UK Politics

Women bishops to be fast-tracked to Lords

The Reverend Libby Lane Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Reverend Libby Lane is the first female bishop in the Church of England

Women bishops would be fast-tracked into the House of Lords, under government proposals set out today.

Ministers want to change the law to allow female bishops to take up the "spiritual" seats in the Lords, when they become available.

Usually they are allocated to the most senior or longest-serving bishops.

On Wednesday, Reverend Libby Lane was announced as the first female bishop for the Church of England - a month after a historic change to canon law.

The general synod voted to back plans for female bishops in July and formally adopted legislation on 17 November.

There are 26 "Lords Spiritual" seats, which are usually allocated to bishops on the basis of seniority or length of service.

Rules modified

Ministers are proposing a temporary change to the rules, to allow female bishops to be represented in the Lords as soon as possible.

In a written statement, Constitution Minister Sam Gyimah, said: "Under the current system, it would be many years before women bishops were represented in the Lords.

"The government's bill, which is supported by the Church of England, proposes a modification of this rule for the next 10 years, so that if a female bishop is available when a Lords Spiritual seat becomes vacant, they will automatically be appointed to the House of Lords.

"If no female bishop is available, the vacancy would be filled by the next most senior male bishop, as currently happens."

Mrs Lane's appointment - she will be consecrated as the eighth Bishop of Stockport in January - will end centuries of male leadership of the Church.

But it is understood that she will not be able to enter the House of Lords, as the post she is taking up is a junior or suffragan appointment within the Diocese of Chester. The first woman bishop eligible to take up a seat in the Lords is expected to be announced in the new year.

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