HC Deb 23 March 1987 vol 113 cc13-5
20. Mr. Peter Bruinvels

asked the hon. Member for Wokingham, as representing the Church Commissioners, what measures the Church Commissioners propose to take to enable the payment of compensation to those clergymen who have announced their intention to leave the Church of England once the legislation admitting women to the ordained Ministry has been passed.

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I have been asked to reply.

The commissioners have no jurisdiction to make proposals in a matter of this kind. It would be for the General Synod to decide, in the first instance, the form of any financial provision.

Mr. Bruinvels

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for his answer, realising that you, Mr. Speaker, could have answered it as well. My right hon. and learned Friend, who is a Church Commissioner, will know that 2,000 Anglican clergy might leave the Church of England if women are ordained. The report by the House of Bishops on the ordination of women to the priesthood makes it clear that it wants unity rather division. The assessment so far undertaken in the study shows that a number of clergy would lose office and promotion. There would certainly be a starvation of promotion for those opposed to the ordination of women—

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is not a debate.

Mr. Bruinvels

Will my right hon. and learned Friend prepare the costings for that move, recognising that 1991 is not far away?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I know — indeed the whole House knows — that my hon. Friend takes a close interest in this matter, as in so many others.

Whereas I recognise the importance of financial provision in the event that women were able to be ordained as priests, that is perhaps not fundamental to what is an extremely difficult issue. It is not a matter upon which the commissioners have jurisdiction to initiate proposals.

Mr. Frank Field

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that many of the 2,000 priests who are threatening to leave the Church are doing so under the assumption that, should they leave, they would take a substantial part of the historic resources of the Church of England with them? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman advise us that if such a division were contemplated, legislation would have to be passed by the House to approve it. Will he offer his own opinion on the chances of getting such legislation through the House?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is right about legislation. To go any further into this issue on what is necessarily an ephemeral outing on my part would be unwise.

Mr. Stokes

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that we are glad to see him on that outing today? I hope that he makes the best of it. Is he aware that, as has been pointed out already, the Synod does not have the power to ordain women as priests? That will have to be done by this House, and that step must never be taken for granted.

Sir Patrick Mayhew

No one speaks with greater personal knowledge of these matters than my hon. Friend, who is, of course, a member for the General Synod. He will recall that in February the General Synod passed a resolution requiring the standing committee to bring forward two Measures for consideration.

What my hon. Friend says about the outcome is constitutionally correct. It has to be passed by the necessary majorities in all three Houses of the Synod and then come to this House.

Mr. Winnick

I also congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman on his promotion, which, no doubt, is a welcome relief from his various other duties. Will he give a guarantee that any letter that he writes on this sensitive subject will not be leaked, wholly or partly?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

The first of the hon. Gentleman's observations was more welcome than the second.

Mr. Cormack

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give a firm indication that any legislation along the lines that he has discussed will have to be discussed pretty carefully with the Law Officers?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

Voluminous though our jurisdiction is, I am not sure whether it extends to that. Naturally, as we are both commissioners, we shall take a careful interest in this matter.

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