HL Deb 19 March 1970 vol 308 cc1237-40

3.18 p.m.


My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to acquaint the House that they, having been informed of the purport of the Sharing of Church Buildings Measure, have consented to place their interests, so far as they are concerned on behalf of the Crown and the Duchy of Cornwall, at the disposal of Parliafor the purposes of the Measure.

THE LORD BISHOP OF ROCHESTER rose to move, That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Sharing of Church Buildings Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent. The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, I beg to move the first of the two Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper. At a late late hour last night in another place similar Motions were passed to those which it is my duty to move in your Lordships' House today. They went through another place with a rapidity which might well have been matched here had they been in the charge of someone higher up in the "batting order" on these Benches. Indeed, my Lords, I hope that it may be acceptable if I move the second Motion with the minimum number of words of commendation; but I now ask your Lordships' customary indulgence if the first of these "twin maiden speeches" is a little longer.

The Sharing of Church Buildings Measure is designed to dovetail with the Sharing of Church Buildings Act, which received the Royal Assent last summer. That Act permits a number of Churches, of which the Church of England is one, to enter into a sharing agreement whereby a building owned by one Church may be used by the partners to such an agreement, or may be owned and used by them jointly. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury introduced the Bill in this House and explained then some of the legal difficulties it was intended to overcome. He pointed out that certain problems would still remain for the Church of England in cases of consecrated buildings and of official parsonage houses. Sections 5 and 7 of the Act provide that authority to make such agreements on behalf of the Church of England must be given under a pastoral scheme made in accordance with the Pastoral Measure 1968, as extended for this particular purpose by a subsequent Measure. The Measure before the House today is that subsequent Measure. While, in a sense, it is domestic to the Church of England, it is a necessary supplement to the Act, if the Church is to cooperate with others in making the kind of agreements for the sharing of buildings which are envisaged in the Act.

Clause 1 of the Measure extends the Pastoral Measure of 1968 so as to enable proposals for the joint ownership of consecrated churches and parsonage houses to be included in pastoral schemes. This will mean that when the ownership of a consecrated church is to be changed to a joint ownership with another church, then all the interested parties—clergy, laity and patrons—have to be consulted and their views considered, both by the pastoral committee of the diocese and then by the Church Commissioners. Indeed, there is a final appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council for an aggrieved party. Clause 2 of the Measure deals largely with financial and technical matters relating to Church of England buildings. The most important provision here is that this will enable the Church Commissioners to make grants for joint projects in the same way as they help to provide opportunities for Anglican worship and for the pastoral care of the whole population.

It was my privilege for eight years to be in the service of all the Churches of these islands associated in the British Council of Churches, and it is therefore a special pleasure to me today to be involved in the very last stages of the enactment required to make the sharing of church buildings legally possible. The aim of the Act was most certainly not to encourage the Church of England to opt out of any of its responsibilities but to undertake them where possible in partnership, avoiding any unnecessary expenditure because of overlap or duplication of buildings. This Measure offers the way for such opportunities to be taken up, where there is the necessary will to do so. It is not only in new towns and housing estates where this can be done to the advantage of all but also perhaps in old communities where a large part of the population has moved away.

In welcoming the original Bill on behalf of the Government, the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, was quick to point out that where such opportunities are seized, not only will duplication be avoided and economies effected but a sense of a united community purpose will also be inculcated. This Measure is a small contribution towards1 the large efforts that all the Churches are seeking to make in fulfilment of their common obedience and in the furtherance of their common task. I beg to move.

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


My Lords, I am sure that the whole House would like me to thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester for explaining so briefly and eloquently the purpose of this Measure. And I am sure that the House would still more wish me to congratulate him upon his maiden speech. It gives me particular pleasure to do this, because some years ago we were both members of the same diocese, the Diocese of St. Albans. I would add that I look forward very much, as I am sure we all do, not only to hearing his speech in introducing a next Measure but to his joining our debates on wide issues in the weeks and months ahead.


My Lords, I would crave the opportunity of joining with the previous speaker in felicitating my right reverend friend on the first part of his maiden speech and saying, as a Nonconformist, how much we welcome his facilitation of a Measure which otherwise would have been inoperative in some cases. As I shall be a beneficiary of this Measure, it is all the more imperative that I should express, on behalf of many like myself, the pleasure we have at the prospect that lies before us. Nobody very much wants to share Methodist church buildings—anyway, not for ecclesiastical purposes—and therefore we ought to make it quite clear that we are going to be the beneficiaries in large measure of this particular enactment. I hope very much that this is the kind of ecclesiastical sprat that will catch a more spiritual mackerel. In the last analysis, if we cannot come together on theological grounds in the first instance, the fact that we geographically assemble in the same places may ultimately help us to that wider unity. I welcome this very much.

On Question, Motion agreed to.