Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Photo: Michael Hudson
Archbishops Rowan Williams and John Sentamu say a mainly elected House of Lords would not necessarily serve Britons better.
The archbishops of Canterbury and York question the rationale for a wholly or mainly elected House of Lords in their submission to the parliamentary joint committee on the government’s Draft Bill and White Paper.
Whilst welcoming the proposals to provide continued places for bishops of the established church in a partly appointed House, the archbishops ask that the appointments process also have regard to increasing the presence of leaders of other denominations and faiths.
The Draft Bill and White Paper proposes a House of Lords of 300 members, with either 80 per cent or 100 per cent elected by proportional representation. If the reformed House were to retain a [partially] appointed element, there would be places for Church of England bishops, though reduced to 12 from their current 26. Bishops would not be allowed to remain in a 100 per cent elected House under the government’s plans.
The archbishops argue in their submission that the test of reform is whether it enables parliament as a whole to serve the people better. Concluding that the draft bill fails to meet that test, they say, “If, as we believe, the second chamber should remain essentially a revising chamber and if, as we also believe, the primacy of the House of Commons is to be maintained, the argument that such a chamber can only be effective and have proper legitimacy if it is wholly or mainly elected is no more than an assertion.”