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 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 143.

    I think there is a place for Bishops in the Lords - Britain may no longer be particularly Christian, but much of our culture is still based on Christian values. Bishops have a vested interest in making sure this remains at the heart of the laws that the Commons make. Though I don't agree with their doctrine I value their (often quite erudite) opinions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Utterly absurd. There should be a wholly elected second chamber, with fewer members than the Commons and each one elected for 7 or 8 years. The supreme court (not elected but appointed as now) could either be a part of this chamber or a separate entity as it is in the U.S. Clergy are welcome to stand for election but have no automatic right to sit in this chamber. We are not a theocracy.

  • 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 23.

    If we're to continue the practice of awarding places in the HOL to people on the basis of their religious belief, surely in these multi-cultural days we should be awarding one each to the 12 most popular religions?
    So one for a Guru, one for a rabbi, one for an Imam, one for a Deacon, one for a Father etc etc instead of giving all 12 to one organisation?


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