Boris steers away from bishop bashing: Number 10 says there are ‘no plans’ to kick clergy out of House of Lords after they claimed Rwanda migrant plan ‘shames’ Britain
- PM has ‘no plans’ to kick 26 bishops out of the House of Lords, Number 10 says
- The Church leadership criticised an ‘immoral’ plan to send migrants to Rwanda
- Cabinet ministers were claimed to be openly talking about expelling bishops
Downing Street today played down suggestions that all 26 bishops could be kicked out of the House of Lords after they criticised the Government’s Rwanda migration scheme.
In an excoriating letter this week, the entire senior leadership of the Church of England claimed the ‘immoral’ plan to send migrants to Africa ‘shames Britain’.
The Church, led by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, has been a leading opponent of the £120million scheme.
Recent weeks have seen a deepening war-of-words between the Church and Boris Johnson, as well as other senior Government ministers.
But Number 10 this afternoon dismissed suggestions that direct action could be taken against the Church.
It had been reported that Cabinet ministers were openly talking about expelling the 26 bishops from the House of Lords – with one noting that Iran is the only other country to have religious leaders sitting in their parliament.
Yet, asked if the Prime Minister wanted Church leaders ejected from the upper chamber, Mr Johnson’s press secretary said: ‘There are no plans to do that.’
Boris Johnson has ‘no plans’ to kick 26 bishops out of the House of Lords, Number 10 said today
Church of England archbishops and bishops – who criticised the Government’s Rwanda plan – sit in the House of Lords as the Lords Spiritual
Home Secretary Priti Patel plans to send migrants who enter Britain illegally to Rwanda to have their asylum claims processed
The entire senior leadership of the Church of England claimed plan to send migrants to Africa ‘shames Britain’
Under an agreement struck with Kigali in April, Home Secretary Priti Patel plans to send migrants who enter Britain illegally thousands of miles away to have their asylum claims processed.
Her scheme has yet to get up and running after the European Court of Human Rights blocked a first flight to Rwanda last night.
Church of England archbishops and bishops sit in the House of Lords as the Lords Spiritual.
In their letter this week, published in The Times, the 25 current members of the Lords Spiritual claimed the Rwanda policy ‘should shame us as a nation’.
‘The shame is our own, because our Christian heritage should inspire us to treat asylum seekers with compassion, fairness and justice, as we have for centuries,’ they wrote.
‘Those to be deported to Rwanda have had no chance to appeal, or reunite with family in Britain.
‘They have had no consideration of their asylum claim, recognition of their medical or other needs, or any attempt to understand their predicament.’
Their letter added: ‘We cannot offer asylum to everyone, but we must not outsource our ethical responsibilities, or discard international law — which protects the right to claim asylum.
‘We must end the evil trafficking; many churches are involved in fighting it. This needs global co-operation across every level of society.
‘To reduce dangerous journeys to the UK we need safe routes: the church will continue to advocate for them.
‘But deportations — and the potential forced return of asylum seekers to their home countries — are not the way. This immoral policy shames Britain.’
Following the bishops’ intervention, TalkTV presenter Tom Newton Dunn reported that Cabinet ministers were openly talking about expelling them from the Lords.
He revealed on Twitter that one minister had told him: ‘Only Iran also has clerics that sit in their legislature. They’ll go.’