HC Deb 20 February 1990 vol 167 cc882-906
Mr. Speaker

I must announce to the House that I have not selected either of the amendments on the Order Paper——

Sir Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am on my feet.

Many right hon. and hon. Members wish to take part in the debate, which will last for only an hour and a half. I ask hon. Members to make brief speeches so that as many as possible may be called. As this is not a party political issue but one on which hon. Members on both sides of the House hold views, the Chair may not necessarily go from one side to the other of the Chamber, but it will seek to balance the debate.

Sir Eldon Griffiths

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have no intention of seeking to catch your eye, but I should like one piece of advice before the debate begins. Is it not normally the case that a matter on which the House has reached a decision is rarely brought back to the House within 12 months? If, for example, the Government lose a vote, they accept it and that is that. Why is it that in this case, we have to consider again a Measure on which we have already taken a decision less than 12 months ago?

Mr. Speaker

That decision was taken in the previous Session of Parliament. This is the new Session, so the motion is in order.

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

I beg to move, That the Clergy (Ordination) Measure, passed by the General Synod of the Church of England, be presented to Her Majesty for her Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament in the last Session. I am sorry to have to trouble the House with the rather unusual re-run of a Church of England Measure that has already been debated once in the House. On that occasion, it failed to obtain approval. I feel a little like a nervous curate having to call the banns of marriage for the second time and inquiring whether anyone knows cause or just impediment why the motion of the House and the motion of the General Synod may not be joined together in harmony. My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) ——

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)


Mr. Alison

I must get on a little.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds jumped the gun even before the banns were called for the second time. An exceptional circumstance arose the last time that the Measure was considered, on 17 July 1989, in that, contrary to all expectations, we reached it only at 2.6 am and the vote was not taken until 3.35 am. That late hour was considered by many inside and outside the House not to do justice either to the great importance—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker




Mr. Speaker

Order. Let me go first, please. A great deal of private conversation is going on. This is an important measure.

Mr. Alison

I think that you will find that there is a series of mini-debates, Mr. Speaker, and I trust that they will emerge in a consensus at the end of the debate.

Mr. Greenway

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Alison

No, as I must get on a little. I shall give way to my hon. Friend in a minute.

That late hour was considered by many inside and outside the House not to do justice either to the great importance attached to the measure by the Church of England General Synod or to the sensitive personal cases involving a number of our constituents whose lives were and are profoundly affected by the measure's fate. Hence the decision taken late last year by the General Synod to ask the House of Commons in this new Session to reconsider the Measure and our earlier verdict on it at a more reasonable and propitious hour. The hour is certainly more reasonable than it was last year.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)


Mr. Alison

It remains to be seen whether the hour is more propitious.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman


Mr. Greenway


Mr. Alison

I give way to my hon. Friend who caught my eye first.

Mr. Speaker

I call Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman—[Interruption.]

Mr. Alison

It may simplify your problem, Mr. Speaker, if I cancel both offers to give way.

As a result of the substantial controversy and constituency correspondence that the Measure has generated—not least because of the hour at which it suffered defeat last July—right hon. and hon. Members of all parties are now reasonably familiar with the issues at stake, so I need not weary the House on this occasion with a long explanatory speech. I shall be brief, in the interests of allowing as many of my colleagues as possible to enter the debate. I hope, by leave of the House, to speak again for a few minutes at the end of our debate to deal with particular points or queries raised by right hon. and hon. Members, which should receive a response.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman


Mr. Alison

I want to get on further; I shall certainly give way later.

The issue to which the Measure addresses itself is quite narrow. It relates to the marital circumstances of men and women who decide that they wish to seek ordination as priests or deacons in the Church of England. Under the law as it stands, a previous divorce is no necessary bar to such individuals seeking ordination, but remarriage after divorce constitutes such a bar under certain circumstances. Thus, under existing canon law, there is an absolute bar against a candidate seeking ordination if he or she is married and has a previous spouse still living from an earlier marriage, or if the partner to whom he or she is currently married likewise has a previous partner from an earlier marriage still living.

That absolute bar reflects, for Christians at least, Christ's unequivocal teaching about marriage as a lifelong, permanent union, which only death can properly dissolve, and remarriage after divorce, although not after a partner's death, as adulterous if a previous partner is still living, although Christ also taught the possibility of grace and forgiveness.

I hasten to add that the Measure does not seek to question, abrogate or repudiate that fundamental Christian doctrinal position. Indeed, that fundamental position is rehearsed and reasserted as normative in the Measure, in its very first clause. Hon. Members who look at the clause will see that plainly.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Does my right hon. Friend understand and accept that that very point is a bar for almost all of us? How can that bar apply to people who have been divorced, who seek to be remarried in church and who are prevented by the bar from doing so, yet, if the Measure goes through, it will not prevent a man or woman in due course from being ordained? That same individual, having been ordained, will have to enforce the very bar that the Measure seeks to remove.

Mr. Alison

My hon. Friend, for whom I have respect and affection, is misinformed. There is no statute law debarring divorced men and women from being married in the Church of England. Any clergyman who marries a divorced man or woman cannot be proceeded against by any Church disciplinary measure.

The much narrower point at issue in the Measure is whether provision should be made in and by the Church of England to allow occasional exceptions to the absolute bar in specially deserving cases. After long reflection, extending over several years, the General Synod decided by a substantial majority that provision should be made for such occasional exceptions, each case to be individually weighed and determined by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York themselves, exclusively.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman


Mr. Alison

I must tell my hon. Friend that I am not giving way to her, so she had better save her breath for when she makes her speech.

It is to legislate for occasional dispensation only that the measure is brought before the House. Our own parliamentary Ecclesiastical Committee has likewise by a majority endorsed the position of the Synod, as our report to the House makes clear. It is not difficult to cite cases in which the special dispensation of the archbishops might reasonably be exercised.

The most compelling case of which I am aware is of a mature candidate who decided to seek ordination after an active secular career. It is an actual, not a hypothetical, case. He and his wife have had a long and happy marriage, and have grown-up children. His wife was once briefly married in her teens; that marriage was never consummated. No full and proper marriage took place and the marriage could have been annulled. However, the parties involved decided that divorce rather than annulment was a quicker and less unsavoury experience in ending the marriage and the girl was divorced. As a result, the husband is debarred on a technicality, so to speak, from seeking ordination, to which he has a strong vocation. If the Measure is passed, it will enable special dispensations to be granted to people in such cases. Other cases can and probably will be cited by other hon. Members during the debate.

