Britain's first black archbishop snubbed of Lords peerage

18 October 2020, 17:52 | Updated: 19 October 2020, 17:11

John Sentamu, 71, has not been offered a seat in the House of Lords, which is usually customary
John Sentamu, 71, has not been offered a seat in the House of Lords, which is usually customary. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

The former Archbishop of York has been snubbed by Downing Street after he was not offered a peerage to sit in the House of Lords.

Former Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, 71, retired in June and was expected to be offered a life peerage so he could continue sitting in the Lords after he was replaced.

But fury has now erupted after the offer was not made.

There is no automatic right for those who have served as archbishops to be given, but Mr Sentamu's predecessor, Lord Hope, and the last Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, made into life peers.

It was reported in the Sunday Times that Downing Street did not offer the peerage because they need to control the numbers in the Lords.

A spokesperson told the newspaper: "The size of the House of Lords needs addressing. But given retirements and other departures, some new members are needed to ensure that the Lords has the appropriate expertise and it continues to fulfil its role in scrutinising and revising legislation."

But some have argued that this is a sign of "prejudice".

Labour MP David Lammy said: "No 10 broke a precedent and snubbed Britain’s first black archbishop for a peerage because it says the House of Lords is too large, but it made room for Ian Botham, Claire Fox and Theresa May’s husband. 

"Blatant institutional prejudice."

The Archbishop of York is the second most senior clergyman position, and today Stephen Cottrell was enthroned as the 98th person to have held the title.

Mr Cottrell said: "I am delighted and humbled to be the 98th Archbishop of York.

"I have begun my ministry at a time of huge hardship and challenge and at the moment Covid-19 is having a particularly devastating impact in the North.

"We don't know how long the current restrictions will be in place. However, the worship and work of the church goes on bringing much-needed hope, relief and practical help to the communities we serve."

Following the election ceremony in July, Mr Cottrell undertook the custom of knocking three times on the west door of the Minster with the Braganza crozier, his staff of office, before it was thrown open.