Zoom Parliament is not working, says bishop

May 28, 2021 by

from CEN:

Lords Spiritual have found it “harder to press the government to accountability” over the lockdown and peers are “stifled by the medium of Zoom” according to the Bishop of Birmingham.

On Thursday the House of Lords debated the changes made to its working procedures as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The Bishop of Birmingham, as convenor of the Lords Spiritual, spoke about the effect on the Bishops’ Benches and more widely in the country.

The Bishop of Birmingham warned that the House of Lords “should not simply stop and revert” to new ways of working “without attending to what we have experienced in some detail and to see what might be beneficial in the months and years ahead.”

Reflecting on his experience of the Lords spiritual, he said:“One of my colleagues has been quite clear that this has been stifled by the medium of Zoom. Then we come on to the whole business of accountability, our major passion in this House, to allow the Government—whatever kind of Government—to be held to account in the rush and tumble of our current way of doing things. Colleagues would say that it has been harder to press the Government to accountability, not least at this time when we have had to make lots of decisions by secondary legislation or, as was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, by statutory instruments.”

Bishop Urquhart told the Lords that that their role in Parliament “especially at a time when there is tension and a contested power struggle between legislature” should be “Executive and judiciary” and that “this is much better done in person rather than remotely.”

He argued, “Colleagues on this Bench find that the custom of the House to allow an intervention in person is much more effective and easier than just being part of a ballot for which we cannot actually get in. I am sure that as we emerge from the next stage of the pandemic, decisions about rules and practices—comments have already been made about the detailed work that may need to be done in our lessons learned—will include the interests of everyone in the House.”

“We on this side of the House feel that it is preferable to be present in person. We express, as has been mentioned, our full humanity, our ability as this extraordinary part of the created order, when we engage with one another by sight—if we have sight—by hearing, by touch, by listening and getting the mood of what is happening. Of course, this is using all the advantages of politics as has been practised over the centuries and I hope will go on being practised in the centuries ahead—although not all of us may be here to experience that when it comes. The same applies in church: we may well go on with hybrid.”

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