Special report:

The Lords will provide: Bishops paid up to £27,000 for attending Parliament

Controversy over the presence of 26 unelected bishops in the upper House will be exacerbated by revelations about how much some of them are being paid for the privilege

Bishops are claiming up to £27,000 a year in fixed-rate allowances to attend sessions of the House of Lords on top of their travel costs. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Independent has found that some bishops are claiming up to the maximum fixed allowance for attending sessions in the second chamber while having full-time jobs in their dioceses. Others attend sessions in the House without making any claim on the public purse.

Under current regulations peers are given the choice of three daily rates to cover their hotel and living expenses in London – £300, £150 or nothing. However they do not have to provide receipts and can also claim travel expenses.

One bishop, known as a Lord Spiritual, is required to be in attendance and lead prayers on each day the House is sitting. But an analysis of the Lords allowances reveals that some bishops are spending up to two weeks in every month in the Lords – sometimes claiming the maximum allowances.

From October 2010 to November 2011:

* The Bishop of Chester attended the House on 97 days, claiming £27,600 in attendance allowances and £7,309 in travel expenses.

* The Bishop of Liverpool attended on 60 days, claiming £15,600 for attendance and £4,220 in expenses.

* Other significant claimers included the Bishop of Exeter (£11,550), the Bishop of Leicester (£8,850) and the Bishop of Wakefield (£10,650).

In contrast, a number of bishops regularly attended the House but did not claim any attendance allowances at all. The Bishop of Birmingham attended the House of Lords on 22 occasions but claimed no money. The Archbishop of York attended on 16 occasions and claimed nothing. The Archbishop of Canterbury also made no charge. However, the Bishop of London claimed £3,750 for attending the Lords on 24 occasions.

The Church of England has a guaranteed presence in the upper house reflecting its position as the country's established religion. Despite ongoing attempts to reduce their ranks or introduce representatives of other faiths, there are still places in the Lords for the 26 Lords Spiritual. Bishops can choose to attend on an ad hoc basis when matters of interest and concern to them are before it.

Under government plans, the number of bishops allowed to sit in the House of Lords would be reduced to 12 – with the idea of allowing some other faiths guaranteed representation.

Bishops live rent-free in their diocese, and to cover additional costs of running their historic homes they can draw upon allowances covered by the Church Commissioners, who manage the Church's £5 billion property and shares portfolio.

They are provided with official cars for travelling around their diocese, and can claim for entertaining guests, minor repairs to their homes, heating and lighting, gardeners and cleaners.

A spokesman for the Bishop of Chester told The Independent: "The bishop's attendance in the House of Lords was higher than usual for the period in question because of his membership of the Joint Select Committee on Privacy and Injunctions, which required him to attend weekly for several months. And being from the north, he has greater accommodation costs than many other bishops."

The Bishop of Leicester said the amount claimed would vary depending on how much time bishops had to spend in London, whether they could travel home after the session and whether they needed support for their work. He added: "None of this money goes to individual bishops to subsidise their stipends."

In a statement the Bishop of Exeter confirmed: "The Bishop of Exeter claims the allowance for which he is entitled for each day he is in the chamber. As he has to travel up from Devon, the allowance is used to cover overnight accommodation costs, incidental travel costs and subsistence, as well as journals and papers to inform work carried out while in the Lords. Travel to and from London is met by the House of Lords' credit card."

A Church of England spokesman said: "Lords Spiritual, like other members of the House of Lords, are able to claim reimbursement for the costs incurred in the exercise of their parliamentary duties. Claims for reimbursement for costs incurred by the Lords Spiritual under the parliamentary scheme are handled by each individual bishops' diocesan office. The amounts claimed as reimbursement by Lords Spiritual will inevitably vary from bishop to bishop as a reflection of a number of factors including time spent in the House, geographical distance from Westminster, policy portfolios held, committee membership and all party group activity."

Andrew Copson, of the British Humanist Association, said the claims underlined the need for reform. "Church of England bishops acquire their right to sit in our Parliament and claim public money for their expenses solely by virtue of their religion and position in the hierarchy of one denomination of one church," he said.

"Lords reform should end this mediaeval hangover of automatic reserved places for bishops in our legislature."

The House of Lords Exposed: In association with The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before