I hope that no one will argue that it is improper for Parliament to consider these matters. Marriage in our society is of immense consequence and interest to Church and state alike. I repeat the figures that I cited last July. In the latest year for which figures are available, 1986, 348,000 registered marriages in England and Wales—well over half—were solemnised in religious ceremonies. Of those, one third were solemnised in Church of England ceremonies.

Constituents are deeply interested in these matters and in religious matters generally as they affect public policy. Churchgoing is still the most popular voluntary communal activity in Britain, far outstripping——

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

It will not be, the way things are going.

Mr. Speaker

Order. May I say to the hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) that her behaviour does not improve her chances of being called?

Mr. Alison

One has only to recall the interest taken during the last Parliament in Sunday trading and in the present Parliament in religious broadcasting, to make the point. The great majority of our population who identify with the Christian religion—probably about 80 per cent. according to surveys—but who are not active churchgoers tend to write to their Members of Parliament about religious matters to express their fears rather than to members of the General Synod.

Parliament rightly established the Church of England General Synod so that more time and specialised consideration could be given to matters by that body. But Parliament rightly reserved for itself the last word. Parliament represents a reasonable cross-section of religious interests, commitment and concern in our society.

Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Alison

No, I have nearly finished. I hope that my hon. Friend will catch your eye, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. More than one hon. Member has tried to make this into a debate instead of a series of monologues. Is it right for my right hon. Friend to ignore interruptions or is his case so weak that it cannot——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has been here long enough to know that if an hon. Member does not wish to give way——

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

This is a monologue, not a debate.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Member said that he is not giving way, so that is up to him.

Mr. Alison

That merely underlines the point that I was making—that passions run high in the House on matters of religious interest and that it is proper for Parliament to spend time on and occupy itself with such matters, which are of immense interest and concern to our constituent:;. To adapt an old saying, religion is too important to be left to the bishops and clergy—the professionals, so to speak, who dominate the General Synod.

The General Synod, clergy and laity alike, has given lengthy, responsible and anxious thought to this strictly limited new power of dispensation, as set out in the Measure. They have reached a clear decision by a substantial majority. Our Ecclesiastical Committee endorsed that majority view of the General Synod. It has acted as Parliament was intended to act. Therefore, I commend the Measure to the House.

10.28 pm
Mrs. Ann Winterton (Congleton)

I do not wish to detain the House for long, because many hon. Members wish to contribute to this important debate. However, I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect the views of many Anglicans, who are mystified at what the Church is seeking to achieve at present. Their voice is not reflected sufficiently in the Synod, and they look to the Church to provide them with a lead in moral and other matters, but so often they are sadly disappointed.

The measure emanates from the 1978 Lichfield report entitled "Marriage and the Church's Task", the main recommendations of which failed to be accepted, as the House will recall. It has been suggested that the Commons should not thwart the wishes of the Synod, a view that I find extraordinary bearing in mind the writ that has been served questioning the legality of the General Synod's vote. In some people's minds, this may not be the right moment for Parliament to take on the established Church and to give it a boot up the backside, but I genuinely believe that it is the right moment to make a stand against the liberal trends on matters of morality, and to conclude that to allow the ordination of men who have been divorced and have then remarried makes a mockery of the Church's teaching.

The Lichfield report stated: it seems clear that Jesus made an uncompromising statement about divorce: a man or a woman who remarries after divorce commits adultery. Of course we understand the pressures of modern day life on families and on marriage. Of course we understand the dilemma faced by individuals who feel that they have been called by God to serve in this very particular way. However, such people could find many other ways in which they could serve God and their fellow man, and they should seek out those alternative ways.

The House must realise that tonight we are being asked to bend the rules to enable a few—240 at present——

Mr. Robert Hayward (Kingswood)


Mrs. Winterton

The hon. Gentleman will have his say in a few moments.

We are being asked to bend the rules to allow 240 people to become priests. These are not necessarily hard cases—there are very few hard cases—and we in the House know only too well that good legislation is never introduced for hard cases. We must take the broader view and decide what is in the best interests of the Church as a whole and of the people of this country as a whole, and not of those hard cases.

Mr. Hayward

Does not the church also teach us to forgive, as well as moral certainty?

Mrs. Winterton

I have never suggested that this should not be about forgiveness. One can forgive, but one must remember that, when someone has married, he has stood before an altar, in his right mind, has decided to take the other person on and has said that the marriage should last "until death us do part". If that is meaningless, I suggest that those who seek to go into the priesthood are forgetting one of the basic tenets of their faith, which would be a great mistake. This is not about forgiveness —of course people forgive—but about something more fundamental. As I have asked, we are being asked to bend those rules.

I do so hope that we shall reject the Measure because we must not dilute even further the influence and the example of the Church at a time when the country is longing for a strong moral lead. I beg the House to overthrow the Measure once again.

10.33 pm
Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

I invite the House to support the Measure, for three reasons. The first is that the Church wants it. Secondly, the Church of England, being a state-controlled Church, can at present achieve what it wants only if the House votes for it. Thirdly, in so far as any individual can assess it, the Measure removes the anomaly whereby one can be a priest, be divorced, remarry and continue to be a priest. I also support the Measure because it affects certain people who have a vocation which it is not for the House to deny.

I am totally unimpressed by the arguments used against the Measure, including the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton). The House is made up of many faiths and there is no requirement, as once there was, to be an Anglican in order to be elected to the House. The house has no moral authority or mandate to set its judgment above that of the Synod. I challenge any hon. Members to claim that they gave a pledge, whether in a party manifesto or in an election address, that on Church Measures they would vote against those which they did not like. If any hon. Members could assure me that they had notified their constituents that they had such a mandate, they might be in a special position, but I do not believe that to be the case.

The argument about constitutional rights is not a valid one. The Crown has the constitutional right to reject all our legislation but does not exercise it. The Crown has the right to dismiss the Prime Minister at any time without question, but it does not exercise it. Similarly, the Crown has the right to dissolve Parliament at any time, but it does not exercise that right. The argument about constitutional rights should not carry any weight in the House.

The arguments used against the Measure rest on double standards, for who liberalised the divorce laws but Parliament? Parliament has liberalised those laws regularly. Hon. Members can be divorced. Sir Anthony Eden was divorced when he became Prime Minister yet under our State Church. as a divorced man he had the power to appoint bishops. It is nonsense that the House should set its judgment on this matter above that of the Synod.

The debate brings into sharp focus the question of Church-state relations. I believe that one of the motives of those who wish to overthrow the Measure is that Church pronouncements on peace, poverty and social justice have greatly angered some Conservative Members. They do not like it, but without being offensive, I will not take lectures on moral standards from those who have enacted legislation which has caused so much social injustice.

