The Lords Spiritual (Women) Act received Royal Assent on 26 March 2015. This is an Act to make time-limited provision for vacancies arising among the Lords Spiritual to be filled by women bishops.
Following the enactment of the final legislation to appoint women bishops in November 2014, were the current arrangements prescribed by the Bishoprics Act 1878 to apply, whereby 21 of the 26 Church of England bishops and archbishops entitled to sit in the House of Lords as the Lords Spiritual are issued with writs of summons to attend the House of Lords on the basis of seniority (the other five automatically being entitled by virtue of the sees they occupy – the “five ex officio sees” of Canterbury, York, Durham, London and Winchester) unless a female bishop were appointed to one of the five ex officio sees, clearly it would be a number of years before any female bishop became sufficiently senior to take a place in the House of Lords.
The effect of the Act is that, for a period of 10 years, the most senior female bishop at any time would take preference over a more senior eligible male bishop and would fill a vacant Lords Spiritual seat.
After the 10 year period, the provision will cease to apply and the mechanism under the Bishoprics Act 1878 will be restored.
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