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Humanists UK welcomes Parliamentary committee calling for review into bishops in the House of Lords

Humanists UK has welcomed calls from a House of Commons Committee for a fundamental review of the House of Lords to include whether bishops should remain in the House.

The House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has considered existing proposals to reform the House of Lords and has concluded that further radical reform is required, including considering the number of bishops in the UK Parliament. Humanists UK believes that the bishops should not have an automatic right to seats because of their religious status, as this unfairly prioritises one denomination of one religion over all others.

The UK is the only democratic sovereign state in the world to have religious leaders (bishops) sit in parliament as a matter of right. The UK Parliament automatically awards 26 seats in the Lords to Church of England bishops who can vote on and amend legislation, make interventions and lead prayers at the start of each day’s business.

The Committee believes existing plans to reduce the size of the Lords (which would see the overall number of peers reduced from 800 to 600 but the 26 bishops stay put) do not go far enough, as under these plans the proportion of bishops in the Lords would increase, making it dramatically less ‘representative of the diversity of the modern United Kingdom’.

The call to remove bishops from the House of Lords is supported by the British public – including a majority of Christians, and several current bishops and the former Bishop of Oxford Richard Harries have also suggested that the number of bishops in the House should be addressed.

Director of Public Affairs and Policy at Humanists UK Richy Thompson said:

‘As they stand, the current plans to reform the Lords do not go far enough: the UK is the only democratic sovereign state in the world to have religious leaders sit as of right in our Parliament and this is unfair, unjustified, and unpopular. It is high time that this is changed, especially as society is becoming increasingly more diverse’.

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078 or 07 393344293.

Read more about the Humanists UK’s campaigns around bishops in the House of Lords: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/secularism/constitutional-reform/bishops-in-the-lords/

Humanists UK responded to the Burns Report in November 2017 https://humanism.org.uk/2017/11/06/house-of-lords-reform-committee-believes-number-of-bishops-should-be-reduced/

The Times conducted a public survey on bishops in the House of Lords in December 2017 https://humanism.org.uk/2017/12/26/public-wants-less-religion-in-politics-and-bishops-out-the-lords/

The House of Lords debated the Burns Report on Tuesday 19 December 2017 https://humanism.org.uk/2017/12/20/peers-debate-a-reduction-in-the-number-of-bishops-in-house-of-lords/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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