Updated again Sunday 4 December
The Archbishop of Canterbury appeared yesterday evening before the Joint Committee on the House of Lords Reform Bill.
The draft bill, together with explanatory notes, is available here (PDF).
There is also a House of Lords Library research note on Religious Representation (PDF).
This Library Note provides background information on the role of Bishops in the second chamber, and in the context of the Government’s proposals for reform of the House, it examines arguments made both in favour and against their continued membership. The Note then considers further issues arising from the Government’s proposals, as well as arguments made regarding the formal representation of other denominations or faiths in Parliament.
The written evidence previously submitted by the Archbishop of Canterbury and York is over here (PDF).
Parliament TV has archived its video coverage of the session.
Update A transcript is now available as a PDF file: Draft House of Lords Reform Bill – uncorrected oral evidence from: The Archbishop of Canterbury, THEOS, and the British Humanist Association.
News reports concentrated on one aspect of his remarks:
Telegraph Martin Beckford Archbishop of Canterbury backs ‘fast-tracking’ women bishops to Lords
Guardian Riazat Butt Rowan Williams urges fast-tracking of women bishops to Lords
The same session also heard from Theos and the British Humanist Association. The former submitted this written evidence (.doc file). The latter has published this: Church and humanists clash over Bishops in parliament.
Nelson Jones at the New Statesman has written A very British anomaly.
…In what was perhaps his most audacious comment in favour of the status quo, Rowan Williams suggested that for him and his fellow prelates to be ejected from a reformed second chamber (something that doesn’t form part of the present reform proposals) “would be to send a signal that the voice of faith is not welcomed” in the legislative process. It would represent, in other words, not just a snub to the Church of England but for religion as a whole.
But that’s nonsense. In no other democracy would such a confusion of religious leadership and law-making even be imagined. Bishops, and other faith leaders, play a valuable and significant role in society. So do members of both houses of Parliament. But it is in no sense the same job. Taking bishops out of the House of Lords would free them to devote more time to their diocesan responsibilities; to become better bishops. Sometimes the only thing to do with an historical anomaly is to end it.