Bishops are claiming up to £27,000 a year in fixed-rate allowances to attend sessions of
the House of Lords on top of their travel costs. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Independent has found that some bishops are claiming up to the maximum fixed allowance for attending sessions in the second chamber while having full-time jobs in their dioceses. Others attend sessions in the House without making any claim on the public purse.
Under current regulations peers are given the choice of three daily rates to cover their hotel and living expenses in London – £300, £150 or nothing. However they do not have to provide receipts and can also claim travel expenses.
One bishop, known as a Lord Spiritual, is required to be in attendance and lead prayers on each day the House is sitting. But an analysis of the Lords allowances reveals that some bishops are spending up to two weeks in every month in the Lords – sometimes claiming the maximum allowances.
From October 2010 to November 2011:
* The Bishop of Chester attended the House on 97 days, claiming £27,600 in attendance allowances and £7,309 in travel expenses.
* The Bishop of Liverpool attended on 60 days, claiming £15,600 for attendance and £4,220 in expenses.
* Other significant claimers included the Bishop of Exeter (£11,550), the Bishop of Leicester (£8,850) and the Bishop of Wakefield (£10,650).
In contrast, a number of bishops regularly attended the House but did not claim any attendance allowances at all. The Bishop of Birmingham attended the House of Lords on 22 occasions but claimed no money. The Archbishop of York attended on 16 occasions and claimed nothing. The Archbishop of Canterbury also made no charge. However, the Archbishop of London claimed £3,750 for attending the Lords on 24 occasions.
The Church of England has a guaranteed presence in the upper house reflecting its position as the country’s established religion. Despite ongoing attempts to reduce their ranks or introduce representatives of other faiths, there are still places in the Lords for the 26 Lords Spiritual. Bishops can choose to attend on an ad hoc basis when matters of interest and concern to them are before it.