§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Terry Walker (Kingswood) (Second Church Estates Commissioner)
I beg to move,That the Endowments and Glebe 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.This Measure represents a further step in the process of deploying the historic endowments of Church of England more fairly and effectively and in managing them more efficiently. The Measure is in fact in two main parts and I shall try to deal with these as I go through them.
The first 14 clauses contain provisions about the future application of income from the historic endowments of the Church of England, including income from glebe. The second part of the Measure contains provisions relating to the future ownership and management of glebe lands.
The Church's historic endowments are capital assets the income from which is used for the most part, and can be used only, to provide for the stipends, pensions and houses of the clergy of the Church of England. The annual income from these assets is certainly substantial, but, large though that income is, it is now not by any means enough to meet the whole stipends bill. One-third of a clergyman's stipend now comes on average from current lay giving and as time goes on the proportion which the laity have to provide is likely to increase. This being so, I do not need to stress to the house how important it is that the assets of the Church, including glebe, should be managed efficiently and the income from them distributed fairly; and this is where this Measure comes in.
Historically each bishopric, each cathedral chapter and each benefice had an endowment, usually in the form of a landed estate or right to tithes. Where the incumbent of a parish—the rector or a vicar—owned land to provide his stipend or part of it, this was and still is known as glebe land.
In the course of the nineteenth century, many of the historic endowments of the Church, notably the endowments of the bishops, cathedral chapters and that part 941 of the endowments of benefices which had been turned from lands into other forms of investment, were transferred by Act of Parliament into the ownership of what were then the Ecclesiastical Commissioners what are now, of course, the Church Commissioners. This was done in the interests of the better management of assets and fairer distribution of the incomes from them.
All these were local endowments in the sense that they were originally provided to support a particular ministry in a particular place, whether it was to provide for the ministry of a bishop or a dean and chapter in Bristol or to provide for a parson in a church like St. Mary Redcliffe at Bristol, but over the years successive Measures and Acts have produced a situation in which bishops, deans and canons are no longer separately endowed. Instead, they receive personal stipends drawn from the central pooled fund of the Commissioners. These are periodically adjusted to take account of changing circumstances.
In the case of incumbents—rectors and vicars—the Benefices (Stabilisation of Incomes) Measure 1951 pooled those endowments held by the Church Commissioners separately for particular benefices in return for fixed annual payments. Any subsequent growth in income from these endowments is now available for the benefit of the clergy generally, to be allocated and used where it is most needed.
Through all this, glebe has remained in the incumbent's possession so that incumbents who own glebe are the only clergymen nowadays who directly control the assets from which they are paid, or partly paid. It is as well for the House to know that only 7 per cent. of the clergymen of the Church of England today receive the whole of their stipend from the endowment income of the parish which they serve. For the remaining 93 per cent. the stipend already has to be subsidised from the general funds of the Church Commissioners and from current lay giving.
I have tried to describe a process which has existed for about 140 to 150 years, with each development approved by Parliament. It is arguable that the logical next step would be to go towards the complete pooling of all benefices' endow- 942 ments, including glebe, just as bishops' and cathedral endowments have been pooled. But the Measure stops short of that. It provides that in all benefices the present incumbent or sitting tenant will have a statutory entitlement to receive annually, as part of his stipend, a sum equal to the net endowment income, including any income from glebe, which he was receiving on the appointed day. Looking beyond the present holder of the office, the Measure provides that the incumbent will still have, as one element in his remuneration, a guaranteed annuity equal to the endowment income, including glebe income, which he was receiving on the appointed day, but subject to a ceiling of £1,000 a year.
Clause 1 provides for the payment as from the appointed day of a guaranteed annuity which in no case exceeds £1,000 per annum. Clause 2 provides that for the sitting tenant this will be augmented by a personal grant to bring him up to the amount which he received before. This provision for a guaranteed annuity as a permanent, continuing element in the payment of a rector or vicar will be a tangible reminder of the past provision for the holder of his particular office. The ceiling was fixed at £1,000 so that in 80 per cent. of the cases the guaranteed annuity would be the same as the present endowment income, including glebe income.
Thanks to previous legislation, the process of redistribution has gone so far that the amount of endowment income which will be released by the new Measure as present incumbents retire and the personal grants terminate will not be great. The sum involved will be just over £1 million compared with the existing payments of endowment income of about £8 million. But it is important as a contribution to a more flexible and fairer system of remuneration for the clergy in the parishes.
I turn to the main part of the Measure—Clauses 15 to 28 which deal with the ownership and management of glebe land. First, the Church wishes to be able to treat income from glebe in the same way as other income from endowments. Secondly, glebe land is increasingly important and needs to be efficiently managed with rents regularly and properly reviewed, and kept up to date. Only in that way will glebe make an adequate contribution to the stipends of 943 the clergy. The Measure accordingly provides that glebe land will be transferred on the appointed day not into central hands but into the hands of the local diocese to be held as "diocesan glebe land" for the benefit of the diocesan stipends fund.
Some glebe is well managed but our attention has been drawn to many cases where it is not well managed. There are cases where land is being lost to the Church and where rents have remained at an absurdly low level or have gone uncollected. Moreover, while some clergy like managing or farming their own glebe, many would gladly be rid of their responsibilities. Many others, particularly younger men, would prefer to receive their stipend on a regular monthly basis instead of having to wait until rents come in quarterly, half-yearly or annually. The Measure effectively makes mandatory and permanent a system of diocesan control and management which is already operated voluntarily and successfully in seven of the 43 dioceses of the Church of England.
Hon. Members sometimes complain to me because they feel that the devolution of power under the enabling Act of 1919 from Parliament to the Church Assembly and now to the General Synod gives Parliament too little opportunity to examine Church Measures. They are inclined to overlook the opportunities given under the 1919 Act to the Ecclesiastical Committee. I am happy to say, as the Committee's report shows, that it recognised from correspondence that the Measure was in some respects controversial and took its responsibilities seriously, meeting on three separate occasions and examining, as is customary, the official witnesses of the General Synod and obtaining much additional factual evidence of the Measure and its likely effects.
In the end the Committee was not unanimous, but a substantial majority was in favour of the finding that the Measure was expedient. I do not intend to go over the ground covered by the Ecclesiastical Committee because I know that many hon. Members want to contribute to the debate. For that reason I am pleased that the debate has come on at a reasonable hour and hon. Members will be able to argue their cases.
944 I shall comment briefly on five of the main criticisms of the Measure which have been considered by the Ecclesiastical Committee and which had been made to hon. Members in correspondence. I come first to publicity and consultation. It has been suggested that the General Synod somehow rushed the Measure through without adequate preparation and consultation. But the period of gestation for the Measure goes back to 1967, before the creation of the General Synod, to the publication of the report "Partners in Ministry", which proposed a package deal of new terms and conditions of employment and remuneration for the clergy.
At the time the report was generally felt to be too radical for the Church, particularly for the clergy. Following it, the clergy and laity in the dioceses were consulted about a number of principles, including the main principles that underlie the Measure. In 1972, a committee under the chairmanship of the Bishop of Manchester, noting the majority view in favour of these proposals, recommended that the present Measure be prepared. It took some time to prepare and was introduced into the General Synod in July 1974 and given final approval by 229 votes to 43 in July 1975.
It is true that the Measure was not formally referred to the diocesan synods for consideration. Only a limited number of Church issues can be so referred and in 1974–75 the ordination of women had a stronger claim. But over that period, particularly in 1974 and 1975, there was extensive discussion of the Measure in the Church and a great deal of correspondence about it in the Church Press and the national newspapers.
Finally, in April 1975 the Standing Committee of the General Synod took the unprecedented step of sending to all incumbents a short but well-written leaflet explaining the measure, telling them that it would come before the General Synod for final approval in July of that year and urging them to make their views known to their representatives in the General Synod. We all have difficulties in communicating with constituents, but there was an attempt to obtain the feeling of the Synod through the elected representatives and to allow all in the parishes to know that they must contact their 945 representatives in the Synod before the matter was finally decided.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)
What evidence has the hon. Gentleman that the consultations took place? How many parochial church councils discussed the matter? How often was it discussed informally in diocesan synods? How many individual representations were made on these matters?
§ Mr. Walker
That would be most misleading. The information is not readily available, but we shall see whether we can provide it in the winding-up speech. We discussed the matter in my own parochial church council and it was discussed within the deanery, but perhaps we do these things differently in Bristol from other parts of the country.
Secondly, there are those who will regret the breaking of the link between a parson and the land involved by transferring ownership to the diocese. We need to keep the matter in proportion. As can be seen in Appendix II of the Ecclesiastical Committee's report, fewer than 5,000 out of 10,500 benefices have glebe. In the majority of cases where there is glebe the income from it is far less than £1,000 a year.
The case for transferring ownership in the interests of efficient management is strong, but, recognising the continued local interest, the measure provides that the incumbent, or the church wardens if the benefice is vacant, will still be given notice of important transactions affecting the glebe, and given adequate opportunity to make representations about them.
Thirdly, it has been said that the Measure seeks to strip the country parishes of assets and to give them to urban areas. I believe that to be inaccurate, not least because it assumes that all glebe land is agricultural, whereas some of the most valuable glebe is within a three-mile radius of this House. As the Archdeacon of Bath told the Ecclesiastical Committee in a part of his letter that is not quoted, in his largely rural archdeaconry it is a question of a fairness between one country parish and another.
There is another fear—
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
Is the hon. Gentleman leaving the question of rural areas? Is that all he intends to say about them?
§ Mr. Walker
I shall say something else about them a little later.
Many people fear—and this matter is especially important in the rural areas—that if the endowment is taken away, the parish will be more exposed to the risk of pastoral reorganisation. They believe that the Measure will make it easier for a parish to be grouped or merged with its neighbours. I can only quote what the Bishop of London said in the debate in another place:there is no substance in this assertion. I have been a diocesan Bishop for 21 years and I have been involved both as a Bishop and as a member of the Board of the Church Commissioners with innumerable schemes for pastoral reorganisation. I cannot remember a single one in which the diocese hesitated because one of the parishes was heavily endowed."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 26th July 1976; Vol. 373, c. 1043.]
§ Mr. Cormack
What is the moral right to remove an endowment? On what does the hon. Gentleman take his moral stand for re-writing the wills of those who have left the land in question?
§ Mr. Walker
It is a matter of fairness. It is very important that we pay the clergy adequately and fairly, and therefore it is necessary that our resources shall be better managed. That is what the Measure is all about.
§ Mr. Cormack rose—
§ Mr. Walker
Many hon. Members will want to contribute to the debate, and I think that in fairness I should not take time by making a long speech, which is what will happen if I am interrupted. Right hon. and hon. Members will have an opportunity to present the case against the Measure.
I wish to emphasise that the Measure doth not affect trust funds held now or in the future by persons other than the Church Commissioners. It will be possible for those who wish to do so to give money to locally established trusts for the benefit of a particular parish, with the possibility that some or all of the income should be used for the stipend of the incumbent, or to help meet his working expenses.
§ Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Before the Second Church Estate Commissioner deprives the House of information that it might wish to have, will you tell us at what hour this debate must end? Is it 10 p.m. or 11.30 p.m.? The hon. Gentleman seems to be under the apprehension that unless he hurries through, failing to cover a great deal of ground, hon. Members will be prevented from speaking, but it is now only 20 minutes past 4 o'clock.
§ Mr. Walker
I do not expect, and my colleagues in the General Synod do not expect, that in future the Church will be the recipient of capital gifts and legacies on the substantial scale which would be required to make the criticism, that the Measure will discourage future private giving, stick. It is the regular giving of today's Church members which is now increasingly important.
§ Mr. Cormack
We have plenty of time and this is a vital Measure. The very Measure proposed is likely to deter people from bequeathing large sums. If people know that what they give will be guaranteed and their wishes honoured, they will be more inclined to give, but if the Church takes steps such as these, people will be deterred from so doing.
§ Mr. Walker
I want to emphasise that this Measure does not affect trust funds held now or in the future by persons other than the Church Commissioners. It is quite possible for money to be given to a particular parish to help with the stipend of that particular incumbent.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)
But the hon. Member has not answered the point. These funds are given by people on the understanding that they are given for certain purposes and for a certain church. This is like the rape of the monasteries when land is taken away and given to a general fund. How does the hon. Member think that anyone in his right senses will give a trust fund or money if he feels that a similar Measure will occur in another 20 years or so?
§ Mr. Walker
We all realise that the main contribution comes from lay giving and the Church Commissioners. Whatever assets we have available must be better managed, and that is why this Measure has been brought forward today. I recognise that some hon. Gentlemen will not accept this and these are matters which have been discussed widely.
§ Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)
The hon. Member refers to the managing of these assets. In some instances the Church Commissioners find it necessary to sell off these assets.
§ Mr. Walker
This is not a matter for the Church Commissioners; it is a matter for the diocese to decide. The Church Commissioners are not involved. I have given an undertaking that the parishes will be consulted. If there were any question of land being disposed of, the church wardens of the parish would be consulted. This is not something which should be done centrally. It is a matter within the diocese and this is the way in which money comes through to pay the clergy, together with lay giving.
It is very important that where more and more money is needed to meet the bill for the clergy, this money is accumulated within each diocese. This is universally accepted through the Church. I recognise that hon. Gentlemen have exceptions to this view.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, on his enthronement in Canterbury Cathedral in January 1975, spoke of the importance of the Church of England nationwide having a full-time stipendiary parochial ministry. This has been the basis, and must remain the basis of the Church of England's mission and purpose. The Church is determined to maintain that ministry, although in the years ahead we realise that it must maintain it with fewer clergy, primarily because not enough have been ordained in the past 10 years, rather than for financial reasons. The clergy must be adequately and fairly paid. I hope that hon. Gentlemen realise the massive efforts made by the dioceses and the parishes of the Church of England to improve stipends of the clery.
The Church Commissioners are no longer simply concerned with administering the historic endowments of the Church of England. They are the Central Stipends 949 Authority and are actively engaged in encouraging the dioceses and parishes to provide the additional money needed to augment the income from the historic endowments for the clergy to be adequately paid. I shall put a copy of the Fourth Report of the Central Stipends Authority in the Library so that hon. Members can see what is being achieved. Efforts are being made to improve the stipend within the Government's pay policy, and this is in fact being achieved. Two-thirds of the new money is coming not from historic endowments, capital gifts and legacies, but from week-to-week giving by the people in the pews.
I accept that in the debate today we shall hear much for and against this Measure and that many people will feel that legislation of this kind is, in the real sense, a deprivation of what they have inherited from the past. I understand that point of view: indeed, I have much sympathy with it. However, I hope that I have said something to reassure people on that issue. The Church has to reckon in 1976 with the hard facts of life. If asked to give on a substantial scale out of today's earnings, lay people will want to know that yesterday's assets are being wisely and efficiently deployed.
I ask the House today to help the Church of England to do just that by agreeing to this Measure. It will bring forward the process by which the historic endowments of the Church of England are shared for the benefit of the total ministry of the Church to the nation as a whole, so that every parish will have some claim, directly or indirectly, upon the income from the endowments, and every parish will be expected, according to its means, to make some contribution from its present giving to the stipend and working expenses of its priests. This is most important.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Wood (Bridlington)
I suspect that there are a great many hon. Members even if they, on balance, support the immediate necessity for a measure of this kind, who share some of my disquiet about it. This has been expressed already in a number of interventions by my hon. Friends. I am anxious this afternoon to give one or two practical examples to illustrate the disquiet that I feel. I ask my hon. Friend who will 950 reply to the debate, the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee), to answer these points so that the very real anxieties felt by people may be allayed.
The first church to which I refer is one in London—it is not necessary to name it. Like many other parishes, this one aims to meet its obligations to the diocese and the parish itself by the formation of a trust. This has been very successful because contributors to the trust know how much the church and the parish is worth to them. I understood that under this measure this sort of trust is in no way affected. I am bound to say that the introduction of this Measure gives me cause for certain fears for the future.
But the second church I have in mind, also in London, has only one considerable endowment, bequeathed to the Church Commissioners about 20 years ago, especially for the endowment and augmentation of that benefice. The departure we are suggesting from the will of benefactors such as this frightens me very much. There is no need to have a profound knowledge of the Bible to realise that a good many promises were made within the Old and the New Testaments which were extremely inconvenient and often very painful to carry out. One thinks of poor Jethro, who made that unwise promise which led to the sacrifice of his own daughter. One thinks of Herod, who ought to have known that Salome was likely to demand an unpleasant and painful reward for her dancing. The point is that those promises, and a great many others, were honoured at great cost.
The whole moral position of the Church is endangered by this disregard of the will of testators, quite apart from the discouragement it affords to others who are likely to feel more enthusiasm for their own church than for what, to them at least, is a remote bureacracy.
The third church that I have in mind is one in my constituency in Yorkshire where the rector has expressed considerable doubt—which I share, despite the explanation of the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker)—about the expected benefits from the more centralised management of glebe. I doubt whether this Measure will lead to those benefits. The rector I have in mind is also concerned, in his country parish, about the difficulties and expense of 951 setting up such a private trust as I have explained was set up in one of the London parishes. He believes, and I share his belief, that there will be much support, if this Measure is adopted, for the formation of a more general trust which can accept and manage donations from any person for the benefit of any church or minister. This is likely to be one of the probable consequences which will follow the passing of this Measure.
The church I know best is in my parish in Yorkshire, and here I can only express the anxiety which will be only too obvious to those who attend churches situated in small parishes throughout the country. We are lucky. We share our priest with only one other parish. We are not at all substantially endowed and we could not support our vicar without help from the diocese. As I understand it, this is the central argument for this Measure and for continuing the process of strengthening the ability of dioceses to give help.
And yet I wonder whether what is being proposed is, in the long term, the right way forward. It must decrease the responsibility of individual congregations. If the Church is to survive in anything like the form we know, our parishes have to raise more money for themselves and not for the central funds of the Church. As one parish priest has well put it, we must become more congregational and less centralised. My fear is that this proposed solution to the Church's immediate problem may in the long run increase the problem by reducing the incentive for future benefactors in countless parishes to give generously to their churches.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
Perhaps it would be right—since you have informed the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that we have potentially a longish time for debate before us—if it were to be mentioned that the Second Church Commissioner, the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker), who has presented this motion to the House, has shown himself to be very active and concerned in ensuring that Measures of this kind obtain adequate opportunity for debate. If in the past that has occasionally not been the case it is certainly not the fault of the hon. Member.
