Automatic seats for bishops in Lords would be scrapped under new bill

By agency reporter
December 23, 2019

Humanists UK has welcomed the introduction of a new bill which proposes to remove the automatic right of 26 Church of England bishops to sit and vote in the House of Lords.

The Private Members’ Bill is being proposed by All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) Vice Chair Lord Taverne of Pimlico as part of the ballot of such bills in the new parliament.

The UK Parliament automatically awards 26 seats in the House of Lords to Church of England bishops. These bishops are able to (and do) vote on legislation, make interventions, and lead prayers at the start of each day’s business. The UK is one of only two sovereign countries in the world to give religious leaders such rights – the other being Iran. The bill proposes to end these automatic rights.

Humanists UK, which campaigns for a secular state with inclusive, shared public institutions so that everyone is treated equally, regardless of religion or belief, says the automatic seats for bishops is an affront to democracy and allows officials from one denomination of one religion to have an unfair advantage with greater legislative influence. Currently the Church of England is already over-represented amongst the beliefs of members of parliament. Most of the public oppose the bishops having seats.

If the bill is given sufficient support in the House of Lords and supported by an MP, it will then be debated in the House of Commons and may become law.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy at Humanists UK Richy Thompson said: "The UK is the only democratic sovereign state in the world to have religious leaders sit as of right in our Parliament. Giving bishops extra rights and more influence over our legislative process and on important laws which shape our country is unfair, unjustified, and unpopular especially when society is now more diverse than ever. We hope this bill becomes law and ends this unfair system once and for all."

* Humanists UK https://humanism.org.uk/

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