HL Deb 25 July 1934 vol 93 cc1095-7

THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY moved to resolve, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Cathedrals (Amendment) Measure, 1934, be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent. The most reverend Private said: My Lords, this is a highly technical and therefore, I hope again, an entirely non-controversial Measure, but it is one, within its area, of some importance. By the Cathedrals Measure, to which your Lordships gave your assent in 1931, a body was created called the Cathedrals Commissioners of England, charged with the duty of enabling the old cathedrals and the cathedrals of the new dioceses, which may be called the parish church cathedrals, to fulfil more fully their very great functions in the life of the Church and people. They have conducted their work admirably and with the utmost assiduity for the last four years, first under the chairmanship of Lord Chelmsford and, since his much lamented death, under the chairmanship of the Bishop of Derby, with the help of their able secretary Sir Henry Sharp.

They have been visiting all the cathedrals throughout the country, both the old cathedrals and the new parish church cathedrals, preparing schemes, revising statutes, and the like, and in the course of their labours they have naturally encountered many technical difficulties arising from the legislation of the principal Measure or of other Acts of Parliament, but especially Local Acts, such as those affecting cathedrals in Newcastle, St. Albans, and elsewhere, and accordingly they have prepared this Measure to remove these technical difficulties. As the matter is so technical your Lordships will not for a moment suppose that I propose to weary you by reciting its provisions. If any of your Lordships desire, you will find them cited in the Report of the Legislative Committee of the Church Assembly, which is annexed to the Report of the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament. If any noble Lord is in trouble or perplexity on the matter I should do my best to relieve his mind if he so desires. Let me only call attention to one or two clauses which may be regarded as of more general interest.

The Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament calls attention to the fact that a clause of the Measure affects the transfer of property from minor corporations in connection with cathedrals—minor canons and the like, sometimes vicars choral; and these small corporations, which are a relic of the Middle Ages, are often very inconvenient. It is proposed to transfer the property belonging to these minor corporations to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in some cases and to the Cathedral Chapters in others. It was thought, I hope needlessly, that there would be a temptation to these minor corporations, in view of the compulsory transfer, to proceed to make arrangements for sale or lease which would be more advantageous to themselves than to the body to whom the property would ultimately be transferred, and so it is proposed to prevent any such abuse. The Ecclesiastical Committee calls attention to this as affecting the rights of property, but considers that in the circumstances the clause is reasonable and proper.

There is another clause which I ought perhaps to mention—namely, that which proposes to confer on the Chapters or the Cathedral Councils of the new parish church cathedrals the same powers over ornaments, fabrics and churchyards as are enjoyed by the old cathedrals and so to exempt them from the jurisdiction of the Consistory Court. I think it is desirable that these two kinds of cathedrals, for many reasons, should be assimilated and that is the object of this clause. I am sure the Commissioners will issue directions to these newer cathedrals which will prevent them from making undue use of this privilege and restrain their possible inexperience. There is one other clause which is interesting because it shows the effect of appeal to sentiment. The provision of the principal Measure is that all the estates and Chapters are to be transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners unless provision is otherwise made. In the case of Durham, the Chapter pleaded that the warmth of affection between them and their tenants should not be broken and the Church Assembly sanctioned the retention in their own hands by the Dean and Chapter of Durham of their own estates.

This Measure, as I say, is important, but it is highly technical. It deals with proved difficulties in administration. I do not think there are any questions of principle, and, as I said, it was after full discussion passed unanimously in the Church Assembly, and it was commended by the Ecclesiastical Committee to Parliament. I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Cathedrals (Amendment) Measure, 1934, be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent.—(The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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