HC Deb 12 December 1983 vol 50 cc669-70
25. Mr. Greenway

asked the hon. Member for Wokingham, as representing the Church Commissioners, how many currently serving archbishops, diocesan bishops and suffragan bishops are on the payroll of the Church Commissioners; and how this compares with 30, 20, 15, 10 and five years ago, respectively.

Sir William van Straubenzee

As the answer contains a number of figures I will, with permission, circulate it in the Official Report.

However, I can tell my hon. Friend that the main change in the figures concerns suffragan bishops. The numbers have risen from 41 to 63 in the past 30 years.

Mr. Greenway

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he feel that those whom he represents would be spending money well if they were to pay for an archbishop of London and one or two new diocesan bishops to reflect the population movement? Could he explain why they are paying so many more suffragan bishops than before, and what their functions are? Can my hon. Friend imagine what Mrs. Proudie, the wife of the Bishop of Barchester, would have said if a suffragan bishop had been appointed to Barchester?

Sir William van Straubenzee

I shall not speculate about Mrs. Proudie or an archbishop of London. That is not the responsibility of the Church Commissioners. There is now an effective sieve through which any new proposals must go by way of a diocese commission of which, by chance, I happen to be the chairman. My hon. Friend can feel that there is now a much closer scrutiny than there was, perhaps, in the past.

Sir David Price

Have the Church Commissioners put their minds to what, in their opinion, is the optimum size for a modern diocese and how many parish clergy it is reasonable, under modern conditions, for a bishop to guide, inspire and occasionally, control?

Sir William van Straubenzee

There will be many widely differing views as to what the perfect number should be. As my hon. Friend will be aware, these will reflect geographical factors. As he will also be aware, there is a system for equating the number of clergy in a diocese under the Sheffield scheme, which goes some way, but only some, towards meeting my hon. Friend's point.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Is there any desirable limit to the expansion referred to in the hon. Gentleman's reply in view of the feeling, among a growing proportion of the laity of the Church of England, that there is a tendency for the encroachment of the authority of the biships as against other sources of authority within the Church?

Sir William van Straubenzee

That is one of the many considerations which I know are in the mind of, for example, the General Synod, which has now to approve any proposal by a diocesan bishop for an additional suffragan.

Following are the figures: At 1 December 1983 there were two archbishops, 42 diocesan bishops and 63 suffragan bishops on the payroll of the Church Commissioners, including several posts which were temporarily vacant. Over the past 30 years the number of archbishops has remained at two and there has been an increase of one in the number of diocesan bishops —that is, the bishop in Europe in 1980; during that time the number of suffragan bishops has varied over the periods in question as follows:
1953 41
1963 44
1968 52
1973 56
1978 59
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