans asked whether the police or government would give guidelines to those who wish to protest regarding the scope of the public order act, following arrests under the act during the Coronation of King Charles:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I am sure that we all support the police for doing a magnificent job. One of the problems we are grappling with is that we have only read reports in the media, and of course the police may know things that we do not. However, by all accounts, someone who had been planning for months, working with the police, was arrested and simply did not realise that the luggage straps they were using to create their banners would fall foul of the legislation. Therefore, trying to be constructive, will either the police or the Government give some guidelines, to people who genuinely want to have a protest, about what is likely to fall within the scope of the Act, so that they can demonstrate peaceably?
On 10th May 2023, the House of Lords debated the Illegal Migration Bill in its first reading. The Bishop of Durham spoke in the debate, pointing out risks to child safeguarding and potential breaches of the refugee convention if the bill was enacted as written:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: I declare my interests as a member of the RAMP project and a trustee of Reset.
When looking to engage with a Bill, Members decide whether to focus on the detail or address the underlying principles behind the proposed legislation. This Bill leaves me with no choice but to start with the latter, as it asks fundamental questions about who we are as a nation. In order to supposedly reduce channel crossings, are we really prepared to consent to “extinguishing”, as the UNHCR puts it, the right to claim asylum and withholding support for victims of trafficking, and indefinitely detaining thousands of asylum seekers, including children and pregnant women? We have been left to consider the Bill’s provisions without an impact assessment, but these consequences will potentially lead to an unjustified intolerable level of harm which does not reflect who we are as a nation.
On 10th May 2023 the House of Lords debated the Government’s Illegal Migration Bill at its Second Reading.
The Archbishop of Canterbury: My Lords, we need a Bill to reform migration. We need a Bill to stop the boats. We need a Bill to destroy the evil tribe of traffickers. The tragedy is that, without much change, this is not that Bill.
On 9th May 2023, the House of Lords debated the Online Safety Bill in Committee. The Bishop of Oxford spoke in support of amendments to the bill tabled by Baroness Morgan of Coates that would institute an opt out option for harmful content as a default on online platforms:
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, in her very moving and personal speech. I am sorry that I was unable to speak to the previous group of amendments, some of which were in my name, because, due to unavoidable business in my diocese, I was not able to be present when that debate began late last Tuesday. However, it is very good to be able to support this group of amendments, and I hope tangentially to say something also in favour of risk assessment, although I am conscious that other noble Lords have ably made many of the points that I was going to make.
My right reverend friend the Bishop of Gloucester has added her name in support of amendments in this group, and I also associate myself with them—she is not able to be here today. As has been said, we are all aware that reaching the threshold of 18 does not somehow award you with exponentially different discernment capabilities, nor wrap those more vulnerable teenagers in some impermeable cotton wool to protect them from harm.
During a debate on the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill on 9th May 2022, the Bishop of St Albans spoke in support of an amendment tabled by Baroness Kramer that would require the Secretary of State to set up an Office for Whistleblowers to receive reports of whistleblowing in relation to economic crime:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I think I can be quite brief thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, as I have been able to ditch most of what I was going to say because she has already made it so clear. I was persuaded to put my name to this amendment simply because I met a woman in one of my churches on a Sunday after worship who is currently in precisely this situation, and her whole life has basically fallen apart.
She came across something that it was clear to her was wrongdoing; she agonised for weeks and tried to take advice, which was difficult to get because of confidentiality. Eventually she decided that she needed to blow a whistle. She was immediately suspended, taken through a disciplinary process and dismissed. She is now trying to decide whether she can afford to take this through the courts. Her view is that she would probably have to sell her house to do so. It really is a David and Goliath situation.
On 3rd May 2023, the House of Lords debated the Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill in committee. The Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich spoke in support of amendments to the bill tabled by Baroness Young of Old Scone which would require consultations to take place on developments affecting ancient woodlands:
The Lord Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich: My Lords, I too add my support for the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and pay tribute to the work she has done in this area. I declare an interest as someone who grows trees and has contributed to the green canopy project in Suffolk. We managed to plant 1.3 million trees under that auspice, which was more than a third of the national total. We were completely committed through various networks of people to this and, indeed, to the preservation of ancient woodlands.
On 3rd May 2023, the House of Lords debated the Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill in committee. The Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich spoke in support of amendments to the bill tabled by Lord Best and Lady Warwick, and supported by the Bishop of Chelmsford, relating to housing development and the infrastructure levy:
The Lord Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich: My Lords, I support Amendment 335 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, and Amendments 336 and 337 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Best, to which my colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford has added her name as the Church of England’s lead bishop for housing. I am aware, as others have commented, that we are touching on matters that will arise again in the 10th group.
On 3rd May 2023, the House of Lords debated the Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill in committee. The Bishop of Exeter spoke in support of amendments to the bill tabled by Lord Greenhalgh, seeking to ensure that emergency services are considered during planning and reform:
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, I rise in support Amendments 324, 329, 342, 346, 347, 351, 352 and 360 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Greenhalgh, and to which I have added my name. They concern planning reform and the emergency services.
A robust and effective planning process is essential for the flourishing of our communities. A key aspect of this is to ensure the adequate provision of emergency services. I welcome the fact that the Bill has included emergency services in the definition of infrastructure under Schedule 11, but, historically, this has not always been the case. It remains the fact that local authorities are not obliged to take into account the views and concerns of the emergency services.
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