Lord Harries, former Bishop of Oxford, army officer and now crossbench peer. A well-published theologian, he’s a regular contributor to the Today programme’s Thought for the Day slot, and campaigns in the Lords on subjects as diverse as stem-cell research and the rights of India’s ‘Dalit’ untouchables.
This Kensington bistro offers a modern take on classic Provencal food. Its light, airy atmosphere complements a sophisticated menu.
Starter Fennel and pea soup; crayfish salad with pecorino cheese.
Main course Grilled salmon and spinach; rabbit fricassée and rosemary potatoes.
Dessert Lemon sorbet; blueberry tart.
Religious leaders in the Lords I do think there’s a role for Church of England bishops in the Lords. I was on the Wakeham commission on reform of the Lords [appointed in 1999], and we made some radical suggestions, which unfortunately have not been put into effect. We recommended reducing the bishops from 26 to 16, with the other 10 places being made up of other Christian denominations and other faith leaders. That’s wonderful in principle – I’d support it through thick and thin – but it’s virtually impossible to find other representative faith leaders.
For instance, the Chief Rabbi is in the House of Lords in his own right, but he doesn’t represent all Jewish people. He’s an outstanding religious figure and he deserves to be there, but he doesn’t represent Liberal Judaism, Reform Judaism, or even all ultra-orthodox Jews. And when it comes to Muslims, it’s even more difficult. There’s not an overall leader. So, although I support them getting in in their religious capacity, I’m afraid it’ll have to be on an ad personam [person by person] basis. It’s working very well at the moment on that basis. The Lords is very representative of Britain. Much more so, actually, than the House of Commons.
Faith in politics Religion is now a very major player on the world stage, in contrast to the 1960s, when people thought that religion was dying out. For good or ill, religion is now a major factor in this country and it’s important that religious voices should be heard in both the Commons and the Lords. And not because they have any superior wisdom or the moral high ground – everybody has moral views – but they can give a faith perspective and bring that to bear on their work.
House of Lords reform The trouble is that people at either pole of the debate – totally elected and totally appointed – are unwilling to compromise. So long as there’s unwillingness to do so we’ll have stalemate and won’t get any reform at all. We need reform because we’re absurdly large. The Lords has been brought into disrepute with the sheer numbers there – you can’t get a seat. It’s disgraceful. We need to be about 450, not 800.
Gay marriage I think the vote will be much more split in the Lords than in the Commons. If it comes to it, I’ll certainly vote in favour [of gay marriage]. I wish that the Church of England had seized the issue from the offset and offered to bless partnerships. My preferred option would be to keep the traditional definition of the word ‘marriage’ because of its place in our law and history, but make it clear that civil partnerships, though different, are totally equal. One way to express this would be for the church to say, unequivocally, that we’re going to bless these in church and celebrate them in church.
A leisurely, light lunch on the Brompton Road. This is French food, but the Provencal theme means it avoids being over-rich.
Not suitable for
Those who want something surprising – this is a classic menu, well executed, but far from experimental.
A two-course lunch, excluding wine, is £21, or you can have three courses for £25.
To book a table at Cassis, visit www.cassisbistro.co.uk or call 020 7581 1101