HL Deb 30 July 1930 vol 78 cc1087-9

VISCOUNT BRENTFORD moved to resolve, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Benefices (Transfer of Rights of Patronage) Measure, 1930, be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, the Motion that I have to move you will perhaps realise would have been moved by the Archbishop had the most rev. Primate been able to be here, but as I happen to be a member of the Church Assembly I would like to ask you to assent to the Measure. It is a very small one, and it is in consequence of a previous Measure passed in 1923, limiting the sale of patronage of church livings. As your Lordships know, up to quite recently the patronage of livings could be sold like any other property. In 1923 a Measure was passed limiting the sale to the next two vacancies, after which the sale of a living is no longer permitted. One effect of that Measure seems to have been that there has been a rather more prolific trade in livings, doubtless because people have thought desirable to buy them and patrons have thought it desirable to sell them while they can do so.

That being so, the Church Assembly has considered whether the sale of livings should not be made a little more public. Of course the gravamen of this Measure is that at the present time the sale of a living can take place privately, and the people of the parish have no knowledge whatever who is going to buy the living, or what class of clergyman is likely to be appointed to the next vacancy. This Measure, therefore, proposes quite simply that if a patron desires to sell a living he shall notify to the Bishop his intention to do so. Secondly, he shall give the name and address of the proposed transferee, and also particulars of the terms of the proposed transfer. Then notice has to be given to the churchwardens and to the secretary of the parochial church council as to the proposed sale, and such notice shall give particulars of the proposed transfer and invite objections, if any, from the parochial church council.

There is no further restriction on the right of the patron to sell. The Bishop may communicate with the patron and persuade him not to sell to a particular person, or persuade him to leave the matter in his own hands, or to hand the living over to a diocesan trust, but there is no further restriction on the right of the patron. It is merely desired to make public the fact that the living is proposed to be sold, in order that the parochial church council should be able to express their views and place such influence upon the patron as they may properly do. In no other way is the right of the patron to deal with his property interfered with. It is desired very much that this Measure should get through before Parliament rises, and in those circumstances I beg to move the Motion in my name.

Moved to resolve, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Benefices (Transfer of Rights of Patronage) Measure, 1930, be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent.—(Viscount Brentford.)


My Lords, I think it is proper that a word should be spoken from the Episcopal Bench in favour of this Measure, even if the main thing is to thank the noble Viscount for coming to the rescue of the Bishops when they are extremely busy in another direction. The noble Viscount has succinctly expressed the origin and intention of this little Measure. I have always considered that the Measure to which he referred, of a few years ago, was a remarkable testimony to the growth of public opinion in this country with reference to the duties of the Church. I think not many years ago it might have been thought improper for Parliament to assent to a Measure which made it impossible to sell art advowson after the next two vacancies. As the noble Viscount has already explained, it has led to a number of patrons using the opportunity, while they had it, of disposing of their property while it has monetary value. This Measure does nothing to prevent any such procedure, but it merely makes the proceedings public. Indeed, it has no sanction whatever, and any patron can proceed in his intention if he fails to be persuaded by the words of the Bishop, or intends to go through with it.

The only criticism that might be made against the Measure is that it is hardly worth passing it if it really does nothing. But the truth is that, first of all, it makes it plain in the parishes that the parishioners are at least recognised in an advowson. At the present moment the parishioners may say: "No one knows, and no one cares what becomes of us." This little Measure encourages the parishioners to know that the Church at large does care at least to see and examine what is going on. The other thing that it does is this. It may have no sanction that can be enforced, but it does bring to bear public opinion upon the matter. Any transaction that was inherently undesirable, or any transaction of which the buyer or seller might be ashamed, would probably be checked if this Measure were in existence, because of the publicity that it gives to the whole transaction. I hope that your Lordships will see no objection to accepting this Measure.

On Question, Motion agreed to.