I was brought up on the Old Testament, on the conflict between the kings who exercised the power and the prophets who preached righteousness. The story in the Old Testament would have been different if the kings had appointed the prophets. But I do not have much time for churchmen who protect the establishment.

I attended the coronation service and I have brought the order of service with me. I remember the occasion well—2 June 1953. One of the few pledges that the Queen gave to the Archbishop of Canterbury was the following: Archbishop: Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law? Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England? And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges, as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them? Queen: All this I promise to do. The bishops are part of a privileged group in our society. They sit in the House of Lords and they have a special status. They insist on maintaining the blasphemy laws, which has an element of contemporary importance.For one reason why the Muslims are angry is that they are not protected by those laws, which the bishops insist should protect the Church of England.

This is a time for a fresh look, though I know that the right hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Alison), who moved the Measure, does not agree with my reasons for supporting it. A few weeks ago the Soviet Parliament repealed article 6 of its constitution. Article 6 established Marxism-Leninism as the only political faith in Russia. The Russians have disestablished Marxism-Leninism. In this country, there are Protestants, Nonconformists, Catholics, Hindus and Muslims, yet we are told, on the advice of the Second Church Estates Commissioner, that we must preserve Parliament's power to control one church.

Tonight's vote will be a watershed. It is a crowded House. The early moments of the debate did not give me the idea that the House was an appropriate body to deal with such a matter. I did not think that the behaviour of some hon. Members confirmed our right to exercise the powers which, by statute, we have. If we accept the Measure, we are accepting the Church's right to be free. If we reject the Measure, the Church will demand its freedom.

There is no doubt that if Parliament rejects the Measure for a second time, the pressure in the Church of England for disestablishment will grow. I happen to share that wish, but I do not want to see it brought about by denying justice to people whom the Church, in its wisdom, considers eligible for ordination. Therefore, whichever way the vote goes will be a step towards disestablishment—de facto if we accept the Measure, de jure if we reject it.

I shall conclude because I know that many hon. Members wish to speak. State control of religion is a feudal survival. The sooner we end it, and end the farce of debates such as this, the better it will be for the Church of England and for the House.

10.42 pm
The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John Gummer)

I do not think that we help our case on either side by besmirching the motives of those who argue against us. This is an issue about which people feel strongly. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) has shown how strongly he feels about it. He is entitled to his view and has been honest about it. He is not an Anglican, but he has every right to speak in this assembly on these issues, because that is the nature of an established Church.

The problem with this issue is that it is not as simple as it has been made out to be. The Church of England sought to reform all its divorce laws. It brought forward a major motion. In order to pass it, it needed a two-thirds majority. It could not get that majority because many people believed that, in a world where divorce was becoming a major problem and in a nation with the highest divorce rate in the European Community, the Church should continue to uphold the sanctity of marriage and the notion of the lifelong union.

The bishops sought to find an answer, and discovered that they could not. Therefore, they withdrew from the Synod the general proposition and left us with this small rump bit. Had they said to the Synod, "Because this is so essential a matter and one that people feel so strongly about, we are not prepared to take the whole issue through; nevertheless on this issue, we will have the two-thirds majority which is necessary for so major a change," many of us would have been much happier.

However, instead of doing that, the bishops said that there would be no two-thirds majority. We understand why, because in the House of Laity—this House has a particular concern for that House—they have never managed to get a two-thirds majority. They have had a substantial majority, but not the majority which, under the generally understood nature of the Church of England, they needed to make so substantial a change.

It is a substantial change, because it means that we shall ordain men who, from the beginning of their ministry, will be unable to turn to young couples coming for advice on marriage and say to them, "The Church stands by our Lord's direct command to uphold marriage as a lifelong union. Therefore, under the rules that most bishops insist upon, you cannot be remarried in church, because you cannot remake the vows that you originally made."

Mr. Anthony Nelson (Chichester)

Will my right hon. Friend give way on that point?

Mr. Gummer

No, I want to be brief. I think that my hon. Friend will find that I answer him in due course.

That is what the Church said——

Mr. Roger Stott (Wigan)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Gummer

This is a matter of considerable pain and importance to many, and it would be helpful if all hon. Members were allowed to develop their arguments to see what the answer is.

Mr. Stott

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Gummer

The priest who has to advise people——

Mr. Stott

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way to someone who has been remarried in church?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. The tight hon. Gentleman said that he is not giving way.

Mr. Gummer

The priest will have to say that he has not been able to carry that out, and in that sense he is not the person who stands for the highest that the Church can ask for.

Mr. Nelson

Will my right hon. Friend give way on that point?

Mr. Gummer

No, I shall not give way. Many people wish to speak and I have been asked to keep my remarks short.

The issue is surely whether the Church has the right to say of those who stand at the altar in the place of Jesus that they should set an example of a kind that may not be asked of other people. I think that it has. In those circumstances, other Churches say that a man may not marry at all. They ask for celibacy generally. The Orthodox Church says that one may marry but not divorce or remarry after divorce. The Church of England is merely saying, as it has always said, that priests may divorce but may not remarry, because that is to take the vow a second time.

If the Church had sought to recast the whole of its marriage arrangements and deal with the issue of annulment to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) refers, not just for priests but for all the other people who, because the Church of England has no annulment procedure, are also forced into a divorce, many of us would have gone along with the change that was necessary. But we are not faced with such a proposal. We are faced with a special proposal about the very people of whom one should ask a higher standard than one asks of others.

What kind of signal does that give to the rest of the community? What will it mean if, for the first time, the Church of England decides to ordain not one or two difficult cases, but—as we know from the figures that have been thrashed out after a great deal of trouble, considerable pressure and several months of discussion, the Ecclesiastical Committee, having been given the figure of two or three a year—240 in the first year? There is a lot behind that, and I agree that would not be a typical year, but there is no doubt that many will be concerned, so that is a different situation from that which was presented to the Synod.

The issue is surely also that the Church of England needs to look at its marriage and divorce legislation, for we have a much tougher rule than in any other Church in Christendom if it is kept. But, as has been pointed out by my right hon. Friend, it is often not kept. The Church must face that issue.

Our problem tonight is that the Church has been denied the opportunity to face that issue. It has been given a bit of a measure. That bit has been got through without a two-thirds majority, and the House is now supposed to support what has been an unfortunate chapter in the history of the Church.

It is no good saying that this is a matter for the Church, and we must leave it to the Church. If we have an established Church—I am not one of those who believe it to be essential—it is the duty the House to stand up for those who have been disfranchised by the mechanisms of the Church.

