Following the announcement by Jack Straw yesterday that should a reformed House of Lords contain an appointed element, the Government would maintain the place of bishops in it, Jonathan Bartley, co-director of the religion and society thinktank Ekklesia said: "The role of the Prime Minister in appointing bishops is being ended by Gordon Brown. Should bishops continue to sit in a reformed House of Lords therefore, they will be placed there without any democratic checks and balances whatsoever.
"The Church of England, an external institution with its own particular agenda, would be able to parachute whomever it chooses into the second chamber of Parliament as a matter of right. This would not be a step forward but a step back into the dark ages of special political privilege. With the Prime Minister's power to appoint bishops being ended, that section of the House of Lords would be more unaccountable than it has ever been."
"Reform of the Second Chamber is a golden opportunity to level the playing field and establish that no religion, or indeed no Christian denomination, should be singled out for special privilege and protection. There are plenty of other religious figures in the Lords who are there on merit. In the Commons too, MPs with a strong religious faith have been elected through democratic arrangements. There is no logical, coherent or indeed just reason why a small group of religious figures should be exempted from the same standards as everyone else."