HL Deb 13 May 1968 vol 292 cc2-25

2.36 p.m.


My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Pastoral Measure, has consented to place her interest, so far as it is concerned on behalf of the Crown, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Measure.


My Lords, I rise to move that this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Pastoral Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent. The Pastoral Measure is the longest and most complex enactment ever to have received the approval of the Church Assembly and to come before this House for Affirmative Resolution. Its purpose, in a few words, is to enable the Church of England to meet the demands which the many changes taking place so rapidly in this country require of it, and so to fulfil its responsibility to the nation by making the best possible use of the limited resources in manpower and material at its disposal.

Your Lordships will be well aware of the movements of population taking place all over the country. Large areas once residential are being zoned for industrial and commercial purposes; people are moving to new housing estates and new towns, and provision must be made for their spiritual ministration. Increasing œcumenical good will makes denominational co-operation a real possibility. New pastoral techniques may be necessary if the Church is to deploy its skills in the best way possible. It is considerations of these kinds which are reflected in the provisions contained in this important Measure.

Its theme is summed up in Clause 2(2) of the Measure, on page 2, where the duty of the Diocesan Pastoral Committee is set out in the words that, having regard to the traditions, needs and characteristics of individual parishes, they shall have particular regard to the making of provision for the cure of souls in the diocese as a whole, including the provision of appropriate spheres of work and conditions of service for all persons engaged in the cure of souls and the provision of reasonable remuneration for such persons". The Pastoral Measure is in the main a consolidating enactment, and save for certain important exceptions it contains little that is without statutory precedent, as will be seen by the number of repeals set out in Schedule 9. The sections of the Measure which provide new powers are for the most part those dealing with the disposal of churches declared to be redundant and the provision for the creation of group and team ministries. About these I shall have something to say later.

The Measure as it is now presented to your Lordships is the result of a long period of thought and discussion. Its immediate history goes back 14 years when in 1954 the Church Assembly set up a Commission, under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, to prepare in consultation with the Church Commissioners a Measure to consolidate, with such amendments as might seem necessary or desirable, existing legislation relating to the re-arrangement of pastoral supervision and of diocesan boundaries.

Meanwhile, two events of considerable importance took place, the results of which had to be incorporated in the framing of the new Measure. The first was the Report of a Commission, under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, advising the course of action which should be followed in solving the problem of what should be done with redundant churches. The second was a report prepared by Mr. Leslie Paul on the payment and deployment of the clergy. This report was a long and con- troversial document, and its recommendations are still under survey by the Church. But one section commended itself immediately to the Church Assembly which directed that the proposals should be incorporated in the Measure. This was the recommendation that power should be provided for the setting up in appropriate cases of group or team ministries. So the Measure contains not only the results of the work of the Ilford Commission but as well the outcome of the Bridges Commission and partly of the Paul Report.

The Measure received prolonged and careful scrutiny by the Church Assembly. It was considered for revision at the Spring and Summer Sessions of 1966 and at the Spring and Summer Sessions of 1967. The Measure was given final approval at the Summer Session of 1967. A Division was not requested and only one contrary vote was recorded against it. Your Lordships may therefore rest assured that there has been no undue haste in the preparation of this important Measure. If anything, the contrary is true, for in a rapidly changing situation the Church urgently needs greater flexibility to deploy its resources to the best advantage. The Measure incorporates powers going back in some instances over a hundred years. It includes powers taken to meet the needs of reorganisation as a result of war damage and now found to be needed for wider application. It incorporates powers which the situation to-day makes essential if the Church is to be efficient in its ministration. All these are now brought together in the Pastoral Measure.

Your Lordships will have before you the Report by the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament upon the Measure which records the opinion of that Committee that the Measure is expedient. The document contains as an Appendix the comments and explanations of the Legislative Committee of the Church Assembly upon the Measure. The issues raised by the Measure are set out in the Report in such detail and with such clarity that it would be otiose for me to go over ground which is covered so adequately by that document. I will therefore confine myself to one or two points of special new importance or of some controversy and deal with them as briefly as possible.

First, I refer to the modification in the Measure to what is popularly known as the "parson's freehold". Your Lordships are probably aware that once a clergyman has been instituted to his benefice he has a lifelong tenure and can be removed from it only by his own choice, sometimes for health reasons, or, if he has been found guilty of an ecclesiastical offence, by order of an ecclesiastical court. Clause 24 of the Measure provides that a pastoral scheme may dissolve a benefice (and indeed, in an unlikely circumstance, an archdeaconry) even if the incumbent withholds his consent. This is not a new principle, since under the Reorganisation Areas Measure 1944, which was introduced in order to deal with the problems created by war damage and immediate post-war reconstruction, it was possible in certain carefully defined circumstances to remove a clergyman from his benefice. That Measure is now almost spent; but this power has proved to be so valuable that it is now permanently incorporated in this new Measure.

