§ Baroness LLEWELYN-DAVIES of HASTOE
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 Endowments and Glebe Measure, has consented to place Her prerogative and interest so far as they are affected by the Measure at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Measure.
§ 2.58 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 Endowments and Glebe Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent. The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, I rise to invite this House to pass an Affirmative Resolution on the Endowments and Glebe Measure. As noble Lords will appreciate from the reports of the Legislative Committee of the General Synod and of the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament, this is a complex Measure and it would be all too easy for us to become so involved in the minutiae of its provisions as to lose sight of the broad principles underlying it. A great deal of preparatory work has been done, as is illustrated by the facts and figures supplied in the reports and I am confident that your Lordships would wish to express our thanks to those who have so carefully documented the issues that are before the House today.
§ The Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament has by a majority resolved that this Measure is expedient. Having received a number of objections to the Measure—and there are always more people ready to express their dissatisfaction than there are those who are vocal in support of any measure—the Report of the Ecclesiastical Committee devotes the greater part of its attention to the criticisms of the Measure and pays rather half-hearted tribute to the immense amount of care and labour which has been devoted by the Church Assembly and by the General Synod to the subject of the remuneration of the clergy over a period of many years. In a moment I hope to put before your Lordships the broad, positive principles which underlie this 1042 Measure, and the reasons why it is so important for the welfare of the Church and of the clergy that it should become law.
There are, however, three matters in the Ecclesiastical Committee's Report to which I must refer specifically, since otherwise misunderstanding may arise. The first concerns the last words of paragraph 17. The Committee is here considering the guaranteed annuity of up to £1,000 a year. The report states:
…in considering the principle involved the Committee has proceeded as though this Measure provided that after the next vacancy the benefice will cease to have any income representing its old endowment income".
It is not clear why the Committee considered that it should proceed on this assumption, since it is patently not the case. The figure of up to to £1,000 is provided for the important psychological reason of ensuring a link between the old endowment and the new pay structure. So it must not be thought that on a vacancy a benefice will cease to have any income representing its old endowment income.
§ In fact, as Appendix II shows, 8,282 parishes out of the total of 10,595, having at the present time under £1,000 of endowment income, will continue to be guaranteed for their incumbent exactly the same sum as exists at present. The other 2,313 benefices with endowments over £1,000 will receive this guaranteed annuity plus the personal grant to a sitting incumbent equal to any excess over £1,000 per annum of net annual endowment income to which he is entitled so long as he holds that office. These facts are important and they should not be forgotten.
§ The second point which requires comment is contained in paragraph 18 where the report is dealing with the relevance of charity law. The report refers to Clause 11(2) of the Endowments and Glebe Measure which states that property held on trust by private trustees may be transferred to the Church Commissioners only with the consent of the Charity Commissioners. This refers of course to trusts of comparatively recent origin. What the Measure is dealing with in the main are those endowments, often of very ancient origin, conferred on the Church. Their administration was entrusted by Parliament some 140 years ago, not to the Charity Commissioners but to the 1043 Ecclesiastical Commissioners. This body was given its own legal framework within which it exercises its responsibilities. Accordingly, over the years legislation has increasingly dealt with them as endowments of the Church as a whole and not as endowments of individual charities as they would have been under the ordinary charity law. This measure is entirely consistent with this trend.
§ Thirdly, I must mention the issues raised in paragraph 22 on page 10. The argument is often used that the possession of endowment by a particular parish may protect it from being the object of pastoral reorganisation. The report quite rightly points out that there is no substance in this assertion. I have been a diocesan Bishop for 21 years and I have been involved both as a Bishop and as a member of the Board of the Church Commissioners with innumerable schemes for pastoral reorganisation. I cannot remember a single one in which the diocese hesitated in setting forward a scheme for pastoral reorganisation because one of the parishes was heavily endowed. Nor can I remember a single case in which the Church Commissioners either refused or agreed to forward a scheme because this issue was involved. Pastoral reorganisation is purely a matter for the statutory pastoral committee of the diocese and it exercises its responsibilities within the powers of the Pastoral Measure.
