Bishops in the House of Lords

January 31, 2012, 2:34 PM GMT+0

58% Britons say that bishops should not be allowed to vote in House of Lords; 24% say they should

Three in five British people don’t believe bishops should be entitled to a seat in the House of Lords, and should not be permitted to vote on laws passed by actual elected members of government, our survey has found. Currently, 26 senior Church of England bishops are entitled to sit in the House of Lords.

The Government’s new benefits cap was recently subject to an amendment passed by the House of Lords that would exempt child benefits, meaning that families relying on child benefits can receive more than the new cap of £26, 000 a year. The decision was brought about in part by a group of Anglican bishops who were among those pressing for the child benefit exceptions on 'moral grounds'.

  • 58% feel bishops should not be allowed to sit and vote in the House of Lords
  • 24% say that they should
  • 65% believe the bishops to be out of touch with public opinion
  • 21% feel that the Church or England bishops are in touch with public opinion, with only 2% believing they are completely in touch
  • 57% oppose the amendment to the new benefits cap, 28% support it
  • Regarding the benefit cap itself, 33% of Britons think the proposed £26,000 cap was the best option; 31% would prefer a lower £20,000, 7% think £30,000 is fair, while 6% feel just £10,000 would suffice

Older people are much more likely to actively believe that bishops should not be granted a seat in the Lords – however, it should be said that younger people are not more in favour; they are just more likely to be unsure.

  • 64% of people aged 60 and over say that bishops should not sit in the Lords (with just 12% saying they don't know)
  • Compared to 41% of people aged 18 to 24 (with 25% saying that they don't know)

Regarding the child benefit amendment added to the Commons' cap proposal, the bishops claim that their decision was based on moral grounds, since child benefits should be considered universal rather than specifically for those on welfare.

The Church of England states that 'Bishops provide an important independent voice and spiritual insight to the work of the Upper House… and seek to be a voice for all people of faith.'

However, President of the British Humanist Association and journalist Polly Toynbee was quoted in response by the Guardian newspaper, saying that 'the idea that faith offers some missing moral dimension to politics is offensive. All politics is about moral choices.'

As individuals there are good, wise and clever people of all faiths and none. Let the religious stand for office alongside everyone else,' she said.

See the survey details and full results here