HC Deb 15 October 1975 vol 897 cc1513-29

11.43 p.m.

Mr. Terry Walker (Kingswood)

I beg to move, That the Incumbents (Vacation of Benefices) Measure, passed by the General Synod 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. It was as long ago as 1966 that the Convocation of Canterbury—that is the clergymen—passed a resolution affirming their confidence in the ecclesiastical judicial measure for discipline cases but declaring that there was a need to provide a means whereby, when it was in the interests of the man or his parish, an incumbent could, after due inquiry, be removed from his benefice and offered a suitable post elsewhere.

The present measure accordingly seeks to deal with this area, where there is no suggestion of criminal conduct on the part of the incumbent but where his relationship with his parish or a substantial body of his parishioners has so deteriorated that pastoral care has come virtually to an end. The Measure is based on proposals presented to the General Synod in 1972. In 1974 it passed all the necessary stages in the General Synod. At no stage was there a division. It has been understood throughout to be legislation of an essentially domestic and pastoral character.

At the same time, care has been taken to allow legal representation where required and not to deny the claims of natural justice, particularly to those whose livelihoods are affected. The Measure applies to incumbents of benefices. It does not apply to non-beneficed clergy, such as assistant curates or curates in sole charge of a parish, since in their case the licence granted by the bishop of the diocese is also terminable by him at any time.

Part I of the Measure refers to those cases where there has been a serious breakdown of the pastoral relationship between the incumbent and his parishioners. This may be attributed to faults or disagreements on the part of the incumbent or his parishioners, or both.

Part II refers to cases of disability, where it is considered that the incumbent of a benefice is unable by reason of age or infirmity of mind or body to discharge adequately his duties. Similar provisions exist in the Incumbents (Disability) Measure 1945, which is to be repealed by this new measure. For both types of case there is to be a common basic procedure available, namely an inquiry conducted by a diocesan committee comprised of three clergy and two laymen drawn from elected diocesan, ministerial and lay councils. In the case of an inquiry into pastoral breakdown under Part I, the incumbent may opt for the inquiry to be conducted by a provincial tribunal consisting of a diocesan chancellor or Queen's counsel, who shall be the chairman, two clergymen and two laymen, where the parties concerned may be represented by a barrister or solicitor.

The constitution of these diocesan committees and provincial tribunals, and the procedure they are to follow, are set out clearly in the schedule of this Measure. Diocesan committees and provisional tribunals are required to report to the bishop. They cannot recommend that an incumbent should leave his benefice unless at least four of the five members are in favour of such a recommendation.

Furthermore, where an incumbent loses his benefice on the grounds that the committee or tribunal is of the opinion that there has been a serious breakdown of the pastoral relationship between the incumbent and the parishioners, the incumbent is entitled, pending a new appointment, to claim compensation for the loss he has suffered by reason of the enforced vacation of his benefice on the basis already laid down in the Pastoral Measure 1968, Schedule 4, when an incumbent is dispossessed. On the other hand the committee or tribunal report may lead to a rebuke from the bishop to either incumbent or parishioners, or indeed both, or the giving of such pastoral advice or guidance as the bishop should deem appropriate.

The expression "serious pastoral breakdown" is hard to define with any kind of precision, and the General Synod has taken care to safeguard the Church from what could be a spate of frivolous or hasty charges by limiting those who can make requests for official inquiries to be instituted. The Measure therefore provides that only the incumbent himself, if he feels sufficiently aggrieved by the conduct of some or all of his parishioners, secondly the archdeacon, or thirdly the majority of the lay members of the parochial church council—that is, those who are directly responsible for the affairs of the church in that parish—may ask for an inquiry. The option is not given to any chance group of disgruntled parishioners to initiate action against their incumbents.

The Ecclesiastical Committee found the Measure to be expedient subject to the reservation about Clause 18. That clause gives the General Synod power to make rules and to make further provisions for the constitution and procedures of diocesan committees and pastoral tribunals, which matters are included in the schedule of this Measure.

The General Synod found itself in some difficulty. In the past it has been advised that it should not take up the time of Parliament with Measures which deal with comparatively minor matters but that it should confine itself to matters of broad principle. The Synod's approach has been on this basis.

I assure the House that the General Synod has no intention to use this power to curtail the rights of individuals, whether clerical or lay, who may have to appear before these committees and tribunals. Rather, the power is seen to be a means of giving added protection and safeguards, should these seem to be necessary, when the committees and tribunals have actually been appointed.