I find it surprising that the motion should be brought before the House at a time when there is a court case outstanding against the principle of the way in which the Measure was put through. I know that it is in technical terms possible for the House to approve it, but I thought that the Church would have stayed its hand and waited a little, until that case had been heard. I hope that there is no truth in the report that, if the case is lost, the Church will seek costs from the very ordinary Anglican lay people who took the matter to court. If that is true, the Church ought to think again, because it was right to take that case to court.

There may be another Session for us, but there is not another session for the Synod. There are synodical elections towards the end of this year. Why was the Church not prepared to leave the matter to be voted upon again by a new Synod? Even those of us who may not be entirely convinced by the argument that an example ought to be set, and that the Church should stand for something at a time when marriage is undergoing so much pressure, may we ask why the Church did not, in Christian charity, hold back the Measure to be voted upon again after the synodical election, when the case could have been put to its electorate? Why did not the Church allow the High Court case to be heard before bringing the matter before this House?

My last point—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Opposition Members ought to accept that many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House feel strongly about this matter, and have been consistent in their views.

It is often said that the argument is one of forgiveness. One of the problems in Britain is how we should support the two out of three families who do stay together and who regard marriage as a lifelong commitment. How do we help them in those difficult circumstances? We can do so only by upholding the highest standards and by setting before them what Jesus demanded and what the Gospel demands. Once the Church of England moves from the Gospel demands, many of us will ask in whose name the Church speaks at all.

10.52 pm
Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

No right hon. or hon. Member who has met or who has been written to by a number of the people whom the motion most closely concerns can fail to approach the matter partly through those individuals. That raises for any Christian the fundamental question of whether we really believe that the power of the Holy Spirit is limited. Sometimes, I wonder whether that doubt is the sin against the Holy Spirit that none of us has ever had explained.

Grace is infinite, and the history of the Christian Church is the history of ordinary sinners redeemed by grace and securing successes beyond that which anyone could normally have expected of them. It is worth reminding ourselves that St. Peter built the Church having denied Our Lord on oath no fewer than three times. As we all know, St. Paul was instrumental in causing the death of a number of Christians before he played his part in building the Church.

If someone, whether or not he is a Christian, fails in a marriage, are we to say that at no stage in his subsequent life is the Holy Spirit able to redeem him sufficiently to allow him to become a priest or a deacon? We know that the efficacy of the sacrament is not affected by the purity of its administrator. We know also that it is more likely that a couple will seek to be married by a priest who has been divorced while an incumbent than by one of the tiny handful of people who may get through an elaborate process, having been divorced goodness knows how many years ago.

Yet there is, as we can see, an impressive balance of right hon. and hon. Members lined up against the Measure. One has to ask why. Is it because they want to send the message to the Church of England that they do not trust the archbishops? If so, this is a wholly inappropriate vehicle to carry that message. Why pick on a tiny handful of committed Christians, who want the chance to test their vocation only at the humblest level of the priesthood, to attack the pinnacle of the hierarchy? Is it because they want to send out a message about the inviolable sanctity of marriage? This is a grossly inadequate vehicle to carry that huge burden. To use a group of Christians who will, by definition, be more sharply tested in their vocation and more centred on the vital importance of chaste and holy marriage than anyone else I can imagine, as a candle to light the fire of a national revival of enduring marriage, is as cruel as it is inappropriate.

I believe that if hon. Members turn down the Measure we shall send to the Church and to the country beyond the message that we doubt the redemptive power of the Holy Spirit. We shall send the message that we distrust the judgment of the archbishops whom the secular authority has placed at the helm of the Church of England and that we are happy to ride roughshod over the vocation of a handful of Christians to gratify our prejudices or to feed our human fears. Such instrumentality—the subordination of individuals to the larger purpose—is precisely the opposite of the Gospel and the sort of thinking that our Lord came to overturn.

10.56 pm
Ms. Jo Richardson (Barking)

The right hon, Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) referred to our previous debate, when there were fewer hon. Members present. That debate resulted in a very close vote, which gave no satisfaction to the winners or the losers. I think that it was recognised immediately that we should have to re-run the whole event. On that occasion, 14.7 per cent of hon. Members voted in the middle of the night, and the Measure was defeated by a mere six votes.

I make no criticism—why should I?—of the hon. Members who did not stay for the debate. Doubtless, many of them thought that sleep was more important, and perhaps their families thought that it was more important that they should be at home with them. We often have debates at what some hon. Members consider to be unreasonable hours. I sometimes think that we should consider that aspect of our debates, and decide whether our procedures should be changed so that we all have the opportunity to come to a sensible conclusion, without being too tired and mugged by the procedure. Some absentees might have been motivated by the fact that they felt that the issue was not one upon which parliamentarians should vote at all. I voted for the Measure. I am one of those hon. Members who takes the view that it is not a matter upon which Parliament should make a decision, but I shall come to that point in a moment.

I am glad, having excused in my mind the absentees, that so many hon. Members have turned up tonight and decided to stay, even at this slightly earlier hour, to listen and to vote. I have been sitting here trying to calculate who will vote on which side, and it is not easy to judge from hon. Members' faces.

I was privileged to take part in the debate in July. I guess that I was one of the few contributors on that occasion, and probably one of the few on this occasion who is not a member of the Church of England.

I come from a pretty religious background, although hon. Members might not think it: my father was a Methodist preacher, my mother a Congregationalist, and I turned out to be an agnostic. Despite my feelings, I take an interest in what is happening, and I strongly believe that matters such as this should be left to the parliament of the Church of England. A lot of what has been said tonight has been said in language that may not be comprehensible to people outside, some of whom may be in the Public Gallery tonight. The Measure belongs to the General Synod, and I do not think that we should make a decision contrary to the decision that it has already made; indeed, I do not think that we should make a decision of any kind.

Despite what the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) said earlier, I believe that the Synod has agonised over the Measure. It has come to a conclusion—albeit not by a two-thirds majority—and I think that we have a duty to pass the Measure too, although on another occasion we may be able to discuss the possibility of separating Church and State.

Mr. Eric S. Heller (Liverpool, Walton)

My hon. Friend said at first that we should not make a decision; now she says that we should. I agree with her that it should not be the business of the House of Commons to make that decision, but now that it is our business I feel that we have a responsibility. I think that we should support the majority on the Synod, although it was not a two-thirds majority. I say that as an Anglo-Catholic who has been married since 15 December 1945, and who believes strongly in the marriage concept, but recognises on a Christian basis that some people may not be as happily married as I am.

Ms. Richardson

I agree with my hon. Friend that we should make a decision tonight, but I do not think that we should have to: I think that we should think about the matter again on another occasion.

