On 27th May 2021 the House of Lords debated the Government’s Immigration Rules and Statements of Changes to them. A Motion to Regret the Statements was moved by Lord Green of Deddington, though not put to a vote. His Motion read:
“That this House regrets that the Statements of changes to the Immigration Rules (HC813, HC1043 and HC1248), published respectively on 22 October 2020, 10 December 2020 and 4 March, do not provide clear and comprehensible descriptions of the changes proposed, nor of their likely effect. Special attention drawn by the Secondary Legislation Committee, 33rd and 40th Reports, Session 2019–21.”
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, for securing this important debate on his Motion to Regret. Last year, several Members of your Lordships’ House cautioned against the major extension of the Government’s capacity to make law with minimal recourse to Parliament in the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act. Today, at the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, and not of Her Majesty’s Government, we have 90 minutes to examine three statutory instruments relating to the Immigration Rules, one of which runs to 507 pages. All three were subject to the negative resolution, which involved little or no scrutiny of such important areas of life. Your Lordships’ House last defeated Her Majesty’s Government by praying against a negative resolution 21 years ago. Is the Minister satisfied with the level of scrutiny that these statutory instruments have received? Would she agree with me that it would have been better to publish them first in draft and to seek the views of both Houses in a debate?
On 20th May 2021 the House of Lords debated the changes made to its working procedures as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The Bishop of Birmingham, as convenor of the Lords Spiritual, spoke about the effect on the Bishops’ Benches and more widely in the country.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I share, from these Benches, our gratitude for all those who have worked so hard, with agility and rapidity, both the staff that serve the House and those who manage the business of the House, in a very challenging and, in fact, a unique time, as has been referred to several times already.
The noble Earl, Lord Howe, said that every aspect of life has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Even churches have become hybrid. Families have been separated and have kept in touch by Zoom. Employers and employees are now negotiating home and back-to-work settings. Online parents’ evenings at schools have become more popular than ever. As has been said already, I join those who are at a moment of learning lessons from what has happened to us, unexpected and unprepared, over the past 15 months. This great disruption means that we will face further change, not just here but in society as a whole.
The decisions we have to make are about what to keep that has been beneficial, or surprisingly new and advantageous, and what to go back to, as what works well for our purpose today. We do so in the context of an uncertain journey ahead, on the road map, and also with the priority to keep everyone safe and well in this terrible time of virus, as I believe we have tried to do in this House.
On 19th May 2021 the Bishop of Leeds spoke in the House of Lords in the fifth and final day of debate on the Queen’s Speech. He focused on ethics, the EU and Russia.
My Lords, I am grateful to follow the Noble Lord Campbell and for the Noble Lady the Minister’s comprehensive and ambitious speech introducing this debate. I welcomed the Government’s Integrated Review as a necessary attempt to hold together the diverse interests, challenges and opportunities facing the UK in the future.
One of the things I learned in my early career as a linguist at GCHQ was that words and assumptions need to be interrogated as they can be used to obscure reality. For example, in our context, an increased “cap” on nuclear weapons tells us nothing about numbers that might actually be intended or the rationale for them.
So, I think it was remarkable that reference in the Review to the European Union was almost completely missing. Now, this had been widely predicted as it seems that, for the Government, any such reference might be heard as an ideological Remainer capitulation. Yet, the rationale for a tilt towards the Indo-Pacific only makes sense to a point: it is not just what we are “tilting towards” that matters, but also what we are “tilting away from” that has to be considered.
On 19th May 2021 the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke in the House of Lords on the fifth and final day of the debate on the Queen’s Speech.
My Lords, it is a privilege to speak in this debate on the Gracious Speech after the Noble Lord, Lord Hannay with his vast experience and knowledge, and I have learned much from his speech and agree with what he’s said.
The Integrated Review of Global Britain in a Competitive Age has much to be welcomed, including especially the thoughtfulness about the security implications of climate change, the strong commitment to Freedom of Religion and Belief and the commitment to restore the 0.7%. However, to speak of security, defence, development and foreign policy without a developed section on peacebuilding and peace-making, especially with competitors, is like speaking of the pandemic without mentioning vaccination.
On 18th May the Bishop of Manchester spoke in the fourth day of debate on the Queen’s Speech, focusing on proposals for policing, building safety and conversion therapy.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Fullbrook, whose wisdom I look forward to hearing more often, for an excellent maiden speech. I also refer to my interests, stated in the register, in policing and housing.
A number of Bills mentioned in the gracious Speech will require our police to enforce new laws and regulations. We have already seen considerable disquiet expressed regarding what might amount to a very significant reduction in the ability of the public to engage in peaceful political protest, particularly where such protests directly or indirectly impact on others. I will reserve more detailed comments on this Bill for when it reaches your Lordships’ House, although I note the wise comments made earlier by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti. For now, I want briefly to lay it alongside my experience of 12 months of rapidly changing coronavirus regulations.
