The Government has today introduced the Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill in the House of Commons which, if passed, will see women bishops into the House of Lords faster than planned. On 17th November 2014 the General Synod of the Church of England completed the legislation necessary to allow women to become bishops. The Bill introduced by the Government today will make sure those women have a fair chance of sitting alongside their male counterparts as one of the 26 Lords Spiritual who sit in the House of Lords.
Under current rules, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishops of London, Durham and Winchester automatically take seats in the House of Lords. The remaining 21 Lords Spiritual places are automatically given to those who have been diocesan bishops longest. This means that, unless the rules are changed, it could be many years before women bishops are represented in the Lords.
The Government’s Bill, which is supported by the Church of England, will suspend the current rules for the next ten years, so that if a female diocesan bishop is available when a Lords Spiritual seat becomes vacant, she will automatically take the seat.
The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “I am delighted that we are able to bring this Bill forward, with the support of the Church of England, which will right a historical wrong and bring a smidgen more fairness to the House of Lords. It has taken centuries to get to the position where we can agree that a woman can be just as wise, just as erudite, just as valuable to our public life as a man. We are bringing down one of the last bastions of masculine supremacy, and I look forward immensely to seeing the first female bishop take her rightful seat in the Lords."
The Bill will be taken through the House of Commons by Sam Gyimah, Minister for the Constitution. He said: "I warmly welcome the decision by the Church of England to allow women bishops. This Bill supports that decision by ensuring that when women are appointed as diocesan bishops, they can take vacant seats in the House of Lords. Without this change in the law, we would have to wait many years for women bishops to be represented in the House of Lords, and that cannot be right."