Opinion Former Article

BHA: Lords Reform Committee will recommend Bishops retain reserved seats

Contradicting earlier rumours, it has been reported today that the Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform are to recommend that Bishops should retain reserved seats in a revised upper chamber. The news has been greeted with dismay by the British Humanist Association (BHA).

In early October 2011, the BHA submitted written evidence to the Committee, arguing that Bishops should have no reserved place in the Lords. Following on from this, BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson gave oral evidence to the Committee in late November, following on from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The government announced last May its desire to reduce the number of peers in the Lords from the current figure of 809 to 300, and reducing the number of reserved seats for Bishops from 26 to 12. However, the government also said that ‘We will consider a wholly elected chamber if that option is supported as the draft Bill is scrutinised.’

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘That the Committee on Lords Reform is to recommend that one denomination of one religion is to keep a privileged place in a reformed chamber goes against society’s understanding of fairness, accountability and democracy. The public want the Bishops gone – a recent opinion poll showed that 74% of the population – including 70% of Christians – think it is wrong that Church of England Bishops are given an automatic seat in the House of Lords. And this is hardly surprising, given that despite their claims to the contrary, the evidence also shows that the Bishops do not speak for UK ‘Christians’ – no matter about those of other religions.

‘We will keep pushing for Bishops to be removed from the House of Lords.’

Notes

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

Read more about the BHA’s work on Bishops in the Lords: http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/constitutional-reform/bishops-in-the-lords

Read the BHA’s briefing on Bishops in the Lords: http://www.humanism.org.uk/_uploads/documents/1bha-briefing-bishops-in-the-lords-2011-final.pdf

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