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 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”
On 11th December 2018 the House of Lords considered a motion to approve the Online Pornography (Commercial Basis) Regulations 2018. During the debate the Bishop of Chester, Rt Revd Peter Forster, spoke:
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I am pleased to speak in general support of the regulations and guidance. They relate to matters which I and others raised during the passage of the Digital Economy Bill in 2017 and, more broadly, to issues debated by the House a couple of years ago in a balloted debate that I introduced. The subject of that debate was the impact of pornography on our society. While there was some disagreement over the impact of pornography on adults, there was virtual unanimity that children needed to be protected from pornography—as far as this could reasonably be achieved. I seem somehow, by default, to have become the episcopal expert on pornography. I am trying to live that down. It is just the way it has fallen—although I often find myself talking from these Benches about things I have not had much experience of. Continue reading “Bishop of Chester questions strength of protections of new online pornography regulations”
On the 20th March 2017, the House of Lords debated a Government amendment to the Digital Economy Bill at its Report Stage, on access to online pornography. Original Government proposals were that the threshold of censorship and prohibition should be as consistent as possible for material distributed online and offline. In a new amendment the Government offered a revised approach, with a higher threshold for prohibiting material online alongside a focus on age verification measures. The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, and the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, spoke against the amendment, arguing to keep the original approach. The amendment was however agreed without a vote. The Bishops’ speeches are below, with an extract of the Minister’s reply. The full text of the debate on the amendments can be read in Hansard, here.
On 13th December 2016 the Government’s Digital Economy Bill was debated at its Second Reading in the House of Lords. The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Rev’d Peter Forster, contributed to the debate, focusing on issues in Part 3 of the Bill relating to online pornography and social media.
The Lord Bishop of Chester My Lords, I will make brief general remarks before focusing on Part 3, which deals with online pornography. When I was a student, 45 years ago, I invested in a dictionary, which I still have. The word “internet” did not appear in it and “digital” meant “pertaining to the fingers”. “Computer” was a mere derivative of the verb “to compute” and meant a calculator. At the time, I was completing a chemistry degree and learning early computer language such as ALGOL and FORTRAN, which I assume are as extinct now as we think dinosaurs are extinct. Continue reading “Digital Economy Bill: Bishop of Chester on proposed age verification measures for adult content”
On 11th December 2015 the House of Lords considered in Committee the Online Safety Bill which had been tabled by Baroness Howe. The Bishop of Bristol, Rt Revd Mike Hill supported the Bill and spoke favourably to an amendment, later withdrawn, by Lord Morrow on filtering of adult content and age verification policies.
The Lord Bishop of Bristol: My Lords, I do not want to add too much to the way that the noble Lord, Lord Morrow, has framed his amendment today, but his point is worthy of serious scrutiny, simply because children living in households that are not serviced by the big four ISPs surely require the same level of protection as those in homes whose services are provided by the big four ISPs. Everyone in your Lordships’ House agrees that every child matters; I think that it is not at all controversial to say that.
On the 5th November 2015 the Bishop of Chester led a Lords debate “That this House takes note of the impact of pornography on society.” Rt Revd Mike Hill, Bishop of Bristol, spoke in the debate on how pornography impacted on the way adults and children formed relationships. The Bishop of Chester’s opening speech can also be read here.
The Lord Bishop of Bristol: My Lords, I join those congratulating my noble friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester on bringing this debate into your Lordships’ House. I also commend his detailed knowledge of DH Lawrence. I recall that when I was in school there were merely three pages of his book that captured our attention.
On the 5th November 2015 the Rt Revd Peter Forster, the Bishop of Chester, hosted a debate in the House of Lords “That this House takes note of the impact of pornography on society.” The full text of his speeches opening and closing the debate are below, as is the speech from the Government Minister in reply. The Bishops’ speech can also be watched online here. The Bishop of Bristol also spoke in the debate and his remarks can be seen here.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, your Lordships may feel that they have sometimes listened to a speech from these Benches and thought that the speaker is not entirely familiar with the subject. There is, of course, an old adage that generally the Bishop speaks and generally the Bishop speaks generally. I shall avoid an echo of the confessional, but I can say that my first-hand knowledge of pornography is very limited. Of the range of vices available to me, I have been tempted by most, but not in any significant way by pornography. If the statistics are to be believed, that makes me a rather unusual, if not exotic, creature.
Pornography is a very widespread feature of western society, especially since the advent of the internet age. In my ministry I have come across addiction to pornography as a factor in individual marriage breakdown. As a Bishop, I have had two of my clergy prosecuted for downloading child sexual abuse images, usually called child pornography. Both these priests were given custodial sentences and both are unlikely ever again to exercise the Christian ministry for which they were trained. Continue reading “Bishop of Chester leads Lords debate on the impact of pornography on society”
“This is not about money or business; it is about abused and oppressed human beings” – Bishop of Derby, 23/10/15
On 23rd October 2015 the House of Lords debated the Advertising of Prostitution (Prohibition) Bill, a private member’s bill tabled by the Conservative Peer, Lord McColl of Dulwich, that would prohibit the advertising of prostitution. The Bishop of Derby, Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, spoke supportively in the debate. The Bill was given a Second Reading by Peers and will progress to its committee stage.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: I too congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McColl, and thank him for introducing the Bill and for his important work in this important area. I will make a couple of points about the context and about the issue that we are debating.