UK Politics

Bishops' chauffeurs 'deserve more pay'

Bishops' chauffeurs should be paid £26,000 a year because clerics in the House of Lords tried to alter government plans for a welfare cap at the same amount, MPs have heard.

Nineteen drivers, eight of whom are part-time, are employed at a total cost of £352,719 - an average of £18,500 - to transport Church of England bishops.

A Church spokesman said they helped clerics to make good use of their time.

But Tory MP David Davies said there was a "moral imperative" to pay them more.

There are 26 bishops - known as Lords Spiritual - in the House of Lords.

In January, the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt Rev John Packer, tabled an amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill to exempt child benefit from the government's £26,000-per-household cap on benefits.

New law

Peers backed the change, inflicting a defeat on ministers.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, criticised the move, arguing that dependence on welfare payments was "fuelling vices and impoverishing us all'.

The amendment was later overturned and the bill passed into law earlier this week.

In the Commons, Mr Davies said: "The Welfare Reform Bill has just become an act.

"Those bishops who voted against this, who voted to ensure people who are not working should earn more than £26,000, should now feel a moral imperative to pay their chauffeurs accordingly."

Fellow Conservative MP, Tony Baldry, representing the Church Commissioners, said having drivers helped "ensure the best use of bishops' time".

He added bishops in the Lords had only asked for child benefit to be excluded from the cap, rather than the whole policy being abandoned.

Mr Baldry said: "There are just 26 Lords Spiritual in a chamber of nearly 800 members.

"All independent-minded MPs would think that from time to time it's no bad thing for Lords Spiritual to rattle a few cages."

A Church spokesman told the BBC that drivers also receive assistance with bills and accommodation, "so their basic salary is not the full story".

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