Finally, any rules made under the power will need the approval of all three Houses in the General Synod—the Bishops, the Clergy and the Laity—and will be subject to annulment in either House of Parliament.

11.50 p.m.

Mr. Patrick Mayhew (Royal Tunbridge Wells)

The hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) said that care had been taken by the General Synod to have regard to the rules and principles of natural justice. I oppose this Measure and hope to persuade hon. Members to oppose it first and foremost because there is, to my way of thinking, a fundamental denial of the rules of natural justice in one of the provisions. There are three other blemishes in the Measure to which I object.

I have to confess at the outset that I read the Measure for the first time only two hours ago, and therefore I am sorry that my speech is not as carefully constructed as I would like. I deal first with the most important point, which arises out of the failure of this Measure to confer any right upon the incumbent to be heard personally by the diocesan committee or provincial tribunal set up by the bishop to inquire whether there has been a breakdown in the pastoral relationship brought about by the conduct of the clergyman.

I make it clear at once that I am not against the intention of the Measure. I am for it. I think it is long overdue that there should be granted to the Church the power to get rid of an incumbent who should properly be got rid of. I am in favour of the intention of the Measure.

But we must never lose sight of the fact that a clergyman whose benefice may be declared to be vacated under the provisions of this Measure is a clergyman who will lose his livelihood. Therefore, it seems to me to be absolutely fundamental that he must be given the right to be heard by the committee that carries out that inquiry.

This is even more strongly the case, surely, when one reads in Clause 10 that where the committee recommends that the bishop "shall" declare the benefice to be vacated he will have no discretion, provided that the diocesan committee makes that recommendation by a majority of four to one. If four out of the five make that recommendation, the bishop "shall" comply with it.

Therefore, one has the position that a clergyman may be deprived of his livelihood as a result of an inquiry carried out by a committee before which he is or may have been denied the right to attend in person and state his case.

I must not be seen to be making a false or unfair point. It is true that there is a right conferred upon the incumbent to make written representations. However, the diocesan committee of inquiry is given the right by Clause 10 to invite any person who may, in its opinion, be able to assist it, to address the committee or tribunal or give oral evidence. The procedure to be followed is set out in Part III of the schedule at page 17. For example, the committee has the right to invite a clergyman's detractors to give oral evidence, but the clergyman has no right to give oral evidence himself, if the committee does not invite him to do so, or to call evidence, or to address the committee in person. That has only to be stated to reveal a fundamental denial of one of the first and most important principles of natural justice, namely, that one should have the right to state one's case. I do not have to elaborate that.

I pass to the remaining points to which I object in the Measure. They are not of the same importance as the first one, but they are important.

The first is that there is no right to object to more than two members of the diocesan committee of inquiry. This provision is to be found in the schedule. A clergyman may object, but does not have to give his reasons, to two members of the panel appointed by the registrar. Why cannot he object to each of those members of the panel if he has reason to do so and why should there not be the bishop or some other established authority to adjudicate on whether there is good reason? Why should not the procedure that applies in the case of juries apply here? This provision is profoundly wrong.

Secondly, in paragraph 8 of the schedule it says that of this committee of five members, three shall be the quorum. However, nowhere is it provided that the three who constitute the quorum shall attend every meeting of the committee, that is to say, shall be present throughout the proceedings. We must not lose sight of the fact that the committee has jurisdiction to sack the clergyman, since the bishop has to act upon the recommendation. Why is there not a provision that this quorum of three shall consist only of members who are present at every meeting, that is to say throughout the whole proceedings?

Lastly, paragraph 13 of the schedule says that all proceedings shall be in private. Why on earth should they be in private? In certain proper cases they may be in private. If that were the provision in the Measure it would be in line with the jurisdiction conferred upon many disciplinary committees, for example, for the professions. However, why should a committee with this powerful jurisdiction, which I have already emphasised, have to sit in private? It means that a man may lose his livelihood by virtue of its recommendation and yet never have its deliberations and in particular the evidence heard in public. This is a thoroughly undesirable and unsatisfactory feature of the measure.

I do not take issue with the provision that the bishop has to comply with the recommendation of the committee if it is made by the majority of four out of five. I do not like it. I should have preferred the bishop to retain his discretion in a matter so important as this. But as we have legislated for synodical government, this is a matter that should be left to the Church to decide. If the Church wants that, well and good.

