Church of England Bishops are expected to stay in the House of Lords, but their numbers may be cut under plans to be unveiled by the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg.
Reports suggest the number of Bishops will be reduced from the current 26. Critics are concerned about any move which could pave the way for the disestablishment of the Church of England.
Speaking earlier this month Mr Clegg said a draft Bill on changes to the House of Lords would be published “before the end of May”.
He said his ideal was “a fully elected House of Lords”, but hoped the new Bill would reflect a “degree of pragmatism” as well as “idealism”.
A secular campaign group was quoted as criticising Mr Clegg’s plans, calling religious representation in the Lords an “unnecessary complication”.
The proposed changes regarding Bishops in the Lords are part of a wider reworking of the upper chamber of Parliament.
A committee of both House of Commons and House of Lords members will be set up on the wider issue before the summer and will report back in 2012, The Times newspaper said.
Labour leader Ed Miliband has also backed a reworking of the House of Lords which would see a change to the current system regarding bishops.
In February an atheist commentator writing in The Independent said Mr Clegg needed to be pressured into removing Bishops from the Lords.
Under the headline: “Get bishops out of our law-making”, Johann Hari hit out at the Bishops for voting against measures within the highly controversial Equality Bill and for their stance on end-of-life issues.
Mr Hari, who is homosexual, was writing in response to ‘whispers’ regarding the Lords plans.
He was angry at reports at the time which said Mr Clegg was considering keeping Bishops in the Lords.
And the commentator said “people close” to Mr Clegg had said he wants to introduce other religious figures into the Lords.
Last year when leaked Labour Government proposals revealed plans for Bishops’ say in the Lords to be quashed, the Church of England defended its role.
A spokesman for the Church said the role of the Bishops in the Lords helps “connect the second chamber with the people, parishes and regions of England, not just their own worshippers”.
The spokesman continued: “In an age where the role of religion in shaping social and moral attitudes is increasingly recognised to be highly significant, the idea of shaping the second chamber on a purely secular model would be a retrograde step”.