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Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill

Volume 759: debated on Thursday 12 February 2015

Second Reading

Moved by

My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill, has consented to place her prerogative, so far is it is affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

My Lords, this Bill will enable female diocesan bishops of the Church of England to become Lords Spiritual sooner than they would under current rules.

The Government have introduced the Bill in response to the welcome change in the law to allow women to be consecrated bishops. That has been a long time coming. As far back as 1975, the General Synod of the Church of England recognised the possibility that women might be ordained ministers. The first female deacons were ordained in 1987 and the first female priests in 1994.

The decision of the General Synod last year finally to allow women to serve as bishops was widely welcomed. The necessary measure was considered by your Lordships last October, when several noble Lords looked forward to the day when we would welcome the first female bishops to this House.

The legislation was completed by the General Synod on 17 November last year and just one month later it was announced that the Reverend Libby Lane would serve as the suffragan Bishop of Stockport. Her consecration on 26 January was an historic occasion in two respects. Not only was it the first consecration of a woman as a bishop of the Church of England, it was the first to be broadcast live on television.

As a suffragan, not a diocesan, bishop, the Right Reverend Libby Lane is not eligible to attend this House as a Lord spiritual. As your Lordships are probably well aware, the 26 bishops who sit here are determined under the Bishoprics Act 1878. They are the most reverend Primates the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York, the right reverend Prelates the Bishop of London, the Bishop of Durham and the Bishop of Winchester, and the 21 longest-serving diocesan bishops of the Church of England.

The Government look forward to the appointment of the first female diocesan bishop. However, under the current rules, it would be many years before she would be able to join the Lords spiritual Bench as one of the 21 longest-serving bishops. Having already waited a long time to benefit from the leadership of female bishops in the church, we would still have to wait some years more to benefit from their presence in this Chamber.

The Government’s Bill addresses this situation. It has been introduced at the request of the most reverend Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury, on behalf of the church and with the support of Her Majesty’s Opposition. The Bill would alter, for the next 10 years, the operation of the 1878 Act. During that time any vacancy arising among the 21 Lords spiritual whose places are currently determined by seniority would be filled by the most senior female diocesan bishop available. If there are no eligible female bishops, the vacancy would be filled by the most senior male diocesan bishop, as it is under the current arrangement.

This is, as noble Lords will no doubt have noticed, an exceptionally brief Bill. It is also an important and historic one. It does not seek to make changes or reforms to the composition of this House; it simply provides that female bishops will join the Lords spiritual slightly sooner than they would otherwise have done. Not only are the 26 Lords spiritual active and valued Members of this House, but their presence reflects the enduring constitutional arrangement of an established Church of England with the monarch and head of state as its Supreme Governor.

Bishops sit as independent Members of this House. As well as leading the Chamber in prayer at the start of each sitting day, they seek to be a voice both for people of faith and for the communities they serve. Their presence in the Lords is an extension of the Church of England’s general vocation in its role as the established church. In fulfilling its national mission, it is right that the church should, at all levels, seek to reflect the nation that it serves. That is why we welcome the decision to allow women as well as men to be bishops, and why we believe it right to make arrangements for female bishops to sit as Lords spiritual as soon as possible.

The continued presence of bishops in this Chamber was explicitly recommended by the Wakeham commission. The Government’s House of Lords Reform Bill in 2012 would have retained the seats of the Lords spiritual in this House, although it would have reduced their number in recognition of the reduction in the overall number of Peers provided for in the Bill. Those provisions were endorsed by the Joint Committee’s report on the Bill.

We greatly appreciate the wisdom and valued contributions of the Lords spiritual Bench to this Chamber. On behalf of the Government, I extend special thanks today to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester for their support and assistance to the Government in bringing forward this legislation. We are grateful to the Bishops’ Bench for their ministry in the Chamber. This Bill will strengthen and enrich that ministry by the addition of female Lords spiritual as soon as possible. I warmly congratulate the church on extending its leadership to include women, who have already provided valuable service for many years, and look forward to the day when we will benefit from the presence of female bishops in this House. I beg to move.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for those opening remarks. I wish to put on record my personal thanks and those of the church to the Government for securing the time to bring this Bill forward, and to the Opposition for giving their support to the proposal. All those on this Bench—we are reasonably numerous today for some reason—are deeply conscious of the privilege that we enjoy of sitting in this House. It is invariably educational and occasionally striking. I have to say, though, that I will go away today with a lasting sense of worry that the busking in Canterbury about which we heard earlier was in fact my sermon on Christmas Eve in the open air.

This Bill, if passed, will mean that at last this will be the last Parliament where any Bench of either House is occupied solely by men. A little under four months ago I sought the approval of this House for the measure that the synod had passed to enable women to become bishops in the Church of England. That process was completed in November, and as the Minister has already indicated, late in January we had the wonderful occasion at York Minster where Libby Lane was consecrated a bishop.

The two clauses that form the Bill reflect the settled view of the Lords Spiritual, the House of Bishops and those senior women who were part of the consultative process. During our discussions a number of options were considered on how best to effect these changes, with the proposals set out in the Bill commanding the widest consensus. Incidentally, for those in your Lordships’ House who may be wondering why we are debating a government Bill and not a Church of England measure, the answer of course is that membership of the House of Lords is entirely a matter for Parliament and as such lies outside the legislative powers devolved to the General Synod.

The Minister has set out clearly the rationale for the Bill. There are likely to be some women bishops, as there are some men, for whom membership of the Lords becomes a significant part of their ministry, yet a seniority system inevitably discriminates against those who arrive later. Without this Bill, on appointment a woman diocesan bishop would effectively be asked to join the back of a queue of up to 14 places to get into this House. At anticipated rates of retirement, that would mean that if a woman were appointed this year to one of the sees currently vacant, she would not reach this House in the lifetime of the next Parliament. We would be in the bizarre situation that women would be actively and visibly involved as bishops of the Church of England in all aspects of our national ministry except here, as Members of the Bishops’ Bench, so long as that is the case.

