HL Deb 20 February 1968 vol 289 cc320-1

2.58 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Listowel.)


My Lords, this Bill and the previous Bill are two of a very large number of Bills which are on their way to your Lordships' House. They all deal with the destruction of churches and the secularisaton of churchyards. I suggest to your Lordships that these Bills are extremely difficult to deal with. We have had a number of them, and I have myself opposed at least one in the past. I find that it is very difficult to know exactly what are the pros and cons of these Bills even when, as I have, one has read the Bill. For example, I think there is no indication in the Bill that is before us at the moment of the age and antiquity of the church. I suggest that in these cases it is very important that this House should be alert on two grounds. The first is defence of architectural monuments of importance; that is to say, the churches themselves. Also, from the amenity point of view, these are, so far as the churchyards are concerned, open spaces. There is a natural tendency for the older churches and churchyards to fall victims to this particular treatment; in other words, to their secularisation. It is because they are ancient that they are likely to be situated in areas where there is very little open space and where even a "pocket handkerchief" of open space is immensely valuable. Unfortunately, they are also immensely valuable in the property market.

I am not opposing this Bill, but I am entering, if I may, a caveat against the too easy passing of these Bills by Members of your Lordships' House. I know there are other Members of the House who are interested in this and are disturbed by this process. These two Bills before your Lordships' House are not the only Bills dealing with churches; there are seven more Bills of this kind which are taking their place in the queue. I believe these Bills should not be passed without more extensive inspection than they receive nowadays. I hope they will receive such attention this afternoon, and also in the future.


My Lords, I think we are all aware of Lord Faringdon's continuing interest in the problem of the use and disposal of land released by changes in the structure or condition of churches and churchyards, and these problems are, of course, often raised in Private Bills. I was glad that the noble Lord said he did not wish to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill because, as your Lordships are aware, the usual practice of this House is to give the Bill an unopposed Second Reading so that it may be sent to an Unopposed Committee of this House, and the question of whether it is opposed or not will arise when it is returned to your Lordships for Third Reading. I can assure the noble Lord that his remarks will be carefully considered by the promoters as well as by everybody else concerned with the Bill.


My Lords, I should like to say how much I support what the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, has said. I did not intend to speak on this subject this afternoon, because I have an Unstarred Question down for next Tuesday dealing particularly with open spaces in London, and I had proposed to raise this matter at that time. But I certainly agree with every word spoken by the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon.


My Lords, without taking up your Lordships' time, I should like to say that I entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, has just said. I used to have a constituency which contained the oldest church in the country, the maintenance of which was a continual "headache", but that is another story.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and referred to the Examiners.