HC Deb 07 December 1964 vol 703 cc1269-84

1.33 a.m.

Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)

I beg to move, That the Supplementary Scheme to give effect to the proposals of the Diocesan Reorganisation Committee in the Diocese of London for the purpose of making additions to the original reorganisation Scheme in respect of the Guild Church of St. Michael Paternoster Royal, which was laid before this House on 9th November, be disapproved. I am sorry to detain hon. Members at this time of night, but this is the last of the 28 days allowed for the possible disapproval of a scheme which was laid by the Church Commissioners a few weeks ago. The matter which I am asking the House to disapprove, though relatively narrow in scope, is of some consequence in three ways. There is a parliamentary and, I would almost say, a constitutional aspect of the scheme. There is a legal aspect of it. There is also what I may call an ethical consideration. I shall try to deal with these three points as briefly as I can; first, however, I must say something about the scheme itself and its background.

Hon. Members who were in this House in 1952 may remember our debates on the City of London (Guild Churchs) Act. This Act was worked out because of the dilemma with which the Church authorities were confronted in the City of London after the war and the bombing. There were a number of churches of considerable architectural merit, mostly the work of Wren, some of them damaged in the blitz, and all of them probably "redundant" in the strict sense that there was hardly any resident population left in the City.

This Act embodied a novel and ingenious device for enabling them to be preserved and to be put to a variety of uses far broader in scope than would have been possible had they remained ordinary parish churches. These churches, 16 of them, all named in the First Schedule to the 1952 Act, were to be designated Guild churches. Their vicars are exempted from the statutory obligations imposed on the incumbents of parish churches, such as holding services on Sundays. Instead, they minister to the needs of the million or more workers who crowd into the City of London every weekday; and each of them had also a special extra-parochial function.

I need not trouble hon. Members further with a resumé of the Guild Churches scheme, except to say that when an amending Bill was discussed in 1960 it was generally agreed that the project was working well and that the Guild churches were making a contribution of value to the life of the City and its workers.

Now I come to the three objections to the Scheme before us. First, the Parliamentary one. The Scheme in question is a supplementary scheme, prepared by the Church Commissioners (and this is how they describe it): to give effect to proposals made by the Bishop of London and the Diocesan Reorganisation Committee for the purpose of making additions to the original reorganisation Scheme in respect of the Guild Church of St. Michael Paternoster Royal in the Diocese of London. This verbiage conceals the fact that the Scheme itself, in effect, but without saying that it does, amends the Act passed by Parliament in 1952, the City of London (Guild Churches) Act, to which I have already referred. It amends it by removing the Church of St. Michael Paternoster Royal from the list of Guild churches in the Schedule. I may add, in passing, that this is a church of considerable historical interest, quite apart from its architectural merits: it was founded by a great pioneer of the export trade, Richard Whittington, several times Lord Mayor of London, and it is still haunted by a noble black cat.

Yet, if hon. Members look at the scheme which has been laid, they will certainly not realise that this is its intention and its effect. That basic fact of the scheme is not mentioned anywhere in it. It would surely have been simpler and more suitable to have made this change, if it had to be made, by means of an amending Bill; then Parliament would have understood what was being done and could have treated the matter on its merits.

I am fortified in this view by a passage in Erskine May which does not refer precisely to this kind of procedure, but which seems to me to present us with a kind of analogy—not an exact analogy but a reasonable analogy—to the situation in which we find ourselves. It is in the new edition on page 887 and is under the head, "Repeal of Public Acts by Private Bills." The Guild Churches Act was not a public Act. I must make that clear. It was a private Act, but an Act of such considerable public importance that the then Chairman of Ways and Means decided that the Bill ought to go to a specially enlarged Select Committee for consideration, and so it did. Therefore, although it was neither a public Act, nor, indeed, strictly a hybrid Act, one might call it a quasi-hybrid Act and regard it, as the Chairman of Ways and Means did, as one of considerable public importance.

