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Volume 450: debated on Monday 9 October 2006

About 57. In parenthesis, and with your permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to convey the best wishes of the House of Commons to Archbishop Tutu on the occasion of his 75th birthday.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that bishops should be appointed on their spiritual and administrative attributes and skills, not time served? If so, what is the Church doing to recognise such skills earlier in those clergymen who have not served 20 or 30 years? [Interruption.]

My right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) made the sedentary comment, “Answer that if you can.”

The criteria for appointing bishops are in line with the hon. Gentleman’s question. The criteria that he mentioned are in place. We are considering the average age of bishops, which is 57, and doing our best to bring forward those who are younger and can invigorate the Church, as those who are in their posts do.

I do not wish to sound critical but are not the bishops a bit on the young side? Will bishops be protected by the new laws on age discrimination? Surely it is right and proper that they too should be covered.

The Ecclesiastical Offices (Age Limit) Measure 1975 makes compulsory retirement under 70 unlawful. I surmise that the same rule applies to the House.