Lots of constituents have contacted me about various elements of this reform, but by far the most common complaint has been the possibility of Bishops remaining in the Lords and forming a higher proportion of the overall membership. You can see below my response to constituents who have expressed concern about this:
Thank you for your recent email regarding the government’s proposals for Bishops in the House of Lords.
You express your concern that as a result of the upcoming proposals for House of Lords reform the number of Bishops sitting may proportionally increase. You state your belief that this development both lacks intellectual credibility and represents a detachment from majority public opinion. Furthermore, you argue that a continued presence of the Bishops would contradict efforts to create a transparent and legitimate second chamber.
I have some sympathy with you concerns. The draft bill published by Nick Clegg in the last session of Parliament set out proposals that Bishops of the Church of England should retain a presence in the House of Lords, but be reduced in number from 26 to 12. I note that the white paper justifies this proposal on the basis that the Church of England is ‘the established church’ and the reduction in number merely reflects the reduction in size of the house as a whole. I find this proposition quite perverse considering that the Liberal Democrats had previously expressed a wish to end the automatic representation of the Church of England in the House of Lords.
In the Queen’s Speech recently it was announced that the government did intend to go ahead with House of Lords Reform in this session of Parliament, but we are yet to see what changes the Government may have made in its proposals following the lengthy meetings of the Joint Committee of the two Houses of Parliament, which resulted in the publication of a minority report as well as the main report.
I believe there should be no automatic ‘spiritual’ representation in the House of Lords. However, should there continue to be an unelected element within the House of Lords and should that element include Lords Spiritual then its composition should reflect the faiths of the country as a whole. For these reasons, I am pleased to inform you that I have written to the Deputy Prime Minister, who is responsible for these matters, asking him to address the concerns that you have raised. I will inform you when I receive a response.
Thank you for taking the time to write to me.
I have not yet received a reply from Nick Clegg but will post it here when I do.
I would welcome any further comments you may have on this issue. Please feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.