HL Deb 03 February 1943 vol 125 cc927-9

VISCOUNT SANKEY moved to resolve, That in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the New Parishes Measure, 1943, be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent. The noble and learned Viscount said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion which stands on the Paper. The object of the Measure is to consolidate, with minor Amendments, those provisions of the Church Buildings Acts, 1818 to 1884, and the New Parishes Acts, 1843 to 1884, which can still be regarded as useful. These Acts deal with the creation of new ecclesiastical districts. In the early and middle years of the last century, owing to the increase of population and the concentration of industries at various centres, there was a considerable amount of church-building. The situation, perhaps wisely, but certainly unfortunately, was dealt with in two different ways. The earlier code, the Church Building Acts, proceeds upon the basis of first providing a church and then assigning a district to it. The later code, the New Parishes Act, reverses the order by creating a district which ripens into a parish when a church is provided. Altogether there are over twenty of these Acts of Parliament, some of them of very great length, and it is acknowledged by everybody that the Church Building Acts constitute one of the most contused and complicated branches of the Statute Law. Enactment has been piled upon enactment and amendment upon amendment.

The latest textbook of authority—Cripps on Church and Clergy, 1937—says: The condition of the Statute Law in this context is so confused as almost to justify the description of chaotic. There are eight different kinds of ecclesiastical districts and much of the legislation is out of date. The Statute Law Committee, the Ecclesiastical Committee, certainly every conveyancing lawyer, and everybody who has had to deal with the troublesome Acts have desired a measure of consolidation. I should like to tell your Lordships that this has now been accomplished by the generosity of a great lawyer, whose name will be familiar to you, Sir Frederick Liddell, who has gratuitously undertaken the arduous work of drafting. Your Lordships will remem- ber that he was for many years First Parliamentary Counsel, and it is an extraordinary achievement that he has been able to reduce 226 pages of the Revised Statutes, many of them obsolete, to the 28 pages of this Measure. Your Lordships may imagine what happened in the Church Assembly. The Measure received general approval in 1939. It was delayed owing to the war, but it received final approval in the Autumn Session last year. At no stage has it been regarded as controversial. I have to inform the House that His Majesty has graciously expressed his consent to this Measure in so far as his interests are concerned.

It has been very carefully examined by the Ecclesiastical Committee of the Houses of Parliament, and in their Report they say this: The Measure is expedient and the constitutional rights of His Majesty's subjects do not appear to be adversely affected. It appears from the Comments and Explanations that the Measure, though fundamentally a consolidation Measure, will effect a large simplification of the law, and is welcomed by the Statute Law Committee as purging the Statute Book of one of the most tangled congeries of ill-digested enactments which disfigure it. The Measure passed through all its stages in the Church Assembly without a Division. It has been carefully scrutinized by the Ecclesiastical Committee, who have examined every section. It has already passed through another House, and in these circumstances I really do not think I should detain your Lordships with prolonged examination of the sections, which are very complicated in character.

There is power to constitute new parishes, provisions applicable to districts, censer of other powers of constituting new parishes and districts, power to make agreements as to patronage, patronage of new districts and parishes. The Assembly itself decided that the power to assign patronage in consideration of contribution to endowment was inconsistent with modern ideas, and ought not to be reproduced. Then you have to make provision for churchwardens in the divided parishes. All this is dealt with in Part I of the Bill. Part II deals with general provisions applicable to all ecclesiastical districts, power of Ecclesiastical Commissioners to acquire land for churches, exemption from Stamp Duty, instruments required to be sealed by Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and so on. Then you have to make arrangements for burial grounds and for miscellaneous powers. Altogether the whole of this has been brought from 226 pages into 28. I do not think I should be justified in asking your Lordships' further attention, but if any member of the House wishes to ask any particular question I shall endeavour to answer. Meanwhile 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 New Parishes Measure, 1943, be presented to His Majesty for the Royal Assent.—(Viscount Sankey.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.