The Bishop of Salisbury, the Right Revd Nicholas Holtam, took his seat in the House of Lords in London yesterday, as one of 26 Bishops who sit as Lords Spiritual.
Bishop Nicholas said, “To sit as a Lord Spiritual in the House is a serious piece of public work, which we undertake on behalf of the whole community, not just those who are Christians or Church of England. As Lords Spiritual, we bring a different perspective to those who have become Peers.
“The Church of England has a presence in every community, from Dorset villages to inner city estates in Newcastle. We have a uniquely long perspective. That gives us a chance to articulate a vision that is truly national and genuinely long term.
“The particular subjects I want to make a contribution to in the House of Lords will be the concerns of the Diocese. I am the lead bishop for the Church of England on the environment. This is of great theological and political significance.
“The churches will be able to help build a climate of public opinion that encourages our politicians to make tough decisions. This we will require both the recognition of the need for urgent action and the hope we can make a real difference. This is particularly important with the Paris Summit on climate change in December, but it will need sustained commitment over many decades.
“There have been a number of recent examples when the Lords Spiritual have helped bring about change on important issues. The Archbishop of Canterbury has made a significant contribution on payday lending and banking standards, as the Bishop of Coventry on religious freedom for all, including the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.
“Bishop Tim Thornton of Truro, Bishop Graham’s predecessor as Bishop of Sherborne co-chaired the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty. I gave evidence to the inquiry last year and Salisbury MP John Glen was also a member of the Inquiry.
“One interesting fact, I may be the last male Bishop to enter the House of Lords before the first women Diocesan bishops start to have priority. Indeed, the first vote I cast as a Lord Spiritual will probably be to pass legislation to give any women bishops waiting to join the House of Lords priority over men for the next 10 years.”
Speaking after his introduction to the House, Bishop Nicholas added: “The Clerk read the summons from the Queen. I found it very moving to be summonsed like that, to have to make an oath, and then to be welcomed by the House – warmly. Then immediately into questions which were pretty serious stuff to do with access to sports stadiums for people with disability, banking – much in the news today – council tax and welfare reform.
“I found it quite awesome to find myself sitting there thinking I need to pay attention and try to speak on behalf of people in the Diocese of Salisbury.”
Listen to a short interview (2 mins) with Bishop Nicholas carried out after he took his seat.