“search engines free of advertising, social networking freed from the blind pursuit of profit, messaging services which do not mine our data—and all protecting the rights of the child? Perhaps the Government might be willing to explore this kind of radical intervention—social media in public service—in this vital area”
On 10th December 2021 the Bishop of Oxford spoke in a House of Lords debate led by the Archbishop of Canterbury on contemporary challenges to freedom of speech and the role of the public, private and third sectors in upholding it:
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, it is a great privilege and honour, as always, to follow the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, one of my distinguished predecessors. I am grateful for this timely debate and to the most reverend Primate for his very comprehensive introduction. In a few days’ time, as we have heard, the scrutiny committee of both Houses will publish its report on the online safety legislation: a potentially vital web of provisions to prevent harm to individuals and, I hope, to society.
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 16th December the Bishop of Oxford responded to a Government statement on its plans to tackle online harms:
The Lord Bishop of Oxford [V]: My Lords, I declare my interests, particularly my membership as a board member of the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation.
I sincerely congratulate the Government and other agencies such as the Carnegie UK Trust for these proposals, the way in which they have been developed and their substance. They have a very simple ethical code at their heart: if something is illegal or harmful offline, it should be illegal and considered harmful online.
The protection of children is paramount; refinements will be needed, but the main direction is right. The proposals break new ground. I only hope that there will be a due sense of urgency as they are taken forward. I understand the need to focus the legislation, but given the decision to rule fraud and certain other areas out of scope—which will no doubt continue to be debated—when will we see an overall digital strategy so that we can see this Bill as part of a whole?
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?
On 10th November the Bishop of Oxford received written answers to three questions, on employment conditions in the gig economy:
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of (1) the impact, and (2) the effectiveness, of requiring employers in the gig economy to provide workers and contractors with a written statement of their core terms of employment. [HL9569]
Lord Callanan: In response to the Taylor Review, the Government recognised that there was a significant lack of awareness among individuals and employers about applicable rights and responsibilities in non-standard contracts. We therefore amended legislation so that the Employment Rights Act 1996 entitles both employees and workers to receive a written statement of employment particulars that sets out the position regarding remuneration and hours of work etc. Continue reading “Bishop of Oxford asks about employment rights in the gig economy”
On 22nd October the Bishop of Oxford asked a question he had tabled to Government on the impact of Covid-19 on the gig economy. The exchanges and further questions from other Members, are below:
Asked by The Lord Bishop of Oxford
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the gig economy.
Baroness Penn (Con): My Lords, the Government have stood by businesses and workers with one of the most comprehensive and generous packages of support globally. We are working intensively with employers and industry groups to understand the long-term effects of Covid-19 and specific challenges to businesses and workers, including in the gig economy. Following announcements of further measures to control the spread of Covid-19, we are continuing to monitor the impact of government support in different sectors.
The Lord Bishop of Oxford [V]: I thank the Minister very much for her Answer. While the job coaches and extra provision made may improve the CVs and present conditions of those forced into the gig economy, they will do nothing to improve the security or the working conditions of those so precariously employed and poorly protected. Therefore, will the employment Bill provide a clearer definition of what counts as an employer-employee relationship? How will it stop platform employers retaining all of the profits while socialising essential costs such as sickness pay or a basic pension in old age? Continue reading “Bishop of Oxford asks Government about impact of covid-19 on the gig economy”
On 15th October 2020 Lord Baker of Dorking asked the Government “further to the estimate by the Office for National Statistics in Labour market overview, UK: October 2020, published on 13 October, that approximately 60 per cent of those unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are aged between 16 and 24, what action they are taking to reduce youth unemployment.” The Bishop of Oxford asked a further question:
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for the compassion and passion in her answers but, as we must acknowledge, this is a very serious situation. The Resolution Foundation now forecasts that unemployment among the 18 to 29 year-olds could triple to 17% by late 2020—a level not seen since 1984. Given the well-established link between unemployment and mental health, and the risks of a mental health epidemic, will the Government undertake to fund support for additional mental health provision, in addition to the education and employment initiatives which she has unpacked, to support this very hard-pressed and vulnerable Covid generation? Continue reading “Bishop of Oxford – more mental health funds needed due to Covid and rise in youth unemployment”
On 15th October 2020 Baroness Bull asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the report by the Social Mobility Commission The long shadow of deprivation, published on 15 September.” The Bishop of Oxford asked a further question:
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I welcome this report and it is good to hear the Minister welcome it too. Deprivation is an issue that goes to the core of natural justice, and therefore our common good as a nation. Does the Minister accept in particular the report’s findings that employment interventions are as critical as educational improvement in addressing systematic inequalities and levelling up? What additional steps do the Government propose to take to improve employment opportunities, particularly when facing the current recession, in the cold spots that the report identifies across the nation? Continue reading “Bishop of Oxford calls for employment interventions to address inequality and help levelling up”
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.”
On 5th and 6th October 2020 votes took place on amendments that Members of the House of Lords had tabled to the Government’s Immigration and Social Security (EU Withdrawal) Bill. Eleven bishops took part across eight separate votes, supporting amendments that were passed by majorities of the House, with one exception. A summary is below and the full text of each amendment is beneath. The amendments will now be considered by MPs who will have to decide whether to accept or reject each.Continue reading “Votes: Immigration and Social Security (EU Withdrawal) Bill 2020”