A Conservative MP has suggested that Anglican bishops should be removed from the House of Lords and replaced with Syrian refugees.
I'm all in favour of constitutional reform so maybe we should remove Bishops from the House of Lords and replace them with Syrian refugees?
— Henry Smith MP (@HenrySmithMP) October 21, 2015
Henry Smith, MP for Crawley, made the comments after 84 Church of England bishops signed a letter calling for Prime Minister David Cameron to take in 50,000 Syrian migrants, saying his offer to take 20,000 was “too low, too slow, too narrow”.
The bishops’ comments drew the ire not just of the Prime Minister but also the Archbishop of Aleppo, who said taking more migrants would “harm” both Syria and the refugees themselves.
“If they look to our country, our communities there, we suffer when people leave our country,” he said.
“What I would ask everybody to do is to try our best to stop feeding and encouraging radicalism and fundamentalism, and find a political solution where compromise may be done.”
David Cameron responded to the letter by saying: “On the bishops no one has more respect for the bishops than me. But on this occasion, I think they are wrong and I will say so very frankly.
“I think the right thing to do is to take 20,000 refugees from the camps. If you become part of the mechanism distributing people around the EU you are encouraging people to make that dangerous journey.”
Under the UK’s constitutional arrangement, 26 bishops from the Church of England hold seats in the House of Lords, allowing them to scrutinise and vote on legislation. Although their presence irritates reformists, they rarely affect legislation.
Mr Smith is known for his Eurosceptic views, and was once named as a potential defector to UKIP.
However, he is to the left of his party on other issues including animal rights and constitutional reform, and his 2015 re-election campaign was backed by Queen guitarist Brian May after the two worked together in an attempt to stop the government’s badger cull.