Home / Research / Reports

Coming off the Bench

Coming off the Bench

This report examines the contribution of bishops in the second chamber during the Thatcher and Blair premierships.

Interested by this? Share it on social media. Join our monthly e–newsletter to keep up to date with our latest research and events. And check out our Friends Programme to find out how you can help our work.



In addition to examining levels of voting, the Theos report also considers the impact that bishops have on legislation. It reveals that, contrary to accusations that the bishops block controversial or socially liberal items of legislation, it is extremely unusual for them to vote as a group or in enough numbers to change the outcome of particular divisions.

The report argues that reducing the number of bishops to 16 (as proposed by the Wakeham Commission) and releasing them from diocesan responsibilities could result in a more effective role for them, as part of a broader religious element to the House of Lords.

Whilst not taking a position on the establishment of the Church of England, the report does take as its premise the view that faith has an important role to play in the public square and that the institutions of the state are no exception. The idea of secular neutrality is unobtainable.

Image from wikimedia available in the public domain.

Paul Bickley

Paul Bickley

Paul is Research Fellow at Theos. His background is in Parliament and public affairs, and he holds an MLitt from the University of St Andrews’ School of Divinity.

Watch, listen to or read more from Paul Bickley

Bishops, House of Lords, Politics


See all

In the news

See all


See all

Theos researches and investigates the intersection of religion, politics and society in the contemporary world.

Get regular email updates on our latest research and events.

Please confirm your subscription in the email we have sent you.

Want to keep up to date with the latest news, reports, blogs and events from Theos? Get updates direct to your inbox once or twice a month.

Thank you for signing up.