In conclusion, I revert to the first point that I made. It is of fundamental importance that a man has the right to attend, be heard and call evidence if he wishes, and that right is not conferred by the Measure. This is a point which is expressly made in the report by the Ecclesiastical Committee in the document that accompanies this measure at paragraph 10. The schedule does not confer on the parties the right to be heard. It is no good saying "Oh well, he always would be given the right". That is not good enough. In this House we should not connive at the passing of legislation that infringes the principles of natural justice. I hope that hon. Gentlemen—

Mr. Peter Rees (Dover and Deal)

Will my hon. and learned Friend elucidate one point? I have followed with interest the point he is making. Paragraph 11 of the schedule says: The incumbent concerned shall be entitled to attend any meeting of the committee or tribunal at which any other person is to give evidence to, or be heard by, the committee or tribunal and to put questions to that person. Paragraph 9(1) says: Any person may make written representations to the committee or tribunal. It occurs to me that the tribunal could not proceed without either written representations or oral evidence. Is it my hon. and learned Friend's view that, if written representations were made, paragraph 11 would entitle an incumbent to attend? If that were so, clearly an incumbent has the right to attend if oral evidence is given. If my hon. and learned Friend takes the view that an incumbent also has the right to attend if written representations are made, that might cover all the eventualities, as presumably the commitee of inquiry could not proceed without either written or oral evidence of some kind. It is a difficult point. Obviously my hon. and learned Friend has given it closer attention than I have.

Mr. Mayhew

Where only written evidence is to be received by the committee, I do not think that the incumbent is entitled to attend and make a speech, which is the point about which I am concerned. Paragraph 11 is a little obscure. One cannot put questions to a person whose evidence is given only in writing. That is the answer to the point raised by my hon. and learned Friend. It is true that by virtue of paragraph 11 there is an entitlement to put questions to anyone who gives evidence to the committee. However, one cannot open one's case and outline one's answer to the charges made. One cannot make a speech at the end of the case. This is an extraordinarily truncated attempt to comply with the requirements of natural justice.

12.2 a.m.

Mr. Peter Mills (Devon, West)

I welcome this chance of saying a few words about the Measure. I do not think that it is a minor matter, though that is how the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) described it. It is a matter of great importance.

It is very sad that a Measure such as this should have to come before the House. I believe sincerely, as I am sure most hon. Members believe, that the Church should be a Church of reconciliation. It is very sad that Christians cannot agree in matters such as this. It would be as well for the Church of England to remind itself that it is a Church of reconciliation.

As I read the Measure, it goes against the whole of the New Testament. I am reminded of such exhortations as that we be reconciled to one another. However, that having been said, we must return to earth. This is an imperfect world and we have an imperfect Church, regrettably. Therefore, I believe that there is, regrettably, a need for a Measure of this sort.

Turning to the question of compulsory resignation, for that is what this is, I am unhappy about the phrase breakdown of the pastoral relationship". How sad that is. I know from working in the Church of England in the remote rural areas where many head-on collisions of this type occur that it is because over a period of time there has not been sufficient aid and care accorded to the incumbent. I know that men become embittered, lonely and frustrated. It is in that sort of situation that the head-on clash develops. There is then a breakdown of the pastoral relationship between the incumbent and his flock. I hope that the bishops and the archdeacons will take far more time—I appreciate that they lead busy and difficult lives—to help and encourage the parish priests. That is a matter of vital importance.

Clause 10(7) reads: the bishop may give such pastoral advice and guidance". I believe that "may" is the wrong word. A bishop should do so. It is not a question of "may". That must be the first duty of a bishop or archdeacon. They must look after their incumbents and their flocks when there are real problems.

We must ask ourselves why such a situation can develop. Why is there a breakdown of the pastoral relationship? It may be because of the problems of churchmanship. Perhaps far more care should be taken in the appointment of parish priests to certain parishes. That is probably a matter that will be coming up in other measures. There is no question about it, head-on clashes sometimes develop because of the problem of churchmanship. I regret it, but that is a fact of life.

We must also take into account that sometimes there is a lack of Christian charity on the part of parishioners. I hope that the Church will look carefully at the whole business of Christian charity and give and take, particularly when things begin to go wrong in a parish.

I must reiterate that there is the problem of despondency. I find that this occurs in rural areas because of the remoteness, lack of communication, lack of encouragement and lack of fellowship. Some parish priests become very much run down, and their position can be understood. In such instances there develops a real breakdown between the incumbent and his flock.

