HC Deb 11 July 1994 vol 246 cc663-4
33. Mr. Barnes

To ask the right hon. Member for Selby, representing the Church Commissioners, what representations he has received since 29 June on the financial consequences of disestablishment of the Church.

Mr. Alison


Mr. Barnes

It is a bit surprising that there was not one letter, following Jonathan Dimbleby's interview with the Prince of Wales—one from the Prince himself. He obviously decided that he would write to the archbishop instead, withdrawing his initial position. Is not it a good idea that the Church should be disestablished? That would mean that everyone with different faiths and beliefs, and those with none, could begin to be considered within the state. It would be a particularly good idea for Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, who could then see that the British state did not have an established church.

Mr. Alison

I do not think that any non-Anglican Church in the British Isles, in England and in Wales or in the United Kingdom is in any way disadvantaged by the establishment of the Church of England. On the contrary, all derive benefit from the close relationship with an historic and traditional source of Christian truth and teaching, which is orthodox and catholic in its sweep and embrace, and which is shared, endorsed and propagated by the Churches of every non-Anglican denomination in the British Isles.

Mr. Nicholls

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, whatever view one might take about the present soundness or doctrinal orthodoxy of the leadership of the Church of England, with an established Church, every English person has, as an automatic birthright, the right to belong to the Church of England? That is an extraordinary thing and if it were taken away by some of the more liberally persuaded people in the Church of England, a great national Church would be turned into nothing more than a tiny sect.

Mr. Alison

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. It must be borne in mind that there are probably as many communicant Anglicans in the House of Commons as there are members of the House of Laity in the General Synod. To that extent, Parliament is much more accessible to those whom one might call fellow travellers, who have sympathy with the Church of England. It is to the House of Commons—to colleagues here—that they look instinctively to express their views, their aspirations and their fears about the Church of England.