Thursday, 12 May 2011

Will there be a cull of bishops in the Lords?


A report in today’s Guardian by its Political Editor, Patrick Wintour suggests that this is likely to feature in the forthcoming proposals.

In today’s paper, he wrote Plans to reform House of Lords could include a lottery to cull peers.

…A lottery could be used to decide which peers are thrown out of the House of Lords under one method being discussed to cut the second chamber down to as few as 300 members.

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, will seek to re-energise his political reform agenda next week when he publishes a white paper on an elected second chamber that will set out plans to cull remaining hereditary and appointed peers.

The government is expected to leave open the question of which peers are selected to stay, but a favoured option being canvassed is for each party group to hold a random draw for each phase of the removal of peers.

The draft bill will suggest slashing back the number of existing peers from 790 to 200 by 2015, with 100 elected in 2015, bringing the total size of the chamber to 300, half the size of the Commons.

Clegg will also canvass a softer option in which no peer is forced to leave until 2025, the point at which the reforms are complete. Numbers would fall as peers die or chose to retire, but this option has little support within the Liberal Democrats. Only bishops can currently retire, though others can take leave of absence. The aim is for the new Lords to be complete by 2025. Twelve bishops will be retained with full voting rights. Clegg will propose the second chamber is either 80% or 100% elected, saying a totally elected chamber is his preferred option…

These proposals are likely to meet opposition from all kinds of people. See for example, Clegg’s Lords reform plan ‘unprincipled’ by Ned Simons at

Today’s Church Times has this report by Ed Thornton Let other faiths in, Lords are urged and there are two further articles on the topic, available only to subscribers until the next week.

LEADERS of non-Christian faith groups should be invited to sit alongside bishops in the House of Lords, a historian who contributed to a commission on reform of the Second Chamber has suggested.

Writing in the Church Times today, John F. H. Smith, an architec­tural historian who made a sub­mission to the Royal Commis­sion on the Reform of the House of Lords, argues that, although bishops should re­main “in the majority”, “an interdenominational and inter­faith college” would “broaden faith repres­en­tation”.


…Also writing in the Church Times today, the former Bishop of Chelms­ford, the Rt Revd John Gladwin, says that reform of the Lords pre­sents “an opportunity to recover some ground for the Christian inheritance in our democratic public life.

“The Church of England, with 26 bishops sitting as Lords Spiritual, has both a particular responsibility and an opportunity to make a con­structive contribution to the current debate over what needs to be done.

“Hoping that the whole issue will go away and praying it into the long grass is not good enough for a Church carrying such national res­ponsibility. Nor will it do simply to defend the 26 seats.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 12 May 2011 at 11:06pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

There should be a Referendum, whether the people of England want an established Church.

There should be no Lords, but a Senatorial chamber...with the title only lasting the length of the office,and no honours to the spouse.

It should be fully elected chamber and not nominated.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Friday, 13 May 2011 at 6:34am BST

Most Americans are meritocratic in spirit but when it comes to England, we admire the differences.

Do not be too quick to dismiss the House of Lords. You may get a Senate but then have people like Mitch McConnell as (Republican) Minority Leader and Harry Reid as (Democratic) Majority Leader. Wouldn't you rather have Rowan Williams and John Sentamu?
Real British democracy has worked well for more than a century and a half. Be careful.

Similarly, the Established Church has served you well. We have none and do not want one, but instead we have a huge proportion of the population belonging to "mega-churches" which preach a materialistic evangelical fundamentalist literalist theology. Some forty percent of the US population believes we are in "end times" and some of them are now expecting final day will be May 21, 2011.

Posted by: Andrew on Friday, 13 May 2011 at 9:26am BST

Well they wont have to wait long ,Andrew!!!!!!

Posted by: Perry Butler on Saturday, 14 May 2011 at 8:40am BST

"There should be a Referendum, whether the people of England want an established Church." - R.I.W. -

I think we are all aware of your thoughts on this, Robert, as a neophyte Roman Catholic. However, one wonders what would be your opinion if R.C. Bishops were give seats in the House of Lords?

By the way our Bishops perform on behalf of the provenance of the C.of E., one wonders whether your Church would be any better or worse off - by having it represented in the House of Lords.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 15 May 2011 at 3:56am BST

The Anglican bishops record is an abysmal one..they opposed parliamentary reform and Catholic emancipation. In recent years they have given respectability to some anti Christian pieces of legislation.

They get £300 of taxpayers money a day for nothing.

Posted by: Robert ian Williams on Sunday, 15 May 2011 at 9:11pm BST


And the record of the Papacy over the same period?

Posted by: Lister Tonge on Monday, 16 May 2011 at 1:08am BST

But, Robert; what makes you think that the performance of your own (RC) bishops would be any improvement on this lot? They may be even more disdainful of the human rights of LGBTs.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 16 May 2011 at 11:42am BST

The Syllabus of Errors, Robert? and what about the state of the Papal territories before 1870?

Posted by: Perry Butler on Monday, 16 May 2011 at 1:15pm BST

Our bishops aren't that brilliant as pastors ,let alone at being statesmen.

Posted by: Robert ian Williams on Monday, 16 May 2011 at 10:25pm BST

The 26 episcopal seats represent the number of C of E dioceses in the 19th century. When, in that century, new dioceses were created to meet the demographic change of the industrial revolution, the number of episcopal seats in the Lords was frozen at 26 rather than increased, and a system of obtaining a seat by episcopal seniority was introduced.

Bishop John Gladwin makes the observation that defending the 26 episcopal seats would be wrong. It's quite a straightforward observation, but he doesn't go into the reason why it would be wrong. Obviously, digging in would look terribly reactionary and reinforce ideas that the church lives in the past. I'm sure that Gladwin sees it more as moving with the times. However, the White Paper itself is a rather conservative document, presenting long overdue reform to an anachronous body.

I wonder what the prophetic thing would be to do — understanding that the church's politics should be prophetic. Perhaps rather than moving with the times, our episcopal shepherds might look to the future. Since the freezing of the number of seats for bishops in the 19th century there has been a political consensus that episcopal representation is the past and not the future — frozen, reduced, removed. So, is it the slow road to being removed entirely, making little concessions to moving with the times along the way, or is it a prophetic move for our bishops to come up with their own reform proposal. I would suggest that they remove themselves entirely from the Lords and look at new ways ("Fresh Expressions") of doing politics as a church, perhaps engaging other religions in this. After all, I'm sure our bishops could do far more good leading campaigns than snoozing on red-leather benches.

They Work For You gives details of the attendance, voting and speaking of our Lords Spiritual here:

Posted by: Gareth Hughes on Friday, 20 May 2011 at 2:17pm BST
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