952 Every Measure of this sort which is laid before us is accompanied by a report of the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament. Hon. Members who, in preparation for taking a decision upon this motion, have studied the report of that Committee will know that the Measure caused the Committee quite exceptional doubt and difficulty. The report we have before us is the result of the second attempt of the General Synod to satisfy the Ecclesiastical Committee.
Reading the report, it would be fair to say that if a report in these terms were tendered in connection with any other sort of legislation, that legislation would have very little chance of being accepted by this House. Let me remind the House why this is so.
There were three main objections or difficulties to which the Committee addressed itself. The first was the allegation that the proposals had not beenadequately discussed at the level of those who were most affected.The conclusion of the Committee upon that subject was not that this was a mistaken conclusion, not that the proposals had been adequately discussed at the level of those who were most affected. Its conclusion, which will be found in paragraph 13, is that:it certainly cannot be suggested that the General Synod has been guilty of any bad faith in the matter; at the worst they may have made an error of judgment in this particular respect.The Ecclesiastical Committee, traditionally and rightly, is most careful to frame its comments in the most cautious and restrained language possible. So any hon. Member who is seeking reassurance that these proposals have been discussed at the level of those who are most affected—something of which we have to be satisfied before we are justified in approving the motion—will not be reassured by the conclusions to which the Ecclesiastical Committee came. He will conclude that the Committee's view was that there had not been such adequate consultation; otherwise it would not have expressed its conclusions in terms of that sort.
The second proposition which worried the Committee was that glebe land might not be better managed if managed and run by the Diocesan Board of Finance but would, on the contrary, be worst run. We turn to see what conclusion 953 the Committee reached on that point. It decided that:the General Synod is at least as likely to reach the right conclusion as anyone else.If one really wanted to give the House of Commons a hint as to one's opinion on such a matter, that would be an extremely effective way of doing it. If the General Synod, after all the information and advice that it gets on this subject and is entitled to receive, is no more likely than you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, or I, to decide whether glebe land will be better managed, the answer is that we might as well toss a coin. So much for the major point which the Second Church Commissioner made in favour of this measure.
§ Mr. Michael Latham (Melton)
While I appreciate the point which the right hon. Gentleman is making, and which is fair, may I, as a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee, ask him to refer to the second sentence of paragraph 15 which is particularly germane?
§ Mr. Powell
Certainly.The Committee asked for and were supplied with information and figures as to the working of these schemes which show that in the dioceses in question most of the glebe is now being managed by the diocesan authorities, and suggest that the cost of management is low in proportion to the increased income received.That refers to the schemes which exist already and can be extended without this legislation.
I repeat: the conclusion on this second head of doubt was that it was an open question whether this Measure would on balance result, as compared with the present state of affairs, in the better management of glebe. Yet the Second Church Commissioner will recognise that it was perhaps on that point more than on any other that he sought to carry the House with him.
The third point is the one which would come most near to the anxieties of right hon. and hon. Members in their duty to ensure that the intentions of those who have made charitable endowments are as far as possible not interfered with. It is the difficulty, the objection, which comes most near to our duties in protecting those we represent, namely, the allegation that the proposed pooling "is unjustifiable and unnecessary, and involves a departure from the principles of charity law."
954 The conclusion in paragraph 21 was thatit becomes somewhat difficult to justify the taking awayof theendowment income, however smallfrom the individual parishes which benefit by iton the grounds of administrative convenience".In paragraph 22, where the Committee is dealing with the fact that at present there exist diocesan arrangements for pooling, given the fulfilment of certain conditions, it says thatthe views of the objectors as to the value to the parish of an income of its own may not be entirely unjustified".There, once again, is the typical meiosis of language of the Ecclesiastical Committee. I ask any hon. Member who is anxious if we are justified in sequestrating the endowments from their original purposes by this Measure, whether his conscience is satisfied by the conclusions arrived at by the Ecclesiastical Committee, when he considers how it said thatit becomes somewhat difficult to justify the taking away of that income on the grounds of administrative convenience",and thatthe views of the objectors as to the value to the parish of an income of its own may not be entirely unjustified.In dealing with this last matter, the Committee turned up an interesting point, which it described as an "oddity" in paragraph 19. It is the fact that this sequestration—I use the term for convenience and with no critical implication—bites only upon existing endowments—future endowments, from the moment when the Measure comes into force can still be appropriated to individual parishes.
The Committee was well within its selfimposed limits by describing that as an "oddity". The House is being asked to say that the intentions of those who made an endowment for a parish a week, a year, 50 years or 100 years before the Measure comes into force can be disregarded, but that the wishes of the person who makes such an endowment the day after the Measure comes into force are to be sacrosanct. If there were the justification that is claimed for this Measure, those who put it forward would have the 955 courage of their convictions to say that there shall be done for the future what we are doing for the past, and that an endowment to an individual parish must be regarded henceforth as an endowment to the diocese or the Church generally.
Thus, all three objections which were considered in the report on which the House is to rest its judgment, far from being rebutted, were in effect upheld; and we know that this was a case where, exceptionally, after all that had transpired, only an undisclosed majority of the Ecclesiastical Committee reported that the measure was expedient.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
Would the right hon. Gentleman not accept that the attitude adopted by the Ecclesiastical Committee could be compared with the action of Pontius Pilate when he had a certain person come before him? Because he did not like what was proposed and what was likely to happen he was not prepared to do anything about it and he washed his hands of it.
§ Mr. Powell
I was delighted to hear the right hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) giving for once a favourable mention to Herod the Tetrarch. When so good an example has been set, far be it from me either to run down Pontius Pilate himself or to associate the Ecclesiastical Committee with him. I decline to be tempted by the hon. Gentleman.
There are many hon. Members nevertheless, who having read this report and having read between the lines as well as on the lines and being thereby, as I think they would be, persuaded that in any other circumstances this is a Measure which they would not assent to, will say to themselves—or it may be said to them—"But this is a measure submitted to the House by the General Synod after the most thorough consideration and after it has been approved in the General Synod by massive majorities. Surely in view of the relationship between the General Synod and Parliament we ought not to act in these circumstances as we would act with ordinary legislation?"
I refer to this proposition because I believe that there is arising—and it is important that it should be understood— 956 a potential gulf, a divergence of attitude, between the General Synod and the House of Commons. The members of the General Synod, not unreasonably, looking at the enabling Measure of 1919 which they have inherited, may say to the House, if I may put words in their mouths, "You have disembarrassed yourselves of the legislation of the Church of England by setting up this now long-established machinery. Therefore, you must have intended the consequences of your action. You must have intended thereby that Measures that have been duly digested, indeed exhaustively digested, by the General Synod and which are commended as expedient by your Ecclesiastical Committee will be" I do not say rubber-stamped, but "passed, whatever your reservations, by the House of Commons."
From the point of view of the General Synod that is a natural but mistaken deduction. The House very often does in general terms what it does not intend in particular. It is an error in understanding the ways of the House of Commons to suppose that the consequences of legislation which it has accepted in the past will be regarded as binding upon it when it comes to consider their individual and practical working. From the point of view of the House of Commons it is impossible to say to us "Here is a Measure which arouses in you grave doubts as to the justice of what is being done, grave doubts whether it is consistent with the principles of the law of charity grave doubts whether it is fair to those who will be affected by it. Nevertheless you must not direct your mind to it in the manner you would direct your mind to any other sort of legislation." It is something which has sometimes been suggested to this House but rarely successful—in other words, that this House must not direct its mind to the individual consequences of measures that it is requested to pass. It is implicit in the relationship we have with the General Synod that the House of Commons, despite the simplification of the procedure, has in no way renounced, and cannot renounce, its duty, in this legislation equally with any other to consider the rights of the humblest citizen and the effect which the legislation will have on them now and in the future.
957 But behind that question there lies an even deeper question—namely, whether this House ought not to regard its duty in relation to Church Measures as a formality because of the nature of this House. This is a subject of profound disagreement and misunderstanding. It is said by some to be a self-evident anomaly that this House, which is composed not only of Anglicans but of members of many religions, or indeed of those of no religion, should pass the ultimate verdict on the law of the Church of England.
This is a supposed rather than a real anomaly. We are concerned with the Measures of the Church of England because the law of that Church, being the esablished Church, is made by the law-making authority of the land. The religious composition of the law-making authority of the land is irrelevant to the validity of its actions or to the manner in which it performs its duties. I am happy that my Roman Catholic fellow-citizens, Jewish Members, and Members of no faith should participate in making the law of the Church of England just as they participate in legislation upon housing or town and country planning. We must not fall into the error of supposing that we are entitled, in virtue of a falsely conceived anomaly, to rubber-stamp and affirm that which otherwise we would hesitate to approve.
In what I have just said I was careful to insert the qualification that it is because the Church of England is established that its law is made by the law-making authority of the realm. There are only two sources of authority which are available; and if this source be rejected, the Church becomes a self-governing Church. That is the essential distinction between the Church of England as by law established and a Church of England the law of which was not made by Parliament. It would be a Church which made its own law.
Now, the difference between a Church which makes its own law and a Church the authority of whose law is derived from external authority—be it the secular law-making authority of the land or some other—is profound. It is—I use the word with due solemnity—the difference between a Church which is catholic and a Church which is not catholic. The catholicity of the Church of England 958 depends on the fact that its law is made by the body which is the law-making authority of the land.
I apologise to the House if I have strayed too far from the immediate subject of the Measure that is before us; but my purpose is to argue that we in this House this afternoon have a duty to direct our minds to the consequences of this Measure exactly as we would if it were put to us in the form of a private Bill from a local authority or a measure emanating from the Government.
Finally, I wish to say to and through the Second Church Commissioner that it has often been our experience, after an earnest and lively debate on these Measures where there has been a definite balance of opinion in the debating Chamber, that when the Division bells ring the result is determined by what is called the pay-roll vote. I am not using that expression in any dispraise, far from it, but let me say this to and through the Second Church Commissioner who is an appointee of Her Majesty's Government—[An HON. MEMBER: "And unpaid."] Unpaid or not, he is still an appointee; indeed there are unpaid Whips and they too are appointees. I was saying that in so far as the Government regard these Measures as Measures in which to some extent the Government are involved, and in which they regard it as reasonable to expect that members of the Administration will support the Second Church Commissioner, let them be under no misapprehension that thereby they are taking responsibility for the contents of those Measures as they do for the contents of other matters they lay before this House.
I have no objection to that, because that is the way in which our law is made, and because my argument is that the law of the Church should continue to be made as the rest of the law of England is made. But let us not indulge in an irresponsibility whereby those who on the one hand say "This is just a Church Measure and has nothing to do with us" are on the other hand prepared to see it presented to Her Majesty's Government on the votes of those who are voting because they conceive that somehow these Measures deserve official support.
I shall vote against this Measure. I shall do so with regret since I recognise the tremendous amount of thought and 959 effort which has been invested in it by the General Synod. But I shall vote against it because I am convinced that the case for it has not been made out and that the serious objections which have been urged against it on behalf of Her Majesty's subjects have not been rebutted.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
I should like in a brief speech to pick up some of the points made by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and then to develop some of my Own.
Although the right hon. Member and I are members of the same Church, I am unlike the right hon. Gentleman since I find it somewhat strange in this House that non-members of the Church of England and of the Anglican communion can vote on the affairs of the Church. The other evening, for example, we had a tong debate on the Methodist Church and on the future of its property. I went home on that occasion because I felt that that was a matter which should have been dealt with by the Methodists. I did not think it proper that somebody who was not a Methodist should involve himself in determining the future policy of that Church.
I have long thought it strange—though I understand the historic reasons for it—that Jews, Methodists, Baptists, agnostics, atheists and, no doubt one day, Moslems and Hindus in the House should be able to decide the future policies of the Church of England and even discuss its services. The time has come for us to consider whether we should go on in this way. I take a view opposite to that of the right hon. Member for Down, South. It is clear when one looks around the House that most hon. Members have decided that this is not a matter for them and that they will not get involved by speaking or voting.
It is time for us to consider the disestablishment of the Church of England. Since the English revolution, the Church of England has been very much a corn-promise Church. One can be catholic—I use that term in the theological sense which I do not think is the way in which the right hon. Member for Down, South used it—protestant or part of the broad 960 Church with a foot in both camps. I was brought up as High Anglican and I still have affinities in that direction.
There is a body of opinion in the Church that believes that the time has come for disestablishment. I share the view of Bishop Huddleston, who outlined a very good case for disestablishment in a Sunday Times article two or three years ago.
As always, the right hon. Member for Down, South has raised a fundamental question which we must all face—what should be our attitude towards Church Measures which come here from the General Synod or elsewhere? I do not think that we ought to be considering this Measure, but it is here and we must take an attitude towards it. I think that I have a right to take an attitude towards it because I am an Anglican. I would be different if I were a Methodist or a member of another Church.
§ Mr. John Ellis (Brigg and Scunthorpe)
Whether one listens to a debate or not, one must vote for or against a Measure or abstain, and we are therefore forced to take an attitude towards any measure once it is on the Floor of the House.
§ Mr. Heffer
That is precisely my point. According to some newspapers, one can be a brave man by abstaining to show disapproval of or lack of support for a piece of legislation. After sitting through the passage of legislation, some hon. Members have remained in their seats to show the whole world what they feel about that legislation. I do not necessarily intend to sit through all the proceedings on this Measure, but it is important to state one's views.
I am very torn on this subject. I can see the arguments on both sides and I may not vote because I do not know what is best. Paragraph 22 of the report of the Ecclesiastical Committee contains this important statement:Some of those who have objected to the Measure think that, though put forward as designed to provide greater equality in stipends, the Measure is really intended as a step towards the abandonment of the parochial system and the redeployment of the clergy in larger areas, and they think that the possession by a parish of an income of its own may help it to maintain its separate existence.If I thought that this Measure was designed to centralise the workings of the Church so that there would be no 961 local control in relation to clergy and so on, I should be very much opposed to it. That is the fear of those who argue against this Measure.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
If the hon. Gentleman thought that the Measure was not designed to achieve that end but that it would have that effect, would that make any difference to his judgment?
§ Mr. Heffer
I cannot believe that it is designed to do that, but it may have that effect.
Let me relate it to the example of political parties. I know that I am a difficult chap in some respects.
§ Mr. Heffer
I think that if the funds in the Labour Party were centrally controlled and dished out to constituencies, the central body could determine who was selected to represent a constituency. Blokes such as me might never end up in the House—and that might apply to some hon. Members opposite if a similar system were introduced by the Conservative Party. I am not very much in favour of that type of centralised control.
Father Conrad Noel of Thaxted Church, which was quite famous in its day, wrote one of the best versions of the life of Christ—though I do not expect hon. Members opposite to agree with that judgment. Conrad Noel's concept was that Christ was crucified because he was a revolutionary, because he wanted to change the world, and because he was not happy with the Establishment of the day.
To me these are very commendable concepts. I have never been particularly happy with the Establishment of any day during my lifetime. I have always believed that we ought to try to change society in the direction of better progress and so on.
Conrad Noel was followed by Father Jack Putterill. Such people—and no doubt many others holding other points of view—might be regarded by some as being "odd balls"; I do not know. But I should hate a position to arise in which such priests could no longer find their way through and have the support of their parishioners.
962 This is what worries me. I can see both sides of the argument. I can see the other powerful argument—that one of the difficulties at the moment is that the Church does not have its strength where it ought to have it: in the urban areas. In the urban areas we have the terrible problem of needing more money and more resources in order to ensure a better ministry in those areas. I can see that argument and I appreciate that the case put forward by the Church Commissioners certainly helps in that direction. I am torn because I see both arguments very clearly indeed.
I do not think that I have said anything particularly helpful in the debate, but at least I have expressed my fears about the situation. I shall neither enthusiastically support not enthusiastically reject the Measure. Although it was suggested earlier in the debate that the Church Commissioners were, like Pontius Pilate, washing their hands of it, I trust that I shall not wash my hands of it, but I might not be able to make up my mind one way or the other.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Paul Dean (Somerset, North)
May I begin on a personal note by stating that I was born and bred in the country, have lived most of my life in the country, and have been fortunate in the places where I have lived, in that they have had active churches with their own resident parsons. I start, therefore, biased in favour of the status quo.
Recent events in my own experience, however, have made me realise that things are changing. We now have a united parish, with three villages, three churches, and one parson. We did not much like to begin with, the idea of joining with those foreigners in the next village. There was not a vast automatic outpouring of charity and love towards our neighbours. But we are now working together and I believe that the life of the Church has been enriched as a result.
My point is that, whether I like this development or not, it was inevitable because of the decline in the numbers of the clergy and because we could no longer afford to provide adequately for clergy stipends from the legacies of yesterday. I therefore found myself having to face these realities. Much as I should have preferred to remain quietly in my own 963 neck of the Church of England wood, the fact was that it simply was no longer possible.
One of the main questions that we are considering here is how it is possible to conserve the best of a changing Church in a changing world. I support the Measure for two main reasons. The first is that we are considering a Measure which has been put forward by the duly constituted governing body of the Church of England, which is seeking the approval of this House. This has already been referred to on a number of occasions during the debate, and I shall come back to it in a moment.
But it is also as well to remember, as the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) said in introducing the Measure, that it has been passed by the General Synod by an overwhelming majority, after a long period of thought and consultation. There have been and can be criticism as to the method of consultation, as to the composition of the General Assembly, and as to the way in which it consults and goes about its business. But no one can deny that a long period of thought has gone into the Measure.
We also have to remember, in spite of the criticism which was made by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) as to the report of the Ecclesiastical Committee, that the Ecclesiastical Committee passed the Measure, albeit by a majority, and that it has also been passed in another place. Were we to reject the Measure tonight, therefore, not only should we be taking a contrary view to another place and to the Ecclesiastical Committee but we should also be taking a contrary view to the judicially constituted governing body of the Church of England.
The right hon. Member for Down, South referred to the constitutional position of Parliament, but I suggest that, if this House were to turn down Measure after Measure coming from the General Synod, the practical effect would be very serious indeed on the relations not only between Parliament and the General Synod but also between Church and State. I do not believe for one moment that, with a comparatively new governing body, which the Church of England now has, it would be possible to maintain 964 reasonable relations between that body and this House if a substantial number of Measures sent here from it were to be turned down. We might very well find, therefore, that those who are in favour of disestablishment—the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) has just referred to this, and I realise that there are some—would find their hands much strengthened. I should very much regret it myself if there were to be disestablishment, because I believe that it would lead, in the mind of the public, to a divorce between matters spiritual and matters temporal. In my view, the more they can be considered together, the better they will be.
