Bill to remove bishop from Isle of Man Parliament moves forward

12 June, 2024

Tynwald (Manx Parliament) has moved closer to removing the automatic right of the Bishop of Sodor and Man to vote. Humanists UK welcomes this progress towards making Manx politics fair and inclusive for all.

The Constitution Bill 2023 had already progressed through the House of Keys, the lower house of Tynwald. It has now passed its first crucial step in the Legislative Council, the upper house. This ‘principles stage’ allows members to vote on the principles of the bill. Six members voted for it and two against. The bill follows on from a public consultation earlier this year which saw Manx citizens come out in support of removing the bishop’s right to vote. It will now move forward to its ‘clauses stage’ where the Legislative Council may propose amendments and add clauses.

The situation on the Isle of Man reflects that in the UK, where 26 bishops of the Church of England have automatic seats in the House of Lords. The bishops regularly vote and contribute in debate while enjoying privileges over and above other peers. These include privileged speaking rights in the chamber (if a bishop stands to speak, all others are expected to stop speaking and sit down), and unique exemptions from the Code of Conduct.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said:

‘We welcome the continued progression of this bill and the movement towards a more fair and equal democracy in the Isle of Man. No religion or belief should be given entrenched voting rights within a legislature as of right. It privileges adherents to that religion – or, more specifically, their clergy – over all others. Given that Anglicans are overrepresented in Parliament anyway, this is particularly egregious. We hope that Westminster can take heed from the steps the Isle of Man is taking and both can ensure all religions and beliefs are put on an equal footing.’

Assisted dying debate

Yesterday also saw the House of Keys debate the Assisted Dying Bill – the third day of its clauses stage. The debate represented continued progress for the Bill, which will legalise assisted dying for those who are terminally ill. The next clauses stage debate of the Bill will happen on 25 June, with the subsequent ‘third reading’ probably not taking place until after summer.


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 0203 675 0959.

Read more about our work on House of Lords reform.

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