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Government confirms bishops may vote in general elections: The Church of England Newspaper, March 24, 2010 April 6, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, House of Lords.

Lord Bach, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice (Lab.)

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Bishops are free to vote in general elections, the government told Parliament last week.

The question of episcopal suffrage arose during questions in the House of Lords over the government’s plans for a reformed second chamber.

On March 16 Viscount Tenby asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, Lord Back whether the government planned to change the law to allow peers who are members of the House of Lords to vote in general elections.

Lord Bach stated the government’s 2008 White Paper on House of Lords reforms proposed that members of a “reformed second chamber should be able to vote in elections both to the House of Commons and to the reformed second chamber.”

Viscount Tenby responded that as the government was planning on restoring the vote to felons in prison, only the insane and peers would not have the right to vote in general elections.

“With so much dissension about the constitutional reform of this House across and among parties, would not the Government welcome the chance to bring in a relatively easy amendment that would command support on all sides of the House” to give peers the right to vote?, he asked.

Lord Bach responded the government was not inclined to take up the issue at this time as “provisions on voting in general elections are best dealt with in the context of a fully reformed second chamber.”

The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds rose to ask Lord Bach whether under current law, was it “in order for Lords spiritual, who are not Peers, to vote in general elections?”

Lord Bach stated “There is no bar to the Lords spiritual voting in parliamentary elections. However, I understand that it has long been the tradition that they do not do so.”

Bishops who are seated in the House of Lords “are not Peers,” but “they none the less sit in this House and can therefore participate in person in the proceedings of Parliament instead of being represented in the House of Commons. There is no legal bar to the Lords spiritual voting in a general election; it is very much a matter for them,” Lord Bach said.

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