On 20th May 2021 the House of Lords debated the changes made to its working procedures as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The Bishop of Birmingham, as convenor of the Lords Spiritual, spoke about the effect on the Bishops’ Benches and more widely in the country.
The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I share, from these Benches, our gratitude for all those who have worked so hard, with agility and rapidity, both the staff that serve the House and those who manage the business of the House, in a very challenging and, in fact, a unique time, as has been referred to several times already.
The noble Earl, Lord Howe, said that every aspect of life has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Even churches have become hybrid. Families have been separated and have kept in touch by Zoom. Employers and employees are now negotiating home and back-to-work settings. Online parents’ evenings at schools have become more popular than ever. As has been said already, I join those who are at a moment of learning lessons from what has happened to us, unexpected and unprepared, over the past 15 months. This great disruption means that we will face further change, not just here but in society as a whole.
The decisions we have to make are about what to keep that has been beneficial, or surprisingly new and advantageous, and what to go back to, as what works well for our purpose today. We do so in the context of an uncertain journey ahead, on the road map, and also with the priority to keep everyone safe and well in this terrible time of virus, as I believe we have tried to do in this House.
In the House of Lords on Monday 20th January 2020, Lord Foulkes asked a Private Notice Question, “to ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration is being given to relocating the House of Lords out of London”, following media reports that the Government was considering relocation of the House to York. The Bishop of Chelmsford (and Archbishop of York designate) Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, followed up –
On the 5th December 2016, the House of Lords debated and approved a motion from Lord Cormack “to resolve that this House believes that its size should be reduced, and methods should be explored by which this could be achieved.” The Rt Revd David Urqhart, the Bishop of Birmingham and Convenor of the Lords Spiritual, spoke in the debate, supporting the motion.
Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I am pleased to be able to contribute to this important debate and am grateful to the Campaign for an Effective Second Chamber, in which we are allowed to participate from time to time, for bringing it to us today. I am also grateful for the remarks of the noble Lords and noble Baronesses who have already spoken. I have written down that I share their widely shared view that the House is too large, and I shall start on that point. Continue reading “Bishop of Birmingham supports move to reduce the size of the House of Lords”
On 29th November 2016, Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty’s Government “what assessment they have made of the case for moving Parliament and central departments to the north of England.” The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster asked a follow up question.
The Lord Bishop of Chester Are we quite sure whether the people of the north would want Parliament in the north?
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”
On 13th January 2016, the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, spoke in a debate on Lord Strathclyde’s motion “that this House takes note of Command Paper Cm 9177, Secondary legislation and the primacy of the House of Commons.” This related to the Strathclyde Review, which assessed the House of Lord’s powers regarding Statutory Instruments.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I, like other Members of your Lordships House, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, for the work that he has undertaken and for giving rise to what is clearly an important debate about the role of this House, which probably goes much wider than some of the specifics in front of us today. By way of introduction, I will add a little correction to the text of the noble Lord’s report.
“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 the 15th September 2015 the Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill, made his final speech before retirement from the House of Lords, during a debate on House of Lords Reform. The Bishop spoke about the contribution the Lords spiritual make to the House and the importance of the balance of power in the chamber being held by the independent and Crossbench Peers. Lord Cormack paid tribute on behalf of the House to the Bishop for all the work he has done in Parliament on behalf of the people of Staffordshire.
The Lord Bishop of Lichfield (Valedictory Speech): My Lords, one of my few really painful regrets is that I have not spent more time in your Lordships’ House, not least because of all the characters that one meets along these corridors. I remember that the first time I had a sandwich lunch here, I found myself sitting between one Peer who had just made a killing in his Bond Street gallery and another who had been in trade unions all his working life. It was wonderful to hear the conversation between them. Continue reading “Farewell speech by the Bishop of Lichfield – House of Lords Reform”