Wednesday, 4 July 2012

House of Lords Reform Bill published

On 27 June, the Government published a House of Lords Reform Bill. A PDF copy is available at this link. As the CofE press release summarises it:

…proposes a House of Lords consisting of an 80% elected and 20% appointed membership, with 12 Lords Spiritual as supernumerary members. The elected members would serve for single non-renewable terms of 15 years, on a semi-open list system of election and represent regional areas along the same lines currently used for elections to the European Parliament. Appointed members would also serve for non-renewable 15 year terms and be chosen by an Appointments Commission.

The Bill makes provision for 12 Lords Spiritual to continue to serve in a fully reformed House, consisting of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Bishops of London, Durham and Winchester and seven other diocesan bishops of the Church of England. Under the terms of the Bill the process of selection of the seven is left to the Church of England. The number of bishops would be reduced from 26 to 12 across a 10-year transitional period beginning with the first elections to the House in 2015. Unlike other members of a reformed House the Lords Spiritual would be ex-officio and unsalaried.

The Government has accepted the suggestion of the Archbishops, endorsed by the Joint Committee, that the Lords Spiritual should be subject to the same tax and disciplinary measures as other members of a reformed House.

The Bishop of Leicester, Convenor of the Lords Spiritual, issued this statement:

“We on these benches recognise the need for some reform of this House and we welcome the opportunity that this Bill will give for thorough debate about the future of Parliament.”

“In particular we are pleased to see that the Government endorses the recommendation of the Joint Committee on the continuing contribution of the Lords Spiritual to a reformed House…”

Stating on behalf of the Bishops’ Benches that “we have always said that we will assess the proposals on the basis of what makes for the good governance of Britain” the Bishop raised two issues of concern in relation to the proposals in the Government’s Bill…

See the press release for the rest of his remarks.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 6:41pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England
Comments

"Under the terms of the Bill the process of selection of the seven is left to the Church of England." One more thing that can safely be entrusted to the HoB.

Posted by: Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer on Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 7:21pm BST

"Unlike other members of a reformed House the Lords Spiritual would be ex-officio and unsalaried."

That sounds about right. This should ensure that Bishops in the House of Lords are there only on special occasions, and not interfering with matters outside of their normal jurisdiction.

This would almost certainly discourage the continuing influence of retired Bishops.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 12:07am BST

How will it be decided how to get the Lords Spiritual down from 26 to 12 - will there be some sort of a cull?

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 5:09am BST

"This should ensure that Bishops in the House of Lords are there only on special occasions, and not interfering with matters outside of their normal jurisdiction" Fr. Ron Smith

I may have misunderstood, but I can see no reason why the Bishops could not continue to turn up whenever and vote upon whatever they please.

If they were to be retained as a ceremonial ornament on special occasions I wouldn't have a problem - as it is, their ability to interfere would be unchanged and their representation, as a proportion of the total membership of the House, would actually be increased by the proposed reforms.

And I'm still laughing at Bishop Turkey of Leicester's self-interested delight at the proposal not including Christmas dinner.

Posted by: Laurence C. on Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 10:22am BST

In the light of the recent revelations about the Bishops' attendance and expenses claims, a scandal which seems to have fizzled out, perhaps the HoB could ensure that those bishops, sitting in the Lords under the new arrangements, claim only for their actual expenses and nothing more? Perhaps too their attendance could be limited only to issues where the church has something to say, otherwise questions must arise as to why the attending bishops are neglecting their diocese, something with Trollopian overtones.

Personally, I would evict the bishops all together but at least the new system will see the end of enobling failed archbishops.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 10:36am BST

I'm not sure what Ron Smith is implying. The bishops are not part of the HoL for decoration -- they are there to take part in debates and votes and ensure a spiritual, religious, Christian, Anglican presence in the Chamber. It *is* part of their job to do that, as presently defined, and as defined in this draft Bill too.

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 10:49am BST

Re the story about the claims by some bishops for the attendance allowance paid to members of the HoL if they (say they) attend. Is there any evidence that any bishop made any extra money from this? Or was the claimed attendance allowance simply offset against their stipend? There has been no suggestion (one way or the other) about this, but I would have expected the Church Commissioners to have made sure that the attendance allowance was offset. That's no different from what happens to other clergy, e.g. when they either assign statutory fee income to the diocese, or otherwise have to account for it (and then get a reduced stipend).

Anyone know the answer to this?

Posted by: Simon Kershaw on Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 10:53am BST

As Archbishop Tutu said of the attempt by President Botha to reform Aparthied.." Reforming aparthied is like re-arranging tin cans in a wheel barrow."

I want an elected Senate, or nothing at all. New Zealand since 1949 has done very well without a third chamber.

Seven bishops is seven too many. The Church of England no longer 70 per cent of English babies,a nd less than a million persons regularly worship in her churches.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Saturday, 7 July 2012 at 5:33am BST
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