Religion and Law round-up – 25th January

Although the “zombie Parliament” had time to progress some religion law, it’s been a very bad week for the DCLG and a somewhat mixed one for the Archbishop of York

Progress of legislation

The latest claims that the coalition government’s Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 had created a “zombie Parliament” came from Baroness Boothroyd, Commons Speaker between 1992 and 2000, who referred to it is as “an act of irresponsibility” that had led to MPs sitting around waiting for the election.  The BBC states that MPs sat for just 44% of weekdays over the past year, and only 11 new bills have been introduced in this Parliamentary session – the second lowest in recent history[1]. During this week, however, there has been progress on a number of items of religion law.

On 16 January the Local Government (Religious etc. Observances) Bill, a private Member’s bill introduced with tacit Government support that aims to put beyond doubt the power of local councils to begin meetings with prayer, had a fairly brief report stage and third reading in the Commons. No amendments were made and it now goes to the Lords.

On 19 January the Lords Spiritual (Women) Bill went through all its Commons stages in one day and was sent to the Lords: the Hansard report of the debate starts here. The Bill is due to have its second reading in the Lords on 12 February.

In the House of Lords, three Church Measures presented for Royal Assent were considered on 22 January – Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction (Amendment) Measure; Ecclesiastical Property Measure; and Church of England Pensions (Amendment) Measure. There were accepted by the House and now proceed to the House of Commons for consideration.

Department of Communities and Local Government

In terms of its stated policy “Bringing people together in strong, united communities”, DCLG has not had a good week. Continue reading