§ I come now, my Lords, to the broad principles of reform which the Measure seeks to establish. In the main, if approved by Parliament the endowments attaching to certain parishes will be pooled subject to certain safeguards and used for the benefit of the stipends of the clergy generally, and the ownership of glebe will be transferred from individual clergy to the Diocesan Board of Finance for a similar general use. Stated thus baldly the Measure sounds to be rapacious and ruthless. I confess that at one time I myself thought it to be so. I have a strong historical sense and I did not like the idea of detaching from individual benefices endowments which had been allocated to them by benefactors in the past. But I have studied the issues with care and I have come to appreciate that the Measure intends to do the right thing and I believe that it does so and therefore I am able to commend it wholeheartedly to your Lordships.1044
As the Legislative Committee's Report points out on page 17, Church legislation of this sort is not new. The Ecclesiastical Commission, created 140 years ago, deprived some of the great Sees such as Canterbury, York, London, Durham and Winchester of their vast emoluments and removed the incomes of many Cathedral Chapters and sinecure offices for the creation and augmentation of the Commissioners' General Fund. You will remember, my Lords, that this led to a certain amount of acrimonious correspondence on the part of Sidney Smith at the time. I remember when my father, some 40 years ago, was made a prebendary in St. Paul's Cathedral he claimed that as a result of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners he had been deprived of some £38,000 a year for doing absolutely nothing. Thus it was an extremely unpopular move when the Ecclesiastical Commission was set up. But as my great predecessor Bishop Blomfield, the chief architect of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners remarked:
They now blame me for these measures, but they will hereafter confess that those very measures have been the saving of the Church".
And he was right.
§ Nearer to our own time the radical Benefices (Stabilisation of Incomes) Measure 1951, passed by this House, provided that money endowments held by the Commissioners in trust for individual benefices were to be transferred to their general fund with a fixed annual payment, so that any income growth would be available not to the benefice but for the benefit of the clergy generally. The Pastoral Measure passed by this House in 1968 authorised by a scheme or order the diversion of part of the endowments of a benefice to the Diocesan Stipends Fund for the benefit of all the clergy without requiring the consent of the incumbent concerned.
§ This Measure therefore stands in a long line of enactments designed to provide a more just and equitable distribution of the Church's endowments for the benefit of the clergy generally. It is the Church's commitment to minister to the whole nation, both in the town and in the country, and it is no part of this Measure to take the clergy away from the country, as has sometimes been suggested. On the contrary, what we want to be sure of is that the clergy are placed right throughout the whole nation and that in 1045 any place, whether they be in town or the country, they have enough to live on.
§ The substance of this Measure has been under discussion for well over 10 years. Following a report entitled Partners in Ministry which was published in 1967, a questionnaire which went out to the dioceses revealed that 85 per cent. of the replies favoured a more uniform system of remuneration and nearly 60 per cent. favoured the pooling of endowment and glebe income. The Terms of Ministry Committee, which was set up to advise on the best way forward, recommended, and the General Synod accepted in 1972. that benefice endowment income and glebe income should he pooled and the glebe transferred into diocesan ownership. This Measure is the outcome.
§ Subject to the safeguards I have already mentioned, we should ask: does this Measure impose any injustice on anyone? I can confidently assert my belief that it does not. I ask your Lordships to note how small in fact is the immediate impact of this Measure. All dioceses have accepted a minimum stipend for incumbents of £2,400 a year, plus a house which is rate and rent free. Thus, Appendix II reveals that there are only 413 parishes out of 10,595 which have endowments sufficient to meet this modest target. All the rest must he subsidised from central funds. Again, out of the 4,846 benefices which receive income from glebe, 4,622—that is all but 224—receive less than £1,000; and they are going to be granted a guaranteed annuity of up to £1,000.
§ I can state that as a result of this Measure no clergyman will be worse off than he is at present, and progressively many will be far better off. All that will happen is that the present incumbents will continue to enjoy the equivalent of the existing income from endowments and their successors will have a guaranteed sum of up to £1,000 and for the rest will be brought up to the diocesan standard from central funds and parochial giving. If the incumbent owns glebe, he will no longer be able to manage it himself (a task of which many would be gladly rid) and he would not be the beneficiary of any increase of income from the glebe if, for instance, it were to be sold for a large sum. But neither is he such a beneficiary today, since it is always open to a diocese 1046 to promote a scheme under the Pastoral Measure for a diversion of the income of a benefice to the Diocesan Stipends Fund even without the consent of the incumbent if, as a result of fortuitous circumstances, the benefice income is inflated beyond the general standard of diocesan remuneration.
