07 July 2012

Holy Redundant Bishops in the Lords

          Britain has been trying reform the House of Lords for nearly a hundred years now, Tony Blair managed to clear out some of the Hereditary Lords with the House of Lords Act 1999, but since then the Governments of the day have managed to fill the upper house with life Peers.

Ever wonder why Tony Blair stopped there, just getting rid off the majority of Heredity Peers? In 1999, immediately before most hereditary peers were removed by the Act, there were 350 Conservative, 19 Labour peers and 23 Liberal Democrat peers. While the Bill was being considered, an amendment was passed which let 92 of the existing hereditary peers remain as Members until the next stage of reform.

The number of Lords is now about 886 while in 1999 there were 1,330, then 666 after the hereditary Peers left.There was a recent flood thanks to David Cameron creating over 100 last year.

 To put it plainly, the Lords is a club for friends of  the political parties. Have you been a Judge, a senior politician, a Banker, a Party donor or climbed to the top of the Anglican church  in England? Then there may be a spot for you in the Lords.

See, it's open to anyone..oh...wait..Anglican Bishops, the Lords Spiritual...looks like they are men only. Awkward....better get rid of them in the name of equality, and there is no real reason than anyone could think of to keep them is there?

So why are they there and why does it matter?

26 Senior Bishops and Archbishops of the Anglican Church (Church of England) get an automatic right to sit the Lords. No elections for them!

On the British Humanists site Holy Redundant they list the common arguments for the continued presence of the Lords Spiritual

  1. The Bishops bring a unique ethical and spiritual insight to the affairs of Parliament.  
  2. The Bishops speak for all religious opinion.  
  3. There are Christians in Britain, so there should be Christians in Parliament. 
  4.  The removal of the Bishops would mean the disestablishment of the Church of England. 
  5.  Religious representation in Parliament is a good thing, we should widen representation to all faiths
  6.  It is only humanists and other non-religious people who are opposed to the Lords Spiritual.

The BHA have given some rather polite answers here on this PDF (because the are nice and polite people)

I have a few different answers 

1) Then Bishop of Carlisle, the Right Reverend Graham Dow said that the July 2007 North Yorkshire floods were punishment for homosexual marriage laws to the Muslim fundamentalist who drove a truckload of explosives into Glasgow airport.

2) I'm sure the Muslims and the Hindus and the Pastafarians are pleased about this. I would have thought they would have been so pleased to ask the Bishops to lead prayers in their local Mosque/Temple/Pirate Ship? No....

3) I'm quite sure there are lots of Christians in Parliament. David Cameron for example, at least he thinks there should be a Christian Fightback  and he is quite happy to "do God" at Number 10. I'm sure no one forgets Tony Blair deciding to become a Catholic and setting up his Faith Foundation.

4) This is the wrong way around, The Church of England is the State Church, meaning it has a privileged position in the role of the state. I would hope it does get disestablished but you need to do that first, then the Bishops will be removed for certain.

5) The  British Social Attitudes survey is taken every year, with 3000 people being questions on various aspects of living in Britain. The 26th Survey quotes 
There has been a sharp decline in religious faith in Britain, while in America people are much less likely to be atheist or agnostic. Despite this difference, people in Britain and America hold similar views about the place of religion in society. Most people are pragmatic: religion has personal and social benefits, but faith should not be taken too far. From politics to private life, many domains are seen as off limits to clerical involvement.
The 2011 Ipsos MORI poll on behalf the Richard Dawkins Foundation  is given the BRIN (British religion in Numbers) treatment and a relevant quote:
        Only 26% favoured the continuing presence of Anglican bishops in the House of Lords (32% against) and 32% the cost of hospital chaplains being met from NHS budgets (39% opposed)

 16% agreed and 70% disagreed that Christians and the Church should have more influence over politics in the country – only among the over-55s did the proportion in favour of the proposition scrape above one-fifth.

 Who will represent the 390,000 Jedi? in the UK, the Lords Spiritual? I don't think so. Oddly there are more Jedi than Sikhs or Jewish people in the UK at least according to the Office of National Statistics

So it seems the answer is not to add more people to represent a section of society that is slowly dieing.

6) ICM Research among a representative sample of 1,007 Britons aged 18 and over, contacted by telephone on 10-11 March 2010.

Six out of ten Brits think bishops should be booted out of the House of Lords after defeating plans to cap benefits at £26,000 a year.’  (Hmmmm)

Poll from YouGov on the Bishops

So lots to think and read about in the matter of Lords Reform. Britain is not overly good at reforming politics, as we saw with the case for the Proportional vote.

 Different viewpoints on Lords Reform can be found here http://www.lordsreform.org/ , number 53 in interesting, as unsurprisingly the Muslim Council wants a place for minor religions in the Lords (funny that!).
The History of the House of Lords actually is quite interesting and can be read on Wikipedia

More information on Lord Reform can be found on these links:-





Bishops collecting their £27,000 a year.

I have also heard it said the Bishops bring a moral viewpoint to the Lords. If I was in the Lords, I think I would be insulted. 

‘Representatives of the Church of England will retain the right to sit in the House of Lords by virtue of their faith, denomination, gender and vocation. In a Britain which is not only religiously plural, but also increasingly non-religious, there is absolutely no justification for maintaining the Church of England preferred status. It is an affront to the principles of democracy and equal citizenship.’  BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson

1 comment:

Laetizia Coronet said...

In a democracy, nothing could stop a Christian group like the COE to start their own party and get represented in Parliament. That's how things should work. So any argument stating that there should be representation of Christians, is just downright lazy. Socialists had to work to get represented so stop looking at others to do it for you and get cracking.