HC Deb 13 December 1949 vol 470 cc2590-2

6.54 p.m.

Mr. Burden (Sheffield, Park)

I beg to move, That the Reorganisation Areas Measure, 1944 (Amendment) Measure, 1949, passed by the National Assembly of the Church of England, be presented to His Majesty for His Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament. When the Reorganisation Areas Measure was passed in 1944 to enable the Church of England to replan its own organisation in blitzed areas and areas of civil replanning, it included a standstill arrangement to prevent the new arrangements from being held up by fresh life appointments to any benefices that became vacant. The procedure under the 1944 Measure is that the area has first to be declared a reorganisation area by an order of the Church Commissioners. That is only to be done after considering any representations from the parishes concerned. It ensures full publicity.

Once the order has been made, if a benefice is vacant or becomes vacant the bishop may stop a new vicar being put in by the patron. That, of course, is necessary, for otherwise reorganisation may be hampered. Often in these blitzed areas the church has been destroyed, and often the population has not returned. Under the civil plan it may never return. In such circumstances a standstill is only common sense.

This does not mean that the parish is neglected. The bishop has to make all necessary provision for the care of the people in the parish, and he has to consult both the patron and the parochial church council before he settles what ought to be done. Proper arrangements are made, but on a temporary footing. This power to restrict new life appointments in the Measure of 1944 was, however, limited to three years from the declaratory order or the vacancy. At that time everyone hoped that three years would be long enough, but ecclesiastical replanning has to follow and accord with civil replanning, and we all know that the process is more intricate and takes much longer than was expected in 1944. It is going ahead, but the plans are not yet passed.

This Measure extends the period from three years to 10 years. Ten years is chosen because that is the maximum time within which, under the 1944 Measure, proposals for an ecclesiastical reorganisation scheme can be entertained by the Commissioners. The two periods are made the same. The two Measures will be read as one. The Measure was considered by the Church Assembly, and passed without a dissentient voice. There was never greater unanimity. The proposed Measure has been considered by the Ecclesiastical Committee, and it is commended to the House.

Mr. A. Edward Davies (Burslem)

I beg to second the Motion.

6.58 p.m.

Mr. Burden

I beg to move, That the Benefices (Suspension of Presentation) Measure, 1946 (Amendment) Measure, 1949, passed by the National Assembly of the Church of England, be presented to His Majesty for His Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament. This Measure has been circulated with the report of the Ecclesiastical Committee, the appendix to which contains a full statement of the object of the Measure and of the effect of the three principal Clauses. I do not think, therefore, that it is necessary that I should detain the House with detailed explanations. The object of the principal Measure, which expires in 1956, is to enable the filling of vacancies in benefices to be postponed, and also to make provision for the cure of souls in the parishes affected and the exercise of the incumbents' powers in respect of the beneficed property during the vacancy. This postponement is often necessary where a decision as to reorganisation is pending.

This Measure introduces a number of minor amendments which have been thought advisable either because of recent alterations in the law or because of the experience gained in the working of the principal Measure. The proposed amendments have the full approval of the Church Assembly, which passed this Measure through all its stages without a division. As the House will also see, the Ecclesiastical Committee have reported that no amendment by itself is of great importance, but that the combined effect of all of them is to clarify the principal Measure and to improve its administration, and that the rights of none of His Majesty's subjects are prejudicially affected.

Mr. A. Edward Davies

I bog to second the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Popplewell.]