§ Mr. Dean
I do not wish to judge on that. The Ecclesiastical Committee, in its report, referred to this matter, and clearly considered the precedents very carefully. But the main answer I would give to my hon. Friend is that it is clear from the report that the Committee invited that individual to give written evidence if he so wished, and I should have thought that that was a reasonable posture for it to adopt.
In considering the relations between the General Synod and this House, I much prefer the dictum laid down by no less a personage than the noble Lord, Lord Cross, the Chairman of the Ecclesiastical Committee. In referring to what he thought were the appropriate relationships, he said:The enabling Act in 1919 gave the Church Assembly, which, of course, is now the General Synod, general legislative powers over matters affecting the Church of England, subject to the approval of Parliament. In those circumstances, it seems to me…that one should not simply ask oneself, 'If I was a member of the General Synod, would I myself have voted in favour of this Measure?'. That does not seem to me to be the proper approach at all. When a Measure has passed in the Synod, and especially by such huge majorities as in this case, there is a heavy onus on anyone who says that Parliament should reject it. One can conceive of cases where some measure, on grounds of principle, although passed by the General Synod, ought not to receive the approval of Parliament. But I do think 965 that a strong case has to be made out"—[Official Report, House of Lords, 26th July 1976; Vol. 373, c. 1060.]
§ Mr. Powell
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I did not interrupt the hon. Gentleman sooner, but I wonder whether, to avoid the creation of a precedent, you would confirm that it is out of order to quote in this House the ipsissima verba of another place during the same Session unless they are the words of a Member of the Government.
§ Mr. Michael Latham
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. No Minister was involved in this matter, nor could there be by definition. Lord Cross of Chelsea, the Chairman of the Ecclesiastical Committee, seems to have a special position in these circumstances which should be borne in mind.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. This question has been raised recently. The general principle, as I believe I said, has been honoured more in the breach than in the observance. It should be a quotation from a Minister in the other place. But there is no objection to paraphrasing what was said by another noble Lord.
§ Mr. Dean
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for your guidance on that matter.
I hope that I have made clear that, in my view, the clear dictum laid down by Lord Cross should be commended. I am saying not that this House should not debate, probe and question, particularly when temporal matters and individual rights are involved, as they are in this Measure, but that, to preserve a happy, practical relationship between Parliament and the General Synod, Parliament should think carefully and have strong reasons before rejecting a measure coming from the General Synod.
My second main reason is that the Church of England is saying that, in its judgment, this Measure is necessary in order that it may do its job properly in modern conditions. I wish to support that observation by quoting—I hope that I shall be in order—one of the reasons given by the Legislative Committee of the General Synod which forms one of the appendices to the report by the Ecclesiastical Committee. On page 17, 966 dealing with the general reasons for this measure, the Legislative Committee said:Besides providing a more flexible use of stipends money, thereby assisting the creation of a more equitable structure of remuneration for the clergy, the proposals have also to be seen in relation to plans agreed by the diocesan bishops for a fairer deployment of manpower among the dioceses at a time when numbers serving the parochial Ministry are on the decline. Just as the clergy available must be deployed where the need is greatest, so must the Church be freer to direct its resources to pay the men where they are so deployed. The two needs are complementary.I think that the hon. Member for Walton would probably agree with that in view of the remarks which he made earlier. Indeed, I think that the whole House, whatever view we may take on this Measure, would agree that the aim of a nationwide parochial ministry adequately paid must be foremost in our minds. In the view of the General Synod, this Measure is necessary to achieve that aim. I accept its judgment on that matter.
I understand and, indeed, share some of the misgivings which have been expressed. I think that they stem, at least in part, from the feeling in country areas that they will lose out to urban areas by this Measure. Therefore, it is only fair that I should quote from a letter which I have had from a highly respected and senior clergyman, who summarises that feeling in this way:Rightly or wrongly the feeling seems to be growing in the rural areas that at the same time as parishes are being grouped together and losing their resident incumbent, 'big brother' is trying to take away their endowments and glebe as well as asking them to raise even greater sums of money for Central Funds through the Quota.There is no doubt that misgiving exists, particularly in country areas, and that it needs to be taken seriously.
However, other factors must be weighed in the balance. First, there is the point made by the hon. Member for Kingswood that very few parishes today can meet the accepted minimum stipends for incumbents out of endowments. I think that I am right in saying that the figure is only 413 out of 10,595. The numbers in this position are getting fewer all the time. The vast majority have to be augmented from central funds. Put in another way, one-third of clergy stipends now come from the men 967 and women in the pew today. The gifts of yesterday are becoming more and more inadequate. In these circumstances, the Church cannot either convincingly or fairly ask for more money from people unless it can assure them that the existing resources are being used to the best effect.
I should like now to make a short quotation from my own diocesan bishop, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, who has written to me as follows:In our drive for laymen to care more for their church by bigger financial contribution, we must be sure that the assets we have are properly used. This is manifestly not so at present.It is clear from the dioceses which have voluntary schemes for the joint management of glebe that significant increases in revenue from existing assets are possible. It is significant that Bath and Wells has one of these voluntary glebe schemes which is working well. It is also significant that here is a rural diocese, if ever there was one, where the fears which I mentioned earlier could be expected to be greater than in a more urban diocese.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I ask this question solely for information, not for the purpose of argument. If a voluntary scheme is working well, as in Bath and Wells, why is it necessary to introduce compulsion?
§ Mr. Dean
I am glad that my hon. Friend has mentioned that matter. It is a fair point. Although the voluntary scheme is working well in Bath and Wells and in a number of other dioceses throughout the land, it does not include all the glebe. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to get the maximum advantage from a voluntary arrangement when there are patches of glebe throughout the dioceses which are not at present in the arrangements. It immensely complicates the administration and makes it more difficult for those who have co-operated to continue to do so on a free basis, because they realise that some are remaining outside.
Another point that has come out in the debate is that the pooling of resources in the way suggested will dry up future legacies and gifts to the Church. I do not believe that that will happen. People will always want to give to their local incum- 968 bent and to their local church as a memorial to relatives and as acts of thanksgiving, and they love it. It is important that the prospective donors will still be free to make new gifts or to set up trust funds for the benefit of particular incumbents.
I quite agree with the suggestion that it is less likely, perhaps, in the future that money will be set aside for the benefit of individual incumbents. However, I suggest that there are many other worthy causes by which churches can benefit in the future and for which resources will be needed. We can all think of improvements that can be made to particular churches, which could be a valuable use of future funds, either trust or from individual donors.
We all recognise today that as churches are increasingly becoming centres of the communities in which they operate, the need to build on to the church a room for a youth club, for example, is very pressing. Here is another area in which those who wish to give to their local church will be able to do so without let or hinderance under the proposed arrangements.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
Before my hon. Friend leaves that point, will he say whether he finds it an attractive moral proposition that it is acceptable to break faith with those who are now dead but, because of the advisability of luring further funds from the living, the wishes of the living must be honoured?
§ Mr. Dean
I do not accept for one moment my hon. Friend's value judgments on these matters. I think that he is attempting to purport moral judgments where he is making his own subjective judgment, as he is entitled to do. After all, throughout the ages Parliament has felt it necessary on occasions, for compulsory purchase, for example, for the building of roads, railways and the like, to change the use of property and to ensure that due compensation is provided. Surely it is wrong that Parliament should be able to do this in a whole series of areas but to deny the Church similar powers as long as effective and adequate compensation is provided.
My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) leads me to the point about the individual parson. It is important to recognise, as the hon. 969 Member for Kingswood said, that the existing incumbent will be fully safeguarded under Clause 2. He will be guaranteed his existing income as long as he remains in the present benefit.
I therefore conclude by saying that although I understand the misgivings that exist about the Measure, I believe that the arguments in favour greatly outweigh the arguments against. I suggest, too, that we should not go against the conclusion of another place and of the Ecclesiastical Committee and against the considered judgment of the General Synod. I hope that we shall approve the Measure, thereby giving the Church the power that it feels it needs to work and witness effectively in the modern world.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Mr. John Ellis (Brigg and Scunthorpe)
The contemplation of this Measure has exercised my mind considerably over the weekend, and before that. I am not a member of the Church of England. By the same token as that mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer)—who has departed from the Chamber—I should take no view at all on Methodist Bills. I cannot think that that is the right approach.
In these matters all Members of Parliament are asked for their opinions. We shall have a vote. Whether or not we are part of the organisation concerned, the Measure is before us for our consideration, whether or not we like it. I wish that we did not have to take decisions about what is, after all, the heartland of someone else's business.
However, I have been fascinated by the debate. Hon. Members have looked at the Measure and have argued about its merits one way or the other and about whether it will do the Church any good. I suggest that it is a matter for the Church per se whether it wants to do away with dioceses, to strengthen them locally or to go national. I know that the Church of England is established. However, I should think that any organisation, be it Nonconformist or Roman Catholic, would take the greatest exception to our passing any measures that sought to interfere with their own internal arrangements.
I put that forward merely as my view. Hon. Members may take another view 970 that will guide them as to how they vote on the Measure. But that is the wrong way of thinking about the matter. The only point that we should consider is that we are changing the law as such. Is it right that we should change the law in this particular way? Looking at that point, I find very great difficulty, because it is right for the House to interfere in any matters that affect our national livelihood, and to take away from people's possessions by an Act of Parliament, though a serious matter, can be done by this House. However, when it conies to interfering with sections of the community not for that purpose, it is a different matter altogether.
If a man works hard and saves some money, when he has paid his taxes and when the due legislators, such as we, have passed the enactments, he should be allowed to spend that money as he pleases. [Hors. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members must not cheer me from the Opposition Benches. This is not a question of earning £100,000, putting that in the bank and paying someone 5 per cent. unearned interest. That is a different matter. I am talking of money earned that is left as a particular bequest. I must say that if I were left in a position of trust, as an executor of my father's will, for example, or something like that, I should seek to carry out my father's wishes about how he wanted his money disposed of. If he wanted me to throw it in the river, that is what I should do, because he has an absolute right to say that.
Here is a Measure concerning people who, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason, have bequeathed land in certain specific ways. One of my hon. Friends was getting upset and saying that the Church of England would never go forward unless we changed some of these things. It may be all right from his viewpoint as a member of the Church of England to want to alter matters in that way. However, that should be no concern of the House of Commons. It should be a matter for the Church of England.
I have questioned what happens in these particular circumstances. I was brought up, if as nothing else, as a Primitive Methodist. The message was the messsage in those days, rather than all this talk about money and how much one was leaving.
971 Will the Measure deter private gifts and bequests? That is the nearest I can come to my question about what happens when a man leaves money for a particular purpose.The Measure does not affect Trust Funds held by persons other than the Commissioners such as parochial church councils. Thus the Measure need in no way deter prospective donors from making gifts and bequests to local parochial trusts for the benefit of particular parishes.That quotation is from background notes prepared for the debate which were kindly provided to me by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) when I asked him a question. However, that is not the point that I want to establish. My point relates to the national justice of the situation. I have been looking through the notes, which say:Are the provisions of the Measure contrary to national Justice'?That is what I want to emphasise. It says:No. The term national Justice is used only in limited contexts such as the failure of a Judicial tribunal to give each party opportunity to state their case. The Commissioners are advised that in law there is no breach of national Justice if property is taken away from a person by due processes of law.I am only a layman, but that seems to me to be saying that if the House of Commons passed the Measure that is fair enough, because it will become the law.
However, that is not the underlying fact that I am trying to consider. I have received only one representation from the parishes in my constituency, and I gather that they have some particular interest in the matter, so I suppose one can assume that the other parishes are satisfied. Therefore I do not receive much help from that.
I should like to be reassured on the question of principle because, from all that has been said both here and in the other place, it seems that people have been concerned only about what is good for the Church of England. That is not the point on which I seek guidance as I come to make my decision tonight. The question is whether it is right that, people having made known their views, and having decided that their money should be spent in a particular way, we should pass this Measure.
972 There must be many churches that have gone out of existence. There must be many examples of charities providing for the maintenance of churches that are no longer in existence. Thousands of pounds must have been subscribed for things that no longer exist. Some parishes may have money that was designed for the upkeep of churches that have disappeared in the mists of time. If someone has left money to be used to repair the fabric of a church, or to keep a churchyard in good condition, or if he has left land for a specific purpose, is it right that we should take this action?
I can see that the Church of England is in considerable difficulty, but we as Members of Parliament are being put in a difficult situation. I fall back on the argument that the fact that there has been extensive consultation among Church people in arriving at this decision must weigh heavily with us, but I think that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) had a point in the case that he presented to the House. The argument about whether there had been sufficient consultation was rather trimmed, to say the least. I hope that in future the Church of England will conduct its affairs in such a way that if it brings a Measure before the House we can be certain that there is considerable agreement about it. Otherwise, we are placed in some difficulty.
§ Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)
I ask my hon. Friend to put himself in the position of the incumbent of one of the poorest parishes in the country. If he has a wife and family and is dependent upon the pittance that he receives by way of income, does my hon. Friend agree with the proposal before us if it means doing justice to that man and his family?
§ Mr. Ellis
That is a good argument, but that is not what I am considering. In the Primitive Methodist Church it was regarded as a debt of honour to provide a certain sum for the mission. If all the money to be paid out by the Church of England were pooled, and if every vicar drew out of it the same amount of money for himself, there would be no difficulty. My hon. Friend touches a sore spot. It would have been much better if the Church of England and the charities had approached the matter from 973 that angle. However, the Church has not done that, but has come to us with this Measure in order to deal with the problem in a different way, and that creates a dilemma for us.
§ Mr. John Cope (Gloucestershire, South)
The hon. Gentleman referred to consultation, and his hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) quoted the Archdeacon of Bath in support of what he said. But the Archdeacon of Bath is also quoted in the report of the Ecclesiastical Committee as having said that there was inadequate communication at diocesan and local level. Will the hon. Gentleman take that into account in making his decision?
§ Mr. Ellis
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I was referring to what had been said by the right hon. Member for Down, South in connection with the report from the Ecclesiastical Committee.
I conclude by pleading with everybody in the Church of England in the Synod, and everywhere else, to make sure, before they bring any other Measures to the House that agreement has been reached on them, and thus avoid putting us in a dilemma.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
I think that the remarks of the hon. Member for Brigg and Scunthorpe (Mr. Ellis) have shown that, apart from the constitutional argument, the House is in something of a dilemma. When the established Church of this country comes to us with a Measure that has been considered by the Synod, most people—certainly non-Church people—would think that because the Measure has been passed by a large majority in the Synod it has the support not only of the bishops, the deans, the higher clergy and the parochial clergy, but of most of the congregations.
The first point that I make from my own experience is that neither the Church in which I have worshipped for many years nor I have been asked about this matter. It is true that my parish priest was asked for his views, and he is vehemently opposed to this Measure, as I am. I think that the Church places itself—and it is a shame for a Tory Member to have to say this—in an awkward and difficult position when it comes before us 974 with a Measure which has the full support of the Synod but which we know does not have the support of many ordinary people in the news.
I am sorry that, as a loyal churchman, I must once again, as I did over the virtual abolition of the use of the Book of Common Prayer—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It has happened, but I must not be diverted. I say only that that has happened in almost every church and it it now used at most once a month. It is a matter of sadness to have to say again that I disagree profoundly with a Measure that has come to us from the General Synod. The more I read of the debates in the Assembly, particularly the recent debates about a closed shop, the more worried I become. I fear that the division will be not between this House, which, as has been said, is sovereign in these matters, and the ordinary churchgoer, but between the Synod and the ordinary churchgoer, due to a serious failure of communication.
Let us first ask ourselves in this supposedly democratic Assembly what demand there has been from the parishes, from the people in the pews, for this Measure. It is well known in my constituency that I take a close interest in the affairs of the Church of England. Of the 83,000 constituents that I have, of whom by far the greater part arc, nominally at least, members of the Church of England, not one has requested that this Measure be passed tonight. I very much doubt whether more than 1 per cent. of ray constituents know that for many hours this evening this Measure will be debated by the House.
I am also worried about the argument for efficiency. It is always a dangerous argument, particularly for a supposedly spiritual body. We have seen the damage that so-called efficiency experts have done in many walks of life. I fear they will also now damage the Church.
The question of cost has also been mentioned. But at the moment glebe and so on is administered without cost. Surely, if we pass this Measure—and we have heard nothing of the finance necessary to establish the new Measure—there will have to be officials, some of them paid, to carry out the Measure at diocesan level.
But the most fundamental point of all, and the point which most matters to me 975 as a traditionalist and as a Tory, is the violation of the wills and wishes of our forebears which should never be lightly set aside. I believe this Measure in the end amounts to nothing less than a sort of confiscation from clergy in the future.
This leads me to my second point—that this Measure will be a severe blow to the independence of the parish and its priest. In the matter of glebe we know that it breaks a personal link between the incumbent and his tenants. I fear that this action of the Synod is one more example of the so-called ecclesiastical bureaucracy trying to get its hands on the levers of power in the interests of efficiency. It is also evidence of the Synod's continual desire to reorganise and change what has been well established. What matters principally in the Church, as in any other organisation, is the people in it—the flesh and blood rather than the mere organisation and administration. The need of the Church today, we all know, is for more and better clergy and greater leadership from the bishops and higher clergy.
We would all agree that the strength of the Church of England has been, and still is, in its parishes. The parish is part of the emotions which we all feel which centre around our home and family. In this increasingly turbulent world in which we live the parish, to me at any rate, is the one centre of continuity, peace and calm. Why disturb this precious asset?
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
Has my hon. Friend noticed that the very point he is making was emphasised in the Redcliffe-Maud Report on local government when it stressed that the parish was a significant unit of loyalty which the district, or anything else, was not?
§ Mr. Stokes
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. He has made an important point. The sort of damage done by our ill-advised Local Government Act—the disappearance of old names, old centres and things that people could cling to—may well be done to the parish if this Measure is passed.
It is because I love the parish and its priesthood that I am so vehemently opposed to this Measure. In the country- 976 side the parish is still the most important thing in most people's lives in the village. It symbolises our traditional way of life in England and the abiding nature of timeless values. Any weakening of the parish would make many people more rootless than they are today. People want stability, not frequent changes, from the Church. This Measure would destroy the parochial system which has the weight of over 1,000 years of English history to justify its retention.
Parishes will be stripped of their assets, and precious endowments given or bequeathed by generous benefactors of past centuries for the benefit of their own beloved parish church will be cast into a general pool without prior consent or even proper consideration. Holdings of glebe land now handled locally by un-paid church officials would be similarly merged and placed in the hands of distant, probably paid, officials.
