Committee recommends retaining bishops in a reformed House of Lords

The Government’s proposals to maintain and effectively strengthen the influence of the Church of England in Parliament have today received support from the Joint Committee on the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill, although only by majority and not by consensus. The British Humanist Association (BHA), which gave evidence to the Committee, has expressed its dismay at the report and said again that, ‘Reserved places for Bishops are unfair, unjustified, unpopular, and should go.’

The Government’s Draft House of Lords Reform Bill will lead to an increase in the proportion of ‘Lord Spiritual’ from 3% of appointed peers, to anything between 12% and 17% of appointed peers, depending on the eventual size of a reformed chamber. If the Government’s proposals were enacted, Anglican Bishops would likely outnumber SNP, Plaid Cymru, DUP, SDLP, Sinn Fein and Green Peers combined.[1]

Commenting on the Joint Committee’s report, BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said: ‘The report of the Committee published today is at odds with the reasoned evidence submitted to it and presents no good arguments whether in principle or otherwise for the retention of Bishops.

‘More hopeful is the fact that the Committee was divided on the issue and supported retaining Bishops by a majority not by a consensus. We hope that the voices of those who want a fairer chamber and better represent the view of the wider public –  74% of whom (including 70% of Christians) believe it is wrong that Church of England Bishops are given automatic places – will prevail as the debate on Lords reform moves forward.’

The BHA will continue its campaign for equitable Lords Reform and is urging the Government to reconsider and amend the Draft Reform Bill.

Notes

[1] Using the percentage of votes cast for each party at the 2012 General election, and assuming Proportional Representation.

For further comment or information contact BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson on 07534 248596 or atandrew@humanism.org.uk.

Read the Joint Committee on the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill – First Report, 23 April 2012: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201012/jtselect/jtdraftref/284/28402.htm

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on Bishops in the Lords.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

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