The 1878 Act continued the system begun four decades earlier by the Bishopric of Manchester Act 1847, in which the number of seats for Lords Spiritual was fixed at 26—the number it had been since the Reformation. This was barely 15 years after the opposition of many prelates to the Great Reform Bill, when such was the popularity of the stance taken by the Bishops’ Benches that my predecessor, William Howley, was attacked in his carriage in that notable city of disorder, Canterbury. The account, which may be apocryphal, has Howley’s chaplain exclaiming, “Your Grace, they have thrown a dead cat at me!”, to which the archbishop replied, “You may thank God, sir, it was not a live one”.

So the queue was created not out of a desire for bishops to spend their first few years finding their feet in their dioceses, but simply because there were going to be more people than places. In the case of the occupants of the five senior sees not affected by this Bill, we have continued to enter automatically. I did so when appointed to Durham, without any previous service as a bishop. So, too, did my colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester, who is in his place today. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London had been a suffragan bishop in Stepney but took charge of our largest diocese by population and became a Member of this House at the same time.

I doubt whether the Bill will prevent any man bishop eventually taking up his seat, although it will lengthen the period of waiting. The first man likely to be affected by the Bill, should it receive Royal Assent before the election, will be the Bishop of Lincoln, who is now first in the queue. It is worth quoting his response after the Bill was published:

“On the one hand, this is quite frustrating, because greater Lincolnshire is under-represented in the House of Lords … However, far more frustrating has been the wait for women to be able to be ordained bishop, and for an anachronism to be consigned to history. For that to happen completely, it is absolutely right that women bishops are fully represented in all levels of society, parliament and the Church, and I look forward very much to seeing that happen”.

I am aware that some Members of the House wonder whether 10 years is too much time or too little—we have had expressions of both—to achieve a better balance between the sexes on these Benches. The period is a matter of judgment. The view of the church was that it needed to be long enough to make a real difference but not so long that a temporary departure from the normal principles of non-discrimination became semi-permanent. A decade has the virtue of being both the average length of time in office for a diocesan bishop, and the length of two fixed-term Parliaments. By then, I believe that we shall have achieved much more diversity on these Benches.

Quite what the pattern of appointments will be over the next few years remains to be seen. Once things have settled down, my expectation would be that many women who become diocesan bishops will, like their male colleagues, learn the ropes first by suffering—

By serving as suffragans—I always have trouble with that. Suffering as servants or serving as suffragans—it works either way. However, that is far from the universal pattern among men, and I shall be very disappointed indeed in these early years if we do not see a number of very experienced and qualified senior women priests move straight into diocesan posts. That is not because we are going to operate any kind of quota system. It will simply be that the consequence of removing a barrier means that their skills and experience, which have not been deployed as they should have been, will then be available.

Before I conclude my remarks, I will briefly say a word about recent events and their relevance to enabling the Church of England to remain a broad church. The arrangements agreed by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York for the consecration service for the new Bishop of Burnley, a traditional Catholic, were the subject of criticism from some quarters for reasons which I entirely understand. However, like the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York, I believe that the five principles in the House of Bishops’ declaration, which formed part of the General Synod’s agreement to women bishops, require a degree of gracious restraint and forbearance on all sides. They commit the church to seeking the flourishing of all parts of the church, whatever their views on this question. They are not one-way traffic—far from it. The fact that the new Bishop of Burnley attended the consecration of the Bishop of Stockport and that she then attended his consecration despite their theological differences over women’s ministry is precisely the sort of mutual flourishing that we are seeking to promote. The photograph of them giving each other a good hug after his consecration was worth a thousand words—and might be a lesson for this House.

Enabling women to join these Benches as soon as possible can only be a positive step for this House, for Parliament and for all those who welcome the many blessings that female leadership in ministry will bring to our national life. This is a simple, straightforward and necessary Bill. I wholeheartedly support it and commend it to the House.

My Lords, I support everything that the most reverend Primate has said. I find it extremely difficult to add anything, just as I found it difficult last time round when we were considering the measure in October. But there is this difference between now and then: on that occasion, the debate had been long expected. It followed a natural sequence of events going back to the discussion of women priests.

Today is different, because I think that none of us can have expected the contents of this Bill now before us. I know that I certainly did not. I cannot remember when it was that I first heard of the idea; all I can remember is that it struck me then as being absolutely right and necessary, and that is still my view.

The Ecclesiastical Committee of course has no function in relation to this Bill, but, from time to time, the subject has come up in general conversation. I never heard any doubts expressed about the desirability of the Bill. The only possible concern that I have ever heard mentioned is that the Bill is discriminatory. That is not the case. I have heard it suggested that the Bill might be resented by the next diocesan bishops in line, who will have to wait. I wish only to add to what the most reverend Primate said in that I know that it will not be resented. We live in Sussex and it so happens that the Bishop of Chichester is next in line after the Bishop of Lincoln, as the most reverend Primate has already mentioned. The Bishop of Chichester is a good friend of ours. Not long ago, he came to stay at home and unfortunately when he left he forgot to take with him his folding bicycle, which he had brought with him. Without his folding bicycle, the business of the Diocese of Chichester comes to a pause. We managed to return his folding bicycle. Even if the Bishop of Chichester had not been a bishop, I can say from my own knowledge of him that he would have been the very last person to feel any sense of a grievance at being, as it were, passed over. As a bishop, he must feel even less aggrieved—I am not sure of the logic of this argument—because he knows that it is for the good of the church.

Lastly, I come to the Bill itself. On the face of it, the Bill is ingenious. I do not wish to discuss its detail— I am not sure whether I could—but I do wish to congratulate most warmly those who have been responsible for drafting it. I know what is involved in drafting a Bill of this kind and it seems to me that they have done a magnificent job. I also want to add a word of congratulation in favour of the usual channels, which is perhaps an unusual thing to do. They have brought the Bill before us on time, and on an all-party basis. What more could one ask of them? It shows what Parliament can do, when it has a mind to do it, in a good cause. There could be no better cause than this, and I give it the warmest possible support.

My Lords, a large part of the function of a Second Reading speech is normally for a Member of this House to voice his own reservations and give notice of questions which he will want to go into thoroughly in Committee. I start by thanking the most reverend Primate and his right reverend friends for the thoroughness with which they have explained the contents of the Bill and the patience and clarity with which they have done it. The result is that I have no such issues to raise.

