In questions to the Church Commissioners yesterday afternoon (Monday 3rd
December) in the House of Commons, Michael Fabricant asked whether the
Bishop of Lichfield would remain in the House of Lords after it is reformed.
There are currently 26 Bishops and the Government is proposing to cut this
down to 16. The rest of the House of Lords would comprise political
appointments approved by the Prime Minister and only 20% would be elected.
"I believe that the Government’s proposals are undemocratic and would fill
the Lords with political cronies. Now that the Government has already
started to tinker with the Upper House, I believe it should be wholly
elected. However, as there were ‘Questions to the Church Commissioners’
yesterday, I thought it right to ask whether – under the Government’s
proposals – The Bishop of Lichfield would remain in the House of Lords."
The House of Commons exchange is reproduced below (from Hansard). The
reference to "Archbishop" arises from previous questions to Stuart Bell MP
(who represents the Church Commissioners in the Commons) suggesting that if
a third Archbishop is appointed after Canterbury and York, it should be
36. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): What responses the Church
Commissioners have (a) received and (b) made in respect of the Government’s
Command Paper, "The House of Lords–Completing the Reform"; and if he will
make a statement.
Mr. Stuart Bell (Second Church Estates Commissioner, representing the Church
Commissioners): If I may make a statement first, I should say that the
Church of England believes that there ought to be a minimum of 20 bishops in
a reformed House of Lords in order to offer effective parliamentary service.
In relation to (a) and (b) of the hon. Gentleman’s question, the Church has
received the Government’s Command Paper and is of course giving it careful
consideration along the lines of my statement.
Michael Fabricant: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that
statement. He will understand that in Lichfield, as in the rest of the
country, there is considerable concern about the Command Paper, over and
above the fact that its proposals hardly constitute democratic reform of the
House of Lords. Does he share my concern about paragraph 83, which suggests
that the Church of England’s representation should be reduced to 16? He said
in his statement that he would like it to be increased to at least 20, but
will that definitely include the Lord Bishop of Lichfield?
Mr. Bell: I would hesitate to intrude on the work of the appointment
secretary of a future Archbishop, but I am sure that the Bishop of Lichfield
will not be far behind. We have 26 bishops in the Upper House at the moment.
The number may be reduced, but we are also keen to see the representation of
other denominations and faiths strengthened in the Upper House.