New bid made to remove bishop’s vote in Isle of Man parliament

Posted: Tue, 7th Nov 2023

House of Keys member behind bill says bishop should "go and get elected like the rest of us".

Virtual-Pano, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons (cropped)

An Isle of Man parliamentarian has called for the removal of the bishop of Sodor and Man's voting privilege in the island's parliament.

The bishop is automatically granted a seat in the Legislative Council, the upper chamber of the Manx parliament, Tynwald.

Lawrie Hooper, an elected member of Tynwald's lower chamber, the House of Keys, will seek leave to introduce a private member's bill on Tuesday which will remove the bishop's right to vote.

Hooper said unelected appointments to positions of "power and authority" were contrary to the "concept of what a democracy should be".

He added that if the bishop "wants to represent people in Tynwald" he can "go and get elected like the rest of us".

Only two other positions in the Legislative Council are ex officio: the President of Tynwald and the Attorney General, who does not have voting powers.

Whilst the proposed change in the law would remove the bishop's right to vote, it would not abolish the bishop's seat on the Legislative Council.

Despite a failed effort to remove the bishop's seat and vote in June, Hooper said the majority of the House of Keys supported ending the right to vote.

Another attempt to remove the bishop's seat was made in 2018.

The recruitment process for the next bishop is currently underway, with Peter Eagles retiring from the post in October.

Eagles has criticised efforts to remove the vote, saying that without it the bishop's presence would become "a sort of chaplaincy" rather than a "spiritual voice in public life".

Church of England bishops are also given 26 seats as of right in the House of Lords at Westminster.

Update: The bill to remove the bishop's vote was given leave to be introduced by the House of Keys, with 13 voting in favour and 11 against.

NSS: Votes for clerics 'outdated, unfair and undemocratic'

Jack Rivington, campaigns officer at the National Secular Society, said: "We welcome this effort by democratically elected representatives in the Isle of Man's parliament to challenge the unfair and undemocratic privileges granted to the bishop of Sodor and Man."

"Automatic parliamentary seats for clerics have no place in a 21st century democracy. The privilege granted to the Church of England in both Tynwald and the House of Lords should be ended as a matter of urgency.

"UK parliamentarians should look to the example of their Manx counterparts and seek to abolish the bishops' bench."

Image: Douglas parliament building, Virtual-Pano, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons (cropped)

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Tags: Bishops