The Church of England may see its number of bishops in the House of Lords drastically reduced under plans being drawn up by the Deputy Prime Minister.
A draft bill on Lords reform could see a dozen “faith representatives” from across different religions, with only three or four from the C of E, a Government source has said.
Currently there are 26 C of E bishops in the House of Lords and critics are concerned any move to reduce this could pave the way for the disestablishment of the Church of England.
According to the unnamed Government source, as the bill stands there would be “maybe two” places for Roman Catholics, and one each for members of the Islamic and Jewish faiths.
However, the source added: “The detail is still to be worked out”.
Lord Norton, a Conservative Peer and professor of government at Hull University, noted possible problems with the plans: “Will Orthodox Jews be represented or liberals? Will the Muslim be Sunni or Shi’ite?”
And he added: “With the Catholics, there is the problem of Rome having made it clear it does not wish its bishops to be members of the UK parliament.”
A spokesman for the C of E declined to comment before the publication of the bill later this month. On a previous occasion a spokesman said the participation of bishops in the House of Lords helps “connect the second chamber with the people, parishes and regions of England, not just their own worshippers”.
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.