THINKING ANGLICANS

House of Lords reform: what about bishops?

The Government has published yet another White Paper on Lords Reform. You can find it over here.

The section relating to Church of England Bishops is reproduced below the fold.

Ekklesia has already published its opinion, Time to remove Bishops from the House of Lords:

…The Church of England, an external institution with its own particular agenda, would be able to parachute whomever they choose into the second chamber of Parliament as a matter of right. This would not be a step forward but a step back into the dark ages of special political privilege. With the Prime Minister’s power to appoint bishops being ended, that section of the House of Lords would be more unaccountable than it has ever been…

Church of England Bishops

6.45 The Church of England’s unique place in society and the valuable role it plays in English national life, both religious and secular, is widely recognised. Within England, the position of the Church of England is that of the Church by law established, with the Sovereign as its supreme Governor. The relationship between the Church and State is a core part of our constitutional framework that has evolved over centuries. The presence of Bishops in the House of Lords signals successive Governments’ commitment to this fundamental constitutional principle and to an expression of the relationship between the Crown, Parliament and the Church that underpins the fabric of our nation.

6.46 However, the Church of England’s role stretches further than constitutional principles. The Church takes a leading part in a range of spheres, both religious and secular. In partnership with many of the UK’s other religious communities, the Church offers spiritual support to everyone, regardless of their beliefs. The fact that the Church’s staff and volunteers often live in the heart of the community they serve adds to the effectiveness of this support. The Church of England Bishops’ position in Parliament reflects this culture of promoting tolerance and inclusiveness.

6.47 The Wakeham Commission highlighted the valuable parliamentary role that the Church plays and its wider implications: “The Church of England Bishops’ position as Lords of Parliament reflects the British history and culture of seeking to heal religious conflict and promoting ever greater religious tolerance and inclusiveness.”

6.48 The Government is clear that if a reformed second chamber is wholly elected, there should be no seats for Church of England Bishops or any other group.

6.49 If the number of seats available in a mainly elected second chamber reduced compared with the current House of Lords, it would be logical to reduce proportionally the number seats available for Bishops. However, practice is that Bishops attend the House of Lords on a rota basis, reflecting their other commitments. Reducing the number would make it harder for the Bishops collectively to carry out their functions in the second chamber and to continue to make their current level of contribution. The Government therefore proposes that if there is an appointed element in a reformed second chamber, there should be a number of seats reserved for Church of England Bishops. As the number of seats generally available in the second chamber will be reduced in comparison with the current House of Lords, it would also be logical to reduce proportionally the number seats available for Bishops. These would not count towards the 20% of members appointed by an appointments commission.

6.50 The Church of England would be invited to consider how it would in future select Bishops for membership of the second chamber.

6.51 The Liberal Democrats do not think there should be reserved seats for Church of England Bishops in a reformed second chamber. Their view is that if there were to be an appointed element, there would be opportunities for Bishops or other representatives of the Church of England, as well as from other faiths, to be put forward to the Appointments Commission as candidates for membership.

6.52 Before firm decisions can be made, consultation with the Church of England authorities would be necessary on the details of any proposals affecting Bishops’ membership of the second chamber.

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MattMalcolm+John BassettNom de PlumeWalsingham Recent comment authors
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Canon G
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Canon G

Pardon a yank’s observation but isn’t the whole House of Lords nothing but special privilege based on ancient prerogatives gained by money along with raping and pillaging the losers in the mists of history?

David Walker
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David Walker

Canon G’s viewpoint might be true if the HoL were still largely populated by the hereditary peers. Most of these were removed as members a few years ago. The present Upper House includes a substantial proportion of eminent individuals from many walks of life who bring a level of expertise to its debates that the Lower House does not always possess. The Bishops bring the experience of daily active engagement in their dioceses (very useful to a chamber where many are retired from their main careers). There are too many superannuated politicians, some of them reputedly awarded seats there in… Read more »

andrew holden
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andrew holden

A visitor from one of our former colonies asked: “isn’t the whole House of Lords nothing but special privilege based on ancient prerogatives gained by money along with raping and pillaging the losers in the mists of history?” Is that better or worse than having a Senate filled with those who have bought their way into special privilage with money gained by raping and pillaging (metaphorically perhaps) the losers of the present day? Personally I have no desire to see the present HoL replaced by a clone of the ‘other place’ and filled with professional party politicians claiming some sort… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
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The Bishop of Exeter said this about it (from Hansard): The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, I also thank the Minister for repeating the Statement, and welcome the White Paper. We on these Benches will play our part fully in the debates on the recommendations, including those that seek to secure a proper representation of all communities of faith in these islands. Given the evident interest in the future of these Benches shown by many noble Lords, not least during the reading of the Statement, perhaps I could comment on some of the recommendations that relate to the Bishops.… Read more »

Malcolm+
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A hereditaery legislative chamber is impossible to justify.

However, an all-appointed one is worse.

In removing the bulk of the hereditaries a few years ago, Tony Blair made the Lords a pale imitation of that peurile institution, the Canadian Senate.

And the Canadian Senate is a festering pustule on the arse-end of Canadian democracy.

jake
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jake

The last thing we need is more politicans. I suggest random selection. Excluding criminals and members of political parties.

Walsingham
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Walsingham

@jake:

I happily nominate myself for Global Overlord. Who’s with me?

Nom de Plume
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Nom de Plume

Malcolm+ appears to be of the opinion that purchasing a seat of power, whether in the former upstart colonies or in the Lords (cf Lord Black of Cross Harbour – referred to in one satire as Lord Black of Cross Dressing, now of a rather different address than the Lords thanks to a Chicago judge) is somehow preferable to being appointed because of some demonstrated ability to contribute to the governance of a nation. Neither option is perfect; both have their advantages, disadvantages and possibilities for manipulation and outright mistake. But personally, I do not believe that the ability to… Read more »

John Bassett
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John Bassett

But is there any need for a second house of Parliament? Normally, dividing a legislature into separate chambers represents the fact that there are different groups which have separate legal identities and functions. In the feudal era, the landholding aristocracy had special privileges and duties, so it was appropriate to separate them from city merchants and other commoners. In General Synod, Bishops have a separate function and status so it is appropriate to separate them from clergy and laity. In the United States, the Senate serves to represent states which have residual sovereignty in the federal system. In Britain today,… Read more »

Malcolm+
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Perhaps, nomdeplume, you’d do me the courtesy of reading what I wrote instead of attributng to me positions created by your fertile imagination.

The Lords, as it was, is a democratic abomnation.

The Lords as it is, or as the Canadian Senate has always been, is worse (since all members are beholden to recent appointees).

It is only by completely overturning my comments that any sane human being could possibly approve of either option, or of the odious person of Babs Amiel’s convict hubby.

Matt
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Matt

Step One: Retain current arrangements for Hereditaries and Bishops. Automatically grant a life-peerage to all members of the supreme court ; who become entitled to sit in the Lords (as ‘Law Lords’) upon their retirement from the court. Step Two: A Bill placing a limit on the total number of peers there can be (whether sitting in the Lords or not), at any one time. I suggest 1750 people. Step Three: The Life Peers to select 25% of their numbers to sit in the Lords (the remaining ‘pool’ of Life Peers could, like the pool of Hereditaries, be voted back… Read more »