§ 70. Mr. Atkinson
To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, as representing the Church Commissioners, if he will make a statement on the provision of legal aid in the ecclesiastical courts.
§ Mr. Alison
A legal aid fund was established under the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963 to assist with costs that a complainant or accused person might incur in connection with proceedings relating to an offence under that Measure. Legal aid may also be given in respect of proceedings arising out of loss of office.
§ Mr. Atkinson
Is my right hon. Friend aware of some proposals that have been made by St. John's church, 14 Boscombe, which is in my constituency? Objectors have been informed by the diocese that they may be liable for ecclesiastical court costs if they exercise their right to object. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, without legal aid, those of my constituents who cannot afford such a risk are effectively being denied the right to object, and will he raise this matter of principle with the commissioners?
§ Mr. Alison
My hon. Friend can be relaxed about this on behalf of his constituents. He is referring to a case that may arise under a so-called faculty application in the consistory court. I am glad to be able to tell my hon. Friend that the chancellor of the consistory court will not usually order the objector to pay the costs, unless he considers the objection to be unreasonable or vexatious. Applications for a faculty may be made without individuals having to incur the cost of employing legal representation.