I believe that this Measure also brings nearer the end of private patronage. An ecclesiastical bureaucracy would manage what I can only call the diocesan machine. I fear that the clergy's status would be weakened by this Measure and the time could come when the parochial clergy could be moved about like pawns on a chess board. Their independence would be threatened as well as their freedom of speech, and nonentities would be placed in charge of them.
I believe that this Measure will further alienate local congregations from their church, first as the loss of the personal Easter offering to their own vicar is, regrettably, already having an effect. Already churchgoers are starting to vote with their feet. If this Measure is passed this evening I fear that many a parish church will become emptier. At the very least I feel that we in this place, representing above all the ordinary person in the pew, should not pass this Measure until there has at least been evidence of much greater support for it from the parish priests and their congregations.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)
I should like to follow what my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) said and also to speak against this Measure. My hon. Friend touched, as he so often does, some of the deepest 977 chords in the minds of the people of this country.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) talked of the three reasons which the Ecclesiastical Committee discussed. I was a member of that Committee. Although, as my right hon. Friend has rightly said, it would be improper to divulge majorities, I was a member of the minority which voted against the Measure. That helped influence the drafting of the report in the extremely lukewarm terms in which it was drafted. If one looks at the three issues discussed by the Ecclesiastical Committee, on every single count this House ought to say "No more. No further with this measure".
Let us consider the question of consultation. It is quite obvious from the many representations which many of us have received—those of us known to be interested in these matters—that, to put it mildly, there was considerable disquiet in the Church of England as to the manner, method and extent of consultation.
Perhaps I can declare an interest in this context. Speaking as a churchwarden I know that among my own parochial church council this matter was not brought before us from on high. There was no contact from our representative on the General Synod. There was no deep discussion. I know from consultation and discussion with friends in various parts of the country that the experience in my own parochial church council was by no means unique.
One then comes to the question of effectiveness. Is this change to be a change for the better? If one divorces every other consideration from it—personally, I should not like to do it—the test of the Measure is, will the latter state be better than the former? Many pointed questions were asked during the discussions of the Ecclesiastical Committee. It is a fact that, when the matter was first brought before us, many of the figures were not available to show what the quantitative or qualitative effect would be in the opinion of those who were propounding and proposing it. Such facts and figures as were available led only to the traditional Scottish verdict of "Not proven". There was absolutely nothing to indicate that the latter stage would 978 be better than the former. Therefore, if the Measure were improperly—I do not mean that in a moral sense—and imperfectly discussed, if there was nothing approaching proof that the latter stage would be better, the House has a real responsibility in passing it.
I would echo the words of the right hon. Member for Down, South in warmly and sincerely congratulating the Second Estates Commissioner on the way in which he has fought to bring this and other Measures before the House for proper debate. He has performed a signal service for the House, the Church and the country. The moderate and sensible way—I hope that I do not sound patronising—in which he introduced this Measure was a pleasure to hear. He did not try to say that it was all right and that we must have it. He tried not to dogmatise but only to advocate a course with extreme caution.
Well might the hon. Gentleman be cautious. The third reason put forward by those opposing the Measure that the Ecclesiastical Committee considered is the reason I believe we should reject it. He who breaks faith with the past, as we are being asked to do today, will not serve the future well. Through the centuries, men and women have, of their charity and dedication, given to their churches. They have decided that they wish to express their piety, their devotion, in a tangible form. They have endowed, they have bestowed from their own goods upon the church which they loved. It would be an act of gross folly and of questionable morality for us to seek to eradicate the wishes of those people, to rewrite their wills and testaments.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean) that occasionally it is right to consider a particular bequest. But we are not being asked today to deal with the particular or the individual. We are being asked to give total sanction to a general rewriting of thousands of bequests. There is a significant difference between the two approaches.
I should be very sad if the House were to say, in effect, to those who have given down the ages that, in the cause of efficiency and effectiveness, what they determined and decided is no longer "valid or relevant"—to use those overworked modern words.
979 As has been said, in many dioceses there is a voluntary scheme which would approximate to the suggested national scheme. I do not cavil at that. That is fair enough, if people voluntarily make an arrangement within their own diocese with the individual incumbent. I can conceive of many circumstances in which I would enthusiastically advocate such a course. But again there is a world of difference between such a stance and this House saying that something must be done.
Compulsion is always a bad weapon. With the many precedents of recent years in mind—I refer not just to this Government but to Tory Governments—this House should be reluctant to take a power of compulsion where it is not necessary.
I fear that what we are seeing in the Church of England today is the beginning of the end of the parson's freehold and the parochial system. We all know that many in the Church of England wish to do away with the parson's freehold. One could argue that this Measure, the approach to the retirement age of clergy and the underlying designs of private patronage represent a three-pronged attack on the parson's freehold. But I believe that the parson's freehold is essential to the parochial system, and as an Anglican I believe that the parochial system is essential to the health and wellbeing of the Church of England.
I am presumptuous enough to suppose, furthermore, that the parochial system is of incalculable advantage to our society in general, to people in all walks of life, of all religious persuasions and of none. He who tampers with something which has stood the test of time must be very sure of his ground. For us to tamper with the parochial system in this way in the light of the lukewarm approval given to this Measure by the Ecclesiastical Committee would be a retrograde step.
I am delighted that we can debate this Measure at such length and at such a civilised hour and there are one or two other points which I should like to raise.
In a brief but emotional intervention the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) talked about the stipend of the clergy, the position of the—often young—married parson with a wife and family to 980 support. In raising that matter, he was missing the point of this debate. The subject of this debate—I choose my words carefully—is far more important than the welfare of an individual incumbent. It is a matter of prime and absolute principle.
Of course many of us who are members of the established Church should hang our heads in shame when we consider what our incumbents are paid. Many of us do what we can, as in my own parish we have done, to give proper expenses allowances and so on to our incumbents. But that is an entirely separate thing from passing this Measure.
I want to feel that if—as I am a Member of Parliament, it is a very big "if"—I am successful enough to accumulate any wealth, I have some say over where it goes. I have a deep and abiding affection for the churches with which I have been associated already in my life and I should like to feel that I could leave something to them. But I should not be exactly encouraged by contemplating this Measure.
It is no answer to my doubts and uncertainties to say that it will be all right in future. This is a precedent. Once done it can be done again. The Measure, or something similar, could be reintroduced and re-enacted a generation from now. The hon. Member for Brigg and Scunthorpe (Mr. Ellis) made a perceptive and wise speech and I understand how he feels. I would regard his Church, the Methodist Church, in exactly the same light if we were meeting today to rewrite the use of the testaments of benefactors to that Church.
We must not break faith. If we wish to see the centralisation of the Church of England; if we wish to see bureaucracy within the Church increased, if we wish to see amalgamations which pay scant regard to the wishes of the local people and local parishes if we believe that people are digits and parishes are units and that the two can be juggled and changed around at will, then we can pass the Measure. But, if we believe that there is something of incalculable worth in the relationship between the vicar and his flock we should say to the General Synod—and I say this with a heavy heart—that it must think again and tell them that we cannot accept this.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)
I criticise the Church for this Measure not with an easy will or unhesitant determination. Rather, it is with a sense of deep reluctance that I make my criticism because we look to the guidance of the Church as a haven for trust and morality under God's law, outside political interpretation of how modern society should or should not be. That guidance has been explained in our prayers in the Chamber which have survived unaltered since their inception in the seventeenth century. Their meaning has all the more depth and magic because of their exquisite phraseology, just as I believe that the old form of the marriage service holds the balance of time which new words leave fragile on the shifting sands of modern fashion.
Endowments and glebe have over the years steadily gathered forces round the individual churches. At this point in the deep history of the Church we find a moment of precarious decline. Of course, the appeal and fortunes of our Church have gone up and down over the years, but here is the down point that goes one depth deeper than the low point in the historic graph of progress.
For four or five centuries our villages and churches have weathered the storm of unpopularity. They form the visual bastion of undeniable faith which has brought people, their efforts and endowments to the assistance of the Church. What do we find today in a period of unparalleled financial difficulties, but nevertheless much higher standards, for many more people compared with less than 15 years ago? We find that there arc too few ministers—too few clergy—to run an ever-diminishing number of churches. Parishes are grouped in threes and fours and daily the number of churches being closed, not used or maintained grows. Nothing like this has happened before in the long history of the Church, and the Church is in retreat.
Many provisions in this Measure are of deep concern to me. First, it is a breaking of trusts and the conditions of endowments made to protect certain churches. In a wholesale sweep it destroys trust, Trust is a bond similar to that of marriage and it ill becomes the Church to deal with it in this high-handed manner. 982 There is nothing in the Measure which refers to the trust and obligations which the Church should have and which are to be demolished.
Giving to the Church is a personal matter with many interpretations. Essentially it is the connection between the Church, God and the person concerned that is the motivating factor. Giving to a fund involving the enduring endowment of shares, land or property does not create the same personal connection between the person and the place of worship which links the two with God. Therefore the Measure will confound the object of attracting much-needed revenue.
Secondly, I see no immediate benefit to the clergy. Those who at present receive endowments of over £1,000 will receive personal grants of the difference after the £1,000 has been taken away. Only 224 cases will arise out of the Measure if it is passed. Some incomes will fall and some will increase. Whilst glebe and endowment will go to the diocesan funds, the Commissioners will be responsible for passing the money to the stipends fund which, in turn, will pass it to the incumbent.
That does not mean that the clergy will find their stipends increased by £1,000 a year if their endowment now amounts only to £200 or £300. I hope that the situation will be clarified, because some people may he under the misapprehension that their total payments will be automatically increased.
I am also anxious about another small matter in the Measure—the provision dealing with the compulsary imposition on the clergy to pass on income from any letting that they may make. The provision will surely act as a disincentive to an incumbent to let out an unused part of his parsonage. Under the Measure the income from such a letting would go to the diocesan fund. The incumbent will have all the worry and inconvenience and perhaps other problems from such a letting, but he will be unable to get an income from it. He may experience tenants parking cars in his drive. No one can guarantee that he will let to good tenants. Despite that, he will get nothing out of it and it is therefore a disincentive to him to let part of his home to someone who might need it.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
Does not my hon. Friend agree that that raises an interesting consideration? If the incumbent does not receive an income from the wing that is let, will he be able to charge against income tax for the cost of maintenance?
§ Mr. Banks
I understand that the cost of maintenance will be borne by the diocesan fund but that the incumbent will not have the advantage of tax paid against income. But he would not have the income anyway.
Thirdly, one of the crucial points is the position of the parochial church council. I am aghast at its omission from the list of those who were consulted when the Measure was drawn up. Shortly after becoming a Member, I went to the Library to try to obtain a copy of the Measure, but it was not available. I had great difficulty in obtaining one. I eventually received a photostat copy from a firm of solicitors.
I do not believe that many parochial church councils have considered the Measure in depth. We find from the findings of the Ecclesiastical Committee that a leaflet explaining the Measure was sent to each incumbent. So it should be, but should it not also have been sent to the parochial church councils?
The matter causes me great concern, because the involvement of people with their church in their villages or parishes in the towns is crucial for the Church. I am deeply concerned that the parochial church councils have had no opportunity to make proper representations on this important matter. After all, in the countryside in many instances it is they who will look after the glebe, decide who should cut the hedges and repair the fences, and deal with all the little problems that arise, such as cutting the grass. It is part of the duty that they take upon their shoulders for the village as a whole and for the church.
Under the Measure the administration is now to be done by the diocesan board, possibly acting through a committee. Who will serve on the committee? How big will it be? It will be dealing with all the little pieces of glebe land throughout the diocese. Its members will not know where to start in considering, for example, who should take the hay off the field, whether the local cricket and 984 football teams should be allowed to use the glebe meadows, whether there should be a new building for a changing room and so on. Those are very personal but important matters in the parish. The transfer of the responsibility for ownership and maintenance of the glebe to the diocesan board will destroy much of the sense of the possession that is one of the strengths of the Church and its connection with the parishes that it serves.
Early in the Measure there is a reference to endowments which will become the property of the Commissioners, provided they are for the benefit of the incumbent. That means that the original trust, perhaps drawn up many centuries ago, must show that the incumbent personally would benefit from the revenue. That provision is in Clause 7(2)(a). But Clause 39 says:The liability to repair…the chancel…(a) arising from the ownership immediately before the appointed day of glebe land or any other property constituting part of the endowments of a benefice…shall…be transferred to…the parochial church council".How is it that an endowment of the fabric of the church, not for the benefit of the incumbent, should be included in the Measure? That conflicts with what is said on page 5. How many parochial church councils realise that if the Measure is passed they will have to raise the money for repairs to the chancel, which could be a big item? That is a matter of great concern to most parishes.
On page 7 of the report of the Ecclesiastical Committee there is a reference to the Archdeacon of Bath, who supported the Measure but who believed that there had been inadequate communication at diocesan and local level. We heard earlier that the diocesan synods were not consulted about the Measure. The report says that the General Synod has not been guilty of any bad faith in the matter, and addsat the worst, they may have made an error of judgment in this particular respect.That is one reason, if there were no others, for returning the Measure for further consideration and a fresh approach by all those concerned in the work of the Church of England.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Latham (Melton)
This has been a magnificent debate, with a 985 genuine flow of agreement and disagreement across the Floor of the House and between its Benches, and it is likely to continue to be so. It answers any suggestion that Parliament has no duty to discuss these matters.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) made some pertinent points which will have to be answered. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) made an extremely damaging attack on the Measure. He raised the discussion to a high level and made a series of extremely practical points. I am sorry that he is not here, although he has heard most of the debate, because as a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee, which came down in favour of the Measure, I should like to try to answer him on the ground which he chose—that of history, tradition and, above all, the precedents in this House when dealing with matters of the established Church of England. As the right hon. Gentleman is not here, I hope that he will read in Hansard what I have to say.
On Sunday 14th July 1833 the man who did more than anyone else to restore sanctity to the Church of England, John Keble, stepped into the University Pulpit at St. Mary's Church, Oxford, to preach the Assize Sermon before the judges. That sermon, on national apostasy, was later described by John Henry Newman as the commencement of the Oxford Movement.
The pretext for Keble's sermon, which reverberated throughout the land and whose effects are still felt in every Anglican church, was the passage through Parliament of the Church Temporalities (Ireland) Act 1833. The effect of that Act was to suppress two Anglican archbishoprics and eight other bishoprics in Ireland, to cut the income of two bishops, to abolish church rate or cess, as it was called in Ireland, and to levy a special tax on Irish Protestant livings worth more than £300 a year.
The original proposal of Clause 147 of that Measure was that the proceeds of the tax should be used for secular purposes by Parliament, although that was subsequently dropped to ensure the passage of the Bill. In his Assize Sermon, Keble described the Bill asa rejection of a national profession of religion.986 In "Tract for the Times No. 1", which Newman wrote and distributed in the last 10 days of August 1833, he asked what would be the basis of the authority of a clergyman of the Church of Englandshould the Government and the country so far forget their God as to cast off the Church, to deprive it of its temporal honours and substance.I mention that great Victorian controversy for two reasons. The first is the irony that an attempt by Parliament in 1833, supported by some of the Anglican hierarchy but against the wishes of many others, to deal with an unsatisfactory distribution of income in the Church sparked off the Oxford Movement, which changed the face of the Church of England beyond recognition. Yet now, in 1976, it is the Church itself, through its General Synod, which is trying to persuade an obviously reluctant House to agree to a redistribution of its income which its leaders want but which obviously a substantial number of hon. Members do not want.
The second and more important reason is that the 1833 Act was the first of the series throughout the 1830s and 1840s designed to reform the Church. Most of these were involved with the suppression of ecclesiastical income. Here I meet head on the objections to the Measure itself which have been made by the right hon. Member for Down, South and other hon. Members—the threefold objections which are the core of tonight's debate.
This is not the sort of Measure which I would naturally support. When the Ecclesiastical Committee began discussing this, I was opposed to it at first, but the more I considered it and refreshed my memory with historical precedents, the more I felt compelled to support it.
I do not propose to devote a lot of time to discussing the first two objections made by hon. Members—those of lack of adequate consultation and greater bureaucracy. The first is fair. I do not think that the Church has consulted enough, but that in itself is not an appropriate reason for the rejection of this Measure by Parliament. As for diocesan pooling, the information which the Committee received from the seven dioceses which already operate the system showed negligible administrative costs and a substantial increase in glebe income.
987 I am sorry that those who drew up the report did not include these figures in it. The judgment of the General Synod in this matter is likely to be as good as anybody's. This, in itself, is not a condemnation, as the right hon. Member for Down, South suggested. It is an honest statement and we must decided whether we should put our judgment above that of the Synod. A great deal of time and care has been devoted to this judgment.
The third objection provides the real thrust—that it is a breach of the principle of charity law, in that it involves the confiscation of assets and contravention of the wishes of donors. In this context I recall the words to this House on 19th July 1836 of Sir Robert Inglis, Member for Oxford University, who said, bearing in mind that in those days Hansard was reported in the third person:He admitted the lamentable poverty of some of the ministers of the established church, but the destitution of one body of the Clergy, which he regretted, was not to be relieved by a kind of legalised robbery of another. If the destitution existed, let it be remedied by another means.The purpose of the Bill under discussion at the time was to set up the Ecclesiastical Commission, to take money from the richer sees and to give to the poorer o1ies and to set up two new bishoprics. The Bill received a Third Reading with an overwhelming majority.
I take another quotation:He objected to the Bill because it gave a shock to property; secondly, because it would not remedy the abuses of cathedrals, and thirdly, because it would frustrate the very object for which it was introduced. Men had been allowed to bequeath their property for these purposes and their bequests ought not to be interfered with on the mere pretence of general improvement. He thought they had no right to violate the wills of founders of cathedrals. He believed that the object of the noble Lord might he carried into effect consistently with the wills of founders of cathedrals, and it was contrary to all reason and to the rule of law respecting bequests to violate the wills of founders when the object could be gained by respecting them.Those were the words of a rising young Tory Back-Bencher who subsequently went bad politically, Mr. W. E. Gladstone, on 29th June 1840. Or again in the words of the Bishop of Winchester on 27th July 1840:What right had the legislature so to deal with property given for certain specific pur- 988 poses—not by the State but by individuals forever?Finally, I quote from outside this House a statement which received great publicity at the time:The method in which the Church is paid, and must continue to be paid, is by unequal divisions. The respectability of the Church, as well as of the Bar, is almost entirely preserved by unequal division of their revenues. At present men are tempted into the Church by the prizes of the Church, and bring into that Church a great deal of capital which enables them to live decently. The officers of the Church would then fall down to men a little less coarse and ignorant than agricultural labourers.That statement came from Sydney Smith in his famous first letter to Archdeacon Singleton in 1837. All three of those people were speaking about the Ecclesiastical Commissioners Act 1840 which suppressed 360 non-resident canonries, about 70 sinecure rectories and all resident canonries other than four, and pooled the revenue from them under the Ecclesiastical Commission.