It sometimes happens that a Public Act is repealed by a Private Bill, and Erskine May says of this: But the scope of the public Acts which a private bill proposes to repeal or to amend, and the nature and degree of the proposed repeal or amendment, have to be considered, and provisions of this kind in private bills demand peculiar vigilance, lest public laws be lightly set aside for the benefit of particular persons or places. I admit that that is not an exact analogy, but it seems to me to express very well the spirit of what I am complaining of in this procedure— … lest public laws be lightly set aside for the benefit of particular persons or places". It is even more inconvenient, clearly, when a Private Act of considerable public importance, which received the attention which the Guild Churches Act received, is amended almost surreptitiously by means of a mere supplementary scheme to another Measure. At least, I suggest, the Church Commissioners, when drafting this scheme, should have included a specific and explicit clause to the effect that it was altering the status of this particular church, removing its Guild church status or, to coin a word, "deguilding" it.

The scheme explains that when the restoration, which is now pending, is complete, the church is to be appropriated for certain purposes; some of it is to become offices for a, no doubt, worthy diocesan purpose, and part of it will be a small chapel. This may be an admirable and sensible arrangement. I am not arguing the merits of it tonight. But it should be noted by those who are interested in the Guild church project as a whole that, if this precedent were followed, the whole project could be whittled away, possibly without Parliament having any idea of what was being done. All the 14 surviving Guild churches—14 others will be left, after this scheme, if it goes through—could be "deguilded", the stipends taken for other purposes, and so on, by means of supplementary schemes of this unobtrusive kind.

This scheme is made "in pursuance of the Reorganisation Areas Measure, 1944"—which brings me to my second point, the legal one, which I believe to be of some substance, also. It seems to me doubtful that this scheme is legally permissible at all. It may be ultra vires. There is no provision in the 1952 Act whereby a designated Guild church can be deprived of its Guild church status or, as I put it just now, "deguilded". I suggest, therefore, that, legally as well as in order to make clear to Parliament what was being done, the Diocese of London and the Church Commissioners ought to have sought to amend the 1952 Act and not to have adopted this procedure.

The hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir P. Agnew), who, I understand, is to reply to the debate, will, no doubt, refer me to Section 27 of the City of London (Guild Churches) Act, 1952, which provides that A supplementary reorganisation scheme may in the case of any guild church (other than the church of St. Lawrence Jewry) include provisions for any of the purposes specified in paragraphs (c) (d) (e) (f) and (g) respectively of subsection (1) of section 20 of the Reorganisation Areas Measure 1944 in like manner as if this Act were a reorganisation scheme but so that references in that Measure to an incumbent and a patron of a benefice to a parochial church council and to a churchwarden shall in the case of any such supplementary reorganisation scheme be deemed to be references to a vicar and a patron of a guild church to a guild church council and to a churchwarden of a guild church respectively". It is, therefore, very important to look closley at Section 20 of the Reorganisation Areas Measure, because I believe that that is what the Church Commissioners and their legal advisers have been relying on in arguing that this scheme is legally not ultra vires and in order. Section 20 of that Measure listed a number of things which could be done by a reorganisation scheme. It said that it may in the case of churches include provision for any of a number of purposes, including (a) the restoration or rebuilding of a church, (c) the appropriation of a church or any part thereof, and (e) the complete or partial demolition of a church. I suppose it is subparagraph (c) that the Church Commissioners are relying on—the appropriation of a church or any part thereof—taken in combination with Section 27 of the City of London (Guild Churches) Act, which refers back to that Measure and says that the supplementary reorganisation scheme can include provisions for any of the purposes specified in those subparagraphs.

I honestly believe that this is a wrong interpretation of that earlier Measure. That earlier Measure is concerned, indeed, with appropriation. It is concerned with demolition. There is no proposal now, thank goodness, to demolish this church, as the Diocese of London was trying to do only three or four years ago. There is a proposal to appropriate, but there is nothing whatever in Section 20 of the 1944 Measure which allows a change in the status of a church. Clearly, there could not be any specific reference in that Measure to Guild Churches, because it antedated the Guild Churches scheme by eight years. But there is no reference in any of those subparagraphs of Section 20 to any change in the status of a church. For instance, it does not say that a parish church can be changed into a chapel of ease, or something else. It refers to closure, demolition, appropriation, and so on, but nothing about any change in status. But this is what in, I must say, a rather underhand way is being done by the supplementary scheme which is before us.

It is clear that when the City of London (Guild Churches) Bill was passing through Parliament no one had any thought that such a power resided in Section 27. That Section was the subject of a report by the then Attorney-General, who addressed himself solely to the possibility that a Guild church might be demolished under it. The Select Committee—I was among a number of hon. Members who served on it—was assured that Parliament would never consent to the demolition of a Guild church. So the Attorney-General of those days clearly did not think that the Section contained a hidden power to deprive a Guild church of its status.

