17 May 2011
Commenting on the Government's proposals, Rt Rev Tim Stevens,
Bishop of Leicester and Convenor of the Lords Spiritual said:
"Some reform of the Lords is overdue, not least to resolve the
problem of its ever-increasing membership. But getting the balance
of reform right, so that we retain what is good in our current
arrangements, whilst freeing up the House to operate more
effectively and efficiently, is crucial.
If the test of any reform is that it helps serve parliament and
the nation better, in proposing to replace the House of Lords with
a wholly or largely elected second chamber, the case has not been
made. That case would require a clear redefinition of the primary
purpose and function of the Upper House.
The House of Lords excels as a revision and scrutiny chamber,
and this is in large part because of the independence and expertise
of its members. Any change that would have the effect of
restricting the independence or expertise available to parliament
risks being a retrograde step.
A wholly or largely elected House will be a more politicised
House. It will also be a more assertive House, liable to challenge
the authority of the primary elected chamber, the House of
At its best the House of Lords is uniquely a national forum in
which the voices and concerns of all strands of civil society can
be convened and heard. Perhaps of greatest concern therefore to
those on our Benches is that these reforms risk substituting that
large body of distinguished professionals appointed for their
experience across all walks of life, with a further class of
salaried professional politicians.
The recent AV referendum showed that there is little enthusiasm
amongst the wider public for constitutional change that might have
unintended consequences. Those on our Benches would certainly
question whether House of Lords reform ought to be a priority for
parliament with the many and pressing social and economic
challenges before us.
As Convenor of the bishops in the Lords I am pleased that the
Coalition recognises that "in a reformed second chamber which had
an appointed element, there should continue to be a role for the
established Church". I and my colleagues on the Bishops' Benches
look forward to playing a full and active role in the discussions
and debates to come on how we should best reform our second