The arguments against the Bill, especially that of Gladstone which I quoted, are exactly the same in principle as those which are being used today. Parliament did not accept them in the last century. Sir Robert Peel himself, as Leader of the Opposition, did not accept them and indeed supported the Acts of 1836 and 1840, and I suggest that there is no good reason for accepting them now.
Above all, this Measure is about the financial needs of the Church. In the words of one of my constituents, a rural vicar with glebe land:I will be glad to be relieved of direct involvement in glebe for a different reason. As the rent comes direct to me through the agent I am at the mercy of the farmers who pay it. Sometimes a quarterly cheque for £70 has been two months late. When one is living right on the debt line, this is a very anxious matter.The House should note those words "right on the debt line". We arc discussing the remuneration of the clergymen of the Church of England, and let us not mince words—their pay is appalling. The latest details available are contained in the report of the Church Commissioners which relates to July 1975. Page 12 of the Ecclesiastical Committee's report gives slightly more up-to-date information, but as of July 1975 the salary target range for an incumbent was £2,100 to £2,500 a year. Of the 8,503 incumbents nearly 3,000 fell 989 under that target, being 35 per cent., compared with 32 per cent. who fell below the previous year's target range of £1,850 to £2,150. Considering the responsibilities and the training involved in becoming a beneficed clergyman, those are terrible figures.
The situation is quite scandalous for curates. The national pay scales for up to eight years' service was, in July 1975, £1,300 to £1,600 a year, with a £50 child allowance compared with £1,050 to £1,410 the previous year. No doubt there was a further increase in April this year, but these still remain very bad figures, especially as the Commission provides only two-thirds of the stipend. The rest comes from the laity. Indeed, in 1975, the laity provided £7.2 million towards stipends, and £2.8 million towards working expenses of beneficed clergy.
Let us be frank about it. The Church is facing a horrific resource problem which can be solved only by raising more money and by seeing that the money which is available is spent to the best advantage. If the Church itself comes forward with detailed proposals in this regard, the House of Commons should think very carefully before rejecting them unless it has some better suggestions.
The constitutional argument has now come full circle. Newman, Pusey and Keble argued against Parliament suppressing surplus church property because it involved the interference of a no-longer Anglican body in religious matters. With the admission of free churchmen and Roman Catholics into the House of Commons, the days were gone when Richard Hooker could argue thatThere is not any man of the Church of England but the same is a member of the Commonwealth, nor any man a member of the Commonwealth which is not also of the Church of England.If that was no longer so in 1833, it was even less so when Convocation was reestablished in the 1860s or when this House set up the Church Assembly in 1919 in order to provide for more satisfactory arrangements for running the Church of England.
I accept at once that this House has the right to reject a Measure of the General Synod of the Church, especially in matters of administration of property rights. Before any hon. Member takes 990 such a step, and I realise that this will not be a popular thing to say, I ask him to consider two things.
The first is that where the secular arm, whether this House or the courts, has tried to impose a solution on the Church the results have often been unsatisfactory. The Public Worship Regulation Act 1874, with which Disraeli was to "put down ritualism", resulted in five clergymen going to gaol, to the great scandal of the faithful.
Our decisions in this House to reject in 1927 and 1928 the Revised Prayer Book—which had already been approved by another place, as has this Measure—were ignored by the Church. It went on and used the Prayer Book anyway.
The record of the courts in religious matters is so difficult and so poor that the Gorham judgment in 1850 led to the secession of Manning and others to Rome and the Colenso judgment of 1865 led to a schism in South Africa which was certainly still in existence in 1964 and which I believe exists today.
The second reason why hon. Members should think carefully before rejecting this Measure is that, as we know, the job of the Anglican clergy is to read and preach the scriptures, to teach the Catholic faith, particularly as defined by the Nicene Fathers and to administer the sacraments which Our Lord founded. To do that efficiently they need to make the best use of resources.
This Measure has ample historical precedents. It has been drawn up by the body which this House founded to act in these matters, the General Synod. It has been scrutinised in detail and approved by the Ecclesiastical Committee and by another place. It is a further step in the continuing reform of the Church which has gone on for hundreds of years. I believe that this Measure deserves the support and approval of the House.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)
I support this Measure. I hope that those who have spoken against it will have changed their minds by the time the debate ends.
As we travel through the country, we know that there are a number of wealthy parishes. Many of us have seen 991 the movement of clergy from one parish to another. While none of the clergy says that this is because of pay, conditions in some of the parishes in which they have begun their Christian work have been so bad that I have wondered why they remained. It can have been nothing but faith in the work that they were doing that made them stay. God knows that they are sacrificing a lot to teach scriptures to the people of their parishes.
It is right that the wealthier parishes should be brought into a scheme, as this Measure proposes, to help the poorer parishes. An hon. Member said that this Measure represented nothing more or less than confiscation of endowments and glebe. I hope that he will think carefully before the debate ends. This Measure is nothing of the kind. It proposes the pooling of endowments and glebe so that the money may be used by more parishes throughout the country.
If we carry this Measure it will enable the Church of England to see that there is fair play and to ensure that those who are suffering most because of their Christian beliefs are helped. As I understand it, and I admit that I have no brief whatever, this Measure has that one objective.
I have enjoyed listening to those who have done their homework and who know something of the historic background of the Church of England. I have been pleased to have the opportunity of listening to those with whom I disagree. They have let in a breath of fresh air. They have not, however, changed my opinion. This Measure is an element in an overall strategy aimed at securing more adequate pay for the clergy.
This Measure has come rather late. We all appreciate that there has never been a time in the history of man when our Church has been more needed, when the teachings of Christianity have been more necessary. Parliament would be making a great mistake if it encouraged a weakening of an already serious situation.
Today we can see absolute poverty in many of the households of the clergy. The need for the influence of the Church has never been greater than it is today. 992 This House will be performing a service to mankind by supporting this Measure tonight, in the Lobby if need be.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)
I agree with the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) on two points only. We all know that most of the clergy are inadequately paid and that many are badly housed. Secondly, I agree with his profound observation that never in our history have we needed Christianity more than today. I cannot agree that this Measure is the correct method to adopt.
The Measure can be looked at in three ways. First, is it a good Measure and does it achieve what we want? Secondly, does it take away the freedom to appoint clergy? By taking out the glebe land, one does not take from the owner of the living the right to appoint, but one makes it less attractive to a potential incumbent. Here the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) made a good point.
The third question which is probably even more important is whether it is moral to sequestrate glebe land, land which has been given by our forefathers for specific charitable purposes, and yet at the same time, as the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said, permit exactly the same thing to happen in future. I find it difficult to reconcile those two things.
This is such a fundamental issue in the Church that I am extremely glad that we have been able to have a full day's debate on it. This Measure must be considered in the same light as any other Measure which comes before Parliament, whether it be a private Member's Bill or a Government Bill or indeed anything else. Whatever faith to which we belong and whatever our feelings, every hon. Member has a right to speak in this debate and to express his view. The Measure must be discussed here as this is the supreme legislative Chamber.
I am glad that we have an established Church, and I am proud that it is part of the State. I see no reason why we should not comment on Measures such as this, even though it may have been the result of a great deal of work on the part of a number of people. It is our duty to incumbents and to this House to 993 ensure that it is scrutinised. If we have any doubts—as many of us have—about the validity, or propriety in some cases, of parts of this Measure we should not hesitate to vote in the correct way.
I said in an intervention that this matter was similar to the rape of the monasteries, but I shall develop that theme later. I believe that the glebe land has a special meaning in many parishes particularly in the country.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton touched on an important matter. If, for instance, an incumbent moves, his glebe land and the glebe land of this new living—both of which may be extremely valuable—passes from the living, if it is a living to which a person may appoint, that living will be less attractive. This will make a difference to the appointments within the Church and, over a long period, patronage may well go by the board. If that did happen the whole of the power to appoint members of the clergy would pass into one hand only.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton was right. Constituencies have a right to appoint independently. If it were done centrally a different composition might result. The hon. Member's comparison was valid. Although we may not see this happening for some time that will be the effect in the long term.
Once a sitting freeholder goes, the glebe land attached to his former church goes. This could result in the clergy not wishing to transfer from one parish to another. I can see my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) making notes on this. No doubt he will take me up on it. This could result in people who have valuable livings not wishing to move from one living to another for financial reasons. We ought to consider that.
I wish to quote a case of which I have personal knowledge. In my Clapham constituency there was a church which has some glebe land and the incumbent, understandably, when he wished to build a new school, thought that he could not do so because the glebe land would have to be handed back. I told him to look at the deeds where he would find that the deeds were vested in him and that he was the owner of the glebe land for as long as he held the living. As a result, the glebe land was sold and a deal was done with 994 the then Minister of Education and a brand new school was built. That would not have happened if we had not been able to find the basic cost of £16,000. A benefactor had given us the land and had enabled us to benefit as a parish. Had that land passed to the general fund, we should not have had the chance. I fought hard, and every device was used to stop us using that money to build a school because it was wanted for something else.
This Measure raises considerable constitutional issues. There may well be a financial benefit in the short term, at the expense of the sequestration of other people's property, but I wonder whether people in future will be encouraged to give money in trust to the churches. I certainly would think twice and would say "If this Parliament can take one lot away why should not another Parliament take another lot away?"
I am sure that the intentions are good but I draw the attention of the House to page 10 of the report. It is a good summary of what could happen if we passed this Measure. On the ground that I do not believe that the grantors' wishes should be frustrated—it will restrict appointments to the Church—I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will think carefully before passing this Measure. I do not think that a Measure of this sort should go through the House.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) expressed my views on this matter. If I understood him correctly, he said that he had wrestled with it because it is a question of a conflict of right with right. I agree with him.
Unquestionably, it is the right of those who propose the Measure to seek to use more efficiently the funds that are generally available to the Church and, in particular, to try to improve the miserable pay of many of its clergy. All of us will well appreciate that point.
As the hon. Member for Walton said, the Church now needs to move in much more vigorously to those deprived urban areas where the Christian message can be of great importance. I support that view. On the other hand, I must confess that I am troubled by some of the principles 995 that underlie this Measure. I intensely dislike the idea that Parliament should reach back into the past and pervert, for that is what it is, the intention of somebody who left a sum of money or land for a particular purpose. I am not sure that it is right for us retrospectively to pervert an intention honourably entered into.
It may be that in the past some of those who left a glebe in an endowment did so because they sought to secure their place in Heaven afterwards—I almost said "in another place" but that would be an inappropriate description—but, whatever the motivations of those who have given of their wealth to the Church, they have done so in the certain belief that their intentions would be honourably carried out. Therefore, it is a big step for Parliament retrospectively to pervert, destroy or smash that intention honourably entered into.
I must also confess to having some fear that this Measure could lead to the bureaucratisation of the Church. I see merit in the parish incumbent being able to say "Boo" to his bishop. Not all bishops are always right and many bishops are frequently wrong. There is great merit in a catholic organisation, such as the Church of England, taking into itself a variety of men of strong views and men who may disagree but who may at the same time have institutionalised support to enable them to disagree occasionally with their ecclesiastical superiors.
It troubles me when I examine this Measure to feel that an incumbent could be deprived of the assets given to him by history and that there could be a situation in which he would no longer feel able to disagree with his ecclesiastical superiors, who in future would have an economic sanction against that incumbent. To put the matter crudely, we are putting in the hands of the diocesans a spoil system: the ability to hand out rewards to those of whom they approve and somehow to damage the economic situation of those of whom they disapprove. I have put that far too crudely and I do not believe that it would happen in that fashion, but the danger exists of reducing the relatively independent parish clergy to bureaucrats who could be dealt with in that way by their superiors.
996 In common with most hon. Members, I am troubled by this Measure, and I judge it on three main principles. The first is the question of the retrospective compulsory acquisition of somebody else's property, virtually without compensation to the person whose property is taken, and certainly without any statutory right of appeal to an independent body. It is quite new for this House to take such action. I and many other hon. Members have had some responsibility in Government, and we have all had experience of the effect of compulsory purchase orders. We know that it is not always easy to arrive at the right decision when seeking compulsorily to purchase other people's land, a function that is necessary in any society.
That function is performed in our society on the basis of three clear considerations. First, we allow the State or its agencies, locally or nationally, to take away other people's property because it is in the public interest so to do—not in a sectional interest, but in the community's interest as a whole. Secondly, we compulsorily take away people's properties on the authority of an accountable Minister—a person who is accountable to this House and, through this House, to the electorate. Thirdly, whenever we compulsorily acquire other people's property, we have a mechanism of appeal.
However, in this Measure none of those three criteria is met in any way. There is no question of saying that the property shall be compulsorily acquired for the community at large. In this case it is being acquired for the sectional interest of the Church of England—and only the Church of England and nobody else. That property is to be taken away for a narrow sectional interest.
It happens that I am a member of the Church of England, and to that extent I recognise that it is a redistribution within a Church, but the point is that it is to be done by compulsion. The use of compulsory powers of law to take away from a man something not for the community but for a sectional interest is what is being envisaged. I do not believe that this House has previously agreed to any such breach of the normal principle.
Furthermore, there is no question of an accountable Minister sanctioning that 997 compulsory acquisition. No Minister responsible to this House, or through this House to the electorate, will stand up and be counted for the compulsion that is to be applied. There is no accountability, because once this House passed this Measure the whole decision process will rest with a private collective group.
Finally, there is no appeal whatever if any Government, be it Labour or Conservative, come to this House with a proposal under Clause 15—namely, that glebe lands should be vested in a diocesan board of finance without any conveyance or other assurance, and if there is a dispute it is to be decided by the Commissioners whose decision shall be final and binding on both authorities. No independent body is to he involved but the matter is to be fixed by those who have an interest in the matter. That is wholly wrong as a matter of equity.
Therefore, in reply to the first precept I apply to the Bill "Is the retrospective compulsory acquisition, virtually without compensation and certainly without statutory right of appeal, justified?", I have to reply—as a Member of Parliament rather than as a member of the Church of England—that it is not.
I turn to my second criterion—namely, the matter of retrospection. This House has never liked retrospection, and I hope that it will never will. But by this Measure we are to reach back into the past and deal with endowments made in good faith by individual citizens, some hoping for their place in Heaven, some no doubt wishing to dispose of wealth which they can spare, whatever their reasons, but disposed of as an act of faith. Therefore, it is a bold step for us now to say that all those acts of faith over the centuries and through the generations shall now be put aside, but that any new acts of faith that may happen to be made from the point when this Measure is passed will nevertheless be sustained.
The right hon. Member for Down South (Mr. Powell) made this point and I echo it strongly. There is something intrinsically illogical, if not immoral, in the notion that an endowment made before today shall be capable of being disposed of by the diocesan commissioners without appeal or argument while 998 from tomorrow any new endowment shall benefit from the protection of the law. I do not believe it. Once we establish the principle of retrospective confiscation of rights, glebes and endowments, no one will ever again accept our word.
My third judgment must be not only on the objective merits of trying to help the poor clergy and providing funds for urban and suburban pastorates, but on the quality, competence, intentions and trustworthiness of the expropriators—the diocesan boards and the General Synod. Some of my hon. Friends have suggested that because this Measure was recommended to Parliament by the Synod, we should accept it. I do not share that view. I listen to the views of the Synod and respect them, but the fact that it has arrived at a particular conclusion is no more than a fact which I must take into account.
I am not convinced that the record of the diocesan Commissioners and the General Synod in property management is particularly good. Many people in property management would say, if they examined the record of the Church of England in property, that it is manifestly incompetent and, in some respects, has been a disgrace.
I should be grateful if a question which I have on the use to be made of this money could be answered immediately. Am I correct in believing that all the money taken in as a result of this Measure must be used exclusively for the stipends of the clergy? If so, I need not take the matter any further.
Alternatively, will these be general funds capable of being used for such purposes as diocesan boards think fit? Have they a general right of disposition of funds rather than a covenanted obligation to use them for stipends? If so, for what other purposes might the funds be used?
Some of the uses to which Church funds have been put in recent years have filled me with shame. I need not rehearse the use of Church funds through the World Council of Churches for international purposes of which no Christian could approve and it would be wrong to go into that now, but if the funds received from glebes and endowments could be used other than exclusively for clergy stipends, I could not, on that ground alone, agree to this Measure.
999 Those who granted the glebes and endowments were quite clear in their intentions for the use of the resources. If funds created in that way were to be used for political, semi-political, or semi-evangelical purposes elsewhere in the wide competences of the Church, I should regard that as entirely wrong.
§ Mr. Peter Rees (Dover and Deal)
I am listening to my hon. Friend with great attention and he alarms me. Can he give any examples of Church funds, as distinct from funds subject to quasi-charitable bequests, having been used for semi-political purposes, leaving aside synodical purposes? I think that perhaps he has in mind the support of political movements in Africa, but I should be grateful if he could make it clear, because his remarks have alarmed me.
§ Mr. Griffiths
The World Council of Churches has probably benefited from Anglican subvention. It may be that in making that subvention the Anglican Church has set a limit on the uses to which it can be put. However, the World Council has certainly given support to causes in parts of Africa which have caused terror and atrocities. In so far as any assistance from the Church of England may have enabled the World Council of Churches to use funds for that purpose, that is a danger inherent in this Measure if there is not an exclusive requirement that the money be used for stipends.
§ Mr. Terry Walker
May I refer the hon. Gentleman to what I said in introducing this Measure? The income can be used only to provide stipends, pensions and housing for the clergy; it can be used for nothing else.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I am pleased to accept that assurance. If funds are to be used exclusively for stipends and supporting the clergy, I am glad to have elicited that clarification. I did not understand that to be the position.
I have been torn in both directions on this matter and I shall finally vote generally rather than specifically. I shall vote in part on whether I am prepared any longer to accept that the General Synod of the Anglican Church is the best organisation to run it or the best organisation to give advice to this House.