This is equally clear if one reads the very long and exhaustive contribution by Mr. Wigglesworth, who was and is the Chancellor of the Diocese of London. He gave a long exposition before the Select Committee of the meaning of all the Sections in the Bill. It is clear that he did not think about this at all, because if he had suspected that this power lay hidden in these paragraphs it would clearly have been his duty so to have informed the Select Committee when he addressed it on the subject of Section 27 on 29th April, 1952. He did not do so. The theory that such a power resides in this section is quite a recent discovery for the Diocese of London.

I know that the Church Commissioners have obtained learned counsel's opinion which fully supports their action and I have no doubt that the House will be told as much. But I would say to the hon. and gallant Baronet that, as he knows, lawyers do sometimes differ. I myself have taken the precaution in the last few days of taking another counsel's opinion—the opinion of a learned Queen's counsel of great experience in matters such as this—and his opinion differs diametrically from that of the counsel whose opinion the Church Commissioners took. So there is at least some legal dubiety about this matter. It cannot be said to have been proved, hard and fast, that the Church Commissioners are quite in the clear about it.

In any case, the methods used to push this scheme through seem to me to have been less than worthy of the high ideals which no doubt animate its promoters. Since St. Michael Pasternoster Royal has not yet been restored, no formal appointment of a Guild church vicar has yet been made. The clergyman in charge is Canon John Satterthwaite, who is well known to many hon. Members as an adviser on foreign relations to the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is an extraordinary and regrettable fact that he received no notice that this scheme was being hatched. Even as a courtesy one would have supposed that he would have been officially informed.

In fact, he learned of it, to his astonishment, by chance, two months after the closing date for the lodging of objections to the scheme, when he happened to telephone Diocesan House to ask what progress was likely to be made on another matter, the restoration of the Church. This was on 29th October. He was told that the scheme had been issued in the summer and no objections had been received by the Church Commissioners before the closing date, 31st August.

What they had done was to send one copy of the scheme to the Secretary of the Guild Church Council at his private address during the holiday season. When he returned from holiday he found it awaiting him and assumed—perhaps he should not have done but he did, as, I think most of us would—that copies had been sent to the clergyman in charge of the Church and to the churchwardens. No such other copies were sent and Canon Satterthwaite himself, soon after, had to be abroad, in Germany and Rome, in fulfilment of his duties to the Archbishop.

Canon Satterthwaite, naturally, asked the Church Commissioners for an extension of time so that objections could be lodged. His request was refused. It would be perfectly easy, even at this late date, for the Commissioners to withdraw the scheme and reissue it, in fairness to the clerygman concerned and the Church Council. I hope that they will do so. If they do not, justice will certainly not be seen to have been done, and they will be seeming to take unfair advantage of what one must take to have been a series of accidents and misunderstandings.

One final point, to emphasise the unfortunate way in which the matter has been handled. Hon. Members will recall the sequence of events I have just described—what happened in the summer and the holiday season. I am rather shocked to learn that the Diocesan Reorganisation Committee was told at its meeting on 20th November that a copy of the scheme had been sent to the Secretary of the Guild Church Council and that Canon Satterthwaite had been so informed. To say that one has informed somebody of something when he has learnt it by chance, by telephoning one about something else, when it is two months too late for him to do anything about it, is not a downright lie, but it is a stretching of the truth as economical as anything imagined by Anthony Trollope.

I hope that the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Worcestershire, South, when he replies, will tell us that the Church Commissioners are ready to take the scheme back and insert a clause making it clear that the real purpose of the scheme is to deguild the Church of St. Michael Paternoster Royal and so to obtain possession of the stipend, and thus both inform Parliament adequately of their intentions and give those concerned an opportunity of lodging objections. This would be an act of grace, an act—if it is not unseemly to apply such a word to this great ecclesiastical bureaucracy—of charity.

If the hon. and gallant Member cannot give this assurance, we may be obliged to divide the House.

1.57 a.m.

Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)

It is interesting to note that a substantial number of hon. Members are present to take part in or to listen to this debate, even at this late hour, and I am sure that the House is giving its usual thoroughness to this matter, which is important to quite a number of people.

