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Church representation in the House of Lords

by
18 May 2011

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From Mrs April Alexander

Sir, — The two articles on reform of the House of Lords by Bishop John Gladwin and John F. H. Smith (Comment, 13 May) gave much food for thought.

Bishop Gladwin considers that the Church of England’s response should involve “an unambiguous commitment to democracy”, but he later warns us of the somewhat “sterile debate” about nomination versus direct election. It is here that Mr Smith might have the germ of an idea on which we could work: indirect elections through electoral colleges (e.g. professional bodies, unions, etc).

From two Houses of the General Synod (excluding ex-officio mem­bers), we could form a fully elected body that, with the addition of some elected members of the House of Bishops, could possibly take on the mantle of electoral college for the purpose. The Church might then consider whether bishops should be the only candidates for election. Clergy and lay people might also present themselves. If they did, we would have significant hope of achieving the diversity that the Bishop advocates many years before we could realistically hope to do so with candidates drawn exclus­ively from the House of Bishops.

There may be drawbacks to this possibility, and the first that comes to mind is a risk to the current geo­graphical diversity that our current House of Bishops can provide. It should be possible, however, to give serious consideration to radical solutions while trying to preserve the best of our current representation in the Upper House.

It would be very interesting to know what work is already going on in respect of C of E representation in the reformed Chamber. The General Synod might consider setting up a working party consisting of members from each of the three Houses of that body to work on the ideas mentioned above, and any other ideas that might be submitted. We discover, however, that time is very short, and the joint Parliamentary group is to report by February 2012.

APRIL ALEXANDER
Southwark member of General
Synod and Church Commissioner
59 High Street
Bletchingley
Redhill
Surrey RH1 4PB

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