Tuesday, 7 August 2012

BHA: Government Abandons House Of Lords Reform

Yesterday it was announced that the Government will abandon its plans for reform of the House of Lords. We have long campaigned for removing the right of Bishops to reserved seats in Parliament.

The announcement is particularly disappointing because we hoped that Lords Reform would provide an opportunity for removing the right of Bishops to reserved seats in Parliament. However, we were critical of the Government’s plans because they included retaining the Bishops and as a result of this we launched the campaign Holy Redundant, which called for the removal of the Bishops from Parliament. We called on our supporters to e-mail their MPs and Nick Clegg to urge them to support the removal of the Bishops, and thousands responded.

The e-mails certainly ensured our voice was heard. Mark Harper MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Cabinet Office, revealed on 23 May that of all the letters received by the Government on Lords Reform, the majority had concerned the Bishops. The Government’s intention of retaining the Bishops was also heavily criticised during Parliamentary debate in July, with one in every five speakers referring to ending the role of the Lords Spiritual in a reformed House. Within hours of the Bill’s introduction, amendments to remove the Bishops had been tabled by Chris Bryant MP (Rhondda). Sadly, with reform of the House of Lords now abandoned, Parliament will no longer be voting on these amendments.

However, our campaigning pushed the role of the Bishops onto the political agenda, raising hopes that the Government’s plan for reform could be changed and more recently, we supported amendments which would have led to the removal of the Bishops. Now that Lords reform has been taken off the agenda, we are disappointed that this opportunity has passed. However, we will continue to argue against the presence of Bishops in Parliament, which is an unfair form of religious privilege which should have no place in a democratic society.

Kindest regards,

Pavan Dhaliwal
Head of Public Affairs