HC Deb 11 July 1961 vol 644 cc208-10
43. Mr. Swingler

asked the Prime Minister what representations he has recently received on the relationship between the State and the Established Church, with special reference to church appointments; and if he will set up a committee of inquiry to examine the existing system and report on the merits and demerits of continuing the establishment of the Church of England.

46. Mr. Fletcher

asked the Prime Minister what representations he has received during the last twelve months with regard to the existing system whereby appointments by the Crown to bishoprics and deaneries in the Church of England are made on the recommendation of the Prime Minister; and whether any change is contemplated in the present arrangements.

The Prime Minister

I have received no official representations on the relationship between the State and the Established Church, or upon the existing system of ecclesiastical appointments. So far as I am concerned, I see no need far a committee of inquiry.

Mr. Swingler

Has the Prime Minister not noted, apart from the views expressed in the Press, the recent proceedings of representatives of the Church expressing the desire for a commission of inquiry on the question of appointments and the system of appointments? Is it not clear that there is dissatisfaction on this matter? If there is to be an inquiry, should it not be instituted by the Government in conjunction with Church leaders and not conducted by the Church Assembly?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I think it is my duty to carry out the constitutional function of advising the Crown to the best of my ability. I know that the Archbishop of Canterbury has offered to appoint a commission, if there is any general desire for it, at the next session of the Church Assembly. I do not think it would be useful for the State independently to duplicate that inquiry or for any action to be taken before the views of the leaders of the Church are known.

Mr. Fletcher

Will the Prime Minister bear in mind that a commission appointed by the Church Assembly to examine the whole question of relations between Church and State reported as recently as 1952 that the present system is working very well and that there should be no attempt to diminish the personal responsibility of the Prime Minister for the advice given to the Crown with regard to Ecclesiastical appointments?

The Prime Minister

These are very large issues to deal with in question and answer. I have referred to what the Archbishop of Canterbury said. We all have our own feelings as churchmen. I have my duty at the moment as Prime Minister. If it is thought desirable that this commission should be set up again in the light of new conditions, I should welcome it, but I do not think it would be right for me at present to interfere by the setting up, as was suggested, of a State commission.

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