Andy Walton looks at whether there is a "Religious Right" emerging in Britain
Opinion formers debate religion in the Lords
22nd May 2007
Bishops, academics, theologians and politicians debated the role of religion, Christianity and the 26 Anglican prelates in the House of Lords at a breakfast seminar in Parliament today.
The Theos event was entitled Crowded House: Is there room for God in a reformed second chamber?.
The breakfast followed votes by MPs and Peers on the Government’s White Paper on Lords' reform in March and came after research published by Theos revealed that the Lords Spiritual are attending, voting and speaking more than they did during the 1980s.
Introducing the research, Paul Bickley, the report’s co-author, said "We have attempted to quantify the bishops' level of involvement in the House of Lords. The results paint an interesting statistical picture, which again demonstrates that faith is increasingly important in our society and institutions. Although deliberately limited in its scope, the report, and the debate it has created, raises a number of important questions requiring further research."
Nick Spencer, Director of Studies at Theos, explored the issue of public legitimacy that underlies the composition of the House of Lords. He argued that there were essentially three foundations of public legitimacy - tradition, representation, and contribution to the public good.
"Although tradition has been a keystone of British public life, and remains so in many areas today, it is not a sufficient or acceptable justification for a continued significant contribution of Anglican prelates in the Lords", he said.
Spencer added "Similarly, although social data suggest that religious groups could make their argument on the basis of representation, this might take such groups up a blind alley. Contribution to the common good is a more promising avenue, although one that demands considerable work to identify, quantify and articulate."
On 6 and 7 March 2007, the House of Commons voted in support of two options for reform, an eighty per cent elected/twenty per cent appointed Chamber by a majority of 38 votes and a one hundred per cent elected Chamber by a majority of 113 votes. The House of Lords voted in favour of a fully appointed second chamber and rejected every other option.
To read more about the Theos research on bishops, click here.