1000 The Sunday Telegraph said recently:Just as there are people in the Church who appear to think that messing about with the language of the Prayer Book will miraculously fill empty pews, so there are people (perhaps they are often the same ones) who evidently suppose that spouting trendy Left-wing notions and jargon is a necessary part of the Christian mission today. What this sort of truckling to fashion or temporal power really achieves, of course, is a further decline in the dignity and authority of the Church.I do not go all the way with the Sunday Telegraph, but as a lifelong member of the Church of England, I have been worried and deeply disturbed by some of the tendencies which have found their way into the General Synod in recent years. I have been worried about the explosion of double standards in the Church and disturbed by the persistent attempts to change everything regardless of whether it is necessary.
Many of those who have now reached high positions in the Church are putting trendiness and faddiness ahead of Christian duty and have succeeded in making many people, such as myself, feel strangers in our own Church.
I have read what the Synod has to say. I have read with greater attention what the Ecclesiastical Committee has to say. I take both reports very seriously. In the end I shall reluctantly vote against the Measure, and I shall do so more than anything else as a vote of no confidence in the General Synod of the Church of England.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Clemitson (Luton, East)
The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) talked early in his speech about the importance of the Church operating in deprived urban areas. I remember that I served my title in just such a deprived urban area in downtown Sheffield, in a parish of nearly 15,000 souls, a number of whom were living at that stage in back-to-back houses. The housing conditions of many others were also very poor.
I remember, too, that after serving in that parish for three years it was time for me to move on. It so happened that the vicar of the parish was due to move as well. I agreed to stay on for three months to cover the interregnum—or, at least, I hoped to cover the interregnum The interregnum tasted for nearly 18 months. Two miles up the hill, on the 1001 other side of what the then Bishop of Sheffield, Leslie Hunter, described as the social apartheid of Sheffield, was another parish in a rather more salubrious area. It also had an interregnum, and it lasted precisely one month.
What is the nature and purpose of the Church? This question seems to me to be behind all the criteria which have been suggested for use in judging the Measure. I regard it as the most fundamental criterion of all. Does the Measure contribute to the better performance of the true nature and purpose of the Church? This seems to me to be the sort of question that we should be asking.
I happen to believe—putting it perhaps rather over-simply—in the primacy of the Kingdom. I happen to believe that the Church is a means to an end and very much not an end in itself. I also happen to believe that the trouble with the Church over the years is that it has forgotten that it is a means to an end, that it has so often felt that it is an end in itself, and that in the process it has become institutionalised to the nth degree.
Involved in that process of institutionisation is the institutionalisation of the parish and of the ministry. When we think about the parish, we have to distinguish between two things. We have to distinguish between, on the one hand, the principles on which the parochial system is based, and, on the other hand, the particular form which the parish system happens to take. I am very pro the parochial system in the first of those meanings, in the sense that I believe that the basic principle on which the parochial system is founded is that the Church and the Christian faith are concerned with every soul, with every person, no matter what label may happen to be put upon a person.
We were concerned in the parish in which I served in Sheffield with more than 14,000 souls, and when we regularly visited, as we did, each of the general hospitals in Sheffield every week, we looked in the admission book only for for the address of the patient. We did not bother to look in the column marked "Religion", in which people were put down as C. of E., Methodist, Baptist, Hindu, or whatever it was. We felt that we had a duty towards 14,000 souls who happened to live within the parish of St. 1002 Mary, Bramhall Lane, Sheffield. That was the school in which I was, so to speak, brought up as a young clergyman.
The parish, then, enshrines the parochial system and is based on the principle that we are concerned with all souls. Indeed, I would extend that to say that we are rightly concerned with the interrelationship of those souls and, indeed, with every aspect of human life.
In that sense I am very much in favour of the parish idea, but I think that we have to distinguish between that and the parish system as it operates. I believe that the idea of splitting the country into a series of geographically delineated units was a very appropriate way in which to work out that basic principle in, say, mediaeval society, in which there was a very settled population. People did not move around. They lived, worked and died very much within a geographically defined area. That system was very appropriate then, but we do not live in the mediaeval age. Life has moved on since then.
We live in an age which is organised as much on functional as on geographical lines. People work in an industry or are involved in education, or whatever it may be, and they move around. It seems to me, therefore, that the Church must take account of the way in which society has altered, and that we need to re-interpret the parochial principle in new ways. I believe that the parochial system, if I may so call it—the series of geographically delineated parishes—has to a considerable extent outlived its usefulness. If we resist the Measure, I believe that we shall be resisting part of a change in the structures of the Church in a direction which would enable the Church better to fulfil its true function in the world as it now is in the latter part of the twentieth century.
We have heard a number of objections to the Measure. One of the basic objections has been about breaking trust or breaking faith with past benefactors. But if we are forbidden to change the use to which benefactions were given in the past, we are in very grave danger of becoming completely ossified. We shall not be able to change at all, or we shall be able to change only in an extremely slow and almost imperceptible way.
But there is perhaps a more important point. When we talk about breaking 1003 faith or breaking trust with past benefactors, are we not looking at the matter in a very narrow way? It may be that by breaking trust with them, in the narrower sense of the term, we may be fulfilling a much higher trust.
After all, they gave their benefactions in the past at a time when society was organised in a certain way, when certain views were held, and so on. But times have moved on, and if we are to fulfil the real trust—their trust in giving their money to the Church so that the Church would be able to fulfil its function in this or any future age—it seems to me that we shall do so by fulfilling a much higher trust than the smaller and narrower trust about which certain hon. Members have been talking today.
Another point which has been made concerns the discouragement of people from being benefactors in future. That makes me very sad. If people are prepared to give money only because it is going to a particular parish, their concept of Christianity, of the Church, and of the true meaning of the word "Catholic" is somewhat wanting. I hate to make judgment of my fellow citizens, Christians and members of the Anglican Church, but I feel bound to say that.
I have a considerable sympathy with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and the hon. Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn) about the independence of the clergy. I suppose that, to make a pendantic point, we are not discussing the freehold, although the two matters are to a certain extent clearly inter-related, and I take that point. The only point I should make in reply is an observation from my own experience.
I spent most of my time in the full-time ministry of the Church in industrial mission. The Anglican clergy who are now involved in industrial mission—very few of them have freeholds—are an independent, rebellious and, incidentally, very able bunch. Some of the most able ministers of the Church of England are in industrial missions, but perhaps I am biased about that. The fact is that they are an independent-minded bunch, and the great majority of them do not enjoy the benefit of the freehold.
1004 I do not want to get involved in an argument about the freehold, but the principle behind the freehold—that the priest should have this element of independence—is absolutely right. We must not only defend that principle but see how we can reintepret the independence—the freehold—in modern terms. That is the challenge which we must face.
I do not regard this Measure as world-shattering. To be honest, I am not terribly worked up about the question of structures, institutions, and so on. But I think that this Measure will be of some help, and I shall support it.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Mills (Devon, West)
I always feel that debates such as this are fascinating, because most of us are good friends, but we seem to disagree strongly about these matters. A real debate is taking place tonight. That is sometimes a little unusual in this House. We disagree about various matters across the Floor of the House. Indeed, the hon. Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson) made an important contribution, because he spoke from experience in these matters.
My hon. Friend the Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn) said that whether people give money to the Church in future depends. That was a sad remark to make. Surely people give money to the Church, to God, to the extension of the Kingdom. They do not give for a particular thing. When people give, it must be for the benefit of the whole Church. Looking back to the early Church, in the Book of Acts we see that they give, not to a little parish, but to the cause—the extension of the Kingdom. Surely that is what we should be doing.
§ Dr. Glyn
People may feel attached to a particular church where they may have worshipped for many years and had tremendous spiritual advantages and therefore feel an obligation towards it. It is not unchristian to devote money in the way of a trust fund specifically to that church in return for something which they have received. I think that is reasonable.
§ Mr. Mills
I do not disagree with my hon. Friend, but he said more than that. In fact, he said whether they will give money in future depends. With respect, 1005 I cannot agree with that. I hope that my hon. Friend will understand.
This is a disturbing Measure. I make no bones about saying that the need for it indicates the difficulties that the Church of England is in. It disturbs me because, whether we agree or disagree with it, we must agree that there is unfairness in it. It is not often that I sit on the fence or am undecided about a matter, but I tend to be about this Measure. The arguments on both sides are important and valid.
It is interesting that people are responding very strongly to this Measure. I had a letter recently from a small church at Stowford in my constituency saying:We feel that it is particularly unseemly for the Church to be doing this which is tantamount to breaking first the tenth and then the eighth commandments.I do not quite see how that comes in, but that is how strongly people feel about this Measure. I also had a church magazine sent to me in which somebody wrote:If this Measure goes through it will be, I believe, one of the final nails in the coffin of our spiritual life. The clergy will be taken away, the rectories sold. The Church will have retreated in the face of Satan.It is extraordinary that people have not thought out and looked at this Measure more carefully than that.
On the other hand, people have written to me strongly supporting this Measure. They believe that it will be of great benefit to the Church as a whole. That is important. They point out that the Synod passed it overwhelmingly. I have been critical of the Synod. I was a member of the Synod and of the Church Assembly in the House of Laity. I came out of it. If people criticise the Synod, they should work hard to see that the right people represent them there and they should have faith in them, just as I hope they have faith in us here. It does not carry much weight with me when people say "The Synod does not represent the people." It certainly should. If the members of the Synod do not go back to their areas or rural deaneries to report on and explain what is happening, the fault lies with them.
Considering the disadvantages, I agree with hon. Members who have spoken against the Measure regarding the word "flexibility." Mention is made of a 1006 greater flexibility in the use of available resources. That can cover a multitude of sins. The excuse that it will be more flexible can hide many serious problems and many things that are wrong.
Flexibility is the excuse for changes which are not always justified or fair. One sees this in industry and perhaps even in politics. I do not think that the Church should be in the same area as industry in these matters. The Church must be very careful about introducing provisions in the interests of flexibility, because the Church is not a company or a political party. It has its grass roots to maintain, and that is very important.
The reason why I am unhappy about the Measure is that one of the dangers that I see is that the Church is moving towards something like a business operation, whereby people are put here and there. I do not think that that is in the interests of the Church in the long run.
Many people feel that the pooling of resources is a disadvantage. They fear further centralisation. They fear that power will begin to concentrate at the diocesan level more and more. If that happens, it will be a pity.
Speaking as a countryman I believe that there is some merit in the country parson having an interest in agriculture and in glebe land, because most of his support in the parish comes from people who are concerned with rural matters. It is not a bad thing to say to parsons, as I have said, "It is a good thing that you have a bit of glebe. You know the problems facing certain people." They do not then make stupid statements in their sermons at harvest festivals and on similar occasions. There is a very good argument for rural parsons having some connection with the land.
Those are some of the disadvantages in this Measure. However, the advantages are obvious. The Church needs more resources in certain areas. There is no doubt that urban areas and housing estates need extra help, in finance and in every other way, in the difficult circumstances in which the Church finds itself. I wish that it were not so. I believe that we must try to channel our resources to where the need is greatest.
The Church needs to pay its clergy adequately. The present state of affairs 1007 is a scandal. The scandal really comes from the Church members themselves. It is the Church members who should see, if they really believe in the business of having a Church of faith and seeking to extend the Kingdom, that the finances exist. They should say "It is our responsibility and the scandal rests on our shoulders." It is very sad to see so many clergy, particularly curates, in the difficulties that they are experiencing.
The Church also needs to get the best out of its assets. In a way, this Measure may well help in that direction, because some glebe land just does not provide a good return. Perhaps I may explain that. It is extremely difficult for a parson in a rural area letting his glebe land, his grass, to drive a very hard bargain. After all, it may be that the church warden is the man from whom he is trying to get the most for the sale of the grass from his glebe. Therefore, there is a problem here. Not all glebe land has realised the best that it could get for the resources of the Church.
There is also a plus from this Measure, It is a Christian principle of sharing one's money, one's time and one's talents. If one looks at the Book of Acts and at the early Church, one can appreciate that its members did just that. They helped, shared, pooled and supported. When the early Church spread abroad into other parts of the then known world, it did not bring in a kind of legislation to force these things through. Its members were prepared to pool their resources. There was an urgent appeal and money was given to help certain areas.
There are advantages. There are disadvantages. The important thing is to ask who will actually administer the glebe. That question worries me considerably. I do not believe that the members of the Board of Finance are the best qualified people to deal with this matter. We need some land agent or someone else who understands the letting of glebe land. I do not believe that the board of finance is the best body to do all this. Does it have the expertise and the local knowledge?
In a strange way, to many of my constituents Exeter, where the diocesan headquarters is situated, is a very long way away. My constituents will be asking me "Do the people in Exeter know the diffi- 1008 culties and problems concerning this land 60 miles away?" Therefore, I suggest to the Church of England that this ought to be done at a far more local level. Perhaps the rural deaneries ought to do this rather than a somewhat remote diocesan board of finance.
I am also interested in the business of a voluntary scheme. Obviously it would be much better if this could be extended. It is clearly working at present. One would have liked to see its extension. I have not heard any argument about why we have not proceeded on that basis. I should have thought that that would be helpful.
To sum up, therefore, I am not happy about the Measure. At present I feel that I shall probably vote for the Measure, but only just. I am somewhat swayed by the argument that at present the pooling of resources, as it were, by the Church Commissioners, from which everyone benefits, already shows that even the smallest parish is getting some aid from pooled resources. That just slightly tips the balance at present to lead me to support the Measure. However, I am still waiting to make up my mind finally, and that may well depend on those who wind up the debate.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ Mr. John Cope (Gloucestershire, South)
This has been a very interesting debate. I have certainly found it very difficult to decide which way to vote. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills), I have not finally made up my mind which way to vote. Like him, I have also received a very great number of letters on this subject. It is difficult to think of any other subject on which I have had as many letters in the last few months.
As the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Walker) knows, in our area we share a local paper in which there has been considerable correspondence on this subject. The main reservation that has been expressed both in letters to me and in the correspondence columns of that newspaper is that the Measure will be used as a lever to amalgamate parishes and to abolish existing parishes and benefices.
When I first started to look at this Measure it seemed that the powers to do what it requires already exist. Most of 1009 this Measure is based on the Pastoral Measure, and so on, but, even looking at the financial side of it, one sees great powers to cream off surplus income as well as power to make up the income. All these powers are used, and there are many statistics about them in the appendices to the report of the Ecclesiastical Committee.
I agree that pastoral reform is necessary. It is true that parishes change I was brought up in a parish of about 12,000 people, but there are parishes in my constituency with only a few hundred members. I do not think anybody would deny that the process has to go on to a certain extent, but the power to do that seems to exist already.
I shall not quote the exact words of the Right Reverend Bishop of London in the other place, because of the discussion earlier. The hon. Member for Kingswood quoted his Lordship in support of the view that the possession of endowments by a particular parish was irrelevant to decisions that were taken on pastoral reorganisation and that one need not bother about this Measure in that context. That is all very well, but it seems to me that at least some of the time the proposers of the Measure want to have it the other way round. The first page of the report by the Synod's Legislative Committee sets out the purpose of the Measure as it sees it. It says that it is necessary so that the Church may befreer to direct its resources to pay the men where they are so deployed.Much of the debate has been about that. We have heard about how poorly some of the clergy are paid, particularly the curates, and I support all that was said about that, but this Measure cannot be advanced on the ground that it will somehow enable money to be sorted out more evenly, that is if we are to believe the Bishop of London that it will have no effect at all on pastoral reorganisation. I do not think that the supporters of the Measure can have it both ways.
It has been said that no clergyman will be worse off, and that is referring in effect to the annuities. What bothers people is not that existing incumbents will be no worse off but that some of the parishes may in due course be worse off as a result of this Measure.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
Is not the claim that no clergyman will be worse off bound to be wrong? As inflation progresses the glebe income and in some cases the endowment income will tend to increase, whereas the Measure merely guarantees that the incumbent will not receive less money in the future. In other words, his income will be pegged, whereas without this Measure it would not he so dealt with, which does not substantiate the claim that he will not be worse off.
§ Mr. Cope
That is a shrewd point, with which I am tempted to agree. On the face of it, what my hon. Friend has said seems to be correct. I notice in passing that it was the clergy who were consulted about this, and not the PCCs. It is the clergy who it is said will be no worse off, and it is said that the parishes may be worse off. The seems to be—sinister is putting it rather strongly—relevant. I have not finally decided which way to vote. I await with interest my hon. Friend's speech concluding the debate, and I shall base my vote on that. But I must say that a present I dislike the Measure itself.
I should like to spend a few minutes discussing the issue that was raised at the start of the debate by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), whether we ought properly in this House to use our veto or whether we should be inhibited in doing so. My hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Mr. Latham) said that it would be ineffective for this House to use its veto; that when this House had tried to exercise its will over the Church it had been ineffective. That may he so, but that does not convince me that we should ignore our duty to come to a decision on this matter.
The noble Lord, Lord Cross has been quoted as saying that we should only rarely and with strong reason use our veto over the legislation. I think that he phrased it a little strongly, but I believe that the Synod has a right to have its views carefully considered. The Synod also has another right. It is one that we have in this House and claim at the beginning of every Session. Mr. Speaker goes to claim from the Sovereign the right that a favourable construction shall be put upon our words. The Sovereign is in a similar position, having a veto over our legislation, but that power has not 1011 been used for many years. The Synod has the right to have a favourable construction put upon its words but, still giving the Synod a fair wind, there seem to be two other stumbling blocks.
The first of those is the question of the breaking of old trusts. I do not take the total view that no old trusts should ever be broken. That view has been expressed a little strongly by some people. It happens that my uncle was at one stage the churchwarden of a church that had a window for which a sum of money had been left for its upkeep. The money was much more than sufficient after a while for the upkeep of the window and the sum involved tended to pile up. When the war broke out some of the money was used to bury the window, and then the church was destroyed by bombs. As a result, for some years my uncle was the churchwarden of a crate with a lot of glass and some money. Eventually, by a complicated process, the trust that tied those concerned to this crate was unravelled, but things were difficult for a while. That is perhaps not a normal example of the way in which trusts can get out of date but it does seem to illustrate the point.
My hon. Friend the Member for Melton quoted speeches made in this House 100 or more years ago, but it seems to me that those speeches were dealing with the much more extreme cases of over-provision of income and of old trusts than we have to deal with in this piece of legislation. In any case, ways of dealing with that problem are already provided under the Pastoral Measure and other means.
It seems relevant that the authorities of the Church, as far as I can detect, are the only bodies which can break trusts in their own favour. Other people can break trusts by going through the Church Commissioners and so on, but the Church itself, and the Church authorities, can break trusts in their own favour. That is a power which we should rarely dispense and extend and this Measure extends that power to the Church authorities.