I hesitate to say this, but this Measure puts real power in the hands of the bishops. We cannot run away from that fact. Although we are prepared to trust the bishops, I believe that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Mayhew) has put his finger on a very important point in that there must be proper safeguards. It is quite obvious that I am not of a legal mind, but I feel that my hon. and learned Friend has raised a matter that should be considered and resolved. There should be proper safeguards and proper supervision. We should do everything possible to see that the incumbent has every safeguard.

Mr. Ivor Clemitson (Luton, East)

We have heard quite a lot from Conservatives about the inadequacies of this measure in terms of protecting the incumbent, but I put it to the hon. Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills) that there are a considerable number of clergymen in the Church of England—I would guess that they are an increasing number—who are not incumbents and who hold jobs at least as responsible as those of incumbents who do not enjoy any of the protections contained in this Measure—clergyman who can be fired with very little protection afforded to them. I would like the hon. Gentleman to comment on the position of clergymen in that position.

Mr. Mills

With great respect I believe that I should be out of order, because although I understand what the hon. Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson) is getting at, I point out that we are dealing with people who have livings. I do not think that the point he raises comes into the matter.

I turn from compulsory resignation to compulsory retirement. As we examine this Measure we must ask ourselves why incumbents continue to go on and on well past the time when they should have retired. The reason concerns not only the question of a pension but that of accommodation. That is why an incumbent is prepared to go on in his living far beyond the time at which he should retire. I speak to myself as much as to anyone else when I say that the Church of England should wake up to its financial responsibilities in provisions for elderly clergy so that they can retire. That will ensure that this sort of situation does not arise. I understand that a pension can be provided in this situation, but I suggest, from my knowledge, that many times it is the case that elderly clergy have nowhere to go—no alternative accommodation.

The Church of England must wake up to its responsibilities in this matter, because if one has been a parish priest for many years one has no chance of saving any money or putting by for retirement. With inflation roaring ahead there is no hope for such people ever getting a house of their own so that they can retire.

I believe that before such a serious step as compulsory retirement is taken, we should try, in these difficult times, to make better provisions for accommodation for these elderly people.

I shall not vote against this Measure. I see the need for it, when we come to the end of the road in this difficult situation. However, I hope that we shall always seek to be a Church of reconciliation so that this sort of situation will never arise.

12.13 a.m.

Mr. John Cordle (Bournemouth, East)

I closely follow the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills) in respect of the extraordinarily low incomes that clergymen receive even in 1975. If we compare the salaries they receive with those that are given abroad, especially in the United States, we see that they are deplorable.

However, turning to this Measure, one is always suspicious of proposals to remove old men from office against their will. The history of our country shows that many men have done their best work after the age of seventy.

We cannot overlook the fact that only a few years ago the Church courts were used to deprive a Godly clergyman of his living because he refused to yield to the pressures of some of his congregation I am referring to Mr. Grubb, who is the late rector of Spaxton in Somerset. Sometimes one begins to feel that nowadays, whatever happens, the parson is always wrong and the contentious parishioner is invariably right. We need a new breed of bishops who will be equally true and righteous both with clergymen and with laity.

For these and other reasons I hope that this House will watch closely the manner in which this Measure is applied. There ought to be some inexpensive way in which maltreated clergy can appeal to the Ombudsman when they are mishandled, as they think, by their superiors.

I should like to think that if the proposals are to be approved in their present form, equally stringent measures will be applied to bishops and dignitaries in the near future if this can be done and if the need arises.

I believe that this House, while leaving the General Synod to debate and formulate its own laws for the better government of the national Church, must always guard the rights of the individual citizen, whether ordained or lay. This especially applies in cases of elderly clergymen who have given the best years of their lives to serve at cut-price rates of pay far below those available to their contemporaries in universities who turned to teaching and to other learned professions. Most of these men cannot afford to save to buy homes for their retirement, or to rent adequate accommodation, if they can find it. We all know that the supply of Church pension homes is very limited.

May I pose a serious question? Will the compensation proposed take account of the fact that the man losing his living will be homeless?

I think that we must approve this Measure, at the same time making it clear that this House is not here to rubber-stamp anything which the General Synod may lay before it in future. For my part, I am glad to know that there is some concern in this House and in another place about a further Measure which proposes the confiscation of private patronage.

In conclusion, I should add that, in the light of the Archbishop's appeal to the nation today, this House must not shrug off its ancient responsibility for moral leadership in national life.

12.17 a.m.

