On 6th December 2013, the Bishop of Chester spoke during the Second Reading of Baroness Howe’s Online Safety Bill. Speaking in support of the Bill and strengthening legal protections for children, he argued that the regulation of the internet was a question that couldn’t be avoided. An approach based on self-regulation only would not be sufficient. He noted that the danger in the information age was that we do not see beyond the information itself to the higher realities of knowledge and wisdom that that abundance of information should seek to serve. The Bishop of Derby also spoke during the debate.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, it will not surprise the House to learn that I support the Bill, and I add my words of gratitude to the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, for her energy and persistence in bringing it forward. The Bill deals with an important aspect of child protection in relation to violent, abusive and, especially, pornographic material. In speaking mainly about pornography, I make it clear that I do not think that the issues around pornography in our society relate only to children. Indeed, I have a Motion for balloted debate which would look at the wider issues and the impact of pornography on our society. I hope that the House will have a chance to explore those rather difficult issues at some point before too long.
On 2nd December 2013, the Bishop of Chester asked a question in the House of Lords on energy bills, following a Governmnet Statement on the subject.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, there is much in the Statement that I welcome, particularly a point that has not been commented on directly. The move in support for the social aspects of the programme from energy bills to general taxation will have some impact on the poorest and on fuel poverty and is entirely to be welcomed. The renewables obligation payments are still going to be collected through energy bills. When will the expected increases in those precepts on bills eat up the £50 which has been announced today?
On 20th November 2013, the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, took part in the Committee Stage of the Government’s Children and Families Bill. He spoke in favour of amendments to the Bill that would ban smoking in cars when children are present, and also in relation to measures to standardise the packaging of cigarettes.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I will speak very briefly. Over the years I have been attracted by most vices, but never to smoking, so in the circumstances it is easy to speak against it. I will add that it is not just a domestic issue. The noble Lord says that he has an interest in BAT. What astonishes me is the way in which the growing awareness in this country of the dangers of smoking seems to be so slowly taken up in the developing world. We have a moral need, not only in relation to our own children but to the developing world, to make clear the dangers of smoking. It really is a global issue. It behoves particularly the wealthier countries—not least if the interests of big business are engaged, as undoubtedly they are, or those of the Exchequer—to give a proper lead. I think these amendments do just that.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): …The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester rightly suggested that this is a global issue. I agree. We are, however, considered to be a leader in tobacco control internationally. The World Health Organisation has assessed us to be number one in Europe in this area, and through the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control we share this good practice as much as we can…
On 19th November 2013, the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, took part in the Report Stage of the Government’s Energy Bill. He spoke in support of a Government amendment regarding the power to modify energy supply licences in domestic supply contracts. The amendment was agreed to.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I welcome this amendment, which began its life, I think, in an interchange between the noble Baroness and me in Grand Committee. She has pretty much supplied everything that I asked for then, and I am very pleased. The only point that I will make now is that the Government rightly want to make it easy for consumers to switch suppliers. That is a good thing and it is very helpful that this information will be made available one way or another on bills. However, it needs to be made available consistently, in the same form, by different suppliers, so that if you are comparing a bill from one supplier with a bill from another, the information is supplied in the same form on each bill. The noble Baroness did not quite make that point in what she said. I hope that she can assure us that these costs will be disclosed—either voluntarily or by the exercise of the power that she is taking—not only transparently but consistently and comparably by different suppliers. Continue reading “Bishop of Chester welcomes Government amendment to Energy Bill”
On 21st October 2013, the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, spoke during the Committee Stage of the Children and Families Bill. He raised concern about the wording of an amendment tabled by Lord Lloyd of Berwick on the standard of proof required in cases where children are taken into care, suggesting that the amendment be altered before being re-tabled at a subsequent stage of the Bill. The amendment was withdrawn following the debate.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, at the risk of lowering the tone of this extraordinarily learned exchange, in the church we face a similar issue when trying to discern when someone poses a potential risk but nothing can be proved. It is a difficult line to establish. In the drafting of this amendment, my eye has been caught by the juxtaposition of the words “likely” and “possible”. I wonder whether there is a better way of phrasing it. The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, used the word “might” at one point, but interestingly then corrected herself and said “was likely to”. There is a real difference between someone being assessed as “might” be a threat and “is likely to” be a threat. I think that I come down on the side of the noble and learned Baroness. However, it is good to know that the lawyers have only two views in these situations.
If this comes back, I hope that we will be able to look at the phraseology. To deduce that something is “likely” from a certain level of possibility seems to carry a stigma that we should not attach unless we really have to do so.