The people who considered this Measure for so many months reached their decision on the basis of deep religious feeling, and it is our job tonight to underwrite and support their decision. I know that many hon. Members believe that marriages are made in heaven, and that everyone who is married should remain married to his or her partner until death do them part. That is fine, but—I hate to say this, and I hope that I do not sound patronising—that suggests that they do not live in the real world. In the real world divorces take place, and for very good reasons. Some of the remarks that have been made suggest that people who divorce do so for not very serious reasons, but if people have decided to divorce we must respect that, and I do not think that they should be penalised as they would be if we voted against the Measure.

After all, there are only 240 candidates who would qualify for consideration if the Measure were passed, and not all are likely to get through. The Church of England has said that if we pass the Measure, the candidates will be scrutinised by means of the most difficult and obstacle-ridden procedure to ensure that they are fit to be ordained. We are considering only 240 people out of 10,000.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

Many hon. Members are very perplexed. The Church of England now says that we can break one of God's tenets—that a marriage should be indissoluble. However, whenever Sunday trading is advocated, every vicar in creation writes to us stating that Sunday must remain a holy day. What matters are holy? Is marriage holy? Are Sundays holy? Is Easter holy? What is holy? If we break one tenet, why should not we break them all?

Ms. Richardson

Perhaps some people break them all. However, I do not intend to follow that line of argument.

Many hon. Members and people throughout the country believe that marriage should be indissoluble. I understand their point of view. However, that is not possible in the real world for every couple, and we have to make provision for those people. I am not referring to the much-publicised cases that appear in the tabloid press—married people jumping into bed with other partners. I do not think that they, or the press that exploits their stories, are typical—[Interruption.] We are fed on a constant diet—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker


Ms. Richardson

Most couples divorce because life together has become intolerable. I defy any hon. Member to deny that he or she has been touched to the heart by such cases. Hon. Members must therefore be aware of what happens to a number of people.

Hon. Members may know of my deep concern for victims of domestic violence. Wife beaters—those who verbally, physically or sexually abuse their partner—are rife in our society, and always have been. A ten-minute Bill on rape within marriage is to be introduced tomorrow by my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen), which I hope the House will approve. Even the Home Office is now taking that seriously. If the victim of domestic violence finally manages to divorce her violent husband and subsequently remarries, why should the second husband be penalised for his understanding, care and love for someone who has been so cruelly treated?

In the previous debate on the subject my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) asked me how we could ensure—[Interruption.]—that the wife beater was not ordained. I said then that the procedure for ordination would be very strict. I cannot imagine that such a person would be ordained. [Interruption.] Perhaps I—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I ask the House to listen to the hon. Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson). I am sure that she is nearing the end of her speech.

Ms. Richardson

It would be lovely if we lived in an ideal world in which marriages were real partnerships, where the husband accepted his responsibilities to his wife and family, with the wife—who usually has to undertake most of the family responsibilities—having a life of her own, with financial independence to exercise her rights within the marriage.

In the 1990s, more women will be required in the work force. More women today are mature students who are seeking to educate themselves and expand their mind. That is a good thing and some Conservative Members should take note of it. However, that may well cause women to re-evaluate their marriages, their families and their relationships. Some of their earlier mistakes may throw them into deeper and more abiding relationships. Why should the aspirations of those women or the men whom they have married be less important to a partnership than those who feel that marriage is indissoluble? I do not think that that is what the meeting together of two people is all about and I hope that the House will listen closely to the debate and vote in favour of the Measure.

11.10 pm
Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead)

I am pleased to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson), who presented important arguments in her usual graceful manner. If I disagree with her, I do so for the same reasons as last time, which have nothing to do with the power of the arguments that she put forward. The hon. Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) also spoke with great feeling. There is considerable feeling on all sides of the House running just below the surface of the debate.

Before making one substantive point to ask Members not to approve the Measure before the House tonight, I wish to comment on one issue which has not emerged in the debate. Many people outside consider tonight's debate a trial run for the Measure which will allow the Church to ordain women and which will be supported by substantial majorities in all parts of the House. No one must think that tonight's vote is any guide to that Measure.

This limited Measure has, however, turned into a partial debate on disestablishment. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) feels passionately about that issue, although I find it strange that he should advocate privatisation of this country's first nationalised industry and handing over rights possessed by the state to a sect.

Dr. Dafydd Elis Thomas (Meirionnyd Nant Conwy)

I am a member of the Church in Wales, which is disestablished but not privatised.

Mr. Field

I hope for the hon. Gentleman's sake that he will depend on more than that argument when he faces the electorate.

The second argument that has been advanced is that tonight we have a chance to iron out inconsistencies in everyday life.

Mr. Heffer

Will the hon. Gentleman explain whether our Lord said that the Church had to be part of a national state? Where and when was that written in the scriptures?

Mr. Field

Our Lord did not directly publish "Faith in the City", but despite that it was a jolly good report, which was attacked by Conservative Members, and so tradition develops.

I am anxious to move on because the argument about inconsistencies has been presented. At present, if a practising priest decides to divorce he can continue to be a priest and his freehold rights will not be touched, but a person who decides to get divorced before being ordained will face a bar. We have to decide whether life is about ironing out inconsistencies or whether the important things in life cannot easily be fitted into neat categories.

As I listened to that, I thought of the argument that Aneurin Bevan made as he faced Neville Chamberlain. Having listened to the then Prime Minister, he said, in effect, "Listening to the Prime Minister is like a trip round Woolworth's—everything in its place and nothing over sixpence." Many things in life do not fit into neat little boxes. Sometimes they spill over. In this case we have to make a judgment as to whether it is a matter of neat categorisation or something more.

Mr. Nelson

I wish to raise with the hon. Gentleman a matter of personal perplexity to me. It may indeed be ignorance which leads me to intervene. The hon. Gentleman spoke of circumstances in which a person sought ordination, having previously been divorced. Will he confirm that there are circumstances, under the law passed by this House, in which a man can be divorced through no wish of his own? After a five-year period of separation, divorce may be imposed on him, even though it may be the last thing that he desires. Yet as a result of that, that law and this House, paradoxically, imposes a law on him saying that he is barred from ordination. Where is the equity?

Mr. Field

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. The bar comes if he remarries after that divorce, not by the divorce itself.

Mr. Nelson


Mr. Field

The hon. Gentleman may say no, but he asked a specific question and I answered it.

I am anxious to get to the substantive point of my speech, which is that we must balance the argument, for it is on that balance—not on the high theological points that have been adduced by some hon. Members who oppose the Measure and who will later be in the Lobby with me—that we must make a decision.

The hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Hayward) asked whether the debate was about forgiveness. As a collection of individuals, we should thank God that forgiveness is not dependent on any Act of Parliament. Whatever we decide tonight will make no difference to that fundamental issue, but it will make a difference to the conduct of the established Church.

As those themes have occurred in the debate, I wish to explain why, on balance, I shall vote against the Measure and ask my hon. Friends to support me. I do so not for theological reasons but for arguments about citizenship. We are being asked by the Church today to create two categories of citizenship. In an intervention, my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Stott) said that some individuals could be divorced and remarried in Church.

Mr. Stott

As I was.

Mr. Field

As my hon. Friend was. Some people know how to move around and how t work the system——

Hon. Members


Mr. Stott

I rest my case.

Mr. Field

My hon. Friend may rest his case, but there are people who go to their local priest, who has a strict policy on the matter and refuses, and those people will accept the position. There will be others who know that they can move around and find a priest to perform the sacrament for them. That was the distinction that I was making. Under the existing law, some people will be divorced and remarried.

Today, however, we are being asked to approve a Measure which says that there shall be a privileged group of people who will be divorced and remarried, or who may have married a divorcee, and they can be ordained. But the vast majority of English men and women will be denied that right—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] That is the line that most parish priests take. It stems from the point made by the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), that that is not the main issue that we are considering tonight. We are considering a substantive amendment. The main Measure that the Synod considered was the right of ordinary English men and women who are divorced to remarry in the Church. It refused to pass that measure, but says that it will ordain a category of people—a privileged group—who have divorced and remarried.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) asked why we are involved. We are involved because we are deciding that rights of citizenship should not be extended to ordinary people and that rules should apply to a special group—priests—but not to ordinary people. So long as such legislation is put forward in this place, I hope that the House will reject it, but not for some of the reasons that we have heard about it being a move one way or another to disestablishment.

Whether we think that the Measure is only about ironing out inconsistencies, or whether we think that it is a test of the welcome which I hope that the House will give the Measure for the ordination of women in the Church of England, it is about the fundamental rights of English men and women to be remarried in church. The Synod refused to extend that right to the many, but today we are being asked to extend it to the privileged few. For those reasons, I hope that we shall reject the Measure.

11.2 pm

The Attorney-General (Sir Patrick Mayhew)

I have two short points to offer the House on what I consider to be a difficult issue. The first is based on the concept of fairness and proportionality in law, and the second I venture, rather rashly, to base on theology.

My first point is a plea for the principle that the consequences of any infringement should be influenced by the circumstances in which it occurs. We have been reminded by my right hon. Friend the Second Church Estates Commissioner and by other hon. Members that a priest is not compelled to give up his benefits, let alone his orders, if he remarries within the lifetime of his former wife. I draw attention to that fact not to make the plea suggested by the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field), who made a most impressive speech, but to get rid of any inconsistency. My plea is that we should allow the law of the Church to take account of the circumstances in which an undoubted infringement of the Church's code has taken place.

It is true that a clergyman does not have to give up his benefits or orders because he remarried after divorce, but the disciplinary legislation and machinery of the Church may remove him if the circumstances of his conduct justify it. The circumstances are taken into account when the Church decides what shall happen to a clergyman, whereas they are not when someone who has divorced and remarried, regardless of how long ago or of the fact that at the time he may not have been a Christian, wishes to be ordained. That absolute bar on his ordination leads me to support the Measure—one of the advantages of speaking later in the debate is that one can cut one's remarks—but that contrast has already been made.

I should like to establish my credentials with those such as my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), next to whom I am delighted to be sitting, and against whose views I speak. I stand by the doctrine that, for a Christian, remarriage when his former wife is alive is adulterous and therefore a sin, but I hope to see that doctrine tempered by recognition of the need for a careful examination of the circumstances of each case.

Equally, I very much understand those who stand against what they see as a steady slide in moral conduct, in theology, in the production standards of a factory or in anything else. Some, with justice, perceive a slide. I stand with them against that, but that does not justify turning down the Measure tonight.

We should address ourselves to whether this absolute and unqualified bar is an unfair and disproportionate sanction to impose on somebody who may fall into the category—I agree that it is extreme, but one can visualise many gradations—that he may, perhaps a long time ago, have divorced and remarried and now wishes to be ordained. It is an unfair and disproportionate sanction, which is inherently wrong. It does not allow the consequences of an undoubted infringement to be varied and tempered by the circumstances.

I understand those who take their stand on the sanctity of marriage and on the concept that it is for life. I share those views. I do no doubt that those who oppose the Measure believe that it is necessary to do so by reason of their loyalty to that concept. However, I hope that I shall not offend any of them if I suggest that they may, in their opposition, be giving rather less force than they should to two essential concepts, as I understand them, of the Christian faith. The first is forgiveness, and the second is the supernatural power of God.

It is rash to suppose that it is so serious a sin to remarry after divorce in the circumstances with which we are concerned that it cannot be conceived that God might wish subsequently to call such a man to serve him as a priest. [HON. MEMBERS: "Or woman."] Perhaps a woman in future, but let us not enlarge the debate.

Miss Emma Nicholson (Torridge and Devon, West)

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

The Attorney-General

No, as I am anxious to finish quickly.

Miss Nicholson

It affects women deacons.

The Attorney-General

I understand that.

If one is to oppose the Measure, it is necessary to argue that it is inconceivable that God should wish to call a man to become a priest in those circumstances. I do not believe that it is inconceivable. It is argued that to pass the Measure will send out a thoroughly bad signal, and the implication of that argument is that that must be to infringe, and to go against, the will of God. I do not believe that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) has already reminded us of the influence of St. Paul. It hardly need to be said that St. Paul persecuted and murdered Christians on a grand scale, yet he was subsequently employed as an apostle. It is then said, "It is inconceivable that anybody could teach persuasively the lifelong purpose and nature of marriage if he himself had remarried in those circumstances." How come? St. Paul had little difficulty in preaching with great sincerity the wrongness of the offences that he, so memorably, had committed himself.

My conclusion is that we should approach the debate not with a view to ironing out inconsistencies or deciding whether we shall be standing up for marriage, but with a view to ensuring that the law of the Church of England is fair and proportionate, and remembering that the Measure will take account of circumstances and that it will be only the most exceptional circumstances that one archbishop or the other will consider sufficient to warrant a departure from what will remain the general rule and principle. That is central to the Measure and justifies it for me. That is why I shall vote for it.