My views on the Bill have changed since I first read it, not as a result of those kind ministrations but of my own reflections. I thought at first blush that it was evidence of unseemly haste; it now seems to be an eminently sensible recognition of what is actually needed. It is needed by this House as well as it is needed by the church and by this country because the clergy of the Church of England are a voice not only for their own faith but for other faiths as well and are valued almost more highly by the leaders of the other faiths than by the members of their own. That is a growing need and it is important that that voice should come from people who are of a nature with the rest of the country. In other words, it is not right to have a monosexual voice—no, that is going to lapse into unfortunate language. It should be men and women who speak for and advise the men and women of this country.

This is a poignant occasion in only one sense. The most reverend Primate referred to this gently and guardedly. It is a pity that there are those who still resent the ordination of women into the priesthood at all and that they are on the edge of leaving us. That is the greatest pity and the symbolic hug referred to by the most reverend Primate seems to me the perfect indication of its unnecessity. I hope that they stay with us. We love them; let them love us.

I have nothing else serious to say but I have one little, secular regret. It is that Osbert Lancaster is no longer with us. I would so have loved to see his female equivalent to Canon Fontwater and to know whether Maudie Littlehampton’s daughter eventually took orders, and if so with what reaction from her parents. I thank all concerned for bringing the Bill in in time to make it law for the next Parliament so that we do not have to wait through another for all things to be made clear.

My Lords, it is a very great pleasure to contribute to this Second Reading debate on this important and very welcome Bill. Like others, I take this opportunity to offer the Bill my support unreservedly. That being so, my observations will be brief and confined to four simple points.

First, the Bill seems to have been a very long time in coming to us, given that women have been ordained in the priesthood, I think, since 1994, and what a remarkable contribution they make. It might have been expected that a Bill along these lines would have come to the House rather earlier, but that comment does not have even a hint of criticism in it. On the contrary, many of us have just a little understanding of the variety and seriousness of the issues that have had to be settled. The time taken to get this Bill before us makes it all the more welcome. I take the opportunity to offer the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, his fellow bishops and the General Synod my warmest and heartfelt congratulations on their achievements. Together they deserve our grateful thanks.

My second point, although I admit it is not directly related to the Bill but I am comforted that the most reverend Primate referred to it, is that while many of us understand the point about gracious restraint in the consecration of female bishops, it is to be hoped that sooner, rather than later, that will no longer be necessary so the church can continue its search for equality of opportunity.

Mention of graciousness brings me to my third point which is simply to record that graciousness is so well demonstrated in the generosity of the Bishop of Lincoln, the right reverend Christopher Lowson, in overcoming any frustration and disappointment he may have felt for the diocese of Lincoln. He has been mindful of the greater good of the church, Parliament and us all in ensuring that we do not have to wait even beyond the next Parliament before we have the benefit of women Bishops in this House. This House provides daily a clear demonstration of the enormous contributions made by hugely capable women, except sadly on the Bishops’ Benches, and we look forward to that being rectified as soon as possible.

Finally, this Bill achieved the support of the other place in almost record time—perhaps completely in record time so far as I can recall. We may not match that, but I hope nothing will be done to create any delay. Rather, let us wholeheartedly welcome the Bill and, to coin a phrase, wish it godspeed.

My Lords, it is a relief to sit down to write a speech on this issue and think that just about everything has been said, so I shall be succinct but expand briefly on a point I have raised before. As I have lived in Stockport and fought in vain to represent it in the other place, I was particularly pleased to see that the first woman bishop to be appointed was the Bishop of Stockport.

I welcome this legislation as I wrote to this effect in The House Magazine many months ago outlining that whatever one’s view might be on church governance, the nation’s legislature is a different matter and women must be represented. I am grateful for the previous debates on this matter as they have enabled me to hear from my noble friend Lady Perry and others who have fought this battle for many years with compassion and grace. The next generation like me can sometimes forget how hard the going has been on an issue like this. This issue is also important due to the global nature of the Anglican communion and, of course, there are women bishops in many provinces already. I learnt from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark that sometimes diocesan bishops are requested to travel overseas as somewhat of a representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury, such as his recent trip with the Holy See delegation to the Middle East. It would be such a powerful statement if on such occasions in the future the representative of the most reverend Primate is a woman.

However, you sometimes have to be careful about what you wish for as bringing in women could leave the major metropolitan centres of the north-west unrepresented for many years. The representative nature of the Bishops’ Benches is one of the things the Church of England prides itself on, so I hope that the fine tuning of the system to add Bishops to the Lords spiritual can be done in the same manner as the changes the House is gradually making before the whole Chamber is reformed. Is it really appropriate in the 21st century not to bring in automatically Birmingham and either Liverpool or Manchester over the diocese of Winchester which includes, merely legally at the moment, the Channel Islands, which are not part of the United Kingdom?

I turn now to the matter I wish to expand upon. The photograph of the bishops taken at the consecration of the Bishop of Stockport unfortunately raises a further issue for the Lords spiritual, which is the lack of racial diversity. In October 2015, it was a privilege to witness the most reverend Primate address 40,000 people at the ExCeL centre from the Redeemed Christian Church of God, a Nigerian-based denomination which is the fastest growing church in the UK. His apology and request for forgiveness for the past behaviour of some of the Anglican Church towards Britain’s black community was most moving. I hope it will lead to a true partnership and perhaps to leaders for the Anglican Church coming through joint initiatives with RCCG and Pastor Agu Irukwu, who I suspect the most reverend Primate would poach for the Anglican Church, given half a chance.

Is this issue of the lack of racial diversity unconnected to the matter I raised previously of the lack of diversity of educational and social background of diocesan leaders? Much of the racial diversity of our independent schools comes from overseas students who, of course, would be good to recruit, but surely not alone. Does this stone not need fully unturning and looking at? I am sorry to say that I was not entirely satisfied with the response of the most reverend Primate in a previous debate who said that when he has been involved in selection, background is never raised. As many noble Lords will have experienced, the issues are unconscious bias and barriers to entry. At the very least, they are worthy of investigation. Would the church not benefit from something like Vicar First mirroring Teach First for graduates? Not all the people I knew when I left university were able, through contacts, to raise a year or so’s support. Is the most reverend Primate satisfied that all the apprentices or volunteers that many churches have are on the London living wage as recommended by the Church of England? Of course, no one is asked outright what their dad did for a living or what type of school they went to. To use the analogy of racism again, I have had direct experience of people anglicising their names and suddenly finding that the same CV gets them a job interview. Both barriers to entry and unconscious bias are worthy of inquiry. I welcome the transparency that the Green proposals will bring, but without investigation, I remain to be convinced that the lack of social and educational diversity is not linked to the lack of racial diversity.

