Bishops check if they are allowed to vote in general elections

By Jonathan Bartley
March 17, 2010

It seems a little strange if they haven't found out before now, but yesterday the Government confirmed that bishops can vote in general elections.

There is a convention that bishops don't vote, but apparently there is no legal prohibition. The revelation (?) came as John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, asked a supplementary question to Viscount Tenby's question about Members of the House voting at General Elections.

It seems rather appropriate that the question should come up now, as bishops are being encouraged to play a full part in working for reform of the Second Chamber. But I imagine the appeal to vote in general elections is perhaps not so great, as they can't sway the result one way or another in quite the same way as they did over the Equality Bill :)

This was the exchange:

The Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds: Would the Minister confirm that it is in order for Lords spiritual, who are not Peers, to vote in general elections, and that they should therefore be encouraged like all good citizens to use their vote?

Lord Bach: There is no bar to the Lords spiritual voting in parliamentary elections. However, I understand that it has long been the tradition that they do not do so. While they are not Peers, they none the less sit in this House and can therefore participate in person in the proceedings of Parliament instead of being represented in the House of Commons. There is no legal bar to the Lords spiritual voting in a general election; it is very much a matter for them.

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