Perhaps I may illustrate the necessity for this power by outlining a hypothetical case in which it would operate. The Pastoral Committee of a diocese in the exercise of its responsibilities might well decide that drastic reorganisation in the heart of a big urban area was necessary. There might have been re-zoning whereby areas previously residential had now been developed for industrial or commercial purposes. Parishes and their churches which once ministered to a large residential population would have completely changed their character. It might well be essential that a number of parishes should be merged, or that a group or team ministry should be established.

Under the present system, if the incumbent of one of the parishes involved were unwilling to co-operate, the whole scheme could be defeated. If he were a young man, an essential scheme of reorganisation could be held up possibly for forty years. The Measure therefore provides that if, after the most careful scrutiny at more than one level, the scheme is considered to be desirable, it cannot be thwarted by the non-co-operation of a single clergyman.

There is no possibility of victimisation. Under the Measure an incumbent would be an "interested party". He would therefore have the right of personal audience before the Pastoral Committee of the diocese. He would receive a copy of the initial proposals. He would have the right to make representations to the Church Commissioners on receiving a copy of the draft scheme. Finally, he would have the right of appeal, either in person or through counsel, to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. If the Bishop and these three bodies, the Pastoral Committee, the Church Commissioners and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, all decide that a Pastoral Scheme was essential for the good of the Church, it could hardly be held that a clergyman was being harshly treated if he were to lose his benefice, especially since he will be very reasonably compensated under the terms set out in Clause 25 and in Schedule 4.

Perhaps the fairest way of putting the matter is to say not so much that an incumbent would be deprived of his benefice but that when, owing to changed circumstances, his benefice is adjudged to be redundant, this fact must be faced, the clergyman found work of comparable scope, or else compensated for his loss of office. Under the Measure he would be compensated on terms which are far more generous than those which are provided elsewhere, under the Redundancy Payments Act 1965.

The second matter to which I would refer specifically is the power to suspend the presentation to a benefice. There already exist under the Benefices (Suspension of Presentation) Measure 1953, which incorporates powers which have been in action since 1946, powers whereby a Bishop may, in certain circumstances and after due consultation, declare that for five years, or a lesser period, the patron may not present to a living, and meanwhile the Bishop must make adequate provision for pastoral oversight. The five-year periods may be renewed after consultation. This is an extremely useful provision because it allows for experiment in, say, holding two benefices together, without the finality of a formal union of benefices. Or it makes possible a waiting period when, for example, it may be necessary to build a new parsonage house, when it may be necessary to see the plans for the development of the area and how roads are going to be constructed. It thus often acts as a protection of the rights of a patron, because if, owing to the circumstances of the parish, the patron cannot find anyone ready to accept his offer, then under existing law, after six months his right of presentation passes by lapse to the Bishop. Under the existing Measure the patron's rights are frozen, and when final arrangements are decided upon he may resume his rights under the new arrangements. The present Measure also protects the rights of parishioners, since the Bishop, on invoking suspension, must make proper pastoral arrangements so that the parish is not left for a long period of uncertainty with no-one to look after it.

That is the existing law, and the new Pastoral Measure incorporates this system with certain modifications. Under the old measures the Bishop, with the consent of the Pastoral Committee and the patron and after consultation with the parochial church council, may suspend presentation. Under Clause 67 of the new Measure the consent of the Pastoral Committee must be obtained and the parochial church council consulted, but the patron need only be consulted: his permission is not required. The reason for this is that if the Pastoral Committee decide that certain action is necessary, it is hardiy suitable that the patron, whose rights are concerned with an appointment, should have the power of vetoing the Pastoral Committee's decision. Indeed, one of the underlying principles here is that no individual body shall have the right of vetoing a decision that seems right to the Pastoral Committee of the diocese.

There are two other areas in which the rights of patrons will be affected by the Measure. The first is Clause 69. When it has been decided to initiate proceedings for a scheme of pastoral reorganisation, the patron, on being notified, may not exercise his right of presentation. This, for obvious reasons, is intended to prevent a patron from thwarting the proposals of the Pastoral Committee while the matter is sub judice. The period of restriction in the Measure is up to three years. Under existing powers the period of restriction is only one year. The period can only be three years as a maximum, but it is necessary to have this rather wider scope since a big scheme of reorganisation may well take longer than one year to prepare. Moreover, this clause restricts the latitude allowed to the Bishop under the 1949 Pastoral Measure, since he can stop presentation temporarily under the new Measure only when he has directed the Pastoral Committee to consider reorganisation. Under the 1949 Measure, which is in force at the moment, he can act on his personal discretion.