Finally, it may be time for us to stop speaking but not to down tools. The Anglican Church’s attitude to women is about more than allowing women bishops. It is so encouraging to see females in senior management roles in Lambeth Palace—Kay Brock is chief of staff, Jo Bailey Wells is chaplain and Ailsa Anderson is head of media, but it may be harder and take longer to change the culture within some parts of the Anglican Church. I hope to see that institution one day mirror the respect and value for my opinion displayed by the Lords spiritual. It is sometimes rather odd to be a younger person in a workplace such as this and to refer to your colleagues as bishops. I hope that attitude of respect and valuing opinion will find its way all the way down to the pews in the Anglican Church.

My Lords, I rise to speak only briefly, but very definitely in support of the Bill. In doing so, I suppose it is only honest of me to say that in past years I had some personal doubts about the whole issue of women priests and all that was likely to follow from that. My early concerns were based not on any antagonism to women in that role but on what seemed to me to be the historic teaching and doctrine of the Church of England, with which I had been imbued at school during my formative years. I had been happy to accept them, but things change and if the views of the church on these matters can develop and change so, obviously, can mine. I have got to know and admire a number of women priests, not only in the Anglican Church but also in the Church of Scotland and the Scottish Episcopal Church. So I readily acknowledge the successful role that women in the priesthood play. As a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee I warmly supported the subsequent legislation on women bishops as a natural extension of what had begun earlier.

I suppose that I am naturally cautious about amending historic process, in this case the Bishoprics Act 1878, effectively to introduce what some might describe as a form of positive discrimination, even if it contributes towards gender balance, without careful consideration. However, the significance of the agreement, so widely supported throughout the country, to sanction the appointment of women bishops does have an important bearing on the contributions from the Bishops’ Benches in this House. So it seems to me to be absolutely right that, so as to provide us with the opportunity to have contributions from a woman diocesan bishop rather sooner than might otherwise be the case, a time-limited change to the 1878 Act is justified. Apart from anything else, it would be odd not to accept that part of any bishop’s wider ministry comes from what can be powerfully expressed in your Lordships’ House when the opportunity arises, and we should not be denied longer than is necessary such contributions from a woman diocesan bishop when one is appointed.

I am also glad to know that those current diocesan bishops—of whom the Bishop of Lincoln, as we have heard, is the most immediately affected—who might be somewhat delayed, or further delayed, in receiving a Writ of Summons as a result of this Bill, are content with what is proposed. I certainly feel that that shows much Christian and practical magnanimity.

I support the Bill wholeheartedly and wish it a speedy passage on to the statute book.

My Lords, I am sure that we are all extremely sorry that the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, is not able to take part in this debate, because I am sure that she would have added enormously to it.

I speak with a degree of diffidence. As I made plain when we debated the ordination of women bishops Measure just before Christmas, I think it was, I am a member of what is loosely called the traditional integrity within the church; and I am one of those who takes some comfort from the fact that the Catholic Church in general, embracing the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church, does take that traditional line. But I fully accept, as I made plain then, that the Church of England has, by a large majority—not an overwhelming but a very large majority—decided that it is right to have women bishops. There is a significant minority, and I stress it is a minority, within the Church of England which takes a different line. I think it behoves all of us to be gracious and to accept the differences between us, but that there is a unity that unites us which is far deeper than any superficial difference. That is why I was so glad that we had those scenes at the consecration of the first woman bishop, the Bishop of Stockport, and also that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York behaved with such appreciative sensitivity both at the consecration of Libby Lane and at the consecration of the Bishop of Burnley. It was also very good to see those two bishops embrace each other in Christian love and charity and mutual understanding.

I completely accept that this is a decision that has been made, first of all, in the church, and particularly in the House of Bishops. I salute my very good friend the Bishop of Lincoln for his extremely magnanimous statement. When he does come to this House, he will add significantly to the breadth and quality of our debates, and he will indeed be a splendid spokesman for greater Lincolnshire, which, as he himself whimsically remarked, is not overrepresented in your Lordships’ House. He has very generously made the statement that he has, quoted today by the most reverend Primate in his very cogent and admirable speech.

I will make three points that it is important for us to bear in mind. First, we are endorsing a measure of positive discrimination. There may be very good reasons for that, but no one can deny that that is what we are doing in approving the Bill.

Secondly, we have to bear in mind that very few men attain the rank of diocesan bishop within 20 years of ordination, and it is only just over 20 years since women were ordained priests. We should also bear in mind that most bishops—the most reverend Primate the Archbishop is a notable exception—have a period as a suffragan bishop before they take on the responsibilities of a diocese. Therefore, to have a number of women bishops appointed in the near future is entirely right and proper in view of the line the Church of England has taken, and I utterly and completely accept that. However, it is also right that a number of them should be appointed—as has the right reverend Libby Lane—to suffragan bishoprics.

I now come to my final point. Of course I look forward to the day when the serried ranks, of which we have a large number today—the collective noun cannot be “a Bench” as we have three Benches of Bishops—are augmented by women bishops. However, it is important that there is total equality among bishops. That was repeated in debates in Synod and in this place and, therefore, if there is to be total equality, we have to recognise that a woman becoming a diocesan bishop will, as a bishop said to me not very long ago, be confronted with a wholly different set of challenges that are not faced by a priest, an archdeacon, a dean or any other of the eminent positions within the Church of England that women honourably, and in many cases extremely successfully, fill at the moment but with a whole range of new challenges. I put it to your Lordships that to add to those responsibilities the responsibility of being a national figure in your Lordships’ House will be a significant extra challenge for someone who, by very definition, cannot have been ordained for more than 20 years.

