Bishop of Oxford asks about employment rights in the gig economy

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”

Bishop of Oxford asks Government about impact of covid-19 on 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”

Bishop of Oxford – more mental health funds needed due to Covid and rise in youth unemployment

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”

Bishop of Oxford calls for employment interventions to address inequality and help levelling up

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”

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”

Votes: Immigration and Social Security (EU Withdrawal) Bill 2020

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”

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”

Bishop of Oxford asks about ethics in technology, and use of AI in coronavirus response

On 9th September 2020 the Bishop of Oxford, Rt Revd Steven Croft, asked a question of Government about the use of artificial intelligence in dealing with COVID-19:

Covid-19: Artificial Intelligence

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the report by the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation AI Barometer, published on 18 June, what assessment they have made of the benefits and risks of the use of artificial intelligence in addressing the impact of COVID-19.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Barran) (Con):  My Lords, artificial intelligence played a very important role in responding to Covid, from identifying potential drug candidates to AI-driven education technology. AI also has the potential to drive productivity gains across sectors, supporting exciting new careers and businesses as an essential part of economic recovery. It is important that we keep society engaged as we do, so the centre’s Covid-19 repositories and its public attitudes surveys inform our understanding of public sentiment. The independent AI Council advises the Government on how best to realise the benefits and mitigate the risks.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford [V]: I thank the Minister for her Answer, and I draw attention to my registered interest as a board member of the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation. A year ago, the Prime Minister set out a vision, in his speech to the United Nations, for the UK to become a global leader in ethical and responsible technologies. We are discovering more deeply and painfully that ethics, good governance, human mediation and public trust are vital to realise the deeper benefits of these new technologies and prevent real harm. Will the noble Baroness affirm the importance ​of balancing innovation with a continued emphasis on ethics and good governance across the technology sector? In particular, will she confirm that the long-delayed government response to their own online harms consultation will be published this month, paving the way for much-needed legislation? Continue reading “Bishop of Oxford asks about ethics in technology, and use of AI in coronavirus response”

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.

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

Bishop of Oxford calls for agreed principles against which public-centred use of Artificial Intelligence can be assessed

On 12th February 2020 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Clement-Jones, “To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they have taken to assess the full implications of decision-making and prediction by algorithm in the public sector.” The Bishop of Oxford, Rt Revd Steven Croft, asked a follow-up question:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I declare an interest as a board member of the CDEI and a member of the Ada Lovelace Institute’s new Rethinking Data project. I am also a graduate of the AI Select Committee. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, for this important debate.

Almost all those involved in this sector are aware that there is an urgent need for creative regulation that realises the benefits of artificial intelligence while minimising the risks of harm. I was recently struck by a new book by Brad Smith, the president of Microsoft, entitled Tools and Weapons—that says it all in one phrase. His final sentence is a plea for exactly this kind of creative regulation. He writes:

“Technology innovation is not going to slow down. The work to manage it needs to speed up.”

Continue reading “Bishop of Oxford calls for agreed principles against which public-centred use of Artificial Intelligence can be assessed”