But, my Lords, is it offensive to natural justice to take away from some benefices sources of income which were allocated to an incumbent at the time of his institution? The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, clearly thinks it is, since in his Amendment he seeks to persuade your Lordships to refuse an Affirmative Resolution to the Measure on the grounds that:
contrary to natural justice, it removes from certain incumbents the ownership of lands lawfully bestowed on them.
I confess that it is a surprise to me that such an Amendment should emanate from the Benches of a radical Party devoted to reform, as I had looked for support from that quarter for a Measure which is so clearly forward-looking and progressive. The noble Lord uses the term "natural justice", and I am advised that in English law it is used only in limited contexts, such as a failure in a judicial tribunal to give each party the opportunity to state their case or to fail to decide a dispute honestly and without bias. I am advised that in law there is no breach of natural justice if property is taken away from a person by the due processes of law. We all have a good deal of our property removed by taxation; some of us have had property removed by compulsory purchase. None of us enjoy the process, but we submit because such action is taken by Statute in the interests of the nation as a whole.
§ It was this principle which was at work when there were transferred to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners the estates lawfully bestowed on bishops, deans, chapters and other ecclesiastical corporations in the last century by Statute, for the benefit of the Church as a whole. It is this principle which is at work in the Pastoral Measure today, because if in the process of promoting the scheme of pastoral reorganisation it is necessary to do so, a clergyman can be deprived not merely of income but of the benefice itself, so long, of course, as he is properly remunerated and compensated. This 1047 Measure continues this process, and I submit that there is no breach of natural justice.
§ My Lords, in the broadest terms, this Measure is one further step in bringing the Church of England out of the 19th century and into the 20th. Rightly, we no longer tolerate a Bishop of Barchester living in luxury in his palace and Archdeacon Grantley enjoying his wealth at Plumstead Episcopi, while Mr. Quiverful and Mr. Crawley of Hogglestock eke out a miserable existence on a few pounds a year. We still need to get away from the picture of the parson as a landowner, relying for much of his income on the proceeds of his glebe. The establishment of the Church Commissioners as the Central Stipends Authority has at long last brought us nearer to a uniform system of payment for all the clergy. We have a long way to go to provide a proper standard for the payment of the clergy, but if we are to go to the laity and ask them for a greatly increased standard of giving we must be able to assure them that the Church is using its resources justly and efficiently. We shall be able to give that assurance if this resolution is passed by this House today.
§ The Measure is, as I have reminded your Lordships, the outcome of many years of thought and consultation by the Church and there is no ground whatsoever for saying that there has not been enough consultation. It received final approval in July of last year by a vote of 229 in favour and 34 against, with five abstentions. I trust that your Lordships will endorse the judgment of the General Synod, and help us go forward in the demanding task of rewarding the clergy adequately. 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 Endowments and Glebe Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent—(The Lord Bishop of London).
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Lord BEAUMONT of WHITLEY rose to move, as an Amendment to the above Motion, to leave out all the words after ("House") and insert ("declines to direct that the Endowments and Glebe Measure be presented to Her Majesty for Royal 1048 Assent on the ground that, contrary to natural justice, it removes from certain incumbents the ownership of lands lawfully bestowed on them".) The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move the Amendment standing in my name on the Order Paper. This is an unusual Amendment to be moved in your Lordships' House and, as the right reverend Prelate has already suggested, I am possibly an even more unusual person to move it. There are many people who think, because of the position of the Establishment, that Parliament should permanently have the right to pass judgment on and, if necessary, veto the Measures of the Church, and I know that among those who are to speak today there are at least one or two people who take that point of view. It is a very understandable one, but it is not one that I myself take.
§ I believe it is right that the Church of England should, within very broad limits, have control of its own affairs and if it is argued, as indeed it is argued by some of my colleagues, that the price for that should be disestablishment, I, for one, would not flinch at paying that price. Therefore, I should not, in the normal way, seek to persuade your Lordships to obstruct a Measure coming from the Synod to Parliament, however much I disagreed with, or disapproved of, what it had to say. But there is an exception to this rule, and I suggest that we have such an exception before us today. I think that the Church should have control over its own affairs, in the same way as any other body has control over its own affairs; that is, within the limits of the law of the land and the bounds of what I, however inaccurately, persist in calling natural justice; for, whatever the specialised meaning of the term, I have no doubt that most of your Lordships understand what I mean.