I have no intention of opposing the Bill; I am merely putting forward points that the House, which is a debating Chamber, should properly address. We must recognise that those women, as they come, will need from among those of us who are members of the Anglican Church our prayers and from all of us in this House our welcome and our understanding. Inevitably, they will come in for criticism that they are spending too much time here and not enough time in the diocese, or the other way round. We have to bear those points in mind as we pass the Bill—as I believe and hope we will.

I hope that we are not going to start saying that it will be much more difficult for a woman to become a bishop than it was for a woman to get a senior position in the Army or the Air Force, or indeed in business. I was the first woman on many boards I sat on, and of course I felt nervous, but that was not because I was a woman. I just thought, “This is a new experience”. Anybody coming into this House, even a man, will find it hard. I can see it—they wobble. Every man I have spoken to about his maiden speech said it was the worst experience in his life. They will not find it more difficult because they are a member of the church.

No, but a first is a first. I speak as someone who voted for the first woman leader of my party and who rejoiced in her success as Prime Minister, as well as someone who rejoiced in the success of the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, as one of the most eminent Speakers that the other place has ever had. Oh, she is here! I am delighted that she heard that. Nevertheless, it is important that we recognise some of the points that I made. As I said, this is a debating Chamber and, when there are reservations, it is incumbent on those who have them to voice them—I hope, graciously, but to voice them.

I hope that the noble Lord will forgive my intervening, but perhaps he would reflect on what he has just said about the two women to whom he referred and note that neither of them has yet been succeeded by another woman. One of the virtues of this Bill is that it protects the women who come forward and are ordained bishops from the possibility that there will only ever be one of them on these Benches.

I do not want to prolong this. I end where I began. Positive discrimination is something that we all have to take carefully into account. Without putting words into her mouth—because I would hate to do so, especially in her presence—I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, has always had views on that, as indeed did Margaret Thatcher. Let us make sure that those who are appointed are appointed on merit. Let us welcome them when they come and let us give them a forum here. I do not wish to say any more, but I think that it is important to put these things on the record.

My Lords, I am glad to follow the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, who is a long-standing friend, although he and I do not entirely agree on this particular issue. I support the Bill, and the objective of fast-tracking women diocesan bishops to the House of Lords in the next decade, wholeheartedly. On behalf of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, who asked me to apologise for the fact that she has withdrawn from the debate, I should say that she has gone to chair a working party in Westminster Abbey. As I am high steward of the abbey, I wholly approve of what she is doing. I should say that she strongly supports the Bill—I think the Chamber would be surprised if she did not.

I declare an interest as chair of the Crown Nominations Commission for the See of Canterbury in 2012. Of course, that commission nominated the most reverend Primate in November of that year. I take this chance to thank him for the leadership that he has shown in the church in general and on this particular issue. It was only a few days after his nomination that there was a setback in the General Synod in November of that year. But if I may say so, he and his colleagues have moved with great care and sensitivity in this challenge. The most reverend Primate and his colleagues have shown how to manage big differences of opinion in the right spirit. For that, I thank him.

As we all know, this is a culmination of a very long and agonising debate, which goes back to the early 1990s with the ordination of women. I should like to say to the Church of England that perhaps my family ought to make amends to the church for one of my forebears, Richard de Lucy, who was Chief Justiciar under Henry II. He was the main author of the Constitutions of Clarendon of 1164. Contrary to the views of Archbishop Becket, this law ensured that clerics convicted of felony in ecclesiastic courts should be punished by the lay authority instead of the church. My forebear was then excommunicated but, just before he died, he did penance and founded Lesnes Abbey in Kent. I cannot afford to continue with that tradition by founding an abbey, but I would like to do my family’s penance by supporting the Bill most strongly.

As noble Lords have said, there are only two points at issue. Is it right to have positive discrimination to fast-track women diocesan bishops? And therefore, as a consequence, is it right to delay male diocesan bishops from coming here? I conclude without any hesitation that, yes, it must be right to rectify a historical discrimination against women. It is essential, too, to have a diverse contribution from the church in the Lords at the present, when the church is under immense challenge. We cannot afford to wait six or seven years.

The Crown Nominations Commission has the task of selecting women on merit, and I am sure it will continue to do that. Anyone who observes the church will know that there is a pool of highly talented women ready for promotion when the commission takes those decisions. There will be vacancies, we have been told, in Nottingham, Oxford and Gloucester. So there will be two or three in the next Parliament, and that will give the commission opportunities to proceed.

As I have said, this measure will help to redress a historical discrimination against women, and it will strengthen the Lords at a critical time. It is important to acknowledge that it will therefore mean a delay for some very distinguished male diocesan bishops. I appreciate the gracious contribution of the Bishop of Lincoln, which the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, has already mentioned. I would also like to reinforce the remark made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick. There are many men of Sussex in the Chamber today, and as a part of the diocese of Chichester I acknowledge that it is, of course, known that successive bishops of Chichester, including the present one, have opposed the appointment of women bishops. However, the present Bishop of Chichester has shown immense leadership. He has been a unifying force in the diocese of Chichester: that needs to be said in this Chamber. When he eventually joins us, he will have a distinctive and important contribution to make.

I welcome the Bill. I am glad that it has cross-party support, and that our aim is to pass it before the Dissolution of Parliament, because I believe it will strengthen the role of bishops in the Lords. I hope it will make it easier for the most reverend Primate and his colleagues to continue with the vital task of inspiring Christian values in this country, because the challenge is enormous.

My Lords, it is with great pleasure that I add my wholehearted support to the Bill. In welcoming the provisions for women diocesan bishops to take their place in this House, I add my voice to those who have paid tribute to the generous spirit in which that has been accepted by the male bishops who are affected by the provision. It is never easy to stand aside and let someone else get in front of us in the queue, and no doubt there will be some sad feelings among those who were expecting to come into this House in the next few years. Their generosity, and in particular the generous words of the Bishop of Lincoln, which we have heard today, are a reassuring symptom of the way in which the Church of England has welcomed the measure.

