The Government has published yet another White Paper on Lords Reform. You can find it over here.
The section relating to Church of England Bishops is reproduced below the fold.
Ekklesia has already published its opinion, Time to remove Bishops from the House of Lords:
…The Church of England, an external institution with its own particular agenda, would be able to parachute whomever they choose into the second chamber of Parliament as a matter of right. This would not be a step forward but a step back into the dark ages of special political privilege. With the Prime Minister’s power to appoint bishops being ended, that section of the House of Lords would be more unaccountable than it has ever been…
Church of England Bishops
6.45 The Church of England’s unique place in society and the valuable role it plays in English national life, both religious and secular, is widely recognised. Within England, the position of the Church of England is that of the Church by law established, with the Sovereign as its supreme Governor. The relationship between the Church and State is a core part of our constitutional framework that has evolved over centuries. The presence of Bishops in the House of Lords signals successive Governments’ commitment to this fundamental constitutional principle and to an expression of the relationship between the Crown, Parliament and the Church that underpins the fabric of our nation.
6.46 However, the Church of England’s role stretches further than constitutional principles. The Church takes a leading part in a range of spheres, both religious and secular. In partnership with many of the UK’s other religious communities, the Church offers spiritual support to everyone, regardless of their beliefs. The fact that the Church’s staff and volunteers often live in the heart of the community they serve adds to the effectiveness of this support. The Church of England Bishops’ position in Parliament reflects this culture of promoting tolerance and inclusiveness.
6.47 The Wakeham Commission highlighted the valuable parliamentary role that the Church plays and its wider implications: “The Church of England Bishops’ position as Lords of Parliament reflects the British history and culture of seeking to heal religious conflict and promoting ever greater religious tolerance and inclusiveness.”
6.48 The Government is clear that if a reformed second chamber is wholly elected, there should be no seats for Church of England Bishops or any other group.
6.49 If the number of seats available in a mainly elected second chamber reduced compared with the current House of Lords, it would be logical to reduce proportionally the number seats available for Bishops. However, practice is that Bishops attend the House of Lords on a rota basis, reflecting their other commitments. Reducing the number would make it harder for the Bishops collectively to carry out their functions in the second chamber and to continue to make their current level of contribution. The Government therefore proposes that if there is an appointed element in a reformed second chamber, there should be a number of seats reserved for Church of England Bishops. As the number of seats generally available in the second chamber will be reduced in comparison with the current House of Lords, it would also be logical to reduce proportionally the number seats available for Bishops. These would not count towards the 20% of members appointed by an appointments commission.
6.50 The Church of England would be invited to consider how it would in future select Bishops for membership of the second chamber.
6.51 The Liberal Democrats do not think there should be reserved seats for Church of England Bishops in a reformed second chamber. Their view is that if there were to be an appointed element, there would be opportunities for Bishops or other representatives of the Church of England, as well as from other faiths, to be put forward to the Appointments Commission as candidates for membership.
6.52 Before firm decisions can be made, consultation with the Church of England authorities would be necessary on the details of any proposals affecting Bishops’ membership of the second chamber.