Sir Michael Havers (Wimbledon)

I speak not only as a lawyer but as an ex-chancellor of two dioceses.

I am impressed by the points made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Mayhew), in particular the denial in this Measure of the absolute right for an incumbent to be heard and to call witnesses in an inquiry where the report of those hearing it, if it is four out of the five, shall be acted upon with no discretion by the bishop. This is putting an incumbent in a position which will remove from him not only his livelihood but his right to a freehold which exists at the moment. No person charged with any criminal offence or who faces any sort of inquiry is placed in that situation.

This matter ought to be taken back and looked at by the Synod when it meets again, as I understand, in November. The rules of natural justice must be made clear and brought back to this House, and the other matters mentioned by my hon. and learned Friend should also be looked at. In particular, this matter should be looked at as it is mandatory upon the bishop to act upon the recommendation. If that were done, the purposes of the Measure would not only be sensible but right. I am sure that the House would then welcome and pass the Measure. At the moment, I feel unable to allow the Measure to go through in this way, because a major departure from the rules of natural justice is unfortunately enshrined in it.

12.20 a.m.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

I view this Measure with deep concern and perhaps like other Members of this honourable House I am concerned about many of the Measures being passed by the General Synod. My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Cordle) mentioned another Measure that is likely to come before the House in the not-too-distant future.

We must not overlook natural justice, and I am amazed that the Second Church Estates Commissioner can put forward this Measure on behalf of the Synod when so much natural justice is denied to a person who is so dependent upon his living. I am deeply concerned about this, and along with the points that have been so well covered, I want to refer to Clause 4 which seems to be nothing but blackmail, because if an incumbent knows that an inquiry is likely to be set up and he resigns before it has its first meeting, he is entitled to compensation. This clause will, therefore, put an incumbent in a very difficult position. It will put him under a tremendous amount of pressure. He will ask, "Can I adequately defend myself against a person or a group of people who have pressed for an inquiry to be set up into the way that I administer my parish?".

This is wrong, and for this reason and the lack of natural justice which we would all expect to be given to any person I believe that the Measure should be opposed.

12.22 a.m.

Mr. Terry Walker

I am grateful to hon. Members for raising various points and I should like to make a few comments in reply.

I believe that in this whole discussion it should not be overlooked that the Church is about people. It is the people who sit in the pews who must be thought about, as well as the incumbents, whose case has had such a wide airing from the Opposition side of the House.

This Measure is concerned not with a criminal trial but with the problems of men. It is concerned with a disastrous situation where there has been a breakdown of relationships within a parish. We recognise that this is a regrettable occurrence but it is something that has to be worked out between the clergyman and his people. We very much hope that these things will not come to the committees at all but will be dealt with in other ways.

The composition of these committees is important. It should not be overlooked that the panels are elected by the clergy and laity of the diocese. There will be maximum consultation—

Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)

It is a spurious argument that these panels are elected by the clergy and laity of the diocese. There has been some sort of an election in the diocese in which I live. We were presented with a list of 16 names. I am a reasonable visitor round the diocese, and I know quite a number of people in it, but I had heard of only one of the 16 names. I knew basically nothing about the other 15. The elections are bogus. They are confined to a mutual admiration society and a small clique. There is nothing democratic about them. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not forget that part of the argument.

Mr. Walker

A similar argument has been used about elections to this House.

The position is that four of the five members of the committee have to be in agreement. The incumbent is entitled to submit written evidence. He can also be asked to come and give whatever evidence he wants to the committee. Further, if anyone else is heard the incumbent has the right to be present, with or without his legal advisers, to hear all that is said.

Mr. Mayhew

The hon. Member has said that the clergy and tribunals are elected. Would he look at Part II of the schedule, on page 16, paragraph 4, where it says that in the case of a provincial tribunal the persons constituting the tribunal shall be appointed by the Vicar-General? The five persons so appointed are described in sub-paragraph (2). They are not elected by anybody. They are appointed.

Mr. Walker

There was one point that needs clarification. It is not the livelihood of the incumbent that is in question. If he loses his benefice he can, of course, receive financial compensation in respect of his stipend and the loss of his work. Also, as I spelt out when I introduced this matter, the parties concerned can be represented by a barrister or solicitor. This is important.

Finally, the General Synod of the Church of England has dealt with this and at no stage has there been a division. When the Ecclesiastical Committee met there were some reservations about one clause but it was passed. The objections raised tonight would have been much better raised before, because it would have helped us in our deliberations there.

