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 266.

    For the benefit of the "we have no democracy" parade. The house of lords are not policy makers. that falls to the house of commons and YOUR MP. The house of lords is there to make sure that the house of commons don't screw up so badly that the country revolts or implodes. Therefore the house of lords needs experienced and unbiased business leaders. problem is, there is no such thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    If there is genuine public support for bishops in the context of a reformed, elected House of Lords, there is a very simple test to determine whether the public supports their presence: let them stand for election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    An ideal solution for an elected House of Lords would be for its members to be elected by the members of bodies like the church. Thus it would have bishops, union representatives, boy scouts leaders etc. The 200 (say) largest constitutional bodies would elect members with no constituent bodies allowed to elect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    A second chamber can't be effective if it is subservient to the same party leaders as the Commons. I won't defend ex officio CofE bishops as members, but we need a serious debate about how else to populate it. The bishops have (sometimes) shown themselves to be more in tune with the public than the politicians. Who else can we get? The most impressive member of the Lords I've met is a scientist ..

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    It's time these unelected representatives of an irrational superstition were kicked out of the HoL - together with the unelected representatives of a defunct aristocracy.

    The HoL should become a fully elected Senate and, lest they think that they can challenge the primacy of the HoC, they should be confined by statute to the role of checking and amending legislation from the HoC.

  • Comment number 261.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    If we have bishops we should also have athiests,rabbis,immams and whatever religious leaders.

    Or alternatively no religious representation at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    It is true that all civilised countries have a religious input in their parliaments, even Russia.
    How many muslim countries don't have a high cleric in their administration?
    A governing body has to have a rep' from the beliefs of the people, - even Jedi Just accept it..

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    If we need a second chamber then in a real democracy it would be elected rather than full of people who are born with the right background or selected by our various political parties because they are deemed better than you or I. Having said that why do we need Bishops in the HofL. Its not like they represent Britain or an agreed form of Christianity. (the CofS doesnt believe in bishops)

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    More to the point, why is Lord Archer still sitting in the House of Lords?

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    41.Anna says: "Keeping bishops in the Lords gives the Anglican church access to political power that it should not have in a secular democracy."

    The problem, Anna, is that we don't live in a secular democracy. We live in a country with an established church. Sadly, the Church of England is still still the country's official religion. There should be no "official" religion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    So much for elected. How did the clergy and their invisible friends get in there in the first place. Oh yes about 200 years ago !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    Why not Rabbis, Imams, RC Bishops, and whoever the chief of the Wicca currently is? For that matter, who's the head Jedi in the UK? No, no, no, a thousand thimes no - time for this anachronism to be ended, but if not, time to admit that the UK is multicultural.

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    'There is, of course, a need for more people who can employ abstract modes of thought in Parliament'

    I'd like to have people with a reasoned mode of thought before we even think about going abstract ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    @54 Sparkledragon
    "6 million active, practising Christians in the UK ... 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."

    That is total nonsense. Rational free-thinking individuals have no need to be part of an organisation which tells them what to think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    If there is a god then he must be the most cruel person ever to be born. How could he stand by and watch Liverpool get beat 2-1 by wigan!

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    This makes a mockery of the proposal for an elected second chamber. If my life is to be governed by someone else's values I do not want it to include a number of people whose beliefs are at odds with the vast majority of the population. The whole system of UK government is not fit for purpose - it is quaint, and traditional, I grant you (but then so were many things we now find abhorrent!).

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    202.Toxic Tel
    Not really 'ruled' - The Commons is where the 'ruling' is done, but I'd still rather not see the Bishops in the Lords, because it's an undemocratic hang-over from the past. As for your side swipe at Christianity, Darwin's Theory is compatible with belief if you think about it, as is the 'Big Bang' To explain why would be off-topic and certainly over the characters limit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    No, religion has no place anywhere let alone a place of government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    I have an imaginary friend too. Can I have a place in the House of Lords?


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