It has been a long journey for the women priests who felt called to ministry. Many waited long years as deacons for the right to be ordained as priests. Despite the huge value they brought to the priesthood, they again waited long years for the church to accept that their vocation extended to the episcopate. When, as I hope will happen soon, a woman diocesan bishop is appointed, it will add a valuable element to the episcopate nationally, and will provide a most welcome model of leadership in the church to the priests in their parishes and to both women and men in the pews.

Those of us who are the voice from the pews are, as I often remind my clergy friends, the largest constituency of the Church of England, and very many of us have hugely benefited from the ministry of women priests. All of us—women and men—wish to be fully represented by those who sit here on the Bishops’ Benches. However, some in the country and in this House question the continued presence of Bishops in Parliament.

As an Anglican, I am proud of the work that my church does in communities throughout the country. I am pleased, too, that the voice of my church is heard in Parliament through the contribution of the right reverend Prelates. Even though society has veered towards the secular in recent years, I am convinced that the church has a right to be represented in the work of this House. Why do I believe this? The Church of England has a very large role in education at all levels, including in higher education, and its charitable work is immense. No other institution or organisation has the presence in every community that the Church of England has in cities, towns and villages throughout the land. The leader of our church—the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury—stands seventh in the order of precedence in England. His influence in public debate is widely recognised, as has been very vividly brought to mind by the contribution of our current most reverend Primate. He and the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York, together with the 24 diocesan bishops—the leaders of the Church of England—rightly, therefore, have a voice and place in the deliberations of Parliament.

It is undoubtedly right that the voice of some appointed female bishops should now be added to the deliberations of this House. Those women who are called and appointed to the vocation of a bishop must be able, in their turn, to contribute to the work of the episcopate in Parliament, as their male forebears have done for many centuries. I am confident that they will fulfil their role here with wit, wisdom and warmth. For these reasons, I welcome the Bill wholeheartedly.

My Lords, I, too, should declare an interest as a vice-president of WATCH—Women and the Church—which has campaigned for women clergy and bishops for more years than most of us care to remember.

I, too, congratulate the Government on bringing this Bill to the House so quickly after we debated the Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure in October last year. During that debate, as we have already heard from him, the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury—the right honourable Justin Welby—assured us that the swift promotion of women to this House was a matter close to his heart. He has clearly shown us that. Even better, the Government have fully supported him, and one gathers through the usual channels that so do all sides of the House.

I gather that some in the church and the press—and even, it would appear, in this House—are concerned that the pressures on a new woman diocesan bishop in managing the role of being a bishop and Member of the House of Lords would be too great. I should have thought that the vast majority of your Lordships are in no doubt at all that the talented and long-serving senior women in the church are more than capable of undertaking those roles. They have long faced scrutiny, criticism and worse, and will no doubt be well prepared by those experiences for their duties in both their diocese and in Parliament.

I particularly congratulate the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York—the right honourable Dr John Sentamu—on the wonderful service of consecration of the new Bishop of Stockport, the right reverend Libby Lane, on 26 January in York Minster. Many of us watched the service, although most of us may have done so from a distance. It was an overwhelmingly joyful occasion in which both the archbishops and virtually all the bishops of the Church of England laid on hands, as well as a large number of retired bishops, along with visiting women bishops from the Anglican Communion overseas and from the Porvoo and Meissen churches. The number of bishops present must have exceeded 150—almost as many as we have here with us today.

Given the great pleasure of seeing the first female bishop consecrated in the Church of England recently, it was sad that within a week the underlying divisions within the Church of England had begun to emerge once again. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester will remember that in October last year I asked the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury in this House whether archbishops would continue to consecrate all bishops in their respective provinces. From his response and further debate in the other place I understood,

“that in the normal course of events, archbishops will consecrate all bishops, but … there will be circumstances when an archbishop is ill or overseas”.—[Official Report, Commons, 20/10/14; col. 724.]

Then, he might delegate.

Yet only one week after the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York had consecrated the first female bishop through the laying on of hands, he chose not to put his hands on the new Bishop of Burnley, although he was present at the time. He invited, as noble Lords will know, other bishops who were “acceptable” to the new bishop to lay on hands in his place. There were only three such bishops. Thus, the contrast between the two services in that sense could not have been greater.

This is still an important matter. Indeed, the issue of whether archbishops would consecrate all bishops in their provinces was a key issue for the General Synod when it considered the legislation on women bishops. It was not able to agree on that, or even to reach a compromise. The archbishops then issued a statement that they would take each consecration on a case-by-case basis. Put simply, there are those in the Church of England who hold that once a bishop has laid hands on a female priest in ordination or on a female bishop in consecration he is no longer acceptable to consecrate members of the self-styled “traditional Catholic” wing of the church. This is a notion of “taint”, however it is described by those who propose it.

We should not forget that it has been a source of anguish among all women in the church since alternative arrangements were introduced for ordination under the Act of Synod 1993. The risk in all this is that, far from achieving the “highest degree of communion” between those who accept and those who do not accept the priestly or episcopal orders of women, the church may find that it has created two quite separate genealogies. There is a further risk that the precedent set in York Minster may become the new normal when consecrating traditional Catholic bishops.

Finally, in this context, I hope that as I am lucky enough to be speaking just before the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester, he could give us his views on what level of confidence women and their supporters can expect in relation to the first primate who is a woman—in particular, whether she will truly be free to take each consecration on its particular merits in the way in which the archbishop and the Second Estates Commissioner described last October. Or might her discretion, in effect, be fettered by precedent? If the archbishops are willing to refrain from consecrating traditional Catholic bishops, might they not be creating a reasonable expectation on the part of the traditional Catholic wing that this practice will continue? I hope that if he has time, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester will be able to reassure me on these points.

In conclusion, I pay tribute and give particular credit to the nearly 8,000 women priests up and down this country who serve their parishes and communities brilliantly and will no doubt take inspiration from finally seeing female bishops take their place in your Lordships’ House. May we wholeheartedly support the Bill to enable this day to come soon.

My Lords, I know I speak for all of us on this Bench in wanting to express our appreciation to your Lordships’ House for the serious, thoughtful and supportive way that your Lordships have considered this legislation, and to rehearse the most reverend Primate’s appreciation to the Government and Opposition Benches, and to the usual channels, for making it possible for the Bill to reach this stage so quickly.