11.29 pm
Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)

When the Attorney-General was speaking as a Back-Bench Member, I went through a great temptation to follow him on the matter of sinning through adultery. In this country, there is an enormous amount of saying one thing and doing another.

I was reminded that when I first did interviews with an armed detective sitting alongside me, a chap walked in at Holbeck in Leeds, and said to me, "Do you believe in the sanctity of marriage?" I said, "Yes," and he went straight out. The policemen said, "Do you believe that, sir?" I said, "Yes, for myself." He said, "Thank God for that."

There is a great deal in the debate that should not concern us as Members of Parliament. When I hear theology being talked, it is not for me and it is not for Members in general. I shall vote for the Measure, although as a Nonconformist I have no reason in faith to participate. That is why I was not here last time.

The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) reinforced my feelings when he raised ecclesiastical points. I simply tell him—and I do not say it with nastiness—that when he goes round the country talking as a Member of Parliament about ecclesiastical points, I feel irritated. The same applies to my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field), who talked about citizenship. That is a matter for him. It is not a matter for me as a Nonconformist.

The debate is far wider than the Measure before us. Lose or win, however we all feel, it is one more little movement along the road to disestablishment. When I was Home Secretary, I had to go on an occasional Thursday to see Her Majesty when she created bishops. I read out the oath. I did that as a Nonconformist, but I went along with it. Given the decline in churchgoing, it is no longer relevant. The information on social trends published a few days ago shows what is happening. In those statistics we see that many young people live together but are not married: they are mainly middle class, but I make no point about that. Why are we talking in this lay Chamber about morality, and ecclesiastical morality, in the face of that information?

It is time we disestablished the Church of England. The Church in Wales is much better for being disestablished. The former Church of England in Northern Ireland, now the Church of Ireland, is much the better for being free of political control. If it means that we have to alter the composition of the House of Lords and that the spiritual bishops are no longer there, so be it. If it means that the cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and others are there instead, so much the better.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will return to the Measure that we are discussing.

Mr. Rees

The Measure is pushing us along that road. We will vote one way or the other, but it is not our business. 'That is why I was not here last time. I wish I were not here now. If the House is talking about saving marriages, the quicker I get home, the better.

11.33 pm
Mr. Hugo Summerson (Walthamstow)

We have the right to debate the matter; we also have the right to represent our constituents' fears and concerns. There is a feeling of despair among many lay people. I listened with tremendous sympathy to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe), but the Church of England has gone wrong. It no longer provides the guidance that ordinary people expect. I give, as one example, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. What is the Church's view on that Bill? I do not know whether it knows what its view is, but it has not told me. I have had many letters from various institutions on the Bill but I have not heard a squeak from the Church of England.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Summerson

I shall not give way.

If the Church trod the path laid down for it nearly 2,000 years ago and preached the timeless gospel of Christ, I should support the Measure that it has introduced today, because I would have trust and confidence that what the Church was doing was right. But I do not. The Church's values today are those of contemporaneous, secular society. I have lost my trust in the Church. I do not believe that its motives are correct, and I believe that the Measure should be rejected.

11.35 pm
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

When the Ecclesiastical Committee first set out on its deliberations two years ago, I presumed—as, I admit, did some of my colleagues on the Committee—that when the Measure came to be voted on, I should vote against it. However, I did not vote against it the last time that it was debated and I shall not vote against it tonight.

The reasons why I shall not vote against the Measure, although various, can be summarised relatively briefly. The Church's teaching on marriage is clear. The Church has specific teaching that the leaders of the Church should set a good example and according to Timothy, should take only one wife. There is clear teaching. However, as the Attorney-General and others have clearly said, the Church has equally preached that, for every individual without exception, there is available forgiveness. If we defeat the Measure, one of the effects would be to deny the sacrament of forgiveness to people who are ordained, while the Church offers, and the holy spirit gives, forgiveness to lay members of the Church.

The Ecclesiastical Committee took a year, spent six sessions, considered evidence and had a joint meeting with the legislative committee of the General Synod before coming to the decision that the measure was expedient. I respect the views of those who have expressed an alternative view this evening. It is clear that, theologically, the matter is difficult, but we should take heed of the advice that we have been given by the people who guide us on matters of theology in the Church. They have deliberated and decided by a substantial majority that the matter does not offend against the theology of the Christian Church or against the teachings of Christ.

In all three Houses there was a majority. It does not matter what our views are on disestablishment. As an Anglican who is in favour of disestablishment, I too wish that we did not have to do this job. However, we must do our job tonight with the best advice available.

The House could reject the Measure, as it did before, but uniquely, the Church is entitled to send it back when it will. When the Church reconsidered the decision of the House last July, it resolved, by a majority of more than two thirds, that the Measure should come back to the House and should be supported by the Church.

As the hon. Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson) said, the measure applies not only to men but to women. If the Measure is accepted, many women who are waiting to be ordained deacons will be allowed to be ordained, just as the men affected will he allowed to be ordained priests. It would be anomalous if the measure were not accepted. By definition, some people would be prevented from being ordained by faults that were not of their commission and sins not of their making. Some would be prevented by technicalities. Others might be eligible despite the fact that they might have lived with one, two or more partners—just because they had never got married—and some would be prevented because they married somebody who, many years past, had once been divorced. That person would be debarred although he may never have been divorced himself.

By the present law, we can allow people to be ordained who have been convicted of murder. Are we to deny that to those whose marriage has failed? Perhaps most importantly, is the Church to say that people who have been married and divorced, who were remarried when they were not Christians, but who became Christians later, like Paul and many other cases in the history of the Church, should then be prevented from starting again, as the Church teaches is available?

I advise the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) that the rule of the Church that allows priests to refuse requests for marriage is not a parallel, and it is therefore not a good precedent. The Church allows that. It will continue to have that provision, and it is up to the individual priest. The fact that someone may find a priest who is willing to remarry that person in church—as the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Stott) made clear has happened to him—is not an argument for rejecting the Measure.

Above all, the debate is about whether forgiveness can override the strict interpretation of the law, but it is also about whether this House will leave to the pastors and spiritual leaders of the Church the right to decide that, in an individual case, after close examination, somebody should be allowed to be ordained in spite of what had gone before. If it is a choice between this House barring everybody in all circumstances from being ordained or of leaving it to the Church, I think that we should leave it to the Church.

11.41 pm
Mr. Alison

With the leave of the House, I should like to make two concluding points—one a very narrow point and the other rather broader. On the narrow point, in his impressive speech, my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) referred to the fact that he thought that the General Synod should have had a two-thirds majority vote on the critical point. He drew attention to the fact that a law suit is now in process outside the House to try to decide whether a two-thirds majority should have been applied.

