BHA: Even the Church thinks the government has gone too far in its proposals for Bishops in the Lords

Bishops sitting in the House of Lords should not be exempt from “serious offence provisions” the Church of England stated today, opposing the government’s proposals set out in its draft House of Lords Reform Bill. The British Humanist Association (BHA), which had strongly criticised the government’s proposals in its own submission to the parliamentary Joint Committee currently scrutinising the Bill, welcomed the statement from the Church, and described the government’s proposals as ‘seriously disturbing’.

In a written paper signed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, the Church of England stated that it had not sought exemptions proposed ‘by the Government for the Lords Spiritual from the tax deeming provisions, the serious offence provisions and those on expulsion and suspension’.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘As they stand, the government’s proposals mean that on the most serious matters, Bishops in the House of Lords would be accountable to the Church of England and not to parliament. Even the Church now does not want that, so in whose interest has the government made these seriously disturbing proposals?

‘Given that the Church’s position is firmly to support having automatic seats for its Bishops in our parliament, including a different basis from other members, its rejection of the government’s proposals to exempt those Bishops from the serious offence provision and those on expulsion and suspension is certainly surprising but welcome.’

The BHA and the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group submitted evidence to the Joint Committee scrutinising the draft House of Lords Reform Bill.


For further comment, contact Andrew Copson on 07534 258596 or

An ICM survey conducted on behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust in March 2010 found that 74% of the British public – including 70% of Christians – believe it is wrong that Bishops have an automatic right to a seat in the House of Lords. 

For more information read the BHA’s briefing on Bishops in the Lords

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.