Bishop of Oxford asks about pre-paid energy meters

The Bishop of Oxford received the following written answers on 26th October 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford asked His Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of the number of (1) forced prepay energy meter installs, and (2) forced prepay energy meter switches, that will take place this winter.

Lord Callanan (Con): The Government does not make an estimate of the number of prepayment meters installed or switched. The energy Regulator, Ofgem, has reported that the number of prepayment meters installed for debt under warrant in 2021 was 49,552.

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Bishop of Oxford speaks about child poverty

On 20th October 2022, the Bishop of Oxford spoke about child poverty during a debate on the cost of living and public wellbeing:

My Lords, I welcome this moving and timely debate and the opportunity to highlight the consequences of the rising cost of living and its impact on well-being. I particularly want to focus on the well-being of children.

Psalm 41 begins with the words, “Blessed are those who consider the poor”—a reminder, if we need one, that the well-being of the whole nation is enhanced or diminished by the way we respond to those most in need. This insight is shared by all the great faith traditions.

So let us consider the poor, especially children caught in poverty and the impact of that on their well-being. The Children’s Society published its Good Childhood Report a few weeks ago. The stats have been quoted already. Some 85% of parents and carers are concerned about how the cost of living crisis will affect their families; that is nearly everybody. A third of families reported that they are already struggling with the costs of school trips and uniforms over the next year. A recent Action for Children survey report found that nearly half of children worry about their family finances—but, of course, many children’s needs are much more basic.

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Bishop of Oxford asks about government support for behaviour change on the pathway to net-zero

The Bishop of Oxford tabled a question for short debate on 20th October 2022, concerning the pathway to net zero emissions:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: To ask His Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to support behaviour change as part of the pathway to net zero emissions.

My Lords, I appreciate the time given to this debate, despite all that is happening elsewhere in Westminster today. We face many challenging issues as a country and a world, but none is more serious than climate change and the environmental crisis. The context of our debate is the real prospect of global heating of more than 1.5 degrees by the middle of the century, with escalating extreme weather events in the UK and across the world, rising sea levels, devastating fires and floods, significant loss of life and damage to infrastructure, wars over scarce resources, shifting patterns of harvest, an increase in zoonotic disease and a massive displacement of people as large parts of the earth become uninhabitable.

Your Lordships may well have seen the final episode this week of BBC documentary “Frozen Planet II”, detailing the effects of global warming on people and wildlife. The most sinister pictures for me were of the small bubbles of trapped methane being released in great quantities from the permafrost, with devastating consequences for the earth.

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Bishop of Oxford asks about “compassionate conservatism”

On 18th October 2022, the Bishop of Oxford asked a question in response the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt’s, speech on the economy:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I welcome the new Chancellor, many of the measures announced yesterday, and the increased prospect of greater stability. I noticed that in his Statement yesterday he used the phrase “compassionate conservatism” several times. I wonder if the Minister would unpack that phrase a little, particularly on how the Chancellor will navigate to privilege the needs of the very poorest in society, perhaps especially in the outworking of the increase in benefits in line with price inflation, and in looking to see a decrease in the use of foodbanks in the coming years, which has escalated in major ways in the last decade.

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Bishop of Oxford speaks about ministerial changes

On 7th September 2022, the House of Lords discussed the recent ministerial changes, with particular reference to the new Leader of the House of Lords, Lord True, and the outgoing Leader, Baroness Evans of Bowes Park. The Bishop of Oxford made the following speech:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, it is a joy to listen to these tributes. I associate myself with them and, on behalf of the Lords spiritual, add our thanks and appreciation to the noble Baroness for her service over this last six years. It is a happy thing that so many of my colleagues are also here to join in that tribute. It has been my privilege to serve in this House through the whole of the noble Baroness’s tenure. I believe that she has brought the gifts of stability and acuity to her leadership and that the House has functioned well in that time. So far as I can judge, she has increased the respect in which this House is held in the wider nation and country.

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Bishop of Oxford asks about the cost of energy

On 6th September 2022, the Bishop of Oxford asked a question on energy bills for low income families:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, it is very good to hear that a plan is in place to address this catastrophe, which is concerning so many people, and to bring help to households. What steps will the Government take to address this fundamental failure of the market, such that huge, almost unimaginable profits are accruing to energy companies, while the poorest in the country face the dreadful choice between heating and eating?

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Bishop of Oxford asks about autonomous weapons

The Bishop of Oxford received the following written answers on 5th September 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford asked Her Majesty’s Government, further to their policy paper Ambitious, Safe, Responsible: Our approach to the delivery of AI enabled capability in Defence, published on 15 June, which says that “We do not rule out incorporating AI within weapon systems” and that real-time human supervision of such systems “may act as an unnecessary and inappropriate constraint on operational performance”, when this would be seen as a constraint; and whether they can provide assurance that the UK’s weapon systems will remain under human supervision at the point when any decision to take a human life is made.

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Bishop of Oxford speaks in a debate on artificial intelligence

The House of Lords debated the AI in the UK (Liaison Committee Report) in grand committee on 25th May 2022. The Bishop of Oxford spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Evans, and thank him in this context for his report, which I found extremely helpful when it was published and subsequently. It has been a privilege to engage with the questions around AI over the last five years through the original AI Select Committee so ably chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, in the Liaison Committee and as a founding board member for three years of the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation. I thank the noble Lord for his masterly introduction today and other noble Lords for their contributions.

There has been a great deal of investment, thought and reflection regarding the ethics of artificial intelligence over the last five years in government, the National Health Service, the CDEI and elsewhere—in universities, with several new centres emerging, including in the universities of Oxford and Oxford Brookes, and by the Church and faith communities. Special mention should be made of the Rome Call for AI Ethics, signed by Pope Francis, Microsoft, IBM and others at the Vatican in February 2020, and its six principles of transparency, inclusion, accountability, impartiality, reliability and security. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has led the formation of a new Anglican Communion Science Commission, drawing together senior scientists and Church leaders across the globe to explore, among other things, the impact of new technologies.

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Bishop of Oxford asks about the cost of living

The Bishop of Oxford asked the following question in a debate about the cost of living, on 25th May 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, the Minister and other noble Lords will be aware of the paradox that it is often the very poorest people in society who pay a higher tariff for their electricity through pre-payment meters and the like. They may not have bank accounts or the ability to pay on any kind of credit. Are the Government proposing to do anything to help and support those who are locked into these higher energy prices when they can least afford then?

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Bishop of Oxford asks about zoonotic diseases

On 24th May 2022, the Bishop of Oxford asked a question during a debate on establishing a zoonosis research centre in the UK:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I am sure the Minister is aware that the rapid increase in zoonotic diseases has its roots in the environmental crisis: deforestation, habitat destruction, intensive farming and unregulated trade in wild animals. Therefore, as well as the vital areas of medical research and response to disease, how are the Government focusing their intervention on prevention as well as diagnosis and cure?

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