HC Deb 25 June 1984 vol 62 cc678-9
21. Mr. Nicholas Baker

asked the hon. Member for Wokingham, as representing the Church Commissioners, whether the Church Commissioners have made any assessment of the potential financial and other consequences within their responsibilities of the ordination of women.

The Second Church Estates Commissioner. Representing Church Commissioners (Sir William van Straubenzee)

No, Sir.

Mr. Baker

Will my hon. and episcopal Friend ask the Church Commissioners to make some plans about this? Is he aware that, in the opinion of many of us, the case for the ordination of women is strong, and we feel that they will be, and should be, ordained before long?

Sir William van Straubenzee

I give all due note to my hon. Friend's opinions, but the matter will not be decided by the Church Commissioners. As and when it is decided, if it is decided, by the appropriate authority, the commissioners will have to give serious thought to what their responsibilities may be.

Mr. Frank Field

As Synod has ruled that there is no theological objection to the ordination of women, and as the Synod is our Parliament, do not the commissioners believe that the calculations asked for in the question should be undertaken?

Sir William van Straubenzee

With respect, no. I think that that would be to pre-empt any decision that the Synod may or may not make.

Mr. Cormack

Will my hon. Friend assure us that, if the unfortunate day comes when women are ordained, they will at least be ordained by Bishops who believe in God?

Sir William van Straubenzee

If this comes about, they will presumably be ordained by bishops of the Church of England. who, I understand on good authority, believe in God.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

Quite apart from the opinions of the bishop-elect of Durham, will due regard be had in this matter to the effect on relations between the Church of England and the Orthodox and Roman Catholic communions, which it always says it wants to improve?

Sir William van Straubenzee

The Church Commissioners, for whom I answer, are not responsible for this decision. I must make that quite clear, without discourtesy to any hon. Member. I have been present at many such discussions, and that is certainly one of the considerations that I have often heard them put forward forcefully.

Mr. Ryman

Would it be possible for the hon. Gentleman to consider this further? With regard to the proposed consecration of the new bishop of Durham on 6 July, is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is widespread concern in the north-east——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The question relates to the ordination of women.

Mr. Ryman

Have the Church Commissioners ascertained the views of the bishop-elect of Durham, whose proposed consecration on 6 July is giving widespread concern to many clergy in the north-east?

Sir William van Straubenzee

The Church Commissioners of course have responsibilities to the Bishop of Durham for the time being, as for other diocesan bishops, but I think that they would not usually concern themselves to make inquiries of the kind that the hon. Gentleman has in mind.

Mr. Stokes

Do not these exchanges show that my hon. Friend would be well advised to keep out of this most serious controversy, as such a revolutionary step as the ordination of women is far more serious than any mere financial consideration?

Sir William van Straubenzee

I have generally worked through a reasonably lengthy life by handling women extremely carefully.