The further point at which the patron's rights are affected is involved in the legal powers provided by the Measure in Clauses 19, 20, and 21, for the establishment of group and team ministries. As I have reminded your Lordships, these reforms are the outcome of the recommendations of Mr. Leslie Paul. It is now widely recognised that the best way of providing pastoral oversight for certain areas is not by having a number of independent parishes, each with their own individual incumbents, possibly with a curate, possibly without. This often leads to an undesirable parochialism in the worst sense of the word, and it leads to isolation and loneliness.

Therefore the Measure provides powers for the establishment, when desirable, of team ministries, in which the cure of souls in an area is shared by a team of ministers in one parish; or of group ministries, whereby a number of independent parishes are established as a unit working together. The advantages of such arrangements will be immediately apparent. There can be a greater sense of fellowship and purpose between the clergy; there can be a co-ordination of special knowledge and expertise. There can be one member of a team, or group, specially experienced in education, another in youth or children's work, another in psychiatric therapy, and so on. Such planning can only lead to greater pastoral effectiveness.

Your Lordships will readily appreciate that such group or team ministries can be fully effective only if there is overall planning of the team or group. The purpose would be thwarted if a patron could appoint one member of the group or team ministry who might not fit into the overall plan. It is important that the person who is to be the chief minister in the new arrangements should be someone who commands the confidence of the diocese. So, when a team ministry is created, the appointment of the rector will be made by a patronage board and not by the patron, though under paragraph 1, sub-paragraphs (3) and (6) of Schedule 3 regard must be paid to the interests of the patrons, who can have voting rights on the Board. Should the team ministry at any time be terminated, the rights of presentation revert to the patron.

When group ministries are set up there is a slight modification in the rights of a patron. The first holder of a benefice in a group ministry may be designated by the scheme and not by the patron; and for subsequent appointments the Bishop must be consulted who, in turn, must consult the other incumbents of the group, and there is an appeal to the Archbishop if the Bishop withholds his approval.

My Lords, the system of patronage in the Church of England, whereby a variety of individuals or bodies have the right to nominate a clergyman to the Bishop for institution to a benefice, is one which is under a good deal of criticism and scrutiny at the present time. It is no part of our consideration to-day to go into the wider issues presented by the patronage system. At this time all that is necessary for me is to suggest to your Lordships that the inroads made upon the rights of patrons in the Measure are very modest and are essential if the necessary reforms contained in it are to be effected. It will always be borne in mind that patrons are "interested parties" in any scheme with full rights of objection throughout the system.

Finally, my Lords, I must draw your attention to Part III of the Measure which contains important reforms in the procedure for dealing with redundant churches. This problem has been with the Church for many years and has been the occasion for not a little controversy. The Church has a heavy enough burden to bear in keeping in good condition the churches which are needed for parochial purposes, and you will readily understand that church people are reluctant to spend much needed funds in keeping in repair buildings which are no longer needed for public worship. Who is to decide if a church shall be pulled down? Who is to provide the funds for the upkeep of a building of historic or aesthetic value no longer needed for public worship? These are the sort of questions which were put before the Commission under the chairmanship of Lord Bridges, which reported in 1960. It is upon that Report that Part III of the Measure is based.

Briefly, the procedure will be as follows. When, by a pastorial scheme, a church is declared to be redundant, the redundant building will be vested in the diocesan board of finance pending a decision as to its future. The Measure provides for the appointment by the Archbishops, after consultation with the Prime Minister, of an Advisory Board whose function will be to advise on the historic and architectural qualities of any church which is declared redundant. It also requires every diocese to set up a diocesan redundant churches uses committee, whose job it will be to find suitable alternative uses for redundant churches. If the Advisory Board has said that the church may be demolished, or if a suitable use has already been found, then a redundancy scheme may be issued immediately. If not, the diocesan uses committee will have up to three years in which to find an alternative use If it fails to do so, the Advisory Board can again be asked to think about the possibilities of demolition. If the church ought to be preserved, it will be transferred to a Redundant Churches Fund also set up by Her Majesty.

The financing of this scheme is clearly a matter of great importance. The Bridges Commission recommended that the upkeep of such churches should be a charge upon the funds both of the State and of the Church. Her Majesty's Government have agreed to contribute up to £200,000 in the first five years, and the Church Commissioners have undertaken to provide a similar sum. In addition, it has been agreed that one-third of the sale price of redundant churches and their sites, up to a ceiling of £100,000, shall be contributed. In short, therefore, by this part of the Measure a redundant church of no intrinsic importance and for which no alternative use can be fund may be sold or demolished and the site sold. If it is considered to be of historic or aesthetic value it will be preserved by a Redundant Churches Fund. This fund will, for the first five years of its working, have up to £500,000 at its disposal for this purpose.

