The new Archbishop of York has slammed Downing Street for snubbing his predecessor – Britain’s first black archbishop – of an automatic life peerage.
Stephen Cottrell said he was ‘disturbed’ by news that John Sentamu – head of York’s diocese for 15 years – would not be given a seat in the House of Lords, saying it was a ‘custom of many years’.
A government spokesperson said Sentamu, 71, who retired in June, was left off the list to keep numbers in the House of Lords down.
While there is no automatic right for archbishops to be given a life peerage, his predecessor David Hope and the former archbishops of Canterbury Rowan Williams and George Carey were all made life peers when they stepped down.
‘Disturbed to find out today that whether it be through negligence or intent my predecessor + Sentamu has not been given the peerage that has been the custom for many years,’ said Archbishop Cottrell.
‘I trust this will soon be rectified. @UKHouseofLords will benefit from his voice.’
Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, 71, was expected to receive a life peerage so he would be able to continue sitting in the House of Lords after he retired on June 7
His successor Stephen Cottrell said he was ‘disturbed’ by news that John Sentamu would not be given a seat in the House of Lords
His swipe came shortly before his enthronement his archbishop at York Minster – the 98th person to take up the position in its 1,400-year history.
While sitting as a member of the Lords Temporal, Sentamu voted Remain in the EU referendum but later voted for Theresa May’s Leave deal.
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.’
Lord Woolley, founder of Operation Black Vote, told The Times: ‘John Sentamu is a hero and a role model not just to black Britain but to Great Britain.
‘The fact that he has not been afforded a peerage is nothing short of scandalous.
‘Disturbed to find out today that whether it be through negligence or intent my predecessor + Sentamu has not been given the peerage that has been the custom for many years,’ said Archbishop Cottrell said in a tweet before his enthronement at York Minster
While there is no automatic right for archbishops to be given a life peerage, Sentamu’s snubbing broke a tradition which saw his predecessor, Lord Hope, and the last Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams (pictured), made into life peers
Labour MP David Lammy accused the Government of displaying ‘blatant institutional prejudice’ in its snubbing of Sentamu (pictured giving Eddie Izzard his honorary degree from York St John University
‘Given the deluge of peerages to friends and family, of which not one was black, I sincerely hope this is an oversight that will be rapidly corrected.’
He added that there is a ‘growing feeling’ that the Government has not prioritised confronting ‘deep-seated racial inequalities’.
Last year Sentamu publicly rebuked politicians and accused the Government of ‘stifling’ social reconciliations.
He and Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, said ‘social divisions feel more entrenched and intractable than for many years’.
They expressed concern over ‘divisions within the major political parties which are stifling the emergence of a hopeful and viable vision for the common good in our communities.’
Sentamu then spoke out to explain why he supported Brexit even though he voted Remain.
He wrote that a second referendum would result in a ‘further draining away of trust from an already discredited political class [that] would be of very great danger to the future government of Britain.’
It is unclear exactly why Sentamu, who voted Remain in the EU referendum but later voted for Theresa May’s Leave deal, wasn’t awarded a life peerage although the Government claims it needs to cut down on numbers in the House of Lords
He added: ‘Permanent loss of confidence in governmental institutions always results in civil unrest and violence.’
Social media users have taken to Twitter to accuse the Government of racism in its not awarding Sentamu a life peerage.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a list of 36 life peers in July which included his brother, former MP Jo Johnson, and MP Claire Fox, who publicly defended an IRA attack.
At the time SNP MP Pete Wishart said the move was ‘the worst kind of cronyism’, as he accused the Prime Minister of giving jobs for life to ‘friends and those who have done him favours’.
Social media users have taken to Twitter to accuse the Government of racism in its not awarding Sentamu a life peerage
Last night the Government said they didn’t award Sentamu a life peerage because they needed to cut back on numbers in the House of Lords.
A spokesman told The Times: ‘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.
According to figures from Operation Black Vote, just 12 of the 794 peers in the Lords are black, including campaigner Doreen Lawrence (the mother of Stephen Lawrence), actress and politician Floella Benjamin and Labour MP Paul Boateng.
Sentamu, who declined to comment on the situation, was told he was being considered for a peerage on June 26 but on July 31 he was told that he had missed out and would have to wait until the next round.