Saturday, 28 October 2006

Lords reform and the Bishops

The Sunday Times reported in Life peers face axe in Lords overhaul on a draft document which is available in full here. The section dealing specifically with religious representation is reproduced here below the fold.

Today, in the Church Times Bill Bowder reports on this with Lords plan would keep bishops out of their dioceses.

(c) Religious representation

16. It is important that faith communities are formally represented in the House of Lords. The Church of England, as the established Church enjoys a special status in the social and political life in England and more widely around the United Kingdom and has long been recognised even by people who are not themselves Anglicans. Bishops have sat in the Lords since its inception; they are the only category of member whose term is limited to the holding of their office. There have in the past been arguments about the disestablishment of the Church of England. There is little steam behind such arguments today, and, in any event, any profound change in the status of the Anglican Church must be in the first instance for the Church itself. It is therefore right for there to be special representation of the Church of England in the reformed Lords.

17. Whilst recognising the quality of work they bring to the House, a more flexible approach which would allow a Bishop to take up a seat in the House of Lords where they have expressed a keen interest rather than based on seniority should be considered. Furthermore, assuming the overall size of the House reduces, it would be difficult to justify retaining the current number of 26 Bishops. A practical solution would be to reduce the number of reserved places say from 26 to 16. This was proposed as long ago as 1968 and was at that time acceptable to the Church of England.

18. It is equally important that a reformed House of Lords reflect the religious make-up of the UK, even though it may be the case that not all individuals will be able to act as formal spokespersons for these particular faiths or beliefs. Nevertheless, assuming there will be some form of appointments to the Lords, a duty could be placed on the Appointments Commission discussed elsewhere in this paper, to ensure that most major faiths together with those of no faith are represented in the House of Lords.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 28 October 2006 at 6:49pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England
Comments

Is it time to completely take bishops out of Lords?

Posted by: ruidh on Saturday, 28 October 2006 at 7:03pm BST

I think if the headline had gone "Lords plan would keep bishops out of the Lords" the Church Times might have come closer to the general idea. It's rather worrying that they should think the alternative a possibility!

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Saturday, 28 October 2006 at 11:50pm BST

This 50% only elected idea is simply to build in a lack of legitimacy, instead of making a fully legitimate bicameral parliament. Bishops could stand for election like anyone else.

There are all sorts of ways of building in variations. You could elect for life or retirement, and that would force people to think about the kind of person who would be trusted for election so that they could indicate what speciality they have. It is possible for these to be constituency-less, or multi-member European size constituencies, so that a selection of worthies can be elected. But only in this apparent democratic country would the authorities think about appointing people.

Posted by: Pluralist on Sunday, 29 October 2006 at 2:19pm GMT

The very thought of some of our bishops - Dunkin', for example, in the US Senate - makes my blood run cold! Not that there have not been a bunch of senators who, envisioned as bishops, would have the same effect. And of course some senators as bishops would reduce a sane person to helpless giggles.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Sunday, 29 October 2006 at 8:08pm GMT
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