HC Deb 18 February 1964 vol 689 cc1158-60

10.26 p.m.

Sir John Arbuthnot (Dover)

I beg to move, That the Churchwardens (Appointment and Resignation) Measure 1964, passed by the National Assembly of the Church of England, he presented to Her Majesty for Her Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament. Much of the law relating to the appointment of churchwardens is contained in the Canons of 1603. Consequently, craft Canons dealing with this matter were included in those put forward by the Commission in 1947. When these came to be discussed, however, it was realised that there were a number of unresolved difficulties consequent on the considerable changes that have taken place in the last 360 years. It was therefore thought desirable to postpone consideration of these Canons until a Measure had been passed which would iron out some, if not all, of these anomalies.

This Measure does nothing very revolutionary, but it does meet some of the questions, such as: how does a churchwarden resign? The Measure lays down the number and qualifications of churchwardens. At present, churchwardens need not be members of the Church of England. The Measure now provides that they must be actual communicant members of the Church of England, except where the bishop shall otherwise permit. The Measure also makes it clear that the office of churchwarden is vacated if the churchwarden ceases to reside in the parish or to have his name on the electoral roll. It also provides for appeals in the case of arguments or disputes, for which there is at present no provision.

At no time was there a division on the Measure in the Assembly, and the Ecclesiastical Committee has reported upon it that it is expedient and ought to proceed.

Sir Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)

Perhaps my hon. Friend would answer a question on the new qualifications for churchwardens. Doubtless the name of any individual would be brought forward only if he had past experience and was a communicant member of the Church, but if, during his year of office, the individual failed to communicate, are we to understand that he would thereby be automatically precluded from having his name brought forward in the subsequent year.

Sir J. Arbuthnot

I understand that that need not necessarily be so, as it is possible for a bishop to permit people to be churchwardens who are not members of the Church of England. There have been cases where, as there were insufficient communicant members of the Church of England of sufficient ability to be churchwardens, public-spirited members of other Churches have consented to act. I therefore think that the answer would be "No."

Sir S. Summers

I am not sure that I agree. If I may clarify the point I made in the context of a person being deemed to be a communicant member, is it a question of once and once only? Is it a question of once in a certain period? What is the criterion, rather than it being a matter of members of other churches being suitable persons to fill a vacancy? Does being held to be a communicant member rely on any question of time, or is it merely a matter of once in the past?

Sir J. Arbuthnot

Once a year.

Question put and agreed to.