Queen’s Speech – Bishop of Oxford welcomes online safety bill plans

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.

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Bishop of Oxford welcomes Government plans to tackle online harms

Continue reading “Bishop of Oxford welcomes Government plans to tackle online harms”

Bishop of Oxford asks Government about age ratings for content on streaming platforms

On 8th December the Bishop of Oxford asked a question of Government during exchanges in the House of Lords on age ratings for streaming platforms:
The Lord Bishop of Oxford [V] : My Lords, I thank the Minister for her answer. What will the Government do if other platforms do not follow the Netflix example? According to the BBFC, over 90% of parents said that age-related guidance was helpful, and there is no doubt that voluntary action may be more forthcoming if platforms are very clear that the UK Government expect content consumed here in the UK to be properly signposted with BBFC symbols and content advice. How else do the Government plan to ensure that only age-appropriate content is accessible to young and vulnerable viewers?

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Bishop of St Albans asks about rural broadband rollout

On 16th November 2020 the Bishop of St Albans received a written answer to a question on gigabit-capable rural broadband:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Agnew of Oulton on 3 November (HL9493), whether the commitment to provide gigabit-capable broadband nationwide will be rolled out equitably between rural and urban communities. [HL10103] Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks about rural broadband rollout”

Bishop of St Albans asks about funding for fibre broadband

On 3rd November 2020 the Bishop of St Albans received a written answer to a question on fibre broadband:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the announcement that the long-term spending review will be replaced by a one-year spending review, whether plans to service the UK with fibre broadband by 2025 will be included as a multi-year capital allocation priority infrastructure project. [HL9493] Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks about funding for fibre broadband”

Bishop of Oxford calls on Government to publish reforms to prevent “predatory and harmful treatment” by Amazon of consumers and third-party sellers

On 12th October 2020 Lord Leigh of Hurley asked the Government “what steps they are planning to take (1) to protect third party sellers from the dominance of Amazon, and (2) to ensure that Amazon does not benefit from passing on the costs of the Digital Services Tax to sellers.” The Bishop of Oxford asked a further question:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, the Minister will be aware that last week the United States Congress published a 449-page report, after reviewing millions ​of documents and taking testimony from hundreds of witnesses, including Amazon’s CEO. The report concluded that

“the totality of the evidence produced during this investigation demonstrates the pressing need for legislative action and reform.”

Does she agree with or dispute the findings of the report? How soon will the Government introduce their own draft reforms to stop these predatory and harmful treatments of third-party sellers and consumers? Continue reading “Bishop of Oxford calls on Government to publish reforms to prevent “predatory and harmful treatment” by Amazon of consumers and third-party sellers”

Bishop of Oxford calls for household access to digital connection to be treated equally to other household utilities

On 5th October 2020 Baroness McDonagh asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the impact on primary and secondary school students’ ability to learn for those students (1) who have digital connectivity, and (2) who do not have such connectivity, when learning from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The Bishop of Oxford asked a follow up question:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford [V]: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer and for what the Government have already done. Before the pandemic, 23% of children in socioeconomic groups D and E lacked home broadband and access to laptops, et cetera. Does the Minister agree that we now need to measure data poverty and its effects more carefully? Will the Government commit to legislating for household digital access to be treated as a utility on an equal footing with the right to access for water and heat—a change supported by the general public? Continue reading “Bishop of Oxford calls for household access to digital connection to be treated equally to other household utilities”

Archbishop asks Government about preventing use of digital platforms for incitement to hatred and violence

On 16th July 2020 Lord Holmes of Richmond asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the impact of digital platforms on the functioning of democracy.” The Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Revd Justin Welby, asked a follow-up question:

The Archbishop of Canterbury [V]:  My Lords, I declare an interest in that certain funds across the Church of England and the Anglican Communion hold shares in social media companies, and vast numbers of churches and Anglicans, including me, use platforms for the promotion of the Church’s work. The Minister will be aware that, although social media has immense power for good, some social media platforms are used to incite hatred, stirring up social disruption and even extreme violence in some parts of the world, as I have recently heard from bishops in the DRC. What steps are Her Majesty’s Government looking at to motivate and encourage responsibility to be taken by such platforms to prevent their use in everything from hate speech to genocide? Continue reading “Archbishop asks Government about preventing use of digital platforms for incitement to hatred and violence”

Bishop of Oxford calls for post-Covid economy with fast, affordable internet access for all

On 11th June 2020 the House of Lords debated a motion from Baroness Hayman, “that this House takes note of the case for post-COVID-19 recovery strategies that will contribute to a fairer, cleaner, and more sustainable economy.” The Bishop of Oxford, Rt Revd Steven Croft, spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I warmly welcome this debate. The country faces the triple challenge in the next decade of the threat of climate change, the deepest recession for generations and the health challenges of Covid, all of which will exacerbate existing inequalities. I support much of what other noble Lords have said and will focus my remarks on the vital theme of digital inclusion.

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Bishop of Derby calls for age verification for pornography online

On 11th June 2020 Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty’s Government “what assessment they have made of the research by the British Board of Film Classification on the extent of exposure of children and teens to harmful or upsetting content while in lockdown, published on 4 May.” The Bishop of Derby, Rt Revd Libby Lane, asked a follow-up question:

The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I echo the concern about the Government’s lack of progress in introducing the measures outlined in their online harms White Paper. The BBFC report found that children are increasingly using pornography as an educational tool, which appears to be normalising such access in childhood. That means that, particularly during the lockdown, there is an increased risk of children being exposed to harmful content. Continue reading “Bishop of Derby calls for age verification for pornography online”