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The Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill would introduce time limited provisions to enable female diocesan bishops to be fast-tracked into the House of Lords as members of the Lords Spiritual. The legislation does not extend to the five reserved seats occupied by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishops of London, Durham and Winchester.

The Church of England requested that the Government introduce the legislation amid concerns that under the current seniority-based system of appointment it could take several years for the first female bishop to take her seat in the House of Lords. This follows a process which culminated in the Church of England approving legislation to allow the ordination of women bishops on 17 November 2014.

The Bill would introduce provisions that would stipulate that a vacancy amongst the 21 non-reserved seats of the Lords Spiritual would be filled by a woman English diocesan bishop, ahead of male English diocesan bishops. In the absence of a woman English diocesan bishop the longest serving male bishop would fill the place as normal. The provision would last for ten years.

This Library Note provides a brief summary of the process by which English diocesan bishops are appointed to the House of Lords. It then discusses the provisions of the Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill and the Bill’s House of Commons Stages. Further information on the background to the appointment of women bishops in the Church of England is provided in the Appendix.

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