My right hon. Friend complained about costs in the law suit. I should look at that point carefully and, without commitment, shall do everything that I can to help his side. The Church of England has said that, if the law suit is won by the plaintiffs—his side—it will unequivocally take the canon which will implement the Measure back to the Synod and submit it to the two-thirds majority procedure. There is therefore still a chance for my right hon. Friend's wish to be fulfilled.

My right hon. Friend was eloquent in urging the vital necessity of upholding the Christian view of marriage. Very few, if any, hon. Members would differ from my right hon. Friend on that fact. Indeed, I doubt whether anybody in the country—certainly nobody in the Church—would differ from him about the need to uphold the highest possible Christian view of marriage. It is precisely because of the overwhelming support for that view—almost monolithic as a feeling in the House, the General Synod, the Church and the country at large—that we can run the risk of allowing this very modest limited degree of exceptional dispensation without shaking the fabric of rigorous popular orthodoxy.

I pray in aid the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) in his eloquent speech—that the debate is about balance. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Sir P. Mayhew) hit the nail on the head when he said that the absolute disbarring of remarried, divorced clergy is a disproportionate sanction. We should run the risk of modestly lifting that sanction by endorsing the Measure tonight.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 228 Noes 106.

Division No. 87] [11.45 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Body, Sir Richard
Aitken, Jonathan Boscawen, Hon Robert
Alexander, Richard Boswell, Tim
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Bottomley, Peter
Allen, Graham Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Boyes, Roland
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Bradley, Keith
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Bray, Dr Jeremy
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Barron, Kevin Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)
Battle, John Buck, Sir Antony
Beckett, Margaret Budgen, Nicholas
Beith, A. J. Burns, Simon
Bell, Stuart Caborn, Richard
Bellingham, Henry Callaghan, Jim
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Bermingham, Gerald Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Bevan, David Gilroy Cartwright, John
Blunkett, David Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Boateng, Paul Clay, Bob
Clelland, David Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Cohen, Harry Key, Robert
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Kilfedder, James
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Knox, David
Cope, Rt Hon John Lamond, James
Corbett, Robin Leadbitter, Ted
Corbyn, Jeremy Leighton, Ron
Couchman, James Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Cox, Tom Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Cryer, Bob Lewis, Terry
Cunliffe, Lawrence Livingstone, Ken
Cunningham, Dr John Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Dalyell, Tam Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Davis, David (Boothferry) McWilliam, John
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Madden, Max
Dewar, Donald Madel, David
Dixon, Don Mahon, Mrs Alice
Doran, Frank Marland, Paul
Dorrell, Stephen Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Mates, Michael
Eastham, Ken Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Evans, John (St Helens N) Meacher, Michael
Faulds, Andrew Meale, Alan
Fisher, Mark Meyer, Sir Anthony
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Michael, Alun
Foster, Derek Miscampbell, Norman
Fox, Sir Marcus Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Franks, Cecil Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Fraser, John Mitchell, Sir David
Freeman, Roger Moonie, Dr Lewis
Fyfe, Maria Morley, Elliot
Gardiner, George Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Garel-Jones, Tristan Morrison, Sir Charles
Garrett, John (Norwich South) Nellist, Dave
George, Bruce Nelson, Anthony
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Golding, Mrs Llin Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Gordon, Mildred Patchett, Terry
Gorst, John Pike, Peter L.
Graham, Thomas Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Primarolo, Dawn
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Quin, Ms Joyce
Ground, Patrick Randall, Stuart
Hanley, Jeremy Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Hannam, John Rhodes James, Robert
Hardy, Peter Richardson, Jo
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Rogers, Allan
Harman, Ms Harriet Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Harris, David Rowe, Andrew
Haselhurst, Alan Rowlands, Ted
Hayes, Jerry Ruddock, Joan
Haynes, Frank Sedgemore, Brian
Hayward, Robert Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Heathcoat-Amory, David Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Heffer, Eric S. Sheerman, Barry
Henderson, Doug Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Hinchliffe, David Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall) Short, Clare
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Skinner, Dennis
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Hood, Jimmy Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Soley, Clive
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Squire, Robin
Howells, Geraint Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Steinberg, Gerry
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Stern, Michael
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Stott, Roger
Illsley, Eric Straw, Jack
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn) Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis Wheeler, Sir John
Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck) Wiggin, Jerry
Thornton, Malcolm Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Thurnham, Peter Wilson, Brian
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath) Winnick, David
Trippier, David Wise, Mrs Audrey
Trotter, Neville Wolfson, Mark
Turner, Dennis Wood, Timothy
Twinn, Dr Ian Young, David (Bolton SE)
Wakeham, Rt Hon John Young, Sir George (Acton)
Wallace, James
Waller, Gary Tellers for the Ayes:
Wardell, Gareth (Gower) Mr. Roger Sims and Mr. Michael Latham.
Wareing, Robert N.
Amess, David Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Amos, Alan Evennett, David
Arbuthnot, James Fallon, Michael
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Favell, Tony
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Fenner, Dame Peggy
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Beggs, Roy Fishburn, John Dudley
Bendall, Vivian Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Gale, Roger
Benyon, W. Gill, Christopher
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Goodlad, Alastair
Buckley, George J. Gow, Ian
Butcher, John Green way, Harry (Ealing N)
Butler, Chris Gregory, Conal
Butterfill, John Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Carrington, Matthew Hague, William
Chapman, Sydney Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Duffy, A. E. P. Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Durant, Tony Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Emery, Sir Peter Hunter, Andrew
Irvine, Michael Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Jack, Michael Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Janman, Tim Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Jessel, Toby Skeet, Sir Trevor
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Kirkhope, Timothy Stanbrook, Ivor
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Stevens, Lewis
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Stokes, Sir John
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Summerson, Hugo
Lightbown, David Tapsell, Sir Peter
Lilley, Peter Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Lord, Michael Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
McCrea, Rev William Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Maclean, David Thorne, Neil
McLoughlin, Patrick Tredinnick, David
Malins, Humfrey Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Miller, Sir Hal Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Mills, Iain Ward, John
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Watts, John
Moynihan, Hon Colin Wells, Bowen
Neubert, Michael Whitney, Ray
Nicholls, Patrick Widdecombe, Ann
Norris, Steve Winterton, Mrs Ann
Oppenheim, Phillip Winterton, Nicholas
Paice, James
Paisley, Rev Ian Tellers for the Noes:
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Mr. Alistair Burl and Mr. William Powell.
Porter, David (Waveney)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That the Clergy (Ordination) Measure passed by the General Synod of the Church of England, be presented to Her Majesty for her Royal assent in the form in which the said Measure was last Sessoion.