§ 28. Mr. John Marshall
To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, as representing the Church Commissioners, if he will estimate the financial consequences for the commissioners of the trend in ordinations in the past three years
§ Mr. Michael Alison (Second Church Estates Commissioner, representing the Church Commissioners)
There is no clear trend in ordinations in the past three years sufficient to suggest any significant change in the balance of the Commissioners' expenditure in future years
§ Mr. Marshall
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the trend would be more encouraging if women were allowed to become fully frocked priests? Does he accept that just as Rabbi Julia Neuberger has been a distinguished theologian, many ladies could become caring, efficient parish priests? When does my right hon. Friend believe that the first lady Prime Minister will appoint the first lady bishop?
§ Mr. Alison
When my hon. Friend refers to women priests, he should be aware that there is likely to be a Measure on the ordination of women presented to Parliament in about 1993. My hon. Friend referred to women Prime Ministers. Perhaps I can say that there will be an opportunity to confirm a woman Prime Minister at a rather earlier date. I should put it on the record that no Prime Minister since Gladstone has made such an open and avowed Christian commitment as our present Prime Minister, or done so much for the Church
§ Mr. Skinner
As the right hon. Gentleman used to be the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister and she might finish up on the barbed wire tomorrow night, will he in his capacity as a Church Commissioner recommend her to take on one of those jobs because she might need some extra work?
§ Mr. Alison
As usual, the hon. Gentleman makes constructive suggestions and helpful comments in the direction of the Church. It would not be out of character or beyond possibility for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister perhaps to wish to offer herself for ordination at a much later date. It is perfectly possible for her to complete a long tour as Prime Minister, which I hope she will, perhaps retiring at 70, and then to offer herself for ordination. She would be most acceptable in the Church of England.