Sir Michael Havers

The House would be grateful if the Second Church Estate Commissioner would tell us whether the points raised tonight were raised in debate in the Synod, and also if he would answer the very pertinent point put to him by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Mayhew). Is he telling the House that the right to question those who attend—not a right to challenge written evidence—is sufficient when there is an absolute denial of the right to attend and to give evidence on one's own behalf? I am sure that the House would like to hear the answer to that.

Mr. Walker

When this matter came to the Synod there was a discussion about it. Obviously I have not the record here at this stage, but the points raised here have all been adequately dealt with before. When it came to the Ecclesiastical Committee I am quite sure that this point was not raised at all by any members present, and certainly this was something that was not considered to be important at the time.

Sir Michael Havers

Is the hon. Member telling the House that one of the most fundamental principles of natural justice either was not discussed at Synod or was considered to be of no importance?

Mr. Walker

We are, with respect, not talking about a criminal trial. As I have already said, we are talking about a serious breakdown between an incumbent and his parish. That has been the view throughout all the discussions.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)

Is the hon. Member saying that an incumbent whose whole livelihood has been challenged—and his home, for which he gets no guaranteed alternative accommodation—is allowed to see and to know the contents of the written allegations made against him but may not himself speak concerning these allegations?

Mr. Walker

In Part III of the Schedule, paragraph 9(2) reads: Where any person, other than the incumbent concerned, makes written representations to the committee or tribunal, the incumbent concerned shall be entitled to be supplied with a copy of those representations and within three weeks after such copy is supplied to him to send his comments thereon in writing to the committee or tribunal, as the case may be.

Mr. Mayhew

Before the hon. Gentleman sits down I wish to put a point to him. In some respects he has been put into an unfair position because unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to give him prior notice of the points I wanted to raise. That was because I saw them myself only shortly before our debate began. Will the hon. Member now concede that he is not in a position to answer the main point which has been made tonight, a point which has not been challenged by anyone from the Government benches?

Perhaps these matters were dealt with in committee and in debate in the Synod, but if they were the hon. Gentleman is not able to answer the criticisms. Would it not be better for the hon. Gentleman to take this Measure back to the Synod at its November meetings so that it may be brought back to this House with the correct answer?

Mr. Walker

No, Sir.

12.30 a.m.

Mr. Richard Wood (Bridlington)

The hon. Member has heard the arguments which have been carefully adduced tonight and he will be aware of two things. First, the principle of the measure is largely accepted in this House. Secondly, he will realise that there is profound disquiet on the point and that it is giving rise to argument.

It is distasteful to most of us to have to vote against a Measure with which in principle we agree, but for the reasons given by my hon. Friends I do not think we have any alternative. If it is in the hon. Member's power, therefore, I hope that he will reconsider what he has just said. He can be reasonably sure that if the point that the House has made this evening can reasonably be met the House will, when the Measure next comes before it, be willing to agree to it. In its present form, however, the House will certainly reject it.

Mr. Walker

By leave of the House, may I say that these points have been gone through very thoroughly by the Synod. I believe that the points raised tonight have been answered as eloquently as has been possible.

Question put, That the Incumbents (Vacation of Benefices) Measure, passed by the General Synod 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.

The House divided: Ayes 19, Noes 33.

Division No. 343.] AYES [12.33 a.m.
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Noble, Mike Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Cohen, Stanley Penhaligon, David Ward, Michael
Corbett, Robin Roderick, Caerwyn Wrigglesworth, Ian
Dempsey, James Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Horam. John Snape, Peter Mr. Ivor Clemitson and
John, Brynmor Stott, Roger Mr. Frank White.
Mabon, Dr J. Dickson Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Alison, Michael Marquand, David Spearing, Nigel
Banks, Robert Mayhew, Patrick Stradling Thomas, J.
Brotherton, Michael Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove) Wall, Patrick
Bulmer, Esmond Mills, Peter Weatherill, Bernard
Chalker, Mrs Lynda More, Jasper (Ludlow) Wiggin, Jerry
Cordle, John H. Percival, Ian Winterton, Nicholas
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal) Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Durant, Tony Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts) Younger, Hon George
Glyn, Dr Alan Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Havers, Sir Michael Roberts, Wyn (Conway) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hicks, Robert Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Mr. John Wells and
Judd, Frank Silvester, Fred Mr. John Farr.
Kimball, Marcus

Question accordingly negatived.

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