I have received a certain amount of information about this problem and I have a few questions which I should like to ask my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir P. Agnew), who is to reply. In asking these questions, I should like to dissociate myself from some of the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) in introducing his query on this subject, because I felt that the hon. Member went a little beyond the actual problem in hand in "having a crack" at the Church Commissioners, if I may use such a colloquial phrase, and adopted a somewhat partisan attitude, if that is possible in church matters.

I should like to ask my hon. and gallant Friend one or two questions. First, what safeguards are there for the priest who is now in charge of this church? What is his future likely to be? Is it in any way undermined by what is proposed? Secondly, I should like to know a little more about what will happen to this fine building. I read that it is in a somewhat dilapidated state, having been severely damaged during the war.

Is it envisaged, if the scheme goes through, that the condition of this fine piece of architecture will be improved? Will the building be restored to something like what it was when designed by Sir Christopher Wren? Will the interior be fitted out in such a way that it will still be a worthy place of worship? I read with some horror that there are to be offices, and so on, contained within the building and I should like to have assurances that they will not in any way detract from the appearance of the interior or in any way prevent its being used as a place of worship. If my hon. and gallant Friend can answer these two sets of questions, it will be a great help to the House.

Although what the building is actually used for is of considerable concern, the architectural considerations are important. There are people who believe that a church is a sacrament in stone which should not be willingly destroyed or dispensed with, and we hear that there was a threat that this building should be partially demolished. Will it emerge, as a result of this scheme, as a worthy architectural example? Can my hon. and gallant Friend say whether proper access will be available to any places of interest, or memorials of interest, in the interior? Will it be possible for research students, and so on, to be able to have access to anything which could conceivably be of interest in the interior at reasonable times of the day? If my hon. and gallant Friend can answer those questions satisfactorily the scheme would have my support.

2.0 a.m.

Commander Sir Peter Agnew (Worcestershire, South)

I have no complaint with the way that the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) has moved the negativing of this supplementary scheme which the Church Commissioners have made. This is the last day on which he could have done it. That, however, is not the fault of the Church Commissioners. Having said that I have no complaint as to the general way he deployed his arguments I at once want to rebut, on behalf of the Commissioners, any suggestion that they have acted in an underhand way, or used unworthy methods to promote the scheme with which they are associated. To demonstrate clearly to the House, even at this late hour, I must give a little information further to that which the House has so far received. At the outset, let me say that the duty of replying to a Motion of this kind would ordinarily have fallen on the Second Church Estates Commissioner. He is as yet non-existent, and that is the reason why I, from the other side of the House, and who am an elected Commissioner, find that duty put upon me.

I think that much of the criticism revolves around the suggestion that Canon Satterthwaite, the priest-in-charge, was left in ignorance of this scheme which we are considering tonight until he read of it in the newspaper. I think that I can satisfy the House that that suggestion is wholly without foundation, and that the hon. Gentleman, in sincerely believing it, no doubt, has, in fact, been categorically misinformed.

Mr. Driberg

This is rather serious. The hon. and gallant Baronet is saying that Canon Satterthwaite himself, from whom I received this information, is a liar.—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, indeed. He said that what I said about Canon Satterthwaite not being informed of this was completely without foundation. That comes from the Canon himself. It is not that he read it in the newspaper, but he learned it by chance when he telephoned the diocesan office two months after the expiry.

Sir P. Agnew

At the risk of detaining the House much longer than I wished to do I shall have to give in rather greater detail the somewhat long history of this case. It goes back to 1962—to 23rd November—when the Diocesan Reorganisation Committee of London met and decided on consultations with those concerned, with a view to a reorganisation scheme, to restore the church for use by the Diocesan Council of Christian Stewardship, and that it should be considered and accepted, together with a chapel open to the public, and with a chaplain.

After the Diocesan Committee met and decided in principle that it accepted those proposals—that was on the Friday—it was regrettable that, on the Sunday following, two days later, there was a leakage from a member, clearly, of that Committee, to the Sunday Telegraph, which printed an article by its ecclesiastical correspondent, giving the information that I have just given to the House.

On the following day, Monday, 26th November, the Secretary of the London Diocesan Reorganisational Committee wrote to Canon Satterthwaite to apologise for his apparent discourtesy in not informing him and the Guild Church Council as to what was afoot—what the proposals were that the London Diocesan Reorganisational Committee intended to support. In that letter he informed Canon Satterthwaite that under the Committee's proposals Saint Michael Paternoster Royal would cease to be a Guild church.

