Two items from politics.co.uk by Alex Stevenson:
The Church of England has rejected suggestions from Jack Straw it will give up its seats in the House of Lords without a fight.
Ending the association would be a “retrograde step”, a spokesman told politics.co.uk, after heavy hints from the justice secretary yesterday that bishops may no longer be welcome.
Mr Straw told an Unlock Democracy seminar the exclusive presence of the Church of England among Britain’s religions in parliament was “anomalous” but refused to indicate whether he believed, in a predominantly elected House of Lords, their historic place should be protected.
He said he hopes a transition to an elected House of Lords will take place over three parliamentary cycles, meaning the decision on whether to go to an 80 per cent or 100 per cent elected chamber will not have to be taken for some years…
One of the most distinctive features of the ‘mother of all parliaments’ is the institutionalised guarantee of seats for the Church of England’s top cloth. Twenty-six bishops are allowed to sit in the Lords by virtue of their ecclesiastical position as the ‘lords spiritual’.
It was the case half a millennium ago. It is the case today. It may not be the case in ten years’ time.
Up for grabs is the entire makeup of parliament’s second chamber – the extent of its powers, how it will be chosen, even its name. Jack Straw revealed yesterday his preference is for the Lords to be renamed the Senate. That gives a flavour of the extent of the changes afoot…