The fund will be administered by the Redundant Churches Fund, which will consist of a chairman and not fewer than or more than six other members, all of whom shall be appointed by Her Majesty the Queen on the advice of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York transmitted through the Prime Minister. The function of the fund is to hold such redundant churches as are felt worthy of preservation and to administer such funds as are made available for the purpose. Since these funds are to be derived partly from Her Majesty's Government and partly from Church sources, and since the trustees of the fund would have to be of sufficient standing to secure the confidence of the Government, the Church and the public, it was thought right to propose that their appointment should be in the hands of the Crown. I am able to inform the House that Her Majesty the Queen has been graciously pleased to indicate that she would be willing to appoint the trustees.

Part III contains the details of the working of this scheme, including one important exception to the normal pattern contained in Clause 66, which allows the vesting of certain buildings of exceptional quality in the Minister of Public Building and Works. It is hoped that this part of the Measure will remove what has been a long-standing problem for the Church and provide a smooth and uncontroversial means of dealing with an area of the Church's responsibility which has for long been difficult and perplexing.

These, my Lords, are the main areas of reform contained in the Measure. There are, of course, a number of other detailed changes to which attention is drawn in the Reports of the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament and of the Legislative Committee of Church Assembly. I do not think your Lordships would wish me to go into each one of them. I need do no more than to remind your Lordships once more that this long and detailed enactment is the product of many years of prolonged and careful study, and owes much to a number of people, among whom should be noted the noble Lords, Lord Ilford and Lord Bridges, and the Bishop of Warrington, who most skilfully steered the Measure through its many stages of Church Assembly procedure. A word of thanks should also be expressed to the officers of the Church Assembly and the Church Commissioners, whose expert knowledge has been essential in the framing of these proposals. The Church has waited long for the powers contained in the Measure. They are not very radical; some would wish that they were more far-reaching. But they will go far to enabling the Church to put its house in order to meet the challenge of the rapidly changing character of society and to use its resources to the best possible advantage in fulfilling its duty towards our people.

I draw your Lordships' attention to paragraph 32 of the Ecclesiastical Committee's Report indicating that Her Majesty has placed Her prerogative and interest at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of this Measure. Her Majesty has also given Her approval to the proposal that the appointments to the Redundant Churches Fund should be Crown appointments, and the Prime Minister is content with the proposed arrangements outlined in Clause 42 of the Measure for the Advisory Board. I trust that this Measure will receive an Affirmative Resolution from your Lordships.

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

3.7 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to add only a very few words to what has been said by the right reverend Prelate. My excuse for intervening in this discussion is that I was the Chairman of the Commission appointed by the Church Assembly to prepare this Measure.

Our task was primarily to consolidate the existing legislation relating to the rearrangement of pastoral supervision, which includes the union of parishes and benefices, the adjustment of parish boundaries and the holding of livings in plurality. Furthermore, we were given certain powers of amendment which we exercised where it appeared necessary or desirable to do so. This proved a formidable task, involving the examination of something like 40 Acts of Parliament and Measures of the Church Assembly stretching right across the whole field of the 19th century. The law of the Church has become involved and in many respects highly obscure. The need for a Measure of this nature is urgent and insistent. The obscurity and complexity of the existing law is an obstacle to those changes which are essential if the Church is to keep abreast of changes in the life of the people whom it serves and is to be in a position to make the best use of her resources in manpower and her material assets.

We aimed at furnishing the Church with a reasonably clear, contemporary code of law governing these essential changes and we endeavoured to make it as simple as we could. In dealing with matters of this nature, simplicity is not easily achieved. We have done our best. How far we have succeeded in our purpose the future alone will show. But at least I think we can claim that it is no longer necessary to search through a mass of legislation, much of it passed to deal with circumstances which were entirely different from the circumstances of to-day, in order to ascertain how changes seen to be essential can be carried out. Whether the future will show that we have succeeded or failed in our aim, I do not know. But, at any rate, I hope that this afternoon your Lordships will speed this Measure on its way by accepting the Motion which the right reverend Prelate has just moved in such eloquent terms.


