*** DEBUG END ***

Bishops should not sit as of right in the Lords, Commission argues

05 April 2023


The House of Lords in session, in January, 2020

The House of Lords in session, in January, 2020

BISHOPS should no longer sit as of right in the House of Lords, a new paper argues. It is published by the Commission on Political Power, an independent group that unofficially reviews constitutional structures.

In a paper that sets out options for reforms of the Lords which do not include directly elected politicians, the commission says that maintaining the current system is not tenable. Calling for a “representative Senate” of between 400 and 600 appointed members, it suggests abolishing the current “Bishops’ bench” of two archbishops and 24 bishops.

“Whilst it is generally recognised that the Church of England bishops play a constructive and valued part in the work of the Lords, their presence is anomalous as representatives of the established religion,” the report says. Any appointments body, however, “should take into account the balance of faith representation” in the country.

The commission’s co-convener, Frances Crook, said: “The House of Lords is an undemocratic anachronism, and change must come. I’m not convinced that direct elections will necessarily provide improved democracy, and just having more professional politicians may not enhance public confidence. I hope the Commission’s ideas will generate debate so we can find a solution fit for the next generation.”

The National Secular Society (NSS) described the position of the Lords Spiritual as “archaic, undemocratic, and unfair”.

The chief executive of the NSS, Stephen Evans, said: “Ending the arrangement whereby representatives of one religious denomination are given seats as of right would remove an unjustifiable religious privilege from our legislature, and make for a more equitable and democratic second chamber.”

In December, the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, who is the convener of the Lords Spiritual, defended the presence of bishops in the Second Chamber (Comment, 9 December 2022). “As well as a faith perspective, bishops seek to bring to debates the voices of those on the margins, including refugees and asylum-seekers, families struggling on benefits, victims of the gambling industry, and people suffering human-rights abuses overseas,” he wrote. “It is an extension of our vocation to service, locally and in the nation, as we seek to transform unjust structures of society and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.”

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


ViSIt our Events page for upcoming and past events 

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)