HL Deb 18 January 1972 vol 327 cc21-2

3.18 p.m.


My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales that they, having been informed of the purport of the Repair of Benefice 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 Parliament for the purposes of the Measure.

THE LORD BISHOP OF CHESTER rose to move, That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Repair of Benefice Buildings Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent. The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, this Measure effects a considerable change in the law affecting the responsibility for the upkeep of parsonage houses, and it will lead not only to the simplification of what is at present an unnecessarily complex system, but also to the better provision for the repair of the houses in which incumbents live.

As the law stands at present, the incumbent of a benefice is legally responsible for the repairs of his official residence. Diocesan surveyors, according to the Dilapidations Measure, carry out a quinquennial inspection and report on the repairs which are needed immediately or in the future, with an estimate of cost. The Church Commissioners fix the annual rates to meet the repairs, insurance and administration, and keep a separate account for each benefice in the Church of England. The incumbent is responsible for repairs, but only up to the extent of the sum in the repairs account. The Diocesan Dilapidations Board enforce and supervise the carrying out of the incumbent's obligations.

This system is cumbersome: it is also out of date, because in fact although incumbents are legally responsible for the repairs out of their own pockets if necessary, none of them are required to do so, since grants from the parishes, the diocese and the Church Commissioner relieve them of the responsibility. But it requires a great deal of administrative labour and a good deal of money is locked up for future repairs. The new system contained in the Measure retains quinquennial inspection by diocesan surveyors, but transfers the responsibility of financing and carrying out repairs to new diocesan bodies, to be called parsonage boards. The finance will be provided by contributions from the Church Commissioners and the parishes. The parsonage board will be responsible for all the work and supervision involved. This Measure has been envisaged for a long time and is based upon a report published in 1964. It was presented to the General Synod in November, 1970, revised in the summer of 1971 and finally approved in the autumn of 1971. It has evoked little debate, no amendments were made and no divisions were called. I trust that your Lordships will give it an Affirmative Resolution. My Lords, I beg to move.

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

On Question, Motion agreed to.