The issue of whether bishops should retain their automatic seats in the House of Lords has sparked a lively discussion. SNP MP Tommy Sheppard has taken a stand, calling for the removal of the “privileged” position granted to Anglican bishops in Parliament.
He argues that reserving 26 seats in the upper chamber solely for bishops, including the archbishops of Canterbury and York, undermines democracy and gives it a negative reputation.
Supporting this perspective, Tory MP Chris Loder highlights the potential harm caused by clergymen engaging in political debates. The recent criticism of the government’s immigration policies by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, serves as an example.
On the other hand, Labour MP Neil Coyle expresses his disappointment at the possibility of Church of England bishops no longer participating in political discussions.
In response to the debate, Cabinet Office minister Alex Burghart, representing the government, states that removing bishops from the House of Lords is not a course of action the government intends to pursue.
The 2021 census data reveals a decline in Christianity among the British population, with fewer than half of England and Wales identifying as Christian. Sheppard emphasizes the importance of Parliament acknowledging this shift in public sentiment.
Sheppard clarifies that his intention is not to exclude people of faith from Parliament, but rather to eliminate a special privileged section exclusively reserved for bishops.
The Church of England asserts that bishops in the House of Lords offer an independent, non-partisan voice in parliamentary debates, providing an ethical and spiritual perspective informed by their roles in local civil society.
Now it’s your turn to weigh in on the matter. Should bishops lose their automatic seats in the House of Lords? Cast your vote in our poll and share your thoughts in the comment section below, as we delve into this thought-provoking debate.