Archbishop spared

The Archbishop of Canterbury can breathe again; he won't have to choose between reforming the banks and speeding the arrival of women bishops.

Next week could have seen the crucial report stage of the Banking Bill in the House of Lords, just as the Synod was convening in London.

That would have prevented Archbishop Welby, a member of the (now wound-up) Parliamentary Commission on Banking, from weighing in as commission colleagues attempted to beef up the bill in line with the recommendations in their final report.

Having been told the Banking Bill would not come back before them until late December, or perhaps the New Year, peers were rather startled when it popped up on the schedule for 18 November.

There were loud complaints, not least on behalf of another commission member, the crossbencher, Lord Turnbull, a former cabinet secretary, whose reaction was relayed to the House by the convener of the crossbenchers, Lord Laming: "He asked me to convey his feelings on this subject, but I fear that I may not be able to do it accurately while keeping within the bounds of acceptable parliamentary language.

"Suffice it to say that he is, to put it mildly, put out."

Others complained that a huge number of amendments by the government had seen the bill more than quadruple in size, so that it was now a completely different measure, and one that required detailed study before the report stage debates could go ahead.

For the Lords, it was an unseemly row, with the chief whip, Lady Anelay, complaining that a previous row over the Lobbying Bill had forced her to re-organise the business, and adding, rather plaintively, that it was impossible to avoid diary clashes for everybody, in a House full of busy people.

But in the Lords, an accusation of abusing - or even of stretching - proper process is a dangerous thing, so the upshot is that the Banking Bill has been pushed back a week, and day one of the planned two-day report stage will be on Tuesday 26 November.

The stage is now set for a major battle over the content of the bill, with a formidable array of commission members expected to press for important changes which the government may not wish to swallow.

I hope to write a bit more about this later in the week.