Mr. Driberg

What date was that?

Sir P. Agnew

That letter was written to him by the Archdeacon of Hackney on Monday, 26th November, 1962.

In that same letter the Archdeacon of Hackney as Secretary expressed his wish to consult Canon Satterthwaite and the Guild Church Council and suggested that he might be invited to attend a meeting of the Guild Church Council to explain the proposals fully. The meeting took place of the Guild Church Council and the Archdeacon of Hackney was invited and did attend it. That meeting took place on Thursday, 3rd January, 1963, the immediately following year.

It is important, to clear up the facts, to consider the minutes of the meeting of the Guild Church Council, which have here. Minute No. 148 reads as follows: The Secretary of the London Diocesan Re-organisational Committee outlined the proposal. After details about the treatment of the building itself it goes on: The Archdeacon explained that the church would cease to be a Guild church and that it would not have any parochial status, but that the Bishop of London would appoint a chaplain for the chapel. There then followed a discussion in which Canon Satterthwaite, as Chairman of the Guild Church Council, stated his objection in that the proposals had been put forward without either reference to the Guild Church Council or himself as Guild Vicar of St. Dunstan-in-the-West—not as Guild Vicar of St. Michael Paternoster Royal, because there has not been one since 1959. But it is also important that at the end of that meeting a resolution was passed by the Guild Church Council as follows: That St. Michael Paternoster Royal should be rebuilt to provide facilities for cultural activities in the area and that adequate provision should be made for a reasonably sized chapel where regular worship could be maintained and would be of ready access to the public, and that such a chapel should be served by a chapel committee. I think that the case cannot be sustained that Canon Satterthwaite and the Guild Church Council did not know and were not informed at a very early stage of what were the proposals which the London Diocesan Reorganisational Committee were supporting and were going to put forward if no objections were received. It is evidence that this scheme could be regarded by the Church Commissioners, when the matter came to them later with the approval of the Bishop of London, as an unopposed scheme, after the Guild Church Council had itself gone so far as to move a resolution, the terms of which I quoted.

Mr. Driberg

There is clearly a conflict of evidence here. May I try to clear up the misunderstanding that there must have been? No doubt Canon Satterthwaite knew about this earlier proposal. But what he required to know was the date on which the Commissioners would formally put forward the scheme, so that objections could be lodged. That is what he did not know.

Sir P. Agnew

I do not want to weary the House with a succession of dates, which are really the legal steps one after the other which were taken with all propriety by the Organisation Committee, the Bishop of London and, in their turn, by Church Commissioners.

The Church Commissioners, for whom I speak tonight, had the task of drafting the scheme in its legal sense and then, as they are charged to do under the terms of the Reorganisation Measure of 1944, of sending out notices to those who have to be informed when a draft scheme is proposed so that they may have the proper opportunity provided by the law for registering objections to it if they wish to do so.

The Church Commissioners sent out the notices in the form expressly laid down in Section 52 of the Reorganisation Measure. They sent them out by post to the last known adresses of those to whom they had to be sent. They did not have to send one to the priest-in-charge; Canon Satterthwaite was not directly sent a notice. They sent one, as they are charged to do, to the Secretary of the Guild Church Council, by name, at his address. It so happened that the Secretary of that Council, Mr. Pearson, was having his holiday at the time and got back late, with only one or two days before the six weeks were up in which it was open to anybody to make an objection.

In the event, the Church Commissioners received no objections and they had every right to regard the scheme as an unopposed one because obviously the Guild Church Council had itself gone so far, and had accepted the principle of the scheme, as to set up a chapel committee and to pass the resolution which I quoted asking that the building be rebuilt as a cultural centre with a chapel.

I turn to the question of the doubt which has been thrown by the hon. Member for Barking on the legality of the processes under which the church, once designated in the Act of 1952 as a Guild church, may be, in the convenient phrase which the hon. Member used, "deguilded". The Church Commissioners have taken counsel's opinion and, furthermore, they have taken the opinion of two separate counsels, and, as a result, they are quite satisfied about the insertion in the Guild Churches Act, 1952, of Section 27, conveying a cross-reference into the Reorganisation Measure of 1944 and making Guild churches subject, if anybody wanted them to be subject, at a later date, to the Reorganisation Measure.

