On 19th December 2017 the House of Lords debated its size, in the form of a Motion from Lord Burns ‘That this House takes note of the Report of the Lord Speaker’s committee on the size of the House’. The Bishop of Birmingham and Convenor of the Lords Spiritual, Rt Revd David Urquhart, spoke in support of the Committee’s proposals and said that bishops would look at the question of their numbers when legislation on Lords reform, backed by consensus, was forthcoming:
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, as convener of the Lords spiritual, I welcome warmly the report of the Speaker’s Committee and pay tribute to the work of the noble Lord, Lord Burns, and his fellow committee members for their thoughtful and thorough attention to the question of the size of the House, which we all agree is in need of urgent resolution. I notice that the word “magic” has already been used in the debate, but the desire for love has also been added at Christmas time. To hear the leader of the Lib Dems imploring the work of the Lord in becoming pure is a most encouraging start to this debate.
The main recommendations of the committee are ones that I hope most of us in this House can rally behind. They offer a set of suggestions which, with good will and a spirit of co-operation, not least from the party leaderships, will provide us with a route map for reducing the membership of this House to a more acceptable level. That is something that my predecessors as convener and many others on these Benches have supported consistently. Rather than comment on the detail of the proposals, I thought that it would be helpful to focus my remarks on what the report did or did not say about the Lords spiritual. Continue reading “Bishop of Birmingham supports proposals to reduce size of House of Lords”
On 20th April 2017 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Rt Hon Dame Caroline Spelman MP, answered questions from MPs on the floor of the House of Commons, on religious symbols in the workplace, marriage, vocations, metal theft and Christians in Africa. She also answered written questions on debt, domestic violence and House of Lords reform:
Sir David Amess (Southend West) (Con): What assessment the Church of England has made of the implications of the European Court of Justice ruling of March 2017 on wearing religious dress and symbols in the workplace. 
The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Dame Caroline Spelman): The Church of England was very concerned by the judgment of the European Court of Justice that stated that blanket bans on the wearing of political, philosophical or religious signs do not amount to cases of direct discrimination, because that conflicts with the pre-existing rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. By leaving the European Union, we presumably stand some chance of resolving such inconsistencies. Continue reading “Church Commissioner questions – European Court ruling, marriage, vocations, metal theft, Christians in Africa, debt, domestic violence, Lords reform”
On 3rd February 2017 Peers debated the House of Lords Reform Bill, a private member’s bill from Green Party Peer Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb. The Bishop of Norwich, Rt Revd Graham James, spoke in the debate. He set out why the central objectives of the Bill – to elect members of the Lords and create a new category of non-voting Peer – were flawed.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, I wondered whether to speak in this debate, but since the Bill makes specific reference to the Lords Spiritual, it seemed important to give a view from these Benches. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, for recognising the continuing place for Bishops, even if an altered capacity—I will comment on Clause 12 in a little more detail later on.
We on these Benches are on record as being in favour of reform of your Lordships’ House provided it enhances our existing role and function. There are two aspects of the Bill on which I wish to focus and which have already been commented on. The first is the principle of elections as against appointment; the second is the concept of non-voting Members of your Lordships’ House. Continue reading “Bishop of Norwich says Lords reform should enhance civil society voice, not that of established political parties”
“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”
Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill
House of Commons, 19th January 2015
Allocation of Time
1.- (1) Proceedings on Second Reading, in Committee, on consideration and on Third Reading shall be completed at this day’s sitting…..
The motion applies to the proceedings on the Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill. The motion timetables all stages of the Bill, guaranteeing six hours debate, with up to four hours on Second Reading and a further two hours for Committee and remaining stages.
This is a short, single-issue Bill that the Government have introduced in response to the recent decision by the Church of England to allow women to be consecrated as bishops. The provisions will fast-track female diocesan bishops in the House of Lords, as current legislation will otherwise mean it would be many years before female bishops could take seats on the Lords Spiritual Benches.
More will be said about the detail of the provisions and the necessity for this legislation when we come to debating the Bill itself. This is an important Bill, strongly supported by both the Government and the Church, and it has broad support across the House. It is a tightly focused Bill with only one substantive clause, and it is for that reason that the motion allocates six hours for debate. I commend the motion to the House. Continue reading “MPs Pass the Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill – debate transcript”
“…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”