HL Deb 08 July 1975 vol 362 cc721-5

3.2 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of LONDON rose to move, That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Church Commissioners (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent. The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, I rise to ask your Lordships to give an Affirmative Resolution to the Church Commissioners (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure. In so doing, I shall not be carrying your Lordships into the empyrean as the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray, suggested might be my function. Rather, I shall be asking your Lordships to consider the much more mundane matter of how the Church Commissioners expend some of their funds.

Those responsible for the preparation of the material that comes before the General Synod are always very conscious of the way in which it can be presented with the least possible inconvenience to your Lordships and to the Members of another place. Sometimes, we have presented a series of small Measures dealing with the minutiae of ecclesiastical administration and, not unnaturally, Members of your Lordships' House have at times become rather restive in consequence. On the other hand, if we try to present these matters in a more manageable size in a miscellaneous provisions Measure, we get a rather strange mix to present to your Lordships. Here, then, is a miscellaneous provisions Measure which deals with two very different aspects of the work of the Church Commissioners. It is necessary that this Measure should be presented to your Lordships because, as I have no doubt many noble Lords are aware, the Church Commissioners can expend their income only in the way in which Parliament directs. Therefore, if there is some way in which they think they ought to be expending their funds which is not provided for by the law, they have to bring a General Synod Measure before Parliament for Affirmative Resolution.

This Measure deals first of all with the stipend of the Bishop of Sodor and Man. The diocese of Sodor and Man is an orthodox diocese of the Church of England, but it is unorthodox in that it is subject both to the law of this land and to Manx law. This always complicates anything we want to do for the diocese of Sodor and Man. Under the Ecclesiastical Commissioners' Powers Measure 1936, certain Bishoprics could be paid by the Church Commissioners at the rate of£3,000 a year, which, in those days, was a very reasonable remuneration. In many ways, that Measure was overtaken by the Episcopal Endowments and Stipends Measure 1943, when the Commissioners took over the ownership of all the episcopal residences and a certain number of their endowments and were given in return the responsibility of providing a suitable house and stipend for the Bishop, and also of meeting his reasonable expenses in his secretariat, and his travelling and official expenses.

However, the See of Sodor and Man could not be included in the 1943 Measure because the house of the Bishop belongs, I believe I am in right in saying, to the Manx Parliament, or, if it does not, it belongs to the authorities in the Isle of Man. Therefore, the Church Commissioners could not take it over, so the Bishop continued to be remunerated under the 1936 Measure, which meant that he had to live in a very fine but exceedingly large house in the Isle of Man and that he received a stipend of only £3,000 a year, out of which he had to keep up this very large house, and to provide for his secretariat and travelling and entertainment expenses. There is, I believe, a very small fund available in the Island, but it does not nearly meet these very heavy expenses. Therefore, it is virtually impossible for the Bishop of Sodor and Man to exist on only £3,000 a year.

Unfortunately, there is still the problem of the house, and therefore the Bishop cannot be brought within the provisions of the 1943 Measure. The only way in which the Church Commissioners can help him is to seek powers to augment his stipend so that he can meet the reasonable expenses of his Office and also have a reasonable stipend for himself. It is for that that Clause 1 will provide.

Clause 2 deals with the pensions that may be paid to the First and Third Estates Commissioners. Your Lordships will probably be aware that the chief officers of the Church Commissioners are the three Estates Commissioners. The first is appointed by Her Majesty. The second is a political appointment by the Prime Minister and the third is an appointment by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Sir Ronald Harris, Mr. Terry Walker and Dame Betty Ridley are the holders of these three Offices at the present time. The Estates Commissioners are generally people who have attained some distinction elsewhere before they are appointed to one of these Offices, yet they bear very heavy responsibilities and it is only proper that they should be reasonably remunerated and should be provided with a pension if it is desirable.

The powers which the Church Commissioners already have for providing a pension for the First and Third Estates Commissioners are discretionary, for it is possible that a person might be appointed to this Office having served elsewhere and having a very considerable pension so that it would not be necessary substantially to augment that pension. At the moment, when the First and Third Estates Commissioners have served for 15 years, they can receive, at the discretion of the Board of the Church Commissioners, a pension of two-thirds of what they were receiving on retirement or, after 10 years, a pension of half what they were receiving. But this has certain disadvantages because an Estates Commissioner may not want to go on to the full 15 years, yet there is obviously a temptation to go on if the Commissioner is very near to getting the full pension. Indeed, under modern thinking about pensions, it is considered right that people should be able to receive a pension after five years. Therefore, this part of the Measure provides that the pension can be paid after five years, and that it is graded according to the standards which already exist.

The final part of the Measure deals with the rather technical point of what happens to the widow of a First or Third Estates Commissioner, if a Commissioner dies before five years are up. If a Commissioner has to retire within five years on disability he can receive a pension, but there are great difficulties at the present time about his widow receiving any pension. Therefore, this Measure provides for the widows of the First and Third Estates Commissioners. I hope that your Lordships will regard this Measure as entirely uncontroversial—for it was very carefully studied in the General Synod and there was no division on any of the matters—and that you will feel able to give an Affirmative Resolution to it. 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 Church Commissioners (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.—(The Lord Bishop of London.)


My Lords, may I ask the right reverend Prelate a question? In view of the fact that he said that one of the Estates Commissioners is a woman, and that the pension is given at the discretion of the Commissioners, would she then be expected to rely on the income of her husband, or would she receive an income in her own right?

The Lord Bishop of LONDON

My Lords, the Third Estates Commissioner is a widow and she receives her full stipend, and she would do so if she were married. As I said, the pension is entirely discretionary, but I have absolutely no doubt that the Commissioners would treat a women who held the office of First or Third Estates Commissioner in exactly the same way as they would a man in that office.


My Lords, is the right reverend Prelate aware that a Member of Parliament, for instance, cannot receive a pension for less than 10 years' service, and as this might be somewhat analogous with the additional disadvantage that a Member of Parliament has to run the risk of not being re-elected, would not five years seem to be a very short period to qualify for any pension at all?


My Lords, I understand that all the thinking about modern social security is that pensions will be granted after five years. Certainly, the Church of England Pensions Board is giving very careful thought to this being available for the clergy in the Church of England, in accordance with what I understand is the most recent thinking on the whole matter of pensions.


My Lords, is the right reverend Prelate aware that the noble Baroness may be greatly comforted by the knowledge that the lady who is the Third Estates Commissioner receives an income and a pension greater than any Bishop in the Church of England, including the Archbishop of Canterbury?


My Lords, I should certainly like to know how we arrived at that decision. If this lady is so superior to the Bishops, why is ordination of women not being considered?

The Lord Bishop of SOUTHWARK

The day may come when she is.

The Marquess of HEADFORT

My Lords, as a resident of the Isle of Man I should like to welcome the Measure in relation to the Bishop of Sodor and Man. I know the Bishop's house; it is very big. I believe that the present Bishop is not able to afford to live in it and is living in a vicarage in the neighbouring town of Ramsey. Anything which we can do to help will be very much appreciated by the people of Man.

On Question, Motion agreed to.