They are quite satisfied that paragraph (c) of Section 20 of the Measure, which states that a church may be appropriated, does, in fact, involve the very process of appropriation to another use and, therefore, destroys the hitherto Guild status of the church. That is why this paragraph is mentioned in the Guild Churches Act. Indeed, one of the other processes might have been asked for by somebody, namely, demolition. If the church had been demolished, who could then have said that it still retained its status as a Guild church? That could not be so.

Therefore, it is the opinion of the Church Commissioners, fortified by the opinion of learned counsel whom they have consulted, that the process under which this scheme was laid on the Table of the House, nearly 28 days ago, is absolutely legal. They believe that the scheme was virtually unopposed, although subject to lengthy discussion in the London Diocesan Reorganisation Committee and at a meeting of Guild Church Council itself.

It is with that knowledge that they, themselves, having acted most scrupulously in the duties imposed by the Reorganisation Measure, cannot see lit to withdraw the scheme and wish that the Motion to disapprove of it should be negatived if and when it is put to the House.

I should like, briefly, to answer the questions put to me by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke). He asked what safeguards there are for the priest-in-charge in so far as his career is concerned. The safeguards are, I think, ample, because Canon Satterthwaite is the Guild Vicar of St. Dunstan's-in-the-West, which has the appropriate stipend for a Guild vicar. He is also Secretary-General of the Archbishop's Committee on Foreign Relations and, I believe, receives an appropriate remuneration for that. I do not think that there should be any worry on that aspect of this case.

As to what will happen to the building, I can tell the House that the exterior will be restored to present the appearance as nearly as possible to what the great architect, Wren, saw when he had finished his work three centuries ago. As to the interior, copies of the scheme, which were available in the Vote Office, show that the inside of the building is divided as to about two-thirds for the chapel that is to be created in the east and middle portions, and as to the remaining one-third, towards the extreme west, for the offices of the Diocesan Guild of Christian Stewardship.

I cannot say whether any memorials that may be on the walls of the church building in that portion that is to remain as offices will be readily accessible to the public, but I can say that the greater part of the building, the chapel, to which are to be removed the church fittings, which have been carefully looked after and are ready to be reinstalled, will be open to the public at reasonable times.

After the explanation I have given, I trust that the hon. Member for Barking will withdraw the Motion.

Mr. Driberg

Am I allowed to make one or two very brief observations, Mr. Deputy-Speaker?

The Deputy-Speaker (Sir Samuel Storey)

Yes. The hon. Member can speak again.

2.22 a.m.

Mr. Driberg

I was completely unaware, I say it frankly, of the resolution by the Guild Church Council which the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir P. Agnew) had read out, and, of course, I naturally accept what he has said on that point. I was myself under the impression that what the Guild Church Council had agreed to was the scheme in general—for the offices, the chapel, and so on—but that it did not appreciate that this involved also the demotion, if that is the word, of its church from being a Guild church.

I quite see that what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has read out about the chaplain and the chapel rather confirms what he says, but I still cannot understand why it was thought necessary to do this. It is quite possible, in conformity with Section 27 and Section 20 of the other Measure, to appropriate a church or part of a church, and still allow it to retain Guild church status. If the bishop is to appoint a chaplain, anyway, I cannot quite see why there should be all this fuss, and why he cannot make that chaplain the Guild church vicar. Presumably, he would be the secretary of the Christian Stewardship Council, which is to occupy the offices. I cannot understand why they should insist on depriving the church of its Guild church status.

It was a very inconvenient time of year. The Church Commissioners know as well as anyone that August is the time when many people are on holiday and is a a very awkward time to push something through, with 31st August as the last date for lodging objections. I wish that the hon. and gallant Baronet had been able to tell us that, as an act of grace—and they must know the meaning of that term—the Church Commissioners would take this Scheme back just for a few weeks to allow an objection to be lodged and considered in the ordinary way.

I cannot see why he could not have given us that assurance, since there is this definite grievance even if it is based, as he insists—and I accept his word—on a misunderstanding of the position, or on forgetfulness. I wish that he could have told us that. I do not know what the position is of trying to press the Motion to a Division—I do not know how many hon. Members are left in the precincts of the House, and it might be a farcical Division, to be frank—but I am sorry to say that I do not feel inclined to withdraw my Motion.

Question put:

The House proceeded to a Division; but no Member being willing to act as Teller for the Ayes, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER declared that the Noes had it.