§ 12.3 a.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Worsley (Chelsea)
I beg to move,That the Church Commissioners Measure 1970, passed by the National Assembly of the Church of England, be presented to Her Majesty for Her Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
I think that it will be for the convenience of the House if with this we discuss the second Motion,That the Synodical Government (Special Majorities) Measure 1970, passed by the National Assembly of the Church of England, be presented to Her Majesty for Her Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament.
§ Mr. Worsley
I intend to introduce these Measures extremely briefly. If any hon. Member wishes to refer to them, I will seek to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy 1518 Speaker, and, with the leave of the House, to speak again.
The first, the Church Commissioners Measure, 1970, is needed simply because in 1964 the House of Commons approved the Church Commissioners Measure which brought about a considerable reorganisation of the administration of the Church Commissioners. In particular, it separated what had been a single committee which dealt with both matters of income and expenditure into two committees, namely, the Assets Committee and the General Purposes Committee, one dealing with assets and the other the way in which those assets were spent.
The committees set up under that Measure are statutory and, therefore, in order to make any change in their powers or size it is necessary to come to the House. One of the recommendations of Lord Monckton's Commission under which this Measure was passed was that the administration of the Church Commissioners should be considered every five years. Such a review has taken place 1519 and the only change recommended is simply that both of the two committees I have mentioned should be increased in terms of statutory minimum by two members.
In the case of the Assets Committee, the present membership consists of the Chairman, the First Church Estates Commissioner, one clergyman and three laymen. The House will appreciate that such a very small membership of a committee dealing with very great responsibilities causes difficulties if any of its members are away or abroad or ill. Simply for this reason and for no other, it is requested that the ability be written in by this Measure to have two more members of that committee. The General Purposes Committee is a larger body but it is felt that it, too, should have the ability to have two more members. That is the whole purpose of the Church Commissioners Measure and I commend it to the House.
The Special Majorities Measure refers to the General Synod of the Church of England, which has replaced the National Assembly of the Church of England, generally known as the Church Assembly. Perhaps it is a little anomalous in the sense that this Measure, which was passed by the Church Assembly, should refer to the Synod in future. All this Measure seeks to do is to make two relatively small changes in the procedures of the General Synod.
Both these changes would allow the General Synod to have the power in certain cases to take decisions by special majorities rather than by simple majorities. A special majority is merely something other than a simple majority. It could be a majority of three-quarters or of two-thirds. This idea originates from the proposition in Convocations, when the proposals for unity with the Methodist Church were considered, that a three-quarters majority should be necessary before a decision was taken. That idea was accepted, but a three-quarters majority was not achieved in all the Houses. It is felt that, in future, similar cases—union with other Churches—it would be useful if the Synod were able to decide that the decision should be taken by special majority. That is the first proposition in this Measure. It could 1520 either be a special majority of the General Synod itself or of its constituent Houses or of both.
The second principal point in this Measure is the desirability that, if the Synod wishes to suspend its own standing orders, it should have the power to make a rule to say that those Standing Orders should be suspended only by a special majority. It is visualised that it would be only in very unusual circumstances when something more than a simple majority would be required.
That is the purpose of the Special Majorities Measure. The House will feel, I believe—it has often shown itself to be sensitive on this point—that it provides some sort of protection of minorities in the Church and I hope, therefore, that the Measure will also find the approval of the House.
§ 12.10 a.m.
§ Mr. Peter Mills (Torrington)
I welcome these simple but very important Measures. It is interesting to note—I believe that I am correct in saying this—that these are the last two Measures to come from the old Church Assembly. In future, all the Measures will come from the Synod, rather than from the Church Assembly. This is quite a historic occasion in many ways, for this is the last Measure to come from that other place, and we now start with this very exciting new synodical government.
It is right that there should be the extra number of two to help in dealing with the assets of the Church Commissioners, which are very large and mean a tremendous amount of work. The report of the Ecclesiastical Committee stated that five years' experience had proved that two more were needed, and, while one does not want to appoint more than necessary, it is important to have the help which is required. The report went on to mention flexibility to meet future possible needs, and it is right to provide for the future.
As most hon. Members probably know, I have been a very severe critic of some actions of the Church Commissioners, particularly those concerned with one of the major assets; that is, the farms and agricultural holdings. I have severely criticised their amalgamation policy and their rents, but I do not want to go into those matters tonight. However, 1521 mistake which I made. I made an accusation as regards the succession of sons, and said that the Church Commissioners did not take very much interest, or give very much opportunity for sons to continue tenancies. I have looked into this matter carefully, and have been shown figures of what has happened, and I must say that I was wrong Therefore, I should like to withdraw that accusation, and this is a very good time to do so. However, I do not withdraw my other accusations. What I said earlier was coloured very much by a very real local problem, when a near relative was not given a chance. But I thought it was important that I should make that apology and withdraw what I said.
I should be out of order if I spoke at length on the Synodical Government (Special Majorities) Measure, but I should like to say that it is very important that the word "Synodical" should be heard in this Chamber, perhaps for the first time. There is a great future for synodical government and I believe that this very small Measure is a worthwhile one. All who are interested in this great Church of England look forward to very great things coming from synodical government in the future, and I personally look forward with great interest to Measures being brought from that assembly to this assembly here. I wish it every success.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That the Church Commissioners Measure 1970, passed by the National Assembly of the Church of England, be presented to Her Majesty for Her Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament.
That the Synodical Government (Special Majorities) Measure, 1970, passed by the National Assembly of the Church of England, be presented to Her Majesty for Her Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament.—[Mr. Worsley.]