§ Although as a nation we are used to the idea of compulsory purchase, it is not one which we have handed over indiscrimately to other bodies, apart from the Legislature and those which are obviously immediately dependent upon them, such as local government. Therefore, there is a very distinct difference between the compulsory purchase as it is usually employed in this country today, and the compulsory purchase which we are asked to approve in the House this afternoon. So when the Church comes to this House and asks 1049 us to allow it to expropriate the rights of individuals in a manner which no other body would be allowed to do, and which, if the Church were self-governing, would be disallowed by the courts, I think we have an absolute right to object, for here we are not interfering with the legitimate self-government of the Church; we are being made use of by the Church to allow it to do something which would otherwise be illegal and which I certainly believe to be immoral. If I can show to this House that this Measure does exactly that, and that it is oppressive of the rights of certain citizens, I hope that it will send it back to the Synod to look at it again.
§ Some of your Lordships who will be speaking today, and a large number of people outside this House, believe that this Measure is ill-conceived. Although I realise that this is a very difficult problem, I am broadly in sympathy with the aims of this Measure. I welcome the efforts of the Church, which the right reverend Prelate has so well described, to deploy its own resources to the best possible advantage. As a member of the Church Assembly, as a religious journalist and as what I might call an ecclesiastical activist, I have campaigned on that side of the argument for a large number of years. Therefore, it is all the more painful to me that this Measure contains one matter which I would not fight for, and which I must oppose; that is, it removes from present incumbents, during their own incumbency, their right to the ownership of the glebe land which was inalienably, as all thought then, bestowed on them when they were inducted into their benefices.
§ I do not believe there is any need at all for this. When it was first put forward, the original scheme allowed incumbents to opt out for the period of time when they had their benefices, and the glebe land would naturally fall in before the next incumbent took over. It may be argued that that would still have been unjust to the parishes, but, nevertheless, there was then no injustice done to an incumbent who had been given the ownership of this land. That, indeed, was what happened when, as has been quoted before, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners took over the land of the Bishops and other land in the last century. Individual Bishops were given the right to opt out until their tenure of the See ended.1050
§ We have not really been told why this has been done, why it has been neglected to put in a clause, as was originally suggested, to the effect that incumbents could opt out of their own right, and I suggest that it is merely for administrative tidiness. So far as I can see, there is no precedent for such a thing in the history of the Church. I am told, indeed, that even when the Dissolution of the Monasteries occurred, there was a voluntary deed of surrender on behalf of the abbot or prior concerned. What pressure was used to exact this voluntary deed, I do not think we need go into. But, at least the forms of law appear to have been preserved on that occasion, and I think we are entitled to know why ownership of the glebe may not transfer as incumbencies fall in.
§ I am quite prepared to be told that this is a very small point, and obviously to a large number of people it is. The Ecclesiastical Committee—I think rather unfortunately—did not even consider it. We shall be told that there is very little glebe, and that is true. We shall be told that most incumbents would prefer to get rid of it. I am sure that some of them do. We do not know how many, because they have not, on the whole, been asked; at least, those who have written to me to protest about this Measure have told me that. We are told that they receive compensation. They receive money for money, and I am the first to acknowledge the fairness of the monetary considerations the Church has laid down in putting forward this Measure. But those of them whose pride and pleasure it has been to have a stake in the country, and to have the ownership of some of the land going with their parish, receive nothing for that. Indeed, there cannot be any monetary compensation for that pride and pleasure and that link with the countryside being taken away from them, out of the blue, in the middle of their incumbency, which, as I said, was given to them inalienably when they were inducted.
§ We may well be told that to send a Measure back for such a small matter would cause chaos, but I think that that can be easily overstated. It is one small matter to which I am objecting and, although it means that the Measure would have to go through many stages again, it would presumably be able to go through them rather quickly. But, even if it 1051 were true that it would cause a lot of trouble, I do not think it would matter; for what are we here for? We are not an instrument of the bureaucracy of either Church or State. Among our duties as part of the High Court of Parliament, one of the most important is the protection of the rights of individuals, no matter how few those individuals are, no matter how unimportant their rights may seem to us, no matter how worthy are the people who are expropriating them, no matter how inconvenient our actions may be; for if we do not protect the individual rights of these people nobody else will. My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.
§ Moved, as an Amendment to the above Motion, to leave out all the words after ("House") and insert ("declines to direct that the Endowments and Glebe Measure be presented to Her Majesty for Royal Assent on the ground that, contrary to natural justice, it removes from certain incumbents the ownership of lands lawfully bestowed on them".).—(Lord Beaumont of Whitley.)
