Monday, 23 April 2012

House of Lords Reform and the Church of England

Today, the Joint Committee on the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill issued its report, which can be read in full, starting here.

The report makes the following recommendations:

  • The Committee, on a majority, agree that the reformed second chamber should have an electoral mandate, provided it has commensurate powers (para 6.1).
  • If the reformed House is to be elected, 80% of members should be elected and 20% nominated. The size of the House should be 450 and members should serve for 15 year non-renewable terms (6.17-19, 6.31-34).
  • The Committee agrees with the government’s proposal for election under the STV system. In addition, it recommends that voters who wish to vote for candidates by political party rather than individually should be free to do so. The Committee recommends that the STV system currently used in New South Wales should be adopted. This allows voters not only to rank individual candidates, but to vote by party and also to rank the parties so as to control where “excess” party votes are allocated (6.25-6.26).
  • A majority of the Committee recommends that the decision to elect members of the House of Lords should be submitted to a referendum(6.87).
  • Election of 80% of a reformed House will make the House more assertive and affect the balance of power between the Houses in favour of the House of Lords. But a majority of the Committee consider the existing conventions and other pillars on which Commons primacy rests would suffice to ensure its continuation (6.3, 6.10-6.11).
  • The Committee agrees that conventions governing the relationship between the Houses cannot be legislated for and that such conventions will evolve further once the House of Lords is reformed (6.6-6.7, 6.13-6.16).

More from the official summary can be found here.

The section dealing with the Lords Spiritual is Section 17, which can be found here.

The conclusions of that section are:

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

288. The Committee agrees that, in a fully elected House, there should be no reserved places for bishops.

289. The Committee agrees, on a majority, that bishops should continue to retain ex officio seats in the reformed House of Lords.

290. The Committee agrees, on a majority, with the Government’s proposal that the number of reserved seats for bishops be set at 12 in a reformed House.

291. The Committee recommends that the Appointments Commission consider faith as part of the diversity criterion we recommend at paragraph 249.

292. The Committee recommends that the exemption of bishops from the disciplinary provisions be removed, as requested by the Archbishops.

293. The Committee recommends that any approach to the Government by the Church to modify the provision on the named bishops be looked upon favourably.

294. The Committee recommends that Clause 28(4) be left out of the Bill so as to allow greater flexibility in transition arrangements so that any women bishops and the wider pool of diocesan bishops can be eligible for appointment in the second transitional parliament.

The Church of England has issued a press release, Statement on report from Joint Committee on the Government’s Draft House of Lords Reform Bill.

…The Lords Spiritual welcome the Joint Committee’s endorsement of the Government’s proposals for continued places for Church of England bishops. We are grateful too that the Committee has accepted the Archbishops’ suggestions on how the Bill could be changed to allow more flexibility in how Lord Spiritual are chosen to serve, and to bring the bishops in line with other members on the disciplinary and tax measures.

Whilst it is disappointing that more has not been made by the Committee on how to deliver a greater breadth of representation across civil society, the recommendation to increase membership from 300 to 450 is to be welcomed, as this will provide better opportunity for those with outside professionalisms and experiences to bring those interests more to bear in the work of the House. The Church of England does not have a declared view on the merits of a referendum on House of Lords reform, though as both the Joint Committee and the Alternative Report have both recommended one, we trust that the Government will look very seriously at the suggestion…

The alternative report mentioned above can be found here. The Bishop of Leicester is one its authors.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 23 April 2012 at 2:07pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England
Comments

I am an Anglican but I also attend the large mosque in Whitechapel (East London Mosque) and see the community, the work and the faith going on there.

Therefore, as the faith community in Whitechapel is largely from one of the most deprived areas in the UK (child poverty between 50 and 70%) and considering the reality of over 50% higher unemployment rates among Muslims than Christians in this country, my interest and question about House of Lords reform is this:

Should there not be just as much representation for Islam (proportionate to practising attenders) as there is for the Church of England?

We live in a shared society, and if we want all ethnic groups to buy into it, it must be seen to be just.

The disproportionate influence of *one* religious group in Parliament is at odds with the kind of society I believe in. It sends all the wrong signals.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Tuesday, 24 April 2012 at 1:29am BST
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