I come back to the point which has already been made about the low pay of the clergy. The one point that would strongly recommend this Measure to me would be if I thought that it would lead 1012 to the improved management of the Church's assets in total and, therefore, make a real difference to the problems in some of the urban parishes as well as to the problem of the Church not paying its clergy sufficiently.
As I understand it, the sections dealing with financial monetary endowment do not make any difference to the management of the money. It will still be managed by the Church Commissioners as it has been. Where this does make a difference is in the management of the glebe. It is proposed that the glebe should be managed by diocesan authorities. My hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West asked whether the Diocesan Board of Finance was actually due to manage the glebe. As I understand it, from Clause 19 of the Measure, the Diocesan Board of Finance is given overall control but it is supposed to prepare a scheme, which the Commissioners have got to approvewhich makes provision as to the persons by whom and the manner in which the diocesan glebe land of the diocese is to be managed".I take it that there will, in effect, be a sub-committee, with land agents and so on, involved in the management of the land which will do the actual running. I have been sent a copy of a letter which has been written to the Gloucester diocesan authorities by a firm of chartered surveyors and land agents which has been responsible for the management and advice on glebe land in the diocese over a number of years on behalf both of the diocese and also of individual incumbents. The nub of a long letter, which makes a number of detailed points in support of this, states:It is our considered opinion, however, based on our professional experience, that in most cases of management with which we have dealt, there is considerable room for improvement and that the present system whereby it is up to the Incumbent to instigate proceedings for revision of rents, etc., does not lead to an overall policy of efficient Estate Management which can operate successfully.Among the detailed points made is the fact that the law on these matters is now very complex—as we know in this House when we try to deal with it—and that a person who is not expert in these matters can often make mistakes as a result of the law on agricultural tenancies, and land with grass keep, which can result in income being lost. That is a 1013 powerful argument in favour of the diocesan management of glebe land, but it does not necessarily mean that it is an argument for this Measure.
To my mind it is an even stronger argument for the voluntary scheme of glebe management to which the hon. Member for Kingswood referred. Personally, I do not like the idea of the compulsion. I still have a considerable number of reservations about the Measure and I look forward to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) who is to wind up the debate.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Boscawen (Wells)
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Cope) I have not made up my mind on this issue. However, I recognise that it is a serious matter for the Church of England to ask Parliament to change the law. But changes are going on in the outside world which we have to recognise. They are changes which the Church of England is trying to recognise.
I cannot say that I welcome the Measure or the changes, but I recognise that they are worthy and the arguments put against the Measure have to be considered carefully. We should disregard some of the emotive language which has been used tonight and consider the main arguments.
I would dismiss the argument about lack of consultation. There may have been lack of consultation in some places, but certainly not in all. If there has been such a lack of consultation that, to some extent, reflects on the members of the Church who have perhaps not taken the trouble that they should have taken in this respect.
The real argument relates to the breach of trusts and the violation of wills so as to take from individuals of past years their undoubted rights and beliefs. This argument has to be met head on. I do not accept that, because an asset was given a long time ago, and has not been used well, that in itself is a good reason for taking it away. On the other hand, there is an argument to suggest that if the Church is not using its assets properly, it is bound to make those individuals who wish to help the Church 1014 less inclined to do so. That is one of the reasons why people are apt to say "They cannot look after their own glebe or land. Why should I come to their rescue?". That is a consideration that to a certain extent weighs with me.
The question of compulsion is an important issue. I do not like the idea of the Church asking Parliament to compel incumbents to release their glebe land and their assets. I do not like that for many reasons which go far wider than this Measure. Nevertheless, one has to face up to the fact that reality is compelling the mergers of parishes and compelling the Church authorities to find other measures for filling vacancies in certain areas.
In many areas, including those I represent, that is often a difficult thing to do. Stipends have been far too low for far too long. If this Measure will do something about that and can be shown to do something about it, I feel that it needs to be commended on that ground.
I should like my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee), who will wind up, to answer that question absolutely squarely. Does this Measure, by compelling incumbents to release their holdings of glebe land, make sufficient difference to the stipends of incumbents throughout the whole Church? That is an absolutely crucial issue. If it does not, and if it cannot be shown to do so. I shall be reluctant to ask Parliament to support the compulsion of the surrendering of these ancient holdings.
Lastly, should Parliament overturn the long-considered Measures of the Church authority now vested in Synod? Synod's views should not be dismissed too readily. It consists of individuals who have taken a great deal of time and trouble to produce this Measure in a disinterested way, to try to help the Church as a whole. I am reluctant to dismiss all that hard work on the ground that we are breaching trusts made many years ago.
It is difficult to decide what is the right thing to do about this Measure. In the end I feel that I want to ensure that the Church gets the resources necessary to ensure a good, worthwhile and active ministry. I want very much to hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham has to say.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mr. John Ryman (Blyth)
I had not intended to speak in this debate. I am prompted to do so to mention three subjects after having listened to some of the good speeches which have been made. If the quality of debate on political subjects were as high as we have heard tonight, it would be a far better thing.
The first thing about which I am terribly anxious—I too have not made up my mind how to vote on this matter—is the deplorable condition of the standard of livelihood of many clergy in my constituency and elsewhere. Will this Measure increase the sums available for their stipends? That is a matter of mathematical calculation and the House is entitled to a precise answer of approximately what benefits will be derived.
Any form of restructuring or reform which would have a substantial benefit for the pay of the clergy I would certainly support, but if this is to be piecemeal innovation and tinkering, if there will be no substantial benefit to the stipend of the clergy, that would remove an overwhelming argument for supporting it.
I have been appalled by the standard of living of some of the clergy, who work fantastic hours, sometimes in appalling conditions. We spend our time anxiously voting on behalf of many underprivileged and minority groups, but I have seldom heard an effective campaign getting on its feet on behalf of the underprivileged clergy and their families, who suffer deeply today in ways which many other sections of the community do not. I should like information on that matter.
My second point relates to the criticism of property management generally by the Church Commissioners, the way in which they have administered Church property, and other related matters. I would endorse that criticism, from my experience of dealing with them. In connection with planning inquiries and ordinary litigation in the course of landlord and tenant matters—leaseholders attempting to purchase freehold and so on—my experience is that they behave scandalously. Many times in my recollection over the last 15 or 20 years, they have exhibited the sort of attitude on humanitarian grounds that one expects from the worst possible kind of property dealers. I therefore agree with those hon. Members who have spoken in scathing 1016 terms about the behaviour of the Church Commissioners in the organisation of property.
My third point is trifling and perhaps of only technical importance. I have never seen this Measure before in my life, but looking at it tonight, I find in the definition clause, Clause 45 on page 29, some extraordinary language. I am reminded of a section in one of the law of property Acts which defines a short lease as follows:A short lease is a lease which is not a long lease.In Clause 45, we read that the appointed day is the day appointed under Clause 49(2), that "the Commissioners" means "the Church Commissioners". That gives legitimate grounds for criticising some of the language employed by the draftsmen of the Bill.
I make these points for a serious purpose. Never has the country required spiritual leadership more than it does now. If I wanted advice on a constituency problem of a general nature, I would much rather talk to my local clergy or my local bishop than to a Minister of the Crown. I get far more sensible and constructive advice from them on general policy matters.
I have a jolly good local bishop in my constituency. I was dining with him last week. I find his views on unemployment, inflation, housing and social questions far more helpful in my constituency work than the views of the loftiest Cabinet Ministers in the land.
§ Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)
Would the hon. Gentleman confirm or deny that his bishop supports this Measure?
§ Mr. Ryman
I did not ask him. I dined with him last Thursday. He is one of the most eminent bishops in the land—the Bishop of Newcastle, who is due to take his seat in the House of Lords next month, I think. My point is that his views on many constituency problems are far more refreshing and useful than the sort of advice hon. Members get from other sorts of people. I do not know whether he supports this Measure. I specifically did not ask him.
These are serious questions. Will the clergy's stipend benefit? Will the Measure be tidied up? Cannot something be done 1017 about the disgraceful way in which the Church Commissioners administer Church property?
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
The question has been raised several times in this interesting debate whether Parliament has more than a merely formal function in the consideration of Measures. There are two types of Measure which I discern in this context. There are Measures which the Church authorities offer us not because they involve changes in the public general law but because the status of the Church of England as the established Church means that it cannot regulate internally matters which, say, the Roman Catholic Church or the Baptist Church would be able to regulate. There might be a case—although I would not be one to take that view—for saying that Parliament should be more reticent in intervening in such matters.
The second class of Measure comprises those which alter the public general law and without which the Church authorities would not be able to do what they want to do unless there were an alteration in the public general law which would give similar powers to bodies outside the Church of England.
It is clear that this Measure falls into the second category. It does not fall into the category of things that the Baptist Church or the Roman Catholic Church could do for themselves without the consent of the House. Trust breaking involves a change in the public general law, so Parliament has a specific function and duty in that regard.
Secondly, it might be asked, is not the duty of Parliament itself a formal one because there is, after all, the Ecclesiastical Committee to act as some sort of filter, as it might be claimed? But what sort of filter? To start with, it is the sort of filter which refuses to hear Members of Parliament who wish to give evidence to it, in contrast to stating their views on the Floor of the House.
Indeed, in justification for so refusing, in paragraph 4 on page 4 of its report the Ecclesiastical Committee says:The Committee also had regard to the opportunity which a Member of either House has of putting his views to Parliament at a later stage.1018 Therefore, it is clear that the Ecclesiastical Committee takes the view that it is proper and meaningful for Members to advance such arguments as they wish to advance for or against a Measure, not to the Ecclesiastical Committee but to their colleagues on the Floor of the House of Commons. That would be a meaningless task if it did not lead to a decision either to accept the Measure or to reject it.
I mention that because many people outside the House, including some clergy, are unaware that the House has no power whatever to amend a single word of any Measure. It can only allow it to go forward for Her Majesty's approbation or recommend that it be referred back.
It is necessary, therefore, that we make a judgment on the Measure as it is—not a judgment on balance, but a judgment that every part of it is acceptable. If there is any part of it which is not acceptable, the proper course is for the House to refer it back for the excision or alteration of the part which is unacceptable.
I offer that thought because a number of hon. Gentlemen have presented to the House their conviction that parts of the Measure are admirable and other parts of the Measure are harmful or undesirable. Any hon. Member who holds that view should decide to seek to refer the matter back to the only body which has power to amend it which is, of course, the Synod.
That must be the proper course where, to take a not inappropriate analogy, the Measure turns out to be a curate's egg. The curate was able to extract the parts of the egg that met with his approbation and to reject the parts that did not. That is not a privilege extended to the House of Commons when it turns its consideration to a Measure such as this.
It has been argued that there may be an advantage in efficiency in transferring the administration, first of endowment funds and, secondly, of glebes to a body other than the local beneficed clergyman, or such other trustees as there may be, to the Church Commissioners in the first place and then to various diocesan boards. This is an argument that in no way is connected or adjoined to arguments about redistributing the income which arises thereafter. It is perfectly possible to take 1019 the view that professional management would result in greater income without imposing compulsory reallocation of the income in breach of the trusts.
This is a very important point indeed, because I refer to my earlier observation that, if there are parts of this Measure of great merit and other parts of great disadvantage or inequity, our clear duty is to send it back for the excision or amendment of those parts that we find unacceptable in order that it may come forward again including those parts that we find commendable. That is the answer to the dilemma of any hon. Member such as myself who finds many parts of the Measure commendable but some parts of it not so.
I look with something more than distaste at the manner in which those who drew up the Measure endeavoured to escape from the dilemma of, first, bad faith and, secondly, a lure for the future. They endeavoured to escape from it by saying "Dead people are not in a position to leave us any more money. Therefore, we shall expropriate their bequests. However, live people and people to come in the future are in a position to bequeath or give us money and they might not do so if the trust that they make will prove ineffective. Therefore, we shall insert Clause 14 to reassure potential benefactors and those to come in the future that we shall not treat those gifts or bequests in the same way as we hope to treat gifts or bequests of those safely beneath the sod."
I do not find that a morally or ethically attractive escape from the dilemma. I find it what it is—an extremely unattractive device; and I am surprised that such a device should find its way into a Measure which the House is invited to approve. Indeed, I am tempted to wonder whether many of the clergy who voted for the Measure in toto were aware in this respect of what it was that they were doing.
As I read Clause 14, it entrusts the financial management of future bequests or gifts by way of a devise to the Church Commissioners and, through them, to the Diocesan Board of Finance, but the benefit will remain due to the object of the trust. That is what many of us would 1020 wish to see, not just for the future but for the past as well.
I have in mind the case where there is a proven case for professional management. I enter that caveat because professional management generally costs money, so that even if the gross income may be increased, whether or not the net income is increased depends upon how much gets lost on the way by way of management costs. Many of us believe that where there is a proven case for professional management it should be transferred to the Diocesan Board of Finance without prejudice to the provisions for which the income is intended.
I am much seized of the point that it is distasteful for a person, particularly at a time of inflation, to go round as a rent negotiator and collector. That puts him in a distasteful position and, of course, he has a duty not just to himself but to those who come after him. One must remember that he may die tomorrow. I can see many reasons for wishing that the management of glebe, in that respect, should be transferred to a body which is at least one removed. The arguments for that are compelling.
In an intervention I said that the claim that no existing beneficed clergymen in receipt of an endowment will suffer is entirely spurious. It depends on two assumptions, neither of which is true. The first is that the rate of inflation in the foreseeable future will be zero and the second is that the income from the endowment will remain static. Both of those assumptions are possible but not probable. In the event that inflation will progress—a highly probable event—the purchasing power of the incumbent will tall pro rata and, therefore, if his income is fixed his purchasing power will decline. But, as the yield from the endowment increases, as it will if prudently invested, the incumbent will be deprived of that. I am not speaking of his receiving an additional advantage over his fellow parsons but about monetary income increasing pari passu with the rate of inflation so that his total purchasing power is retained. Misconceptions of that kind can be and have been spread, albeit totally unwittingly.
We must come to a number of judgments. Does the totality of the Measure constitute an expedient thing to do? The Ecclesiastical Committee is charged with 1021 making that judgment about expediency and also about its effect on Her Maejsty's subjects. It is not charged with making a political, moral or even ethical judgment. It performs a useful function to the House but it performs a less useful function than it would if it did not refuse to hear hon. Members who wish to give evidence to it. However, within the limitations which it chooses to impose upon itself it performs a useful though limited function.
The final decision rests with the House, and subject to what I hear during the remainder of the debate, I think that I shall feel compelled to vote against the Measure, not because there are no provisions in it which I find commendable but because it could be improved by sending it back for excision of those parts which I find morally repugnant. If the Synod is to have the courage of the convictions in Clauses 1 and 2, it must leave out Clause 14. That is something which this House cannot do. It can be done by the Synod only if either the mover of the motion withdraws it so that the Measure can go back to the Synod or if this House, with a heavy heart, votes for it to be referred back. That means voting in the "No" Lobby.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Mayhew (Royal Tunbridge Wells)
The Measure has brought with it problems of extraordinary difficulty which have been reflected in today's speeches. I take up the argument expressed by more than one speaker from this side and in particular by my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean). We should be particularly careful before we take a decision to reverse a recommendation of the General Synod, because that may ultimately lead to a breach between the Synod and this House.
We should not approach in a lighthearted way the possibility of disagreeing with the Synod, but we should not be deterred from rejecting something that we conscientiously believe to be wrong merely because it happens to have passed the Synod and the Ecclesiastical Committee. It is not much more than a year ago that we rejected. I believe for the first time since 1928, a Measure that came up by that route—the Incumbents (Vacation of Benefices) Measure—because it was found by a majority in this House to contain such serious blemishes that it could not find its way 1022 properly on to the statute book. I believe that we did a good service then, because I understand that the Synod took the matter back and that the Measure is shortly to come before the House greatly improved and meeting the objections we raised then. Therefore, we approach the matter solemnly but with no undue diffidence.
The real question seems to be whether we have any right to authorise the diversion of funds contributed for a specific charitable purpose, perhaps many years ago but perhaps, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) instanced from his own experience, only 10 or 20 years ago. Has the Church that right?
Before one comes to a conclusion on that question one must examine the possible intentions of the benefactor, but always realising that one can do no more than to make an intelligent guess at them. The benefactor may really have wished to benefit simply Church purposes, or he may have meant what he said when he expressed his benefaction to be in favour of a particular church or a particular incumbent.
I find in the Measure much with which I am sympathetic, but I want to take up what my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) has just said and to follow him at any rate in that regard, although I hope that he will forgive me if I do not follow him closely in other aspects of his speech. If one is asked what was the intention of those benefactors whose charitable funds it is now sought to divert, one must reply that it was undoubtedly their intention in every case to make a benefaction to the locality in question, and that probably they had it in mind to ensure that that locality had a parson for the future, or, perhaps more often, that it should have a good parson because the benefaction would make it a more attractive benefice.
If the benefactors were asked when they made their benefaction whether they would mind their funds being centrally pooled, they would almost certainly say "Yes, we mind very much." But it is idle to speculate as to what they would say today, confronted with the enormous changes that have overtaken the Church and the country as a whole in the years, and in many cases the centuries, since their bequests were made. Some might 1023 say "Of course, pool the money." But others might equally firmly say " Don't you dare touch it."
Therefore, we must approach the question whether we are entitled to divert these funds on the footing that the Measure may well seek to achieve what, even today, would be contrary to the wishes of those who charitably put up the money. It should be approved only if such a flouting of the benefactors' wishes can be justified.
Here it is perhaps legitimate to interpose one or two sentences to point out how this shows the value of what to many people seems to be a curious if not an illogical feature of our system, that this House retains a right of surveillance over Church legislation. If that right did not exist, the Church Commissioners, the authorities of the Church, might very well find themselves in the position of being able in their own interests to change the law affecting the funds of the constituent churches and might very well be able to write a cheque on somebody else's bank account in their own favour. As we know, this is a privilege which is unique to Members of Parliament, and it is, indeed, a melancholy privilege. It should not be shared if, indeed, it should even survive.
As with the Methodist Church Bill, which we discussed recently, there are very good reasons why the House of Commons should retain the right of surveillance, even though it contains many hon. Members who are members of neither the Anglican nor Methodist Churches. Some have allegiance to no church at all. But my experience is that on the occasions when we debate them, church matters receive very conscientious attention.
