Before I answer that question, may I pay tribute to my predecessor, the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Sir Stuart Bell)? He has been the longest serving Second Church Estates Commissioner ever, and he did an excellent job. The legislation to enable women to become bishops reaches the General Synod’s equivalent of Report early next month in York. Depending on what is decided there, the legislation will then go to the 44 diocesan synods, and I understand that the earliest date that the General Synod can take a final decision, and when the matter can eventually come before the House, is 2012.
I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his new role. Does he not agree that the intervention of the two archbishops, with their proposal on the legislation to enable women to become bishops, will create a two-tier system of bishops? Women will no doubt be on the lower tier, and does that not send out completely the wrong message from the established Church of this country about the role of women bishops?
I thank the hon. Lady for her kind words at the beginning of her question. There are clear majorities in the General Synod in favour of women becoming bishops, but, as the proposals by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York yesterday demonstrated, there are still efforts to try to find ways to reconcile those who have deep-held opposition to the measure. Under legislation, it is important that the Church decides the way forward, and we should give it the space to do so. However, it is also very important that the Church hears the voices of this House about how we see those matters, because ultimately the issue will have to come back to this House.