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South West News Service/REX
UK News

Bill launched to fast track women bishops to Lords

General Synod members in the Church of England gave final approval to legislation that allows females into the top job in November.

Yesterday Revd Libby Lane was announced as the first woman bishop.

She won't be eligible to enter the Lords, even under the new rules, because her position is a junior one.

But the law will mean a senior female bishop can skip the queue of men waiting for a place in the Lords.

Under current rules, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishops of London, Durham and Winchester automatically take seats in the House of Lords.

The remaining 21 Lords Spiritual places are automatically given to those who have been diocesan bishops longest.

Currently the wait is around 10 years, which could have meant a 20 year wait until the bishop gender balance was equal in the upper chamber.

The bill's being introduced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

He said: "I am delighted that we are able to bring this Bill forward, with the support of the Church of England, which will right a historical wrong and bring a smidgen more fairness to the House of Lords.

"It has taken centuries to get to the position where we can agree that a woman can be just as wise, just as erudite, just as valuable to our public life as a man.

"We are bringing down one of the last bastions of masculine supremacy, and I look forward immensely to seeing the first female bishop take her rightful seat in the Lords."

The Bill will be taken through the House of Commons by Sam Gyimah, Minister for the Constitution.

He said: "I warmly welcome the decision by the Church of England to allow women bishops.

"This Bill supports that decision by ensuring that when women are appointed as diocesan bishops, they can take vacant seats in the House of Lords.

"Without this change in the law, we would have to wait many years for women bishops to be represented in the House of Lords, and that cannot be right."

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