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ Lord SANDFORD
My Lords, the House will be grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London for his lucid account of this Glebe Measure in moving the resolution for its approval. I may not be so progressive as the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, but should like to assure the right reverend Prelate of my support for the Measure and I hope to persuade other noble Lords on all sides of the House also to give their support to the right reverend Prelate.
It is true that there have been objections to this Measure and that they have taken three main forms. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, has voiced some of the objections, but they all lack substance. The first group of objections is that the Measure is in some sense unfair to existing incumbents. My answer to that, one which has already been expressed in much greater detail by the right reverend Prelate, is that no existing incumbent will suffer any loss of benefice income as a result of this Measure. That is stated categorically in paragraph 8(4) of the Report of the Ecclesiastical Committee on the Measure, and precisely how effect is to be given to it.
1052 Secondly, it is not by any means the case that all incumbents have always received in the past the benefits of all rents, sales and other transactions in glebe, for orders diverting some of the proceeds from transactions in glebe land from the benefice to diocesan boards of finance have frequently been made for many years, most recently under the Pastoral Measure. Therefore in so far as there might be some diversion—and in this case no diversion will result in an existing incumbent suffering a reduction in income—certainly it is not breaking fresh ground to divert the proceeds from glebe land to somebody other than the incumbent.
The second group of objections is that here we are witnessing signs of the parochial system being swept away in favour of a centralised bureaucracy. Like the right reverend Prelate, and not being all that progressive, I am sorry to see an historic, albeit archaic institution, falling into desuetude. But the Churches are not meant to be museums of archaic institutions; they are supposed to serve and minister to all the citizens of the nation, wherever they may be, and this involves a change in the pattern of the parochial system from that laid down in mediaeval days. If the Churches are allowed to ossify into some past parochial system they cannot possibly serve the needs of the present. For that purpose changes are being made, and have been made for some years, in the financial arrangements from the centre and from the parish to the diocese.
These are the trends with which this Measure is concerned. That is not centralisation; it is concentration of the administration of the Churches' financial assets at the level of the diocesan boards of finance. The parochial system is not being swept away but, under the Pastoral Measure, carefully, deliberately and very gently adjusted to fit the 1970s and changed with a sensitiveness to consultation and participation, compared with which current secular practices in participation and consultation seem like the work of the veriest mogul or Mikado. The Churches simply cannot complain that too much is being done at too much of a rush with too little consultation.
In fact, the third body of objections is that in this case the consultation has been 1053 inadequate. That is not so. Once again, as the Ecclesiastical Report makes clear, what we see in this Measure was envisaged as long ago as 1967 when the report Partners in Ministry on the deployment of the clergy was published and issued to the Churches. Since then the report has been widely discussed at every level. The final step in respect of this Measure was a leaflet that was sent, with the authority of the General Synod, to every beneficed incumbent in July 1975, but between the publication of that report in 1967 and the issuing of a letter to every incumbent in 1975 there have been innumerable debates in the Synod and the Church Assembly.
The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, had quite a lot to say about the propriety or otherwise of Parliament interfering so as to overturn Measures which have already had the approval of the General Synod. Certainly our Constitution provides for that eventuality, but I should like your Lordships to consider whether this is a case when such a step would be justified. It might be justified if there were matters of very considerable concern both to Church and State regarding which, for example, the Houses of the General Synod had come to a conclusion only by the narrowest of majorities. However, in this case the final votes on this Measure took the following form: in the House of Bishops, 28 for, one against; in the House of clergy, 103 for, 19 against; in the House of Laity, 98 for, 14 against. I suggest that in the Houses of Parliament, where in another place at the moment legislation is being put on the Statute Book with tiny minorities, we cannot say that this is an issue upon which the Church has not clearly made up its mind.
For all those reasons, my Lords, I personally have no hesitation in supporting the resolution of the right reverend Prelate and I hope that many others of your Lordships will do likewise.
§ 3.39 p.m.
§ Lord SOMERS
My Lords, the Ecclesiastical Committee of which I am a member has passed the Measure which we are discussing today. Therefore I am not going to object to it in any practical way whatosever. But, before we pass it, 1054 I should like to put on record some of the things that I feel rather regretful about. One of the things I am chiefly against is the principle of pooling those gifts which are personal gifts. One has to remember the circumstances under which some of these gifts, although certainly not all of them, have been given. Land or money may have been given by someone who has been living in the parish perhaps for the whole of his or her life, who has a great love for it and who wishes to give some sign of what is felt to have been received from it. In such cases these are gifts not to the incumbent but to the parish, and that is one point which I feel nullifies the argument that the present incumbent is not going to suffer at all. It is the parish which is going to suffer.