My Lords, I should like to help speed the Measure on its way, and for that reason I shall speak for one minute only. There is no need to commend the Measure in greater terms than the excellent statement which the right reverend Prelate made. My only reason for rising is that for the last twenty years I have been the nominee of successive Lord Chancellors on the Ecclesiastical Committee, and, as one member of that Committee, I should like to say that I associate myself with the Motion and think that in these different days the Church needs a Measure of this kind as soon as it can get it.

3.12 p.m.


My Lords, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester has explained in very lucid terms the main purpose of this Measure but, if your Lordships will bear with me, there is one side of the problem on which I should like to dwell at a little longer length than the two noble Lords who have preceded me, and that is the question of church buildings. It appears to me that of all the questions raised in this Measure, that is the one which more and more will come into the arena between Church and State for general decision by all the various forces in society.

A very large number of churches are already for practical purposes redundant. My definition of "redundant" in this context is that, given the manpower of the Church of England, the expense of keeping up the churches and the size of the congregations which they serve, no ordinary organisation would dream of continuing their upkeep for any length of time. There has not been a great amount of research into how many redundant churches there are, but there is considerable evidence that there are over 300 in the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and Lincolnshire alone. Particularly in those counties, they are often churches of architectural merit and very considerable beauty. It is fairly safe to say that the number of redundant churches all over the country will increase. Schemes of reunion among the Churches, which show every sign of fulfilment, will mean that a considerable duplication of the Churches' plant will in future be avoided; and it would be unwarrantable optimism for us to look for any evidence that the present decline in the institutional church is likely to be halted.

Faced with this situation, the Church must decide on her prime purposes. In a world coming more and more under the threat of hunger and poverty, it is very difficult to see the justification for spending up to 90 per cent, of one's income on keeping the Church going for its internal purposes. To put it crudely, the purposes of the Church are to preach the Gospel, to worship God and to serve the world. I am not putting those in any order of precedence, since there would be considerable dispute if I did. Neither the first nor the last—that is, preaching the Gospel or serving the world—are helped by the tremendous weight of plant which the Church has to support, and it could be argued that the second is not helped very much either. In fact, if we look at the real reasons for the Church to-day, I think we must come to the conclusion of that great Bishop, Charles Gore, who said that the Church of England is an ingeniously devised instrumentality for defeating the objects which it is supposed to promote.

It is sometimes said that we must continue to support these buildings because of the money that was given in the past for their building and their upkeep. I myself reject that argument as being fallacious. It seems to me a principle of equity that people who have given money to an institution have given it to further the basic aim of that institution; and in this case the aim is service to Christ. It may be that at the time the money was given service to Christ demanded the building of churches. It may even be that service to Christ today involves knocking them down, or at least some relief of the burden of the Church.

So what do we do about these churches? I am convinced that the Church will have to say more and more that, as an institution, it cannot necessarily take the responsibility. It will then become the responsibility of individuals, of local authorities and of the State. Here, of course, I am not denying that individual Christians and Christian churches must take their responsibility as part of society as a whole. The present arrangements which the right reverend Prelate has outlined for the redundant churches fund are an admirable stop-gap measure, but we shall see in the course of the next five years whether they are sufficient.

For instance, if you start closing churches of architectural value in small towns, in small villages, in Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, are you just going to leave them there subject to vandalism and anything else, or are you going to equip them with caretakers and have regular upkeep as well as architectural upkeep? If you are going to do the latter, then £500,000 will not go very far. Those are problems which are confronting the Church at the moment, and which will confront society as well.

Meanwhile, we have this Measure. In my view, it is a slightly disappointing Measure, in that it does not really face the great problems. But, if I may say so, the fault is not by any means to be laid at the door of the Church and its leaders, as a great many interests have been involved in this matter. The procedures under the Measure are extremely lengthy, and in many cases there is duplication of what are quite adequate safeguards. For instance, a diocese concerned, even when it has produced a scheme of pastoral reorganisation which is accepted by everyone as a good one, still will not know for several years whether it will be in a position to dispose of the redundant buildings and thus plan the financial future to support the pastoral reoganisation. The Measure also suffers from over-centralisation. It retains and indeed increases the control of the Church Commissioners over reorganisation and redevelopment of sites. There is centralisation as opposed to devolution, which I think the proposers of the Measure and certain of the Church Assembly would have liked to see. It will undoubtedly tend to stultify initiative at local level when it comes to questions of reorganisation.

This Measure has been 10 or 14 years in the pipe-line and is a result of extremely hard work on the part of a large number of people, to whom I also should like to pay tribute. It is now in a state which really produces a solution for the Church in terms of twenty years ago. In my view, it does not begin to measure up to what the Church needs today. Nevertheless, a crumb is better than no bread, and I sincerely hope that your Lordships will give it an affirmative Resolution.

3.20 p.m.