There are certain circumstances in which there is a justification for diverting funds, albeit that the benefactor's purpose was to benefit a certain locality. Each benefactor intends that the money should benefit the holder of the priesthood in a particular parish, or those who have responsibility for maintaining the church in that locality.
But take away the Church of England and there ceases to be a supply of priests. Take away the priests and there ceases to be a use for the edifice of the church 1024 which the benefactor envisaged. If one acknowledges this, it is but a short and logical step to recognise that there may be circumstances in which the Church of England may properly claim to come between a benefactor and the specific local object of the endowment which he has made.
In a speech which I much admired, my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Mr. Latham) gave many instances of this House intervening for that purpose, some of which went back as far as 1833.
That being so, it does not justify this Measure automatically. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton, who said that we must take account of the fact that we are unable to amend this Measure. The onus is on those who have brought it forward to get it absolutely right.
If we are to dismantle the basis on which the Church has been endowed for 500 years or more, another six months is neither here nor there as the price of getting it right. We should not be rushed into it just because there would be some inconvenience. It is no slight upon the efforts of those who work voluntarily in trying to govern the Church if this House chooses to delay the Measure.
We must look at this in the light of the tremendous decline in the number of priests over the past 10 to 20 years. This situation will get worse, probably fairly shortly. Also, bishops must deploy their diminishing clergy as they think right in the light of new urban developments.
I am aware of the very important circumstances surrounding this Measure, but we cannot look lightly at the results it might have. We face the prospect of somebody, having recently made an endowment for a specific church with the ilntention that the moneys should go to that specific object, finding that the endowment has been diverted and pooled into the whole of the Church of England's finances.
That is what is offensive to me. I agree, that I have no answer to those who ask where the line should logically be drawn, I am prepared to see this happen in a proper case, in the instance of an old benefaction, where there have been substantial changes in the position of the church or the status of the parish which that church services since the benefaction 1025 was made. I cannot say that a logical line should be drawn here. I believe that it is possible in most instances to judge on which side of the line right falls.
It is because this Measure is absolutely universal in its retrospective operation that I am not able to vote for it. It is certainly an oddity, as the Ecclesiastical Committee pointed out, that the Measure is not prospective in its operation. As a rule, we are against the principle of retrospective legislation in this House. It is new to me to find legislation which is determinedly retrospective and which refuses to be prospective in its operation.
I make clear that I do not want to see all future endowments caught in this way. I want to see a distinction drawn between the recent endowment and the type spoken of by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington, the ancient endowments made in circumstances which have materially changed and for the benefit of churches in parishes whose circumstances have also changed. I want to see some provision made for flexibility in the operation of this Measure.
It is for that reason that, although I sympathise with many of the objectives of this Measure, I want it to go back and to come before this House once again, if the Synod and the Ecclesiastical Committee think it right, in a more flexible form, able to meet the objections I have expressed.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
I ask the hon. and learned Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Mayhew) and the House to acquit me of any apparent discourtesy in that I arrived in the Chamber at about 8.30 p.m., having missed the major part of the debate and now attempt to intervene, even briefly. That is not my usual practice.
The hon. and learned Member was referring to the difference between ancient and recent endowments. I learned this weekend that in my constituency of West Derby—the old Hundred of West Derby—the rector of the parish church of St. Mary receives annually £3.39 from Henry VIII. I hesitate to suggest what purpose Henry VIII had in mind in making any money available to the North-West of England or what he might think about this Measure. The endowments in that part of the world go back a long time. 1026 The City of Liverpool grew from the old Hundred of West Derby and this Measure will have an important effect on it.
There are two points which my Anglican friends in my constituency have asked me to try to make tonight. In this I think I can speak as a representative in a narrow sense rather than adopting the normal rôle of a Member of Parliament. If this Measure had come 10 years ago, or even five years ago, the opposition to it would have been much greater than it is, because the salary differentials for priests have very much narrowed. Those whose parishes were reasonably well endowed have held their own while the other less fortunate members of the clergy have had further increases. One point not covered by this Measure, which was a burning topic in West Derby, was the fixing of ground rents. There has been little change in these in 30 years and their value has been eroded by inflation.
The general view of the clergy in Liverpool is that this will be a reasonable Measure if it can embody in its operation some of the flexibility of which the hon. and learned Member spoke. If it is harshly interpreted in an area and its provisions brought in regardless of local conditions, without tact or thought, there will be great resistance to it.
My message from West Derby is that this Measure will cause few difficulties and do more good than harm. On that basis, as a representative in this narrow sense, I am asked to give my support to the Measure.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. William van Straubenzee (Wokingham)
I am certain that I shall have the sympathy of the whole House in winding up a debate the quality of which has been of a quite exceptional character. Like other hon. Members, I acknowledge gratefully the great thought and care given to the speeches of every hon. Member. I also gratefully acknowledge, as other hon. Members have, that the managers of Government business have been generous in their allocation of time and have enabled us to have a leisured but certainly not unduly drawn out discussion on a matter which is plainly giving difficulty to many hon. Members.
1027 I calculate that 21 hon. Members have spoken, and I think it will be agreed that a debate beginning just after 4 o'clock and concluding a few minutes after 9 o'clock is not at all unreasonable for matters of this kind. I also join with many other hon. Members in extending respectful congratulations to the Second Church Estates Commissioner on the way in which he introduced the Measure. Perhaps the House does not always have the opportunity to appreciate that a conscientious Second Church Estates Commissioner has great demands on his time. No one could say that our present one is anything other than most conscientious in what he does.
I shall deal first with the point raised at the beginning of the debate by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). I totally agree with him. Nobody could possibly complain that this House, corporately or individually, had not the right most closely to examine this Measure. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman will ever have heard from the members of the General Synod any complaint that this House should do so. It is the law of the land that hon. Members should be enabled to do so. It is absolutely right and proper that the House should carefully examine any controversial Measure which comes before it.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Mayhew) fairly drew our attention to a recent occasion when, by common consent of members of the General Synod, this House, quite correctly, seized upon a point affecting the rights of individuals and refused to accept a Measure. I make no complaint about that whatever, particularly now that the law is such that we have rid ourselves of what many hon. Members found to be an uncomfortable jurisdiction over the worship and doctrine of the Church of England. That bothered many hon. Members.
Therefore, my hon. and learned Friend certainly does not hear from me any complaint about hon. Members directing their minds to this Measure. But I am entitled to go this far in commenting on what he and others said. It is fair to recall that we are here dealing with legislation which has been considered by a body to which we gave life. It is under a mechanism that we or our predecessors directed, and in a sense it is a 1028 form of devolved legislation in that we can consider, accept or reject the matter in principle but cannot amend.
I get ever so slightly irritated—in a most Christian sort of way, of course—when it is suggested that the body that we have set up is not itself representative. It so happens that that body met last week and, consistent with my duties in Parliament, which meant that I could not be there as much as I wished, I sat with my fellow members on the General Synod.
Our assembly, in common with other assemblies, is not perfect, but I do not accept that those men and women, once elected, lose all touch with their constituents, constituencies or individual churches. They are all men and women in the pew. They may come to decisions that are wrong, but they are not rarified or detached persons, and Sunday after Sunday they are members of their respective congregations.
By way of illustration, since I am seeking to defend the powers in this Measure, let me say that the church that I attend is in a tiny village in which one of my forebears many years ago acted as rector for 51 years. He ruled with a rod of iron. He enjoyed a substantial income from the glebe in that parish. However, I am sure that he was a devout man of God as well as being a territorial magnate, since the two are not mutually exclusive.
When I was a boy there were still some old people who could remember their parents telling them that my forebear, the rector, always preached with the aid of an hourglass which was placed in full view of his congregation. However, when the sand eventually ran through the hourglass, he would upturn it and continue his sermon. I wish to make clear that that is not my intention tonight.
The first major criticism of this Measure relates to the process of consultation. When I was previously a member of the old General Assembly, from 1965 to 1970, these matters were then under discussion. At that time we were considering the Fenton Morley Report, which was the basis from which all this arose. Indeed, in many ways I was surprised to find the whole matter still boiling hard when I returned in 1975. At 1029 that time questions were put about the principle of the centralisation of the glebe.
All those soundings were being taken on this matter, and it was most carefully researched. It is true to say that the matter was not referred by the General Synod to every diocesan synod, but I ask the House to appreciate the great mass of business which every diocesan synod must transact. If at the end of the process every controversial matter of almost any kind is to be referred down the chain, not only will the whole process of legislation be incredibly slow, but such business will need to be transacted on Saturday mornings and afternoons. That burden is much greater than we should impose.
Consultation was carried out in the ways I have described and then every incumbent was informed about what was intended so that he could make representations. Some hon. Members may doubt whether all incumbents received the communication, but I beg to differ. The consultation was undertaken through the pay packet, and I am sure that we should have heard a considerable amount about it if the pay packets had not arrived. It was right that there should have been that careful consultation.
Then there is the question whether centralisation of the administration of the glebe will result in its being better managed. I am not referring to the very centre, of course. It will be at diocesan level rather than central level.
I believe that the indications are encouraging. Paragraph 15 of the Committee's report shows how the costs of the administration in those dioceses where it has so far been voluntarily undertaken are low in relation to the increased income of pay.
The evidence is strong. Incredible though it may seem, some glebe was actually lost and some was considerably under-rented—hon. Members on both sides have accepted this—and there was the reluctance of the modern clergyman to be a landlord. My great-great-grand-father was a territorial magnate, but the modern parson does not see himself in that rôle, and nor is it appropriate in 1976 that he should be in that rôle. I am not questioning the relevance of this in the past, but I very much question its relevance today.
1030 It may be argued that there should be a scheme in each diocese which everyone should join. My hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills) made this point in a knowledgeable and telling speech. But is it not likely to be the very people who ought to be getting a better return from the glebe and who are better aware of its potential who would be unlikely voluntarily to join a central scheme of this kind?
There is expense in the existing administration of glebe, but in any system there can be agents' fees and the rest, This is a factor which must be borne in mind when balancing the costs of a transfer to diocesan level.
All hon. Members who were present at the time will remember the telling speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), who likened this process to compulsory purchase. But to me, at any rate, there is a wealth of difference between the removal of an individual private right and the transfer of the legal ownership in this particular way, with the objective still correctly limited to clergy stipend. I find a very substantial difference in principle between the two.
I sum up this aspect of what I seek to persuade the House by saying that I believe that the case has been made out, that the Church ought to make the best use of its inherited assets as it can, that it is demonstrably not doing so to the best advantage throughout the country at the moment, that in those pilot schemes where it has been tried it is showing a better return for the increased income, and that it would be proper for the Church, at a time of acute financial difficulty, to ask this House to allow it to proceed further.
The next objection that has been raised is that this is a Measure which will, first weaken the parson's freehold and, secondly, benefit the towns at the expense of the country. The reason given is that this will be one further Measure of control at the centre and that an unprincipled bishop who disagrees with a man who is otherwise protected by this freehold can manipulate the financial levers to the disadvantage of the man who has fallen into disfavour.
I join with others in saying that, like so much else that we have inherited, the 1031 freehold in the Church of England has had enormous benefits. It has actually meant a certain freedom from episcopal control which has been valuable, I believe, to the intellectual life of the Church of England. I also believe that, as with other aspects of our national life—and I draw a very approximate analogy with the position of a headmaster or a headmistress of a school—we are considering whether in limited conditions that should always so continue.
It cannot be too strongly said—and here I look to my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn), who quite understandably had anxieties here and saw me writing a note busily at the time—that the Measure does not affect patronage in the sense in which he raised it. There have been some proposals for dealing with this. I make no secret of the fact that I am very uneasy indeed about some of the proposals that I have seen, and I shall not be at all surprised if they do not eventually come before us in a form very different from what we may have seen in the Press. But that is a different matter. That is not what we have here.
The Measure deals with finance and I make this answer to those who have an anxiety about the situation. If, in fact, an unprincipled bishop at any time wanted to manoeuvre the financial levers to the disadvantage of a beneficed clergyman, he already has the power so to do. The reason, as we see in the report of the Ecclesiastical Committee, is that 93 per cent. of such men are already "subsidised", if I may use that word in inverted commas, from central funds. They are already at the mercy, if one likes so to call it, of the ecclesiastical establishment.
If one makes the supposition that this is a lever which will be used, my answer is that that lever is already there. It will not be accentuated to any great degree by the Measure, Indeed, by reason of inflation, year by year the number of clergy with an independent income has dwindled, and in my view that process will undoubtedly continue.
Finally, I think that it is possible that those who have an anxiety about these matters would be helped by looking at 1032 Clause 9 of the Measure, with particular reference to subsection (3), which is new. That provides that the directions of the bishopshall be consistent with any directions given by the Commissioners, in the exercise of their functions as the Central Stipends Authority.There is no possibility of a bishop going contrary to their general directions.
It is beyond belief that, as an act of policy, the Commissioners would sanction a deliberate financial provocation against a given man. Therefore, those who, doubtless for good reasons, are anxious about this centralisation, have at least a partial answer in this Measure.
I turn now to the central issue—the inviolability of endowments. I naturally approach this matter with considerable wariness, without apology. Few hon. Members on either side of the House would not do that. It is fair to recall how far his House by legislation has already gone. For example, as a member of the Pastoral Committee of the Church Commissioners, month by month I take part in decisions resulting from disputes or objections to schemes for reorganising or uniting parishes.
As the law stands, it is possible for endowments, including those produced by legacy to be diverted from an individual benefice to wider stipend uses. Month by month I take part in this process with my colleagues. This is no new concept in the life of the Church. It derives directly from authority given by this House.
We should not make too much of the generous bequests to the Church in years gone by. For example, looking at Appendix IV to the report of the Ecclesiastical Committee, hon. Members will see the sources from which the benefice endowment income of the Church comes. Frankly, the vast majority, as the figures show, comes from the Enclosure Acts. Therefore, it is necessary to consider the history of this matter before giving the appearance that the vast majority of it is the result of bequests.
This is a difficult matter. Should we or should we not intervene in the original intentions of a testator? In dealing with the general charitable law, in certain conditions we say yes. Of course, the endowments about which we are talking are not subject to the Charities Act 1960, which was when we last legislated for 1033 charities. But we have provision—I refer to Clause 13—to make more effective use of property which is available by virtue of gift, together with other property, regard being had to the spirit of the gift. We have imported that concept into our general law. Therefore, we are not doing such damage as some hon. Members might fear.
I am convinced that the future pattern of giving, for financial reasons—I suspect this will be the situation under any Government—will be not exclusively but overwhelmingly of income, not of capital. I believe that we are living in a new era in that respect. It is calculated—the Second Church Estates Commissioner gave us this figure, but it is worth repeating—that the laity of the Church of England are at present contributing about £10 million a year towards stipends, but by way of income, and I am sure that that will be the way of giving in the future.
That, therefore, is my summing up of the case put forward by the Second Church Estates Commissioner. However, I want to end on a positive note. I hope that I have dealt, however inadequately, with the essential questions raised in this very thoughtful debate. I wish that all hon. Members could have been present.
For those who have not been, I would respectfully advise that they would be much helped by reading the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Mr. Latham), who traced back with such erudition into the history of this matter and showed how it was really part of a pattern which the Church has been following year by year in order to keep up with modern times.
I sometimes get rather depressed when the Church is told to bring itself up to date, to modernise itself, to square up to the problems of the day, to look not only at the past, not to be fuddy-duddy, and so on. Part of that process, while always, I hope, retaining all that is really valuable of the past, must be the adequate
§ remuneration of the clergy in a full-time ministry.
§ My hon. Friend the Member for Melton, in a very impressive speech, castigated, understandably, what we laymen were so far achieving. He was right, of course, though I feel sure that I am in order in a technical sense in reminding him that, because of the enormous efforts of the laity at present, in the last year alone there has been a substantial reduction in the number of clergy who are below the lower end of the recommended target for stipends—and that in an age of inflation. The number has gone from 35 per cent. down to 24 per cent. in one year.
§ Of course it is not good enough, but in an age of inflation and difficulty it is very remarkable. Perhaps I may say that it would have been greater if, quite correctly, the Central Stipends Authority had not been totally obedient to the guidelines of the Government's pay policy. Secondly, the average increase last year has kept pace with the percentage increase in the retail price index. That, too, represents no mean effort in the past year. Finally, the gap between the highest and the lowest averages of the diocese, in other words, between the "best" and the "worst"—putting those words in inverted commas—has narrowed once again. That has been possible through the sustained giving of income and will increasingly require the sustained giving of income by the laity.
§ In response to that, my submission is that the laity will fairly ask that the Church makes the most effective uses that it can of its historical endowments. It is that which is the thread going through the Measure, and it is that which commends it, as I respectfully commend it to the House.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 75, Noes 24.1035
|Division No. 405.]||AYES||[9.18 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael||Carlisle, Mark||English, Michael|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Cocks, Rt Hon Michael||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)|
|Ashton, Joe||Coleman, Donald||Eyre, Reginald|
|Bales, Alf||Cryer, Bob||Freud, Clement|
|Beith, A. J.||Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Gardiner, George (Reigate)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Dormand, J. D.||Graham, Ted|
|Bottomley, Peter||du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Duffy, A. E. P.||Harper, Joseph|
|Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||Eadle, Alex||Harrison, Waiter (Wakefield)|
|Buchan, Norman||Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Hayhoe, Barney|
|Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Normanton, Tom||Spearing, Nigel|
|Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Ogden, Eric||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Hunt, John (Bromley)||Page, John (Harrow West)||Stoddart, David|
|Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd)||Palmer, Arthur||Tinn, James|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Pardoe, John||Urwin, T. W.|
|Kirk, Sir Peter||Parker John||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Parkinson, Cecil||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|McElhone, Frank||Peyton, Rt Hon John||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|MacGregor, John||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|McNair-Wilson. P. (New Forest)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Whitlock, William|
|McNamara, Kevin||Ryman, John||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Mates, Michael||Scott, Nicholas||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Mawby, Ray||Shepherd, Colin|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Silvester, Fred||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Sinclair, Sir George||Mr. Ivor Clemitson and|
|Mills, Peter||Snape, Peter||Mr. Michael Latham.|
|Banks, Robert||Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch|
|Biffen, John||Glyn, Dr Alan||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Knox, David||Skinner, Dennis|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Marten, Neil||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Mayhew, Patrick||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Clegg, Walter||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Molyneaux, James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Cope, John||Nelson, Anthony||Mr. Robin Maxwell;Hyslop and|
|Cordie, John H.||Page, Richard (Workington)||Mr. John Stokes.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
That the Endowments and Glebe 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.