HL Deb 26 July 1963 vol 252 cc916-9

11.16 a.m.


My Lords, this Measure, as those of you who have had time to examine it will know, deals mainly with the life of the cathedrals of England, and deals with a large number of technical matters about which I am quite sure your Lordships will not wish to be troubled today. But there is a general interest in cathedrals on the part of the public, and I think it is perhaps a rather happy coincidence that this Measure should come before your Lordships' House just before the holiday season when very large numbers of tourists and holidaymakers will be visiting our cathedrals. It is a source of satisfaction to the Church, and indeed I think to all, that the public derive so much pleasure and interest from the cathedral buildings of our country, and it is particularly interesting to see that the modern cathedrals such as Coventry and Guildford attract large numbers, just as the ancient cathedrals have done for so many years.

This particular Measure that is before the House arose from a Commission that was set up five years ago by the Church Assembly to prepare, in consultation with the Church Commissioners, a Measure to supersede Cathedrals Measures and to make such other alterations in the law relating to cathedrals as seemed desirable to meet the needs of the cathedrals at the present time. We began with this rather legal bias and I think we fulfilled that part of our commission, and those of your Lordships who have looked up the list of repeals at the end of the Measure will have seen that we have made a clean sweep of a large number of Acts and other provisions going right back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

However, we were soon shown that the legal side of this matter was not the most important and that we had to provide ways in which the cathedrals could continue to be viable institutions in modern conditions. We found that they, as most institutions, needed men and they needed money. They needed men because, although in many cases they had quite a number of canons taking their place in the cathedral chapels, many of those canons were occupied with other work which made it really impossible for them to play their full part in the life of the cathedral itself. We have therefore provided in this Measure that every cathedral shall have a dean or provost and two canons, all of those three persons being solely devoted to the work and welfare of the cathedral, although the service rendered by the cathedral is described in ways that make all kinds of pioneering effort possible.

With regard to money, it was known from the beginning that the Church Commissioners could not possibly provide for the enormous needs of the cathedrals so far as their fabric was concerned, and that in that matter they would have to reply in the future, as in the past, upon the local interest and generosity that could be aroused, and on benefactions, such as those we have read of in the papers recently to the cathedrals of Lincoln and Canterbury.

But it was felt that something could be done to help the cathedrals in the ordinary maintenance of their work, and the most convenient way in which this could be done was found to be by asking the Church Commissioners whether they would undertake the stipends of the three persons to whom I have already referred—the dean or provost and the two canons in each case. The Church Commissioners have throughout shown the greatest willingness to cooperate and a great desire to help, and I am glad to say that these arrangements have been made, they have been approved by the Church Assembly, and I think there will be little difficulty now.

Some other provisions have been made. They are all in the direction of allowing the laity to have a larger share in the control and maintenance of the cathedrals; and provisions have been made to that end. A careful procedure has been laid down to govern those cases where it is desired to turn a parish church cathedral into a dean and chapter cathedral, so that in the future it will be impossible, we hope, for certain embarrassing situations to arise such as have arisen in the past in that particular matter. Changes have been made in the law so that the parish church cathedrals will certainly be administered in a more simple and straightforward manner. These, I think, are the main provisions of the Measure. I do not wish to do more than give your Lordships this general picture, so that you know as clearly as is possible in such a short time, what you are doing when you are passing this Measure forward for the Royal Assent. 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 Measure 1963 be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.—(The Lord Bishop of Leicester.)

11.22 a.m.


My Lords, I shall not keep your Lordships for more than a moment or two, but I rise to give support to the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Leicester in this matter; and I speak as one who is Bishop of a diocese that will benefit very greatly by the Measure. We have in Suffolk a parish church cathedral at Bury St. Edmunds, and we are obliged, as no doubt other cathedrals have been in the past, to carry out a promise which was made to turn a parish church into a parish church cathedral. That is a tremendous undertaking.

Some 49 years ago this diocese was formed, carved out of Norwich and Ely, on condition that that would be done. Two world wars frustrated the efforts of the then Bishops to undertake that task, and it fell to my lot to do so. The provisions of this Measure make it easier. We have raised £210,850 in six years towards the work which is essential to carry out the pledge and the promise made when the diocese was formed. Where we shall be helped by a Measure like this (and I think it will apply to other parish church cathedrals) is in the fact that there is a guarantee of the stipends of the provost and two residentiary canons being supplied by the Church Commissioners—which is quite right—from the money that is given in trust for the cure of souls which a parish church cathedral provides. I greatly hope that there will be no opposition (I cannot imagine that there will be) to the Church's dealing with the cathedrals in this way, which, as was made clear in the course of the discussions in the Church Assembly and the Special Commission set up to consider it, is going to help us.

[The Lord Bishop of St. Edmunds-bury and Ipswich.]

There is one other respect in which the parish church cathedral will be helped. The parish church cathedral, which I like, frankly, has its parish and, as the mother church of the diocese, has a very close link with the parish churches. It does not help under the present system to have a broken church council and a chapter—two separate bodies. Under this Measure they will be brought into one but, nevertheless, the rights and representation of the laity will be carefully looked after. For those reasons, I trust that the Measure will be passed.

On Question, Motion agreed to, and ordered accordingly.