HC Deb 23 October 1989 vol 158 cc470-1
55. Mr. Bowis

To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, as representing the Church Commissioners, what further discussions he has had with the Archbishop of Canterbury regarding the Clergy Ordination Measure 1989.

Mr. Michael Alison (Second Church Estates Commissioner, Representing the Church Commissioners)

The Clergy Ordination Measure is a matter for the General Synod of the Church of England, although I have spoken informally to the Archbishop of Canterbury about the outcome of the debate on 17 July. The Synod will meet in November, which will be its first opportunity formally to consider the matter since the debate in the House in July.

Mr. Bowis

Will my right hon. Friend gently explain to the Archbishops and the others who may be participating in the decision on what to do next on this measure that there was no basic hostility in the House towards the Church in taking that decision, but that it was taken largely by members of the Church of England who were prepared to stay up through the night to correct a matter that they thought was going wrong? Will my right hon. Friend take to them our concerns about the carte blanche nature of that measure? Will he take to them the concern that the measure appears to give the clergy an advantage over the laity because the laity are not to be allowed to be remarried in church, but divorced and remarried clergy are to be allowed to advise them of that fact? Will he finally suggest to the Church that such special cases as there undoubtedly are would be better addressed by the approach of annulment or nullity than by this form of treatment?

Mr. Alison

I certainly take note of my hon. Friend's comments, and his positive and helpful suggestion. He will remember that it was not only members of the Church of England who happened to be Members of this House who were prepared to stay up late at night, but a substantial number of Whips in the Whips' Office, who likewise felt that it was desirable to stay up late at night and who profoundly influenced the outcome of the debate.

Mr. Frank Field

When the commissioner is reporting back on this measure, will he make it plain to Synod that many people who waited up through the night for the debate were not happy that the Church should refuse remarriage in church to ordinary lay people, but wished to create a special class of citizenry—those who were divorced and remarried, but who wished to be made priests—and that there may be a similar rough passage for the measure if the Church continues to maintain those two tiers of citizenship?

Mr. Alison

I certainly take very careful note of the comments by the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field). He will understand, as I do, that it is unlikely that the Clergy Ordination Measure will be further amended before representation to the House, if the General Synod decides to represent it. His point is one he can make further in debate, if we debate the matter again.

Sir John Stokes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, supporting what has been said already, we represent many lay people and that they are not at all happy about the measure? I give solemn warning that the House will not pass the measure unless it is substantially amended.

Mr. Alison

I certainly concur with my hon. Friend's observation that the Church of England, in its active parochial life, is well represented by my hon. Friends on the Government Benches and also by Opposition Members. It is entirely proper that such measures should be considered by the Church of England laity in this place. However, I must tell my hon. Friend that the opinions on the merits of the measure are sharply divided. If there were another debate on the measure, I suspect that the outcome would not necessarily be the same as that which occurred on 17 July.