Reform of the House of Lords has been high on the news agenda this week. Over Monday and Tuesday, two lengthy debates were held on the Government’s proposed Bill. Throughout, the unjust proposals to continue reserving seats exclusively for men of the Church of England came under intense scrutiny and criticism.
In best traditional list fashion, we’ve picked out our 10 favourite contributions below.
- Graeme Morrice (Livingston): ‘My constituents have been unanimous in their view that this reform is an opportunity to end the automatic right of bishops to sit in the Lords. I very much hope that whatever form the new second Chamber takes, it will contain a diversity of representatives, but they should be there because the people have put their trust in them at the ballot box, rather than because they hold a particular religious office.’
- Chris Bryant (Rhondda): ‘It is even more bizarre to have bishops of the Church of England there…It makes no sense for only one denomination representing one geographical area to be appointed to the House of Lords.’
- Helen Goodman (Bishop Aukland): ‘Why is it right that the second Chamber should reserve places for Anglican bishops…we need institutions that provide equal rights within their arrangements’
- Jim Dowd (Lewisham West & Penge): ‘The only other legislature in the world that allows clerics, by dint of their role, to be Members is Iran. Does he [Tom Greatrex MP] think that is a good model to follow?
- Karl Turner (Hull): ‘Surely if we are trying to increase democracy and legitimacy, having ex officio religious positions is, in itself, discriminatory.’
- Ian Lucas (Wrexham): ‘Have bishops as Member is wrong…Giving precedence to Church of England clerics is an extraordinary thing to do, and it is even more inexplicable on this very day, when the Church of England has decided not to appoint women bishops. Is not having such a clause in the Bill a breach of the European convention on human rights?’
- Anne McGuire (Stirling): ‘If the establishment of the Church of England depends on 12 bishops sitting in the House of Lords, it is in a worse state than the Archbishop of Canterbury thinks it is.’
- Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith): ‘by giving a privileged place to leaders of one faith group, we discriminate against every other faith group, let alone against agnostics and atheists.’
- Mr William Bain (Glasgow NE): ‘The UK would remain one of only two legislatures in the world, along with Iran’s, to continue such religious representation, even though 60% of the public say that bishops should not sit in Parliament.’
- Nia Griffith (Llanelli): ‘Equality legislation in this country outlaws discrimination between men and women, yet for this reformed 21st century second Chamber, the Bill proposes to include bishops from the Church of England, which has fudged on equal rights. After years and years, yet again this week the Church is fudging on women bishops, and we have had nothing but exceptions and excuses, and a ridiculous amendment… that would allow parishes that do not accept women bishops to request a male bishop. This would not be allowed in other workplaces and would be a disgrace even within a non-established Church or religion, but it is utterly deplorable that a so-called established Church chooses to flout the spirit of the law of the land. It is totally unacceptable to give 12 places with voting rights in a reformed 21st century second Chamber to bishops in an organisation that still does not give equal rights to women to allow them to become bishops and which has actually contemplated an amendment that would undermine their authority.’