My Lords, I do not intend to speak on the general provisions of this excellent and, I think, very carefully drafted Measure, but there are two practical results which are likely to ensue from it to which I should like to invite the attention of the right reverend Prelate who has introduced it. Clauses 51 and 65 give a new power to the Church authorities to sell a churchyard and to allow it to be developed. This is an important transfer of power from Parliament to the authorities of the Church. Until now, under the Pastoral Measure of 1944, the only purpose for which a disused burial ground could be used was as a public open space.

The Commons and Open Spaces Preservation Society, of which I am treasurer, looks at each one of the Private Bills which is brought before Parliament in order to try to make sure that adequate provision is made, especially in thickly built-up areas, for the preservation of adequate open space. For example, there is a Bill before your Lordships at the present time, the Saint Mary, Hornsey Bill, where we have been in consultation with the diocese of London and where I hope it may be possible for some drafting Amendments to be agreed between us. Only four years ago there was the case of the Saint George, Hanover Square Bill, which aroused some controversy in another place, where the local Member of Parliament moved an Instruction, which was carried, that the views of the local inhabitants should be carefully considered before that open space was disposed of.

My Lords, there is a natural temptation—and even the Church can be sorely tempted—to use these disused burial grounds for building development instead of as gardens or playgrounds, such as has been done so successfully in the case of St. Giles's in the Field and St. Luke's, Chelsea. It is the Government's policy, as we know from a recent White Paper, to encourage residents in twilight areas to improve their properties, and all must be done in order to try to improve their environment and ensure that they have a sufficiency of open spaces. Conversion of disused churchyards has already done a good deal to provide additional open space and playgrounds in the centre of London, and I should be very sorry if this Measure were likely to mean that in the future less will be done in that way than has been done in the past.

It is of course true that before making a Pastoral Scheme having this effect the Church authorities must, under Clause 3, consult the local planning authority; but the position is not, however, safeguarded by that. It would seem that if the Church went ahead with a scheme to convert a churchyard to secular use under Clause 65 and the local planning authority refused planning consent for this purpose, the Church could require the local authority to buy the land for the value that it would have if it were developed; and manifestly, in the vast majority of cases no local authority would be able to pay the building price of land in order to preserve it as an open space. Schemes have indeed to be approved by Her Majesty in Council, but I doubt whether this would prove to be much of a safeguard. I should far prefer an assurance now that the Church authorities will give adequate consideration to the preservation of at least a part of the burial ground in all suitable cases, and especially in congested areas, even if it is at some financial sacrifice.

My Lords, while looking into this Measure and its effect upon open spaces I suddenly became aware of the extraordinary, costly and antiquated provisions contained in these Private Bills, and now incorporated for the future in this Measure, for the removal and ^interment of all human remains before that part of the burial ground may be built upon. There is no limitation in time. In some of these cases burials haev been stopped by Order in Council since the middle of the nineteenth century, and the cost is really quite excessive The cost of reinterring human remains from St. Mary's, Ealing, was £7,000; in the case of a small burial ground in the City 12 years ago it was £45,000; from St. James's, Hampstead Hill, the cost was £20,000. Some of the remains reinterred under these Bills have been there since the thirteenth century. Excavations have gone down 17 feet; and in the case of a site just behind the Old Bailey the excavations were stopped only when they reached the level of Roman sarcophagi.

Legally, it all results from the provisions of the Disused Burial Grounds Act 1884, which prohibits building, otherwise than of a place of worship, on a burial ground. That means that in each such case, until the passing of this Measure, it is and has been necessary for a Private Act of Parliament to be passed. This particular requirement came from the Home Office, which would have resorted adversely, presumably, on any Bill which did not contain it. I wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, to ask for £n explanation of this, and he wrote: So far as we are able to ascertain in the absence of the papers upon which policy was made, this requirement stemmed from the Home Office and was based upon grounds, firstly, of public health and, secondly, of public sentiment. It is difficult now to be exact about the date of its inception, but it can be traced back with certainty to 1898. There can be no valid objection on grounds of public health to building over the remains of persons who have been dead for a century; and I doubt the existence of public sentiment in the case of persons whose children and grandchildren are dead and when, as in the case of St. George's, Hanover Square, the tombstones were removed before 1914 and the burial ground was subsequently used for allotments.

I much regret that this Home Office doctrine, the validity of which (if it ever had any) has surely disappeared, is being given a new lease of life in this Measure. I cannot believe that it is based on any sound grounds at all, or on any grounds of religion, sentiment or public health. I believe Parliament would welcome a new Measure which would save all this expenditure to the Church when disposing of redundant burial grounds, and I am sure we should be willing to give approval to a Measure of that kind.

