The British Humanist Association (BHA) has today launched a campaign to remove reserved seats for the Bishops from the House of Lords. The campaign, “Holy Redundant”, follows on from the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Draft House of Lords Reform Bill reporting on Monday in support of the Government’s proposals to keep reserved seats for Bishops in a reformed second chamber by a vote of 13-7.
At present, the Church of England is granted privileged access to the British Parliament. Anglican Bishops are automatically granted membership in the House of Lords where they have the right to debate and vote on all legislation. They acquired this right solely by virtue of their religion, their gender and their position in the hierarchy of one particular denomination of one particular Church. They are unaccountable to the public.
The new BHA website at http://holyredundant.org.uk/ rebuts arguments used in support of keeping Bishops in the Lords. It encourages supporters to write to their MPs, copied to Nick Clegg as minister for constitutional reform.
“Anything from 60% to 74% of the public wants to see reserved places for Bishops go – keeping them is unpopular. It is also unjustified – none of the arguments advanced to keep them hold water and even if you believe that Bishops have something important to add to debate, that is not a sufficient reason why they should have special reserved places rather than come through the same appointments producer as anyone else. The truth is that places for Bishops are an anachronistic feudal hangover, the retention of which is supported not by democratic will or principles of public accountability but by opaque vested interests.”