§ 12.9 a.m.
§ Mr. Burden
I beg to move:That the Church Dignitaries (Retirement) Measure, 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 is a companion to the Incumbents (Disability) Measure, 1945, and the Incumbents (Disability) Measure, 1947, which provide machinery for compulsory retirement in the case of incapacity or misconduct of the parochial clergy of the Church of England. At the time these Measures were before the Church Assembly, a promise was given that legislation would be introduced to enable cathedral clergy and archdeacons to be dealt with on similar lines to those applicable to the parochial incumbents. This Measure is the result of that promise. It combines in one Measure the provisions which, for convenience, were dealt 2076 with in two Measures in the case of the parochial clergy. There are certain differences, which are set out in the appendix to the report of the Ecclesiastical Committee. That was circulated with the Measure, so I will not occupy the time of the House by enumerating the differences in detail.
I shall, however, draw attention to two points. In the case of incumbents of benefices, charges of incapacity or misconduct must be referred to a committee of six clergymen elected for the purpose before they can be proceeded with. It is only with the approval of that committee that the charges can be brought to trial. In the present Measure, since it is cathedral clergy and archdeacons who may have to be dealt with, the cathedral chapter has been substituted for the ministerial committee of the Incumbents Measure. The second point is that under Clause 4 (1, b), provision is made that no proceedings may be started if the allegations relate to any question of doctrine, ritual, or ceremonial, or the social or political opinions of the dignitary. It will be noticed that the words "or activities" have been inserted, and hon. Members will recall that some controversy arose in the House on the Incumbents Discipline Measure over the meaning of these words. I think that it is now made clear, and I hope that the House will be prepared to assent to the Motion. The Ecclesiastical Committee has reported in favour of the Measure.
§ 12.11 a.m.
§ Mr. Sorensen
I shall not detain the House for more than a few moments. I hope I shall be able, by my remarks, to console my hon. Friend who has lost his train; and I have offered to drive him to the ecclesiastical district of Hornchurch so that he may get home, which means that I shall be very late. I find myself faced with a paradox, because although I, personally, believe that the Church of England would be much healthier if it were disestablished, I feel also that if it had been disestablished, the particular provision to which my hon. Friend has referred, might not have been in this measure; namely, that no proceedings shall be instituted in so far as allegations refer to questions of ritual, or doctrine, or the social or political opinions of the dignitary.
2077 If the present Church of England were independent of the State then, as the majority of its adherents appear to be Conservative, they might insist that this should be not included. But I am glad, because one day the political opinion of most Church of England members may be Socialist, or even Communist; although I hope not the latter because some of the hon. Members on the other side of the House would then become quite alarmed. We are presented with a paradox, but it is all the more reason why we should hope for the time when the Church of England will be able to decide for itself, and not have to ask for the opinion of agnostics, Jews, and heretics inhabiting this House. Further, I hope that the rules in this Measure may apply to higher dignitaries in any other similar Measure which may come before the House.
That the Church Dignitaries (Retirement) Measure, 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.