Public billed £300 every time Bishop visits Lords
The Bishop of Exeter has defended his right to claim expenses for attending the House of Lords after it was revealed he was among the church's costliest claimants.
Bishop Michael Langrish has claimed the maximum allowance of £300 for every day he sits in the chamber, latest figures have revealed.
In a 12-month period to November last year, he claimed £11,550 to cover overnight accommodation, incidental travel and subsistence.
In the first ten months of this year, he has racked up a total of almost £10,000 for just 31 days, prompting criticism from atheists and agnostics that granting senior religious figures the right to take part in Parliament is outdated.
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Andrew Copson, of the British Humanist Association, said the claims underlined the need for reform.
"Church of England bishops acquire their right to sit in our Parliament and claim public money for their expenses solely by virtue of their religion and position in the hierarchy of one denomination of one church," he said.
"Lords reform should end this mediaeval hangover of automatic reserved places for bishops in our legislature."
Dr Langrish, 65, who says he stays "in a London club, as most other bishops do" to save money, argued that as chairman of the Churches' Legislation Advisory Committee – a channel for churches' views on legislation – he performed an important role.
In a statement, he added that he "frequently raises rural and other issues which impact on the lives of people across Devon" and said the money was also used to buy journals and papers to inform work carried out while in the Lords.
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.
Like all of the 26 unelected Lords Spiritual, the Bishop of Exeter's travel to and from London is paid with the House of Lords' credit card, with a reduction through the Senior Rail Card.
Bishops live rent-free in their diocese, and to cover additional costs of running their historic homes they can draw allowances paid from the Church Commissioners' £5 billion property and shares portfolio.
Dr Langrish also receives an annual stipend of £39,030 and is provided with an official car for travelling around the diocese. He can claim for entertaining guests, minor repairs , heating and lighting, gardeners and cleaners.
The presence of the church in the chamber reflects its position as the country's established religion. But under government plans, the number of bishops allowed to sit in the House of Lords would be reduced to 12, with some other faiths guaranteed representation.
Bishop Tim Thornton, of the Diocese of Truro, does not sit in the Lords.