Bishops must stay in the Lords, MPs and peers say

House of Lords generic image Ministers want to cut the number of peers

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A committee of MPs and peers has decided that bishops should remain members of a reformed House of Lords.

The recommendation is almost certain to be accepted by the government, which is due to publish its plans for a largely elected second chamber in May.

The Joint Committee on House of Lord Reform says, however, that the number of bishops in the Lords should be reduced from 26 to 12.

Some critics say they should be removed from an entirely elected chamber.

But the committee decided that the Church of England should keep its almost-unbroken 700-year-old place in Parliament. (Bishops were excluded from the Lords in 1642, until that was reversed by the Clergy Act of 1661.)

This is in line with what ministers are thinking and will almost certainly form part of the Lords Reform bill, which will be set out in the Queen's Speech in May.

The bishops - known as "Lords Spiritual" - courted controversy recently when one of them led opposition to plans to include child benefit in a cap on welfare payments to families.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    OK I concede that 12 bishops can stay, but those bishops should be gay or women (or both).
    Seriously can we really contemplate allowing a class of parliamentarian where their sexuality or gender is an issue?

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    The Lords are there as a handbrake to silly and ill conceived legislation, the combined experience and knowledge of these people coupled with having no axe to grind makes it work. Or at least it did until Blair and his cronies decided to dismantle it in order to push through their own puerile agenda, what for example is Baroness Udin doing there? Experienced in skullduggery?

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    The proposal and some of the comments just look totally nonsensical in the context of a developed 21st century democracy. Government is about dealing with the real world. If some of the population suffer religious delusion then that's regrettable, it is certainly not a reason to let them anywhere near power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Let me think -

    : keep the Lords as it is


    : fill it with elected people

    Well, the second is not an option so I say leave it as it is. The thought of the Lords being filled with elected people makes me shudder.

    Want to become an MP - minimum 10 years "real" work experience first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    ERUDITE 47
    'UK made up of agnostics and atheists' - exactly and that's one big reason why the place is such a mess! By the way BBC, C of E with 700 years history in parliament? Bit of a rewrite here; it issued forth from Henry Tudors cod piece in the 16C.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Rather than kick the bishops out we should find ways to get MORE people in there who aren't party apparatchiks reliving the old days. How about Mick Jagger as 'My Lord's Rock'? Bet Lynch as 'My Ladies Soap'. Peter Stringfellow as 'My Lord's Carnal'?

    If we want a 2nd house there's no point it being a elderly replication of the first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    " To give some context, there are 6 million active, practising Christians in the UK."
    6million. Practicing. Actually going to church every week? That many? Citation needed.

    Also - this is an argument to popularity - just because people do it, doesn't mean it's right. Lots of people smoke, does that mean the Philip Morris should have a representative in the House of Lords? No.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    At least it will give them something to do between preceding over empty churches"

    Active membership of UK churches is over 12 times greater than the membership of all the political parties put together. Churchgoing is the largest participation activity in the UK. If your criteria is numerical support, logically you should remove politically party representatives first!

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    If the HoL is going to be largely elected, surely the elected part will just be split pretty much along the same party lines as the HoC so what is the point? We will lose many of the cross benchers who don't vote for things just because their whips tell them to. Then we will be left with a large section of the non party positions being these bishops who represent an ever decreasing constituency.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    hi Graham #48
    when Lords block a bill it forces the government to take it back and alter it _ the recent NHS furore being a good example of government being forced to make changes to it's privatization plans _
    blocking a bill doesn't mean stopping it permanently_ so if they block bills then House of Lords IS actually doing what it's designed for o: )


  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    This is yet another blairite step trashing the British constitution. Has anyone noticed that the atmosphere of Britain is different from France or Germany? Has anyone wondered why? Does anyone have confidence in the ethics of democratic politicians? The bishops are a key piece of the conscience of the system and must stay in the lords. It's the most useful contribution that c of e makes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    So we remain stuck in the dark ages as surely as if we had been embedded there with superglue. Disgraceful. Religion should have no governmental power in a secular country such as ours, nor in any 21st century nation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    To give some context, there are 6 million active, practising Christians in the UK. Compare that with around 10,000 members in the National Secular Society and about 15,000 in the British Humanist Association. Any comments that secularism is the majority view does not reflect the facts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Just kick them out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    "I'm bored of all these athiests. Do you know why Christianity is right? Simple: Because Lust is a Sin. If a human had the power to make a religion would they EVER make Lust a sin? NO. Ergo it must be divinely inspired. "
    Is this really the kind of reasoning we should be running a country with?

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Should anyone who believes in an imaginary man who lives in the clouds, be allowed anywhere near our polical system?

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    If we want a representative chamber of people to act as a check on elected politicians, would it not be simpler (and cheaper!) to extend the jury service system so everyone can participate in this process for a couple of weeks?

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    if Lords is about 'oversight' of government legislation
    wouldn't we prefer people with 'ethical' rather than 'commercial' backgrounds to share that responsibility?
    i would have thought the bishops would be least of our concerns_ &might be interesting to find out WHY public focus is now directed at them in particular just before Lords reforms _


  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    is there any point in having the house of lords they blocked so many bills in the last month yet they were all passed so why have them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    'This is a christian country...we don't need other religions involved in our laws.'
    I'm sorry but you do realise that the majority of England is actually made up of Agnostics / Atheists. This whole notion of 'X under God' is becoming out-dated now that people are starting to change to Atheism.
    In terms of bishops, they should stay...if elected. They should see how much the public REALLY wants to


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