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?
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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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On 25th July 2019 MPs asked questions of Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP, the Second Church Estates Commissioner. Questions were asked about social media, telecommunications masts in parishes, FCO support for persecuted Christians, festivals in cathedrals, and funding to the Keighley constituency:
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On 16th July 2019 in the House of Commons Emma Hardy MP (Lab) asked an urgent question to the Secretary of State for Education on whether “he will make a statement on what steps he is taking to counter misinformation about the content of relationship education in schools”. The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP, asked a follow-up question:
Dame Caroline Spelman: The Church of England, the largest provider of primary education, fully supports this updating of the guidance. As the Minister says, it has not been updated for the past 20 years, and childhood has changed greatly during that time. Does the Minister agree that one of the imperatives for this change must be to protect pupils and keep them safe in the complex online world that they inhabit? My heart goes out to the children caught up in all this.
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On 23rd May 2019 Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe ask the Government “what plans they have to sponsor research into the benefits of gaming for children’s mental health and wellbeing.” The Bishop of Ely, Rt Revd Stephen Conway, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Bishop of Ely: My Lords, there has been much conversation already about research into gaming addiction among young people. My right reverend friend the Bishop of St Albans raised the issue of a mandatory pause function following calls from healthcare providers. As that was raised again in conversation and discussion around the Online Harms White Paper, will the Minister confirm that the Government are assessing the value of this function? Continue reading “Bishop of Ely asks Government about gaming addiction among young people”
On 25th April 2019 the House of Lords debated a Motion from Lord Gilbert of Panteg, “That this House takes note of the Report from the Communications Committee UK advertising in a digital age (1st Report, HL Paper 116).” The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert of Panteg, and the committee for the report, which made for fascinating reading. My friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford sends his apologies for not being in his place today; he is elsewhere in the world with the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, and so asked me to address one or two matters. I take complete responsibility for what I say, although he said that I must talk about self-regulation.
We all love digital; at least, most of us do. We love its possibilities. I do not go anywhere without my phone, frankly: I keep looking at it and I get bombarded with adverts through it. It was not planned but, yesterday evening, as it happens, I watched a lecture from a two-day conference for theologians being held in Durham this week, entitled “Missio Dei in a digital age”. Maggi Dawn, a British theologian based at Yale University, tracked the history of the impact of digital on Christian mission. She said this about how we handle digital:
“We need to recognise both the glorious possibilities of digital and its profound brokenness”.
Her point was that although digital is wonderful, with glorious possibilities we must use to the full, we must not fail to recognise its profound brokenness because it is infected by human beings, who make all kinds of mistakes in their use of things. Continue reading “Bishop of Durham raises impact on children of digital advertising”
On 8th April 2019 a Government statement on new proposals for online safety was repeated in the House of Lords. The Bishop of London, Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, welcomed the proposals and asked a follow-up question about international cooperation:
The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, I add my voice to those of my friends, the right reverend Prelates who sit on these Benches, who have welcomed this White Paper as a first step. Many of the platforms that would fall under the proposed regulator are based overseas. I hope that the proposals set out in the White Paper will give sufficient power to any regulator to hold these and future international companies to account.
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On 11th January 2018 the House of Lords debated a motion from Baroness Kidron “That this House takes note of the role played by social media and online platforms as news and content publishers.” The Bishop of Gloucester spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Gloucester: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, for obtaining this debate. I, too, thank her for her tireless work in this area.
Social media and online platforms now play an enormous role in shaping national dialogue and accepted social standards. In my visits to primary schools and secondary schools in the diocese of Gloucester, I have spent time talking with children about social media, and I affirm all that is good. Yet, as children progress to secondary school, their view of themselves and the world is increasingly being shaped by social media and online platforms. Young people are receiving strong messages about worth being about looking a certain way and about success being measured in online likes. Furthermore, their fears about the world they are growing up in are being fuelled by what they read online. Continue reading “Bishop of Gloucester urges greater requirements for online platforms to identify and remove harmful content”
On 1st December 2016, Baroness Howe of Idicote led a short debate in the Lords to ask the Government “what steps they are taking in order to achieve compliance with the new European Union net-neutrality Connected Continent requirements in such a way that United Kingdom adult content filtering regimes can be maintained in order to help keep children safe online.” The Rt Revd Dr Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester, took part in the debate.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, the House should be deeply grateful indeed to the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, for her persistence in bringing before us the difficult issue of online safety, particularly as it affects our children. I must say, the thickness of the plot as she set it out in her opening speech would be a credit to Agatha Christie herself in this particular aspect of it. We will be returning to the broader aspects when the Digital Economy Bill comes before us shortly. I believe that there is also a forthcoming report by the Communications Select Committee on children and the internet.
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