On many occasions, the precise boundaries between regulations—matters that police can enforce—and guidance, to which they can only direct our attention, have been seriously blurred. Meanwhile, ministerial statements have put pressure on our police to issue fixed penalty notices, but the Crown Prosecution Service is quite clear that an adequate chain of evidence will be almost impossible to achieve.
On 18th May 2021 the Bishop of Gloucester took part in the fourth day of debate in the House of Lords on the Queen’s Speech. She focused on criminal justice, violence against women and girls, and online safety:
My Lords, I too look forward to the maiden speeches of the noble Baroness, Lady Fullbrook and Lady Fleet. In my few minutes, I shall briefly mention women in the criminal justice system, the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill, violence against women and girls and the online safety Bill. I refer to my interests in the register, as Anglican bishop to prisons.
I begin by asking: when will we see a renewed timetable for the 2018 female offender strategy? While I welcome the implementation of some of the deliverables, analysis by the Prison Reform Trust shows that the Government have met less than half the commitments. The concordat published last year does not appear to have been progressed. Then there was that shocking announcement of 500 new prison places for women, totally at odds with the strategy’s direction to reduce the number of women in prison. What evidence is it based on, and why is the designated £150 million not being spent on women’s centres and implementing the concordat?
On 18th May 2021 the Bishop of Oxford spoke during the fourth day of debate in the House of Lords on the Queen’s Speech, focusing on proposals to legislate for online safety.
My Lords, it is a privilege to take part in this debate, to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and to welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Fullbrook—I thank her for her maiden speech. I warmly welcome the online safety Bill, referenced in the most gracious Address. I declare my interest as a board member for the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation.
It is my view that the online safety Bill represents a major step forward in preventing harm to children, vulnerable adults and our wider society. The Bill places a robust duty of care on content-sharing platforms and creates a major new regulator by extending the remit of Ofcom. Those designing the Bill have listened carefully and have risen to the challenge of scoping a regulatory framework for new and rapidly changing technologies. The internet is used by over 90% of adults in the United Kingdom. There are many benefits to that use, as we have seen during the pandemic, but also great potential for harm. As the memorandum from DCMS indicates very clearly, this landmark regulation will end the era of self-regulation. The Bill is likely to prove a key benchmark, not only for the United Kingdom, but for governments around the world.
On 17th May 2021 the Bishop of Bristol spoke during the third day of debate in the House of Lords on the Queen’s Speech. She focused on the environment and the Government’s Environment Bill.
“My Lords, along with others in this House, I welcome the speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Coaker and Lord Morse. I remember making my own maiden speech in the debate on the Humble Address in 2019, though of course in rather different circumstances. When I gave that speech, we were looking ahead to 2020 as the year of climate action. Instead, the impact of Covid-19 has understandably been the focus of global activity. However, the situation for our planet is becoming more urgent, not less. With another year of action now lost because of Covid-19, we need meaningful global, national and local agreements on the climate and biodiversity issues more than ever before.
On 17th May 2021 the Bishop of St Albans spoke in the third day of debates on the Queen’s Speech in the House of Lords, focusing on the continuing issues of leaseholders facing costs for replacing dangerous cladding, and the new planning Bill.
“My Lords, I too look forward to hearing the maiden speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Coaker and Lord Morse, but I want to start by congratulating the Minister on introducing the leasehold reform Bill.
“Ending ground rents—or, as one person called it recently, the serfdom charge—in new developments is an important and positive reform, and I will welcome this opportunity to be mostly congruent with the Minister, after been being on opposing sides of the Fire Safety Bill. While this is a great victory for future leaseholders, existing leaseholders, particularly those in developments affected by the building and fire safety scandal, nervously await their fate.
On 13th May 2021 the Bishop of Blackburn spoke in the second day of the House of Lords debate on the Queen’s Speech, focusing on the Union and the constitution.
My Lords, I add my congratulations on both confident maiden speeches today. I note that in the gracious Speech two days ago several references were made to strengthening the ties and integrity of the union, making the United Kingdom stronger, healthier and more prosperous than before. The pandemic and the period that follows it will give us a unique opportunity to ask what kind of a society we want to be and what changes we need to make for our own good and, more importantly, for that of future generations. I understand the desire to return to greater freedoms, but we must resist going back to how things were. Instead, we must plan for a better future.
It is encouraging to hear that the Government intend to achieve this strengthening by levelling up opportunities across all parts of the United Kingdom and within each of our four nations. Levelling up has become something of a new watchword in political circles and appears as a welcome driver for many of the intentions outlined in the gracious Speech, seeking to remove those inequalities within our culture that prevent all people and communities from reaching their God-given potential and calling. The pandemic has brought to the surface a number of issues which have been hidden under the radar for far too long and not given the attention they deserve.