The new UK Parliament met for the first time yesterday and the Lords Spiritual (Women) Act 2015 came into force. For the next ten years eligible women will go to the head of the queue to fill vacancies among the 21 Lords Spiritual that are normally filled by seniority.
The next vacancy among these Lords Spiritual will arise on 11 July 2015 when Tim Stevens, the Bishop of Leicester, retires. According to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s diary, Rachel Treweek’s election as the next Bishop of Gloucester will be confirmed on 15 June and she will be consecrated on 22 July. Under section 1(4) of the Act it is the date of her confirmation of election that determines eligibility. As this is before 11 July, Rachel will fill the vacancy created by the Bishop of Leicester’s retirement and become the first female Lord Spiritual.
Bishop Tim’s retirement has another consequence as he has been the Convenor of the Lords Spiritual for the last six years. It was announced yesterday that the Archbishop of Canterbury had appointed the Bishop of Birmingham, David Urquhart, to be the new convenor. The announcement includes this job description: “The Convenor ensures that the work of the Lords Spiritual is coordinated and supported and that the interests of the Bishops’ Bench are represented fully in and outside Parliament. The Convenor is the primary point of contact and liaison on behalf of the Bishops’ Bench for the party leaderships in the Lords, Convenor of the Cross Bench Peers, officials and business managers.”