On the 21st October 2016 Conservative Peer Lord Elton introduced the ‘House of Lords Bill’ – a Private Member’s Bill to reduce the size of the House of Lords. The Bishop of Birmingham, Rt Revd David Urquhart, spoke in support. A number of other Peers made reference to the Lords Spiritual and extracts of their remarks can be found after the Bishop’s speech, below.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I am resisting the temptation to tear up my notes and respond to the noble Lord’s last quote. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for again bringing before us this important matter. It is widely agreed in many places that as weseek to be effective as a House, the size of the House is of great concern. Of course, as has already been said by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, recent changes have attempted to alleviate the size of the House—we have adopted retirement provisions—yet they have not been sufficient to alleviate the flow of new Members. The statistics have already been referred to.
From this Bench, the Lords spiritual have spoken consistently over the past few years in support of reform aimed at addressing the size of the House—and we do so again, keeping in mind the aim of the House to improve the core functions of our scrutiny of legislation and government proposals from the other House, and of offering expertise and independence, which have already been referred to. Continue reading “Bishop of Birmingham supports Bill to reduce size of the House of Lords”
“Voting matters, but doing the job matters even more. The belief that only elected Members can have any sort of legitimacy, or that once someone has won a vote it gives them carte blanche to do whatever they like for the next five years, rings extremely hollow when it is precisely some of the elected Members in another place who have brought the system into disrepute. Our whole political system has encouraged career politicians who have never run a farm or a shop or a school or a ship, and who lurch from utopianism, which gets most of them into politics in the first place, to pragmatic power-seeking, which is what they turn to when Utopia fails to arrive on schedule.” – Bishop of Durham, 11/6/09 Continue reading “Archive speeches: Bishop Tom Wright – ‘The constitution is far more important than party politics.’”
On 17th July 2015 the Bishop of Southwark, Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, spoke during the Second Reading debate of Lord Purvis of Tweed’s Constitutional Convention Bill. The Bishop welcomed the Bill and its efforts to include those from outside the political sphere in the decision-making process. He also said that the House of Lords needed to resolve the issue of its powers and functions before resolving questions about its membership.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, on securing time for this Bill—a Bill that, in making provision for a constitutional convention, I am happy to support. I note that a growing consensus is emerging for the constitutional questions that we face to be addressed. To use the terms of the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, when he recently addressed the House of Bishops, we are faced with a constitutional building site and no blueprint of what it is we are trying to construct. A convention could at least help provide that blueprint. Continue reading “Bishop of Southwark welcomes call for a constitutional convention”
On Thursday 2nd July 2015 Lord Forsyth of Drumlean asked Her Majesty’s Government ‘whether they plan to establish a Constitutional Convention to consider the implications of devolution for each part of the United Kingdom; and whether they plan to publish a white paper setting out the consequences for the rest of the United Kingdom of fiscal autonomy for Scotland’. The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a supplementary question.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, the Minister would have picked up concern on every side of the House on this particular issues and I, along with a number of Members on this Bench, share that concern. In principle we would like to explore the possibility of a constitutional convention. The pastoral letter that the bishops issued earlier this year stated:
“The impatience of politicians or the desire for party advantage must not be the driver for constitutional change”.
If we are not going to have a constitutional convention, how do Her Majesty’s Government intend to involve as many as possible of those people who are passionate to be involved in this so that together we can think carefully about the vital question of the future governance of the UK?
Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks Government about plans for a constitutional convention”
In advance of Scotland’s referendum on independence on 18th September 2014, we publish below some links to statements and contributions to the debate by Christian commentators, academics and bloggers. It also includes references made by the Lords Spiritual in parliament. Continue reading “Scotland’s Referendum 2014”
“…we need a different kind of representation of the people besides that of MPs and those who vote for them. We need a supplementary system of representation that represents networks, groups, cultures and faiths—that whole complex ecology in which human beings live” – Bishop of Derby, 19/6/14
On 19th June 2014, the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, took part in Baroness Taylor of Bolton’s take-note debate on the Labour Peers’ Working Group report on the future of the House of Lords and its place in a wider constitution. He spoke about the ability of the House of Lords to act as a advocate for a diverse number of voices from civil society and strengthen the democratic process.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, it a great honour and privilege to follow the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth. I have spent a lot of my ministry following his example and inspiration. I thank him for his contribution.
I am grateful for this report and for the clear presentation of the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor. I welcome the continuing debate and the whole style of incremental reform, which is the right approach. The report begins by recognising a significant feature of our times: widespread disengagement with our parliamentary system. We keep saying that and then just moving on. I want to ask us to stop and think about that phrase for a minute.
Continue reading “Bishop of Derby takes part in debate on the future of the House of Lords”
I want to draw attention briefly to a remarkable cultural development—the renewal of our cathedrals where, I hope and pray, the first female diocesan bishops will be enthroned – Bishop of Norwich, 11/6/14
On 11th June 2014, in the eighth contribution to the debate on the Queen’s Speech from the Lords Spiritual, the Bishop of Norwich, Rt Rev Graham James, focused on constitutional and heritage issues. The Bishop spoke of his hope that female bishops would soon be able to join the Bench of Bishops in the House of Lords, and highlighted the cultural and economic impact of cathedrals in the life of the country.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, the Scottish referendum means that we face constitutional change, or the possibility of it, on a massive scale. I recall someone remarking that constitutional change in Britain is a bit like unpicking a ball of wool—once it unravels, it is hard to stop without creating a knotty mess. That is neither an argument against constitutional change nor against knitting but it does call for a good pattern to follow.
“The relationship between Church and State is not a matter of special privileges granted by an all-powerful State to one particular faith. It is a relationship that has been at the heart of our forms of government for many centuries, and which has weathered enormous changes – even a civil war.”
Rev Dr Malcolm Brown on how the relationship between Church and State reflects a deeply embedded Anglican Christian identity. Continue reading “Church and State: Living in an Old Country”
On 12th December 2013, the Bishop of Leicester took part in a debate in the House of Lords, led by Lord Norton of Louth, on the size of the House of Lords.
The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, this House owes a debt to the noble Lord, Lord Norton, for his assiduous work towards creating a more effective second Chamber. As usual, he has today rehearsed very clearly and effectively the case for reducing its size.
It seems to me that the challenge is clear. In spite of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord True, there is surely overwhelming agreement with the fundamental proposition that this House is too large. The question, therefore, is to find ways not just of agreeing with the principle of creating a smaller House, but to give effect to it. In that sense, this debate is part of a wider discussion upon which hangs the reputation and credibility of the political class.
Continue reading “Bishop of Leicester takes part in debate on role and reform of the House of Lords”