It is a great privilege to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and to have the opportunity to address briefly the important issues she raised, although they do not bear, either directly or indirectly, on the substance of the legislation before us. The main point that it might be helpful to make is that the archbishops are guided by five fundamental principles that have been set before the House of Bishops and the General Synod, which are designed to ensure that the church can be what it is intended to be: a movement of people with different views who are united in following the same Lord. A church cannot behave like a political party or a tribe; it is an association of people whose differences are respected and among whom room is made for difference.

The particular guiding principles that relate to this, if I can ask your Lordships’ forbearance, are these. Since the Church of England will continue to share the historical episcopate with other churches—including the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and those provinces of the Anglican communion that continue to ordain only men as priests or bishops—it will acknowledge that its own clear decision on ministry and gender is set within a broader process of discernment within the Anglican communion and the whole church of God. Secondly, since those within the Church of England who, on grounds of theological conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests will continue to be within the spectrum of teaching and tradition of the Anglican communion, the Church of England will remain committed to enabling them to flourish within its life and structures. I am sure that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York was bearing those principles in mind when he came to his conclusions about the ordination of the Bishop of Burnley.

The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, asked me to speculate whether a future woman Archbishop of Canterbury might take the same view. That is asking a lot. What we can notice is that in recent years opinion has been moving quite quickly in the church, as some of your Lordships have noted, and I have no doubt it will continue to do so. It is impossible to be certain about what the position may be in five or 10 years—to my most reverend friend I say, “It’s all right brother”—but it is quite possible that no such provision will be needed at that time. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York has made it clear that the decision he made in this particular case should not be regarded as setting any precedent for future action.

I wonder if I could briefly pick up one or two other points raised in the debate. The noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, asked whether the major regional dioceses—she mentioned Birmingham and Manchester—should not automatically be sees attached to the Lords spiritual Bench, as London, Durham and so on all are. That point was raised in the discussion on the last round of Lords reform consideration and in the Select Committee on which I served. I have no doubt that that question will come before us again in the event of future reform of this House leading to a reduction in the number of Lords spiritual proportionate to a reduction in the size of the House.

As to the noble Baroness’s point about diversity of appointments, she will know that that is a matter receiving immediate consideration in the Church of England at the moment. The House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council are progressing a major report on the development of clergy towards senior leadership to ensure that it is more representative of the population as a whole and more diverse.

The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, raised a concern about positive discrimination. We have tended to think in terms of “corrective action”. What is happening here is intended to correct positive discrimination against women—a situation that has gone on for too long—and a fixed period during which corrective action puts the compass needle back to where it should be clearly commands overwhelming support.

A number of other speakers have referred to the capacity of women to rise to the challenge of serving effectively in your Lordships’ House and becoming diocesan bishops. I assure your Lordships that our parliamentary unit has already started to put in place high-quality induction programmes and procedures that will offer the best possible support to any women diocesan bishop who is appointed in the near future.

I think that I have dealt with most of the significant points that may require some response. The purpose of bringing forward this Bill is not to serve the interests of the Church of England but to serve the interests of the nation and its good governance so that, as others have said, the voice of women bishops can properly be heard here. We are absolutely confident that they will make a major contribution.

I joined the Movement for the Ordination of Women in 1974. It took a further two decades before the first women were ordained priests—as it happens, at almost exactly the point at which I was ordained a bishop, so I then spent the next two decades longing for the moment when the women would join me in that gathering.

I shall be retiring in July this year. It is unlikely that the diocesan Bishops’ Benches will have a woman joining us then but it is very likely that a woman diocesan bishop will be appointed in the near future. I would be very touched and moved if she were able to occupy the seat that I shall be vacating later this year, and I am confident that today the House will come to the same conclusion.

My Lords, with permission, I am speaking in the gap, mainly because I am 92 years old and I thought that, as such, I was entitled to represent those women who are not here today in welcoming the future bishop, in whose elevation we are rejoicing at this moment. We have heard one or two excellent speeches from women but there is room for more, and I am, very inadequately, representing them—I hope, wholeheartedly—in our welcome. We look forward to seeing her in person.

A long time ago when I first came here, Lord Hailsham was on the Woolsack and for some unknown reason there were about 11 Bishops on the Benches. It so happened that Lord Hailsham sneezed. There was a very short pause, then he turned to the Bishops and said, “Won’t any of you bless me?”.

Be that as it may, things have moved on since those days. Certainly in 1988, when I first came here, a woman bishop would have been unthinkable. However, the House has put up with the likes of me for all these years and I am very grateful, as we all are. I wish the future bishop the greatest good fortune. I hope that when she enters this Chamber, even though it will not be to the sound of real trumpets, there will be trumpets sounding somewhere.

My Lords, what a lovely debate. I should say at the outset that the Opposition are very supportive of this legislation. This is a concise, narrowly focused Bill that does just one thing very well. In that respect I commend it to parliamentary draftspeople everywhere. Today we have the chance to support a Bill that could mean that this is the last Parliament ever where one set of Benches is open only to men. I can assure the church and the Government of our full support in getting this on to the statute book with all possible haste.

As an Anglican I was delighted when the church and then Parliament made the decision that all orders of ministry in the Church of England would be open to women. But, of course, today is not really about that at all. It is not about whether women can or should be bishops—or, indeed, how soon they should be bishops. It is simply about whether women diocesan bishops once appointed should be able to enter this House a little bit more quickly than they otherwise would. There are only two questions that need answering: is action of this kind needed at all, and, if so, is it a fair and proportionate way to do it? On the first, I am personally persuaded that we have heard a very compelling case today that it is necessary to take some kind of action.

When the first measure failed to go through synod in 2012, there was genuine outrage around the country, revealing in the process a heartening and rather higher level of investment in the Church of England and its affairs than many of us might have expected. There was also outrage within Parliament. Given that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has explained that it could take seven years to get a woman on to his Benches, that is something that Parliament would not regard as acceptable, and which people outside Parliament would regard as frankly incomprehensible. So action clearly is needed.