3.29 p.m.


My Lords, we are all grateful to the right reverend Prelate for his very lucid exposition of this Measure. He described it as "long and very involved", and so perhaps it is, by Church Assembly standards, but it is nothing like as bad as, say, the Transport Bill, and I am sure it will be a good deal more beneficial. I suppose that owing to this long period of 14 years' gestation it is only natural that some of it should already appear to be a little dated. We have team ministries and group ministries with us now, and we have had them for some time. Although this Measure will assist in the formation of further such ministries, we ought now to be thinking more about the situation which already exists on the ground; that is to say, in which these team ministries and group ministries are not teams and groups of Anglican clergymen but teams and groups of Anglican clergy, Free Churchmen and Roman Catholics.

What we shall need—and need already—is a Measure which will facilitate the working of this kind of co-operation. It seems clear, from what the right reverend Prelate has already told us about Part III, that the provisions in the Measure for dealing with redundant churches will assist considerably when the Church of England wants to share, lease or even sell a church building for the use of other denominations. Perhaps before we leave this the right reverend Prelate could just confirm that after the passing of this Measure it will not be necessary, although it will be possible, for Private Bills such as the Saint James, Plumstead, Bill which we shall see at the end of this week, to be proceeded with in future.

I suppose we are some way from the stage where funds from the Church Commissioners can be used to pay the salaries of Roman Catholic or Free Church ministers; but it would be interesting to know whether the right reverend Prelate feels that the bodies set up under this Measure—for instance the diocesan pastoral committees—can have Free Churchmen and Roman Catholics serving on their sub-committees. This should be useful when it comes to consulting about appointments in New Town areas. There is a further point. Are we not going to hear from the Government at this stage about the legislation which is mentioned on page 12 of the Appendix to the Comments and Explanations of the Legislative Committee? Are they going to say anything about when this legislation is coming forward? I think it would be helpful to know that.

I do not think I have anything else to say to delay the progress of this Measure, a Measure with such a good pedigree as this—no fewer than two of your Lordships were on the Commissions from which it originated. It had a very thorough going-over by the Church Assembly; there was no division at the end, and only one dissenting voice and the mildest possible warning from the Ecclesiastical Committee as to some of the things which might follow as the result of its passing.

3.33 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to say a few words. I will not make a speech, but perhaps it would be appropriate if, as a Free Churchman, I were to offer, as I most cordially do, good wishes to this particular Measure. Your Lordships may not expect me as a Free Churchman, to profess an excess of enthusiasm for the reference, or submission, of a Pastoral Measure to a secular body, even one as august as your Lordships' House. Nevertheless, as this is being done now, it comes to my mind that many of the things now being thought over and already practised in this Measure belong to the welfare of the whole Church; and some of them have already been put into some kind of operation in other branches of the Christian Church. I was interested in the question of the redundancy of churches and the various plans which this Measure now provides for dealing with this hoary problem. As one who has battled with this problem, not too successfully, in the Methodist Church, I would wish the best of British—or perhaps the best of ecclesiastical—luck to them; I think they will need it.

I am well aware of the need for and the modified success of group and team ministries; but I believe that we have a great deal more to think about and to understand before we can make these team ministries as effective on the ground as many of them appear to be on paper. But perhaps I have a more personal reason to wish this Measure success; for, if the Methodist and Anglican Churches come together in the not-too-remote future, then we shall hope to benefit from this Measure and perhaps to improve it. I feel that I can in this respect speak for the Free Churches and I should like to wish this Measure well and commend it to your Lordships, believing, as I do, that that which will be good for the Church of England may in due course be good for the Church in England.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, asked for a word from the Government. I think it is not my place to comment on this Measure now. I simply confirm that a Redundant Churches Bill will be introduced by the Government shortly—I must observe the usual form of words about this; I cannot say in which Session of Parliament, but the Bill is well advanced. It will make provision on the State side for the Exchequer grant to match the Church monies which the right reverend Prelate mentioned and to enable the relevant Minister, to acquire, by agreement, certain other outstanding redundant churches as well as those which go to the redundant Churches Fund.

The relevant Minister is, at the moment, the Minister of Public Building and Works, but the Redundant Churches Bill will transfer this function to the Minister of Housing and Local Government following the recent transfer of the Historic Buildings Council—that is, the normal grant-giving organisation— from the Minister of Works to the Minister of Housing. The monies in question, the £200,000 Treasury grant over five years, will be over and above the £ 550,000 annually which the Minister of Housing administers for the repair of historical buildings on the advice of the Historic Buildings Council.

3.37 p.m.


