Letter: Bishops in the House

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Sir: Keith Porteous Wood argues for a reformed House of Lords without Church of England bishops or representatives of other faiths (Podium, 27 July). But as General Secretary of the National Secular Society he would, wouldn't he?

More persuasive - and leading to the opposite conclusion - are the views of the Government in its White Paper on reforming the House of Lords: "The bishops often make a valuable contribution to the House because of their particular perspective and experience."

Speaking of just one example of this during discussion of the Immigration and Asylum Bill in the House recently, Earl Russell said that the bishop concerned "has brought to our debates on the subject not only a wealth of pastoral experience but a philosophical position that, because it is oblique to those normally held by politicians, has immeasurably enriched our debates on this subject" (Hansard, 21 July, col 1092). For this reason Earl Russell had declined to subscribe to a press release arguing that a reformed House should not include any bishops.

Church of England bishops are present in the Lords not as a result of an accident of history nor as defenders of a particular religious interest but because they bring fresh insights from a close involvement in all aspects of the lives of the communities they serve. Their ability to do this from a non-partisan and Christian perspective means that they add to the effectiveness of the legislature.

Hopefully the Royal Commission will recognise this and enable them to continue to do so, assisted by those from other churches and faiths.


Secretary General, Church of England Archbishops' Council

London SW1