Is the proposal fair and proportionate? The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, quite properly took the opportunity to set out the reservations some people have about this process. I should like to address that briefly. He described this as positive discrimination but I rather prefer the term of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester. Whenever positive discrimination is proposed, there are usually two standard challenges to it. First, will there be enough candidates of the right calibre? Secondly, is it unfair to those who are not being fast-tracked?

So, will there be enough candidates of the right calibre? Women now make up 44% of the ordained clergy of the Church of England—and, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Luce, there are now women at every single level of the church with the exception of diocesan bishops. So there is a strong chance that we would find among their number women of the right calibre. If the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, is worried, he should know that four years ago I acquired a new diocesan bishop. Obviously, to my shock, it was someone who had been ordained for only 20 years. He had not even been a suffragan bishop and he did not even stay in the job for two years—but he is a rather fine Archbishop of Canterbury, so I can perhaps reassure him that he need not worry too much on that score.

It is worth thinking about the fact that if we are worried about whether this is fair to men, obviously the measure does not exclude men from becoming bishops. In fact, we have just had a new diocesan bishop appointed in Southwell and Nottingham when in fact there could have been a woman. It does not mean that there will not be plenty of males—probably at least half—on the Bishops’ Benches at the end of the 10-year period, since 14 of the 26 current members of the Bishops’ Benches are at least 10 years away from retirement. So I do not think that the girls are going to take over any time soon.

There is the question of whether it is unfair to individual women, which was touched on by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, and mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. I am with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, on this. But in the end, an episcopal ministry, like any Christian ministry, is a calling and not a career. Anyone called into that ministry will recognise that it is his or her role to serve the church and not to be served by the church. The example of the Bishop of Lincoln has shown us all the way in that respect. I was pleased to hear the recognition from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester of the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, about regional representation. Maybe in time the church can reflect on how best to hear the voices from those parts of the country that are not automatically represented.

The concerns, generally speaking, seem to have been addressed very well indeed. Will the Minister say why the Government decided not to include a review in this and simply went for a sunset clause? An opportunity might have been created there, and I should be interested in her reflections on that. We on these Benches are just very glad to support the Bill. As various noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, pointed out, the church may have taken a bit of time getting to this point in proceedings, but I think it has rather speeded up of late. Since 1994, thousands of women have been ordained.

When the Bill was debated in another place, my honourable friend Stephen Twigg noted that there was about the same proportion of women in stipendiary ministry as there were Members of Parliament in the other place. As he pointed out, that meant that the church had got to a place in 20 years that had taken the Commons over 100 years to reach. So he can take some comfort from that. As has been noted, it is only three months since the law was changed to allow women bishops. By December, Libby Lane had been nominated and by January she had been consecrated as Bishop of Stockport in a ceremony that certainly brought tears to my eyes, as I am sure it did to many other people’s.

The way that the church has gone about this process has been very good indeed. I commend the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and his colleagues for their determination to pursue this so quickly and for proceeding with sensitivity to those who find this a difficult time in their life within the Church of England. The church led the way in showing us during the whole process how to disagree while being able to be committed still to the mutual flourishing of all. In doing so it set an example to all of us.

The photograph of Libby Lane with Philip North was wonderful, but I hope the most reverend Primate will forgive me if, despite his urgings, I do not end the debate by hugging the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, as a way of drawing the proceedings to a close. That does not mean in any way that I am not committed to the five principles or to the idea of mutual flourishing—and I wish him well from a safe distance.

I do not want to say any more than this. With the noble Lord, Lord Elton, I think that Parliament needs this every bit as much as the church does. I so look forward to the day that we will see a woman on the Bishops’ Benches and I know that she will be as much of a blessing to us as she will to the church. We are pleased to support this.

My Lords, I am delighted to have the opportunity to respond to this debate, and I thank my noble friend Lord Faulks for his willingness to share Front-Bench responsibilities for such a significant Bill. In your Lordships’ House, I am the government spokesperson for women and equalities. I happen also to be a woman and an Anglican so, both personally and professionally, I warmly welcome the contributions today and the support for the Bill.

Equality of opportunities for women calls for outstanding, pioneering women, and there is certainly no shortage of outstanding women in the Church of England. However, such women arise also when men have the sense of fairness and generosity of spirit to share roles which have historically been exclusively theirs. We have certainly seen fairness and generosity of spirit among the senior bishops. We have heard from a number of noble Lords—including, first of all, the most reverend Primate—about the Bishop of Lincoln, who is the first in line, but there are others behind him, too, whose entry to this House will be delayed. The Bishop of Lincoln has the very good fortune to count my noble friends Lord Cormack and the Chief Whip among his flock, so it is a happy area that he controls there. His gracious words have certainly set the standard for the response from those bishops who find themselves further down the line in terms of coming here.

As noble Lords have said, this is the right thing to do. It follows logically from the church’s decision to allow women to become bishops. It is right for the church and it is certainly right for this House. The Bill does not seek to make any changes to the relationship between the church and Parliament or membership of this House. The selection of candidates for the appointment of bishops will of course remain a matter for the church. Bishops will continue to be appointed on merit and according to the needs of the diocese in which they serve.

As there was a great deal of consensus in the contributions, I shall not seek on this occasion to respond to each noble Lord individually. The questions raised in the debate were mainly matters for the most reverend Primate, who has addressed them accordingly. However, if I have inadvertently missed any parliamentary matters, I will of course respond in writing. The noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, asked me about the review. It was agreed quite happily in the Commons that the 10-year span of the Bill was sufficient to provide the space needed to look at how well the legislation was working and what would happen thereafter; so we should be content to follow that as well.

I pay particular tribute to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has not let the grass grow under his feet since his appointment. We might all do well to take forward his message of less confrontation and more hugs. He and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester have been of great support and assistance in bringing forward this Bill. Indeed, we have seen valuable support from all the Lords Spiritual, and I take this opportunity to thank them for all the work that they do for this House both inside the Chamber and outside it.

As we have heard, the Bill will not necessarily mean the end of the debate over women bishops, but it is another important step along the way. We look forward to seeing the Bishops’ Bench reflecting the gender diversity in evidence elsewhere in this House, and seeing it sooner rather than later, thanks to the provisions in this Bill.

I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken today; it has been a real privilege to be part of the debate. It is with very great pleasure that I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Sitting suspended.