A LAW to fast-track women bishops into the House of Lords has
been passed by the House of Commons unopposed.
The Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill was nodded through by MPs on
Monday afternoon, where the Bill's Second Reading, Committee Stage,
and Third Reading were held in a single sitting. The Bill would
tweak the rules to ensure that future women diocesan bishops could
take their seats as Lords Spiritual much faster than the existing
Five bishops automatically sit in the Lords (the two
Archbishops, and the Bishops of London, Durham, and Winchester). A
further 21 seats are occupied by the longest-serving diocesan
If the Bill becomes law, however, for a transitional period of
ten years women diocesan bishops would succeed retiring Lords
Spiritual, supplanting any male bishops who had served longer.
Bishops must retire at 70, at which point they also cease to sit in
All parties backed the Bill, enabling it to be rushed through
the Commons. It is hoped that it can be passed by the House of
Lords and receive Royal Assent before the General Election in May,
so that it can come into force at the start of the next
The change in the law was requested by the Archbishop of
Canterbury, who observed proceedings from the gallery above the
House of Commons chamber, after the promulging of the women bishops
Measure last year.
The Second Church Estates Commissioner, the Conservative MP Sir
Tony Baldry, told the Commons that they might see a female Lord
Spiritual sooner rather than later.
"Several diocesan vacancies - in Gloucester, in Oxford, and in
Southwell & Nottingham - are [currently] being considered by
the Crown Nominations Commission. It is perfectly possible that one
- or indeed all - of those new diocesan bishops could be a woman.
We could see a woman bishop in the House of Lords very
Introducing the Bill, a government minister, Sam Gyimah, said
that it was a "modest but important" change to the law. Stephen
Twigg, the Opposition spokesman, strongly supported the proposal.
"It is about recognising the important reform that the Church has
undertaken, and ensuring it is reflected fully in Parliament," he