Last week, Bishop David was the duty bishop in the House of Lords. This Lords Spiritual* role involves saying prayers at the start of each day in the Lords before parliamentary business begins. It also means being on duty to respond to urgent business that might come up – like ministerial statements or urgent questions – and is a great opportunity for the bishop to speak out on issues they want to shine a spotlight on and to meet with other parliamentarians.
Here's a summary of what Bishop David’s latest duty week involved:
On Monday, Bishop David took part in an Oral Question on Government action to protect rivers and beaches from pollution. Specifically, he asked what consideration the Government have given to managing pollution in the context of increased extreme weather events caused by climate change.
Later that day, Bishop David spoke in the Public Order Bill’s Report Stage. The Bill seeks to increase powers to address protestors causing “serious disruption”, introducing new offences such as ‘locking on’. The Bill introduces Serious Disruption Prevention Orders and increases Stop and Search powers both with and without suspicion. Bishop David spoke in support of amendments to remove clauses in the Bill making ‘locking on’ and ‘being equipped for locking on’ from the Bill, and another amendment to ensure rights to access healthcare and to protest did not come into conflict.
On Tuesday, as well as leading prayers in the House of Lords, Bishop David attended a number of meetings around Westminster.
On Wednesday, Bishop David asked a supplementary question during an Oral Question on criminality in the Metropolitan Police. Specifically, he asked how the Government would be assisting the Metropolitan Police in addressing cultural and structural issues in the police force.
Later in the afternoon, the Online Safety Bill had its Second Reading in the House of Lords. There were many moving and varied contributions – the full transcript of all speeches can be read here. Both Bishop David and the Bishop of Oxford spoke in the debate.
Bishop David outlined five principles, previously set out by the Church of England Ethical Investment Advisory Group in their ‘Big Tech’ report, that could assist in improving and saving lives through the Bill: flourishing as persons, flourishing in relationship, standing with the marginalised, caring for creation, and serving the common good. He also outlined concerns about Secretary of State powers and OFCOM independence, cooperation between regulators, and child welfare.
On Thursday, Bishop David took part in an Oral Question asking the Government what plans they have to commission an independent review of the scale, capabilities, ethics, and impact on rights, of CCTV in the United Kingdom. Specifically, he asked what assessment the Government have made of the use of live facial recognition technology in conjunction with CCTV and what legal safeguards are in place.
Following Oral Questions there was an Urgent Question on the Government response to the National Police Response to the Hillsborough Families Report led by the former Bishop of Liverpool the Rt Rev James Jones. In his supplementary question, Bishop David asked what is being done to ensure the Hillsborough families remain consulted, engaged and at the heart of the Government response.
*There are 26 bishops who sit in the House of Lords called the Lords Spiritual.