Since becoming a member of the House of Lords, I have taken the opportunity to speak in debates and on other occasions about a range of issues which matter if we are to build a good society and work together for the common good. I am privileged to be able to collaborate with many other people who are committed to bequeathing a better world to our children and grandchildren than the one we inherited.
I have frequently spoken in the House of Lords about prisons (such as here, here and here) and was commissioned by the Ministry of Justice to chair two reviews on reforming the criminal justice system so family ties are valued as a rehabilitation asset.
With several others I have set up an organisation called Women4WomenUK, to ensure women’s interests are properly considered in social policy. For example, we recently commissioned polling to understand public perceptions of trans issues.
Resisting the liberalisation of the law on drugs, pornography and assisted dying
I spoke in favour of criminalising new psychoactive substances, previously referred to as legal highs, because of how they ruin lives. For example, they are a recognised driver of late entry (of older children) into local authority care when young people accessing them spiral out of control and their parents are no longer able to cope. Also, they further destabilise prisons already struggling to cope with high levels of violence and mental illness.
Similarly, I have argued that liberalising our laws on pornography is harmful to children, because we cannot shield them from being able to view it if it is more easily available to adults. Extreme pornography normalises violence towards women and perpetuates misogynistic attitudes at a time when other parts of society and culture are trying to make these things of the past. It is inimical to loving and respectful relationships because it objectifies people rather than valuing each one as a unique individual.
It is essential that the new Online Safety Bill strengthens the protections for children and, where necessary for adults, which were included in the Digital Economy Act Part 3, against these harms.
Improving access to palliative care, rather than facilitating assisted suicide is also a priority for me and I am a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Dying Well. In a debate I led in the House of Lords I emphasised that people close to death require good spiritual care as well as high quality physical and emotional care.
Freedom of Religion, Belief and Speech
Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
The Cross Trust has helped fund the work of the APPG on International Freedom of Religion or Belief, which refers to Article 18 as an ‘orphaned right’.
While the UN Vienna Declaration of 1993 asserts that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and inter-related, in practice within the family of human rights this freedom remains on the margins…
Their 2019 Commentary on the current state of Freedom of Religion or Belief stated that over 80% of the world’s population live in countries with severe governmental and/or societal restrictions on the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB). Global trends over the past decade indicate that the number of countries that violate FoRB rights has been rising significantly.
I have spoken against the persecution of Christians and other minorities in what we know as the Middle East and North Korea and have drawn attention to how this also happens here, in the United Kingdom. Closely linked to freedom of religion or belief is freedom of speech and I have also drawn attention to ways in which this could be diminished in our country.