The Church of England could lose more than half its Bishops in the House of Lords if a controversial new Government proposal passes into law.
Yesterday the Government revealed its long-awaited proposals for the upper chamber, which included a plan to reduce the number of bishops from 26 to 12.
And an accompanying white paper makes clear that the Government will also “consider options including a wholly elected House”.
However, any reduction in the number of bishops is likely to concern those who fear it could pave the way for the disestablishment of the Church of England.
The House of Lords Reform Draft Bill, which was unveiled yesterday in the Commons by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, proposes to restrict the number of other peers to 300.
According to the Bill 80 per cent of these peers would be elected, with the remainder being appointed.
Right Revd Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, said: “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 chamber.”
Nick Clegg, speaking in the Commons yesterday, said: “The White Paper includes the case for a 100%-elected House of Lords. The 80:20 split is the more complicated option, and so has been put into the draft Bill in order to illustrate it in legislative terms.
“The 100% option would be easy to substitute into the draft Bill should that be where we end up.”
Last month it was reported that David Cameron was studying plans for a multi-faith chamber. He is understood to oppose making the upper chamber entirely secular.
Earlier this year, secularist commentator Johann Hari called for Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to be “pressured, fast” into throwing the bishops out of the Lords.