HL Deb 20 March 1967 vol 281 cc542-5

3.25 p.m.

THE LORD BISHOP OF LICHFIELD rose to move, That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Clergy Pensions (Amendment) Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent. The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name. I will not detain your Lordships for long over this small but very necessary Measure. Its primary object is to remove a requirement which is irritating to most of the clergy and which is now very largely unnecessary. At the same time the opportunity has been taken to make some other desirable amendments to the Clergy Pensions Measure of 1961. I should like to make it clear that this Measure went through the Church Assembly in all its stages without a Division. The Ecclesiastical Committee reported on it, and stated that in their opinion this Measure was desirable. Full details of the Measure are given in the Report of the Ecclesiastical Committee and that of the Legislative Committee which is appended to it. Therefore, I do not think I need do more than outline the main provisions of this Measure.

At present, every clergyman, whether married or single, ordained after the year 1947 has to pay £9 per annum in order to provide his widow, if he leaves one, with a pension of £50 per annum. In addition, a widow will get the State pension, which is now £208 per annum, and a non-contributory Church pension equal to half the pension to which her husband was, or would be, entitled at the time of his death. If he was in receipt of the full pension of £550, that would be £275 per annum.

Statistics show that 50 per cent. of the clergy do not leave a widow and the compulsory payment is a source of considerable irritation to the unmarried and to the widowers. It is therefore proposed to abolish the compulsory levy. No clergyman ordained after the passing of the Measure will be required to pay it, nor can he derive any benefit from this source. Any clergyman ordained between 1947 and the passing of this Measure may opt out and either reclaim part of his contributions or accept entitlement for his widow to a reduced pension. This will in no way affect a widow's entitlement to the survivorship pension or to the State pension. The Church Commissioners are given powers in certain cases to increase a widow's survivorship pension.

Clause 1 of this Measure affects 9,000 clergymen at the present time. In regard to this matter of the pension of £50, for which at present a sum of £9 per annum is contributed, it should be noted that if any clergyman wants his widow, if his wife outlives him, to receive this sum, he will be able to arrange this by means of taking out a life insurance policy; indeed, he might be able, I think, to obtain better terms than is possible by the present arrangement. So much for that part of the Measure.

The Measure also provides for a clergyman to be able to commute part of his pension for a lump sum, and authorises the Church Commissioners to make additional lump-sum payments to a clergyman on retirement when the necessary funds are available. I fear that long experience has proved that one of the biggest problems which faces a clergyman when he retires is finding somewhere to live. All his life he has, of necessity, been living in a tied house. I am not complaining about this—we are very grateful for the housing arrangements which are made for the clergy; but it will be appreciated that when retirement comes and the man has no house, the situation sometimes produces considerable problems. The Pensions Board has been doing some very good work for the clergy in regard to this matter. For instance, it has provided nine residential homes, two nursing homes, and 160 houses, bungalows or flats for retired clergy, their wives, widows and dependants. It has provided one residential home, and 11 houses or flats, for widows and dependants alone. It has also provided a bungalow for church workers. The Pensions Board has already operated a generous loan scheme to meet this need.

In regard to the commuting of pension, it should be made clear that if a clergyman desires to commute part of his pension he must commute not less than one-fifth of it and not more than one-quarter. I think it will be seen that that is a desirable step, because it would be unwise for provision to be made for a man to commute too much of his pension. The actuary informs us that if a man is retiring at the age of 70, having completed 40 years' service, the lump sum that he can obtain by means of this commuting of part of his pension is £693. It is hoped that these provisions will go at any rate some way towards helping the clergy to find the cash balance necessary in order to complete the purchase of a house.

The Pensions Board has other housing schemes to help the retired clergy and their wives or widows and dependants, and the remaining clauses of the Measure are designed to improve the powers under which the Board operates these schemes. As I mentioned at the beginning of my short speech, the Church Assembly feels that this Measure would very much help in regard to this matter of clergy pensions. We think it would remove something which is now unnecessary. I feel I can confidently commend the Measure for Your Lordships' approval. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Clergy Pensions (Amendment) Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.—(The Lord Bishop of Lichfield.)


My Lords, may I just say, on behalf of those who sit on these Benches, that we think this is a most sensible Measure and we very much welcome it. I would take the opportunity of pointing out to Her Majesty's Government that this Measure, which as I say is a particularly sensible Measure, does away with a compulsory levy. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will take notice of that.

On Question, Motion agreed to.