Thinking Anglicans

Reforming the House of Lords

Two recent articles on this topic:

Diversity and democracy: Reforming the Lords by Patrick McGlinchey at Left Foot Forward.

The inclusion in the white paper of a 20 per cent appointed chamber option is a cause for concern. However, it is the proposal to allow 12 Church of England bishops to retain their seats as Lords Spiritual that could fundamentally hold the House of Lords back from democratisation and diversification.

To give special law-making privileges to one faith group over all others is almost unheard of among democratic nations

Indeed, the only global equivalent is the ‘Islamic Consultative Assembly of Iran’, which gives Islamic clerics similar privileges to Church of England bishops. In modern Britain, this system is clearly an outdated one which does not enjoy the support of our citizens.

An ICM poll commissioned by the Joseph Roundtree Reform Trust as part of the Power 2010 political reform initiative found that two-thirds of the public think anyone who sits in the House for Lords and votes on laws should be elected, and 70 per cent of Christians believe it is wrong that some Church of England bishops are given an automatic seat in parliament…

Their Lordships should beware: there is an overwhelming consensus behind Lords reform by Alan Renwick at Reading Politics (A blog of the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Reading.)

The government launched its proposals for reform of the House of Lords two weeks ago. At the time, there were widespread rumours that senior Labour and Conservative peers were gearing up to scupper the plans. A survey of peers reported in The Times this week appears to confirm this: 80 per cent of the peers who responded said they opposed a wholly or largely elected second chamber.

As The Times points out, if peers do indeed choose to oppose the government’s plans, they will be acting counter to the manifestos of all three main parties in last year’s general election. Labour promised “to create a fully elected Second Chamber” (in stages). The Liberal Democrats, similarly, pledged to “replace the House of Lords with a fully-elected second chamber”. The Conservatives were only slightly less reformist, saying, “We will work to build a consensus for a mainly-elected second chamber to replace the current House of Lords”.

But peers tempted to flex their muscles on this issue should be aware that the consensus across the parties surrounding House of Lords reform runs much deeper than this…

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Father Ron Smith
12 years ago

It all sounds like a bit of a struggle to maintain power and influence on the part of Their Lordships to me. Surely the Church of England will not cling to their status as governmental ‘Lords Spiritual’ under the present constitution – which denies any other Faith group the same or similar privelege? I won’t hold my breath on this, but I can truly understand how this situation will be closely monitored by other faith communities in the U.K. – and in the Anglican Communion at large, where Bishops are elected by the people of the diocese – for their… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
12 years ago

Pope John XXII is once said to have made the remark: ‘Semper Reformanda” – about the Faith; but why should this not be applied to the House of Lords?

Prior Aelred
12 years ago

Well, I think it is all very sad — how is the PM going to do away without a gaga backbencher by making him a life peer?
And what about the Lords sitting as a Supreme Court (when only the Law Lords show up) — I do not like Bush’s Poodle at all!

12 years ago

When President Botha offered to reform apartheid,Desmond Tutu responded, ” You can’t reform Apartheid, it is like rearranging tin cans in a wheel barrow.” Same goes for this anachronism. lets do what the new zealanders did. That is abolish the second chamber or make it a senate of 100 members.

Richard Ashby
Richard Ashby
12 years ago

Goodness me! I agree with Robert Williams. I am not sure about unicameral government since there seems to me to be something to be said for a delaying and revising chamber. But let’s get rid of the present arrangements completely. The power of patronage is corrupt and corrupting. A second chamber, wholly elected on a different system, limited in power and numbers which has no place for bishops or other nominations is the only way to go. Otherwise, apart from anything else, we will have a second chamber dominated by ecclesiastics of various types and religions, who by their very… Read more »

robert ian Williams
robert ian Williams
12 years ago

And why in the 21st century should the wife of a created peer get a title, but the husband of a baroness no honour? Make them Senators for the term of their office only.. restricting costume dressing to the Queen.. and an upper age limit of 80.

Malcolm French+
12 years ago

Good Lord. Robert Ian Williams wants to turn the British House of Lords into the Canadian Senate – a festering pustule on te arse end of our democracy that we would be well rid of.

BTW, RIW – the retirement age for those summoned to the Taskless Thanks of the Canadian Senate is 75.

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