My Lords,, may I thank those who have spoken so sympathetically and so constructively about this Measure? I specially thank my noble friend Lord Soper for the particularly gracious way in which he has expressed the good will of the Free Churches for this Measure. It was good to know that the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, approves of the Measure. He is largely its progenitor and it is good to know that he approves of his offspring. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, has raised the problem of the upkeep of churches which are still needed for public worship and which will therefore be outside the provisions of the Redundant Churches Fund. His anxiety is shared by a very large number of church people who having, they hope, disposed of the problem of redundant churches, are now turing to the problem of keeping in good repair those buildings which are of great historic and aesthetic value and which yet lay such a heavy burden on church people. There is sitting at the present time a Places of Worship Commission which is thinking precisely about these things.

The noble Lord has voiced the opinion that this Measure is not radical enough. I hope that he will have noticed that there was a note of sympathy in my speech with what he said. Undoubtedly further reforms will be coming before your Lordships' House. Whether he or I shall agree on the nature or the extent of those reforms remains to be seen; but he need have no fear that reform will again be before this House in the near future.

The noble Lord, Lord Molson, made some points of interest about the disposal of churchyards. May I first deal with the point which he made (and which the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, also raised) about the transfer of this procedure from method of Private Bills to a scheme. I understand that, constitutionally, it will still be possible to proceed by way of Private Bills; but there will now be a simpler and cheaper method of procedure, and no doubt that will be a disincentive to the use of Private Bills. I am also told by those who are more learned in these matters that what is represented in this Measure is really a continuing process in the law, whereby matters which at one time had to be dealt with by Private Bills have now been incorporated into some statutory procedure. That was true, I am told, for instance, of divorce proceedings, which at one time could be proceeded with only by Private Bills but which now are dealt with in an overall measure.

I do not think it can fairly be said that there is anything very serious in dealing with the question of disposal of churchyards under a scheme, especially in view of the safeguards which are built into this Measure. The noble Lord, Lord Molson, reminded us that planning authority has to be consulted. I would remind him that interested parties would be able to challenge a pastoral scheme right up to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, if there were good grounds for doing so. I am reminded that under Clause 65 only the Home Secretary can allow a churchyard to be developed without the removal or reinterment of human remains. The Church itself cannot do this; the permission of the Home Secretary must be obtained.

The noble Lord, Lord Molson, also brought into the discussion the very interesting point about the proper way to dispose of human remains. Under this Measure, if a churchyard is to be used for some purpose which will not disturb human remains, they may be left there. It may be used as a garden, and I am sure that many of us would agree with the noble Lord that it is desirable wherever possible that open spaces should be provided. If it is to be used for a garden or for a car park the human remains need not be disturbed or removed. But if there is development on the site which requires the disturbance of human remains, I think that public opinion would require that such human remains should be dealt with in a reverent and decent manner.

The noble Lord brought to light the very interesting fact that the stringent requirements of the Home Office are apparently only regulations. They are certainly very stringent and very costly. Therefore I am sure that I speak on behalf of the Church in saying that if some way can be found whereby human remains which are to be disturbed by development can be dealt with in a less expensive and less complicated way than at present exists, we should all be very pleased indeed. Equally, we should require, as I think everybody would require, that human remains, if they are disturbed, should be disposed of in a reverent and decent manner.

The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, raised the question of œcumenical co-operation. Undoubtedly this Measure will make that more easy. For instance, the Diocesan Redundant Church Uses Committee has to find a proper use for a redundant church, and it may well be that one proper use would be by another Christian communion. There is another way in which co-operation will be made more easy. Under the Measure it will no longer be necessary that in order to establish a parish there must be a consecrated church, because once a church is consecrated there are certain legal restrictions upon its use. Under this Measure a church which is only dedicated, or a place that is suitable for worship, can be provided and at the same time a new parish can be created. In my own diocese in a populous new area I have a dedicated church which is shared equally between ourselves and the Methodist Church. That is another direction in which this Measure will make œcumenical co-operation easier.

The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, raised the question of incorporating on pastoral committees those who are not members of the Church of England. So far as my reading of the Measure goes, that would not be possible on the diocesan pastoral committees, but it seems that it would be possible on the breakdown of the committees throughout the diocese, if that were desirable. Finally, I would remind him that any action which involves another Church cannot of course be dealt with by a Church Assembly Measure; it would need a Parliamentary Bill, and there is in mind already the Sharing of Churches Bill which would make it easier for co-operation between Christian communions at that level. I hope, therefore, that I have satisfied your Lordships on the points which have been raised and that you will give this Measure your affirmative Resolution.

On Question, Motion agreed to.