MPs vote to remove bishops and other appointees from House of Lords

By staff writers
March 8, 2007
The House of Lords

The Government is considering its next move today, after MPs indicated their support for a wholly elected House of Lords.

MPs voted last night for a Second Chamber in Parliament which would be 100% elected - removing all appointed peers, the 92 hereditary peers who survived the first phase of Lords reform, and 26 Church of England Archbishops and Bishops, and the law lords.

The 113 majority for all members of a reformed Lords being elected rather than appointed, surprised many.

The vote was "indicative", not binding on ministers, whose favoured option had been 50% elected and 50% appointed.

But Leader of the House of Commons Jack Straw said: "There is a momentum behind change - we cannot put the genie back in the bottle."

At long last, he said, MPs had come to a very clear decision. "The House of Commons has broken the deadlock. It is a dramatic result in the history of the British Parliament."

He announced that he would be convening a cross-party group, including himself and Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Strathclyde, the Tory leader in the Lords, representatives of the Liberal Democrats, cross-bench peers and the Bishop of Chelmsford to consider the next steps.

Reform plans will be debated and voted on in the House of Lords next week.

The idea of a fully elected Lords is widely expected to face opposition from peers.

Ekklesia's co-director Jonathan Bartley said however; "This vote indicates clear support for bringing an end to an historical anomaly in the Second Chamber which has done no favours for either church or state.

"The removal of bishops from the House of Lords is long overdue. It has been a travesty that 26 men sit in Parliament simply because an undemocratic religious institution, in a curious conjunction with Government, has appointed them as their leaders.

"The presence of 26 bishops in Parliament implies that one brand of Christianity should be given special status over all other religions and belief systems. Not only is it at odds with democratic values, it is at odds with Christian values. Reform is long overdue, and the Government should now respond to the way that MPs have voted, and give their backing to the complete removal of bishops from the House of Lords."

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