RESPONDING TO the announcement by Nick Clegg that the Government would not proceed with its House of Lords Reform Bill, the Rt Rev Timothy Stevens, Bishop of Leicester and Convenor of the Lords Spiritual, issued a statement to say that the House of Lords still needed reform.
The Bishop echoed comments made by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in their joint submission to the Parliamentary Committee looking at the Government’s proposals when they expressed doubts about replacing the existing House with a largely elected chamber, but he also expressed support for a Private Member’s Bill proposed by Lord Steel.
Lord Steel’s bill includes provision for the forced retirement of those who fail to attend or are convicted of crimes. It also allows voluntary retirement from the House.
“Reforms that would have seen a simple substitution of the existing House for a largely or wholly elected chamber risked both removing what is best about the present Lords – the independence and expertise that its membership brings to bear – and undermining the current conventions between the Houses that prevent damaging gridlock between the Commons and Lords,” Bishop Stevens said in a statement.
He added that: “The decision not to proceed with the Bill gives Parliament and the country a welcome opportunity to pause and think again about what it wants a second chamber to do.”
The British Humanist Association expressed disappointment with the decision to abandon reform of the House of Lords, which it saw as an opportunity to remove bishops from Parliament. The BHA quoted a statement by a Government minister that revealed that the majority of letters the Government received on House of Lords reform concerned the role of the bishops.
Chris Bryant MP had tabled an amendment to the House of Lords Reform Bill to remove the bishops. No vote will now be taken on this amendment.