My Lords, if the noble Lord will give way for a moment, will he also confirm that the gifts that he has just mentioned were not gifts to the diocese?
§ Lord SOMERS
No, my Lords; that is quite true, but the fact remains that the gifts are personal gifts. One can imagine, for instance, what would be thought of a Government that ordained that personal legacies left in one's will were all to be pooled and dealt out to the population as a whole. If I leave £1,000 to my godson or to my oldest friend, or something like that, is it going to be taken from him and pooled, so that out of the common pool everybody in the population can perhaps receive one half-penny? I think that principle in itself is wrong. Incidentally, although I have not really worked this out and so cannot say with authority what the result will be, I feel that the whole of the additional income when it is pooled is unlikely to add a very great deal to any one of the individual parishes throughout the country. Therefore, although I am not going to oppose this Measure, I feel that there are some aspects of it which are regrettable. I mentioned them when we discussed it in our Committee and I am glad to see that our noble and learned Chairman is with us today and is going to speak; perhaps he will allay my fears.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
My Lords, I have a great respect for the sincerity with which the noble Lord, 1055 Lord Somers, has spoken, and I am sure we shall all agree it was right that that point of view should be put by a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee. I do not share it myself. It seems to me that he left out of account the wider purpose for the benefit of the Church and of religion in this country which the Measure seeks to serve. This is not an arbitrary act of depriving certain parishes of continuing income from endowments given to them long ago. On the contrary, as the Legislative Committee has explained, it is part of a general strategy of the Church of England to enable it to maintain a parochial system throughout the country that is suitable to modern needs.
I would venture to suggest that the urgency and importance of this has perhaps not been sufficiently stressed so far in this debate. It is quite clear that those who are responsible can no longer take it for granted that there will be enough money available for the Church to support an adequate array of parochial clergy to do the job that everybody connected with the Church of England, and many others, take it for granted should be done. After all, compulsory purchase, although it is odious when it affects oneself, can never be carried out unless Parliament has been satisfied that the further purpose for which the compulsory acquisition is sought is one that deserves the support of Parliament and will serve the interests of the country as a whole. If we had no system of compulsory purchase, it would, for example, be quite impossible to create a modern road system in this country. Indeed, compulsory purchase was first approved by Parliament in the days after the Great Fire of London, when it would have been impossible, if the exercise of compulsory purchase powers had not been permitted, to carry out the reconstruction that was required.
I am not a member of the General Synod nor the Ecclesiastical Committee; I have no special qualification to speak on this matter, and I have no vested interest in the progress of the Measure. I simply have an interest as an ordinary member of the Church of England in desiring to see the Church acting sensibly and taking whatever steps seem to be necessary to ensure that the continuance of an adequate parochial system for the whole country can be financed.
1056 I know the argument has been used although I do not think it was used by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, that the effect of the Measure will be to discourage further giving to the Church. So far as I am aware, for a good many years there has been relatively little giving by way of capital gifts for the augmentation of endowment incomes. That sort of money is seldom available now and, where it is, it will probably take the form of a gift for some immediate parochial purpose, such as the repair of the church roof or something else which is urgently needed for Church purposes in the parish, rather than the payment of a capital sum, the interest on which is intended to increase the endowment.
There was a good reason for capital gifts of that kind in olden days, when otherwise there might have been no adequate income to support a parson in the parish. That is now looked after by the Church Commissioners and the Diocesan Boards of Finance with the money that they have available for the purpose. That money however is not sufficient, and the Church therefore has a duty to consider how it can be augmented. I do not foresee any serious falling off of gifts of that kind as a result of this Measure. But if the Church is to attract from the laity all the additional money which it is quite clear will be required as the years go on, it must give the ordinary people of the country a double assurance; that is, the assurance that the money which the Church has is being put to the best possible use and the further assurance that the existing resources of the Church are being developed in the best possible way.
I think this Measure is intended to answer both those questions, although at the moment neither assurance could fairly be given. I believe that general public opinion is now against the degree of lack of uniformity of income which exists within the parochial system. The range may not be so wide as in Trollope's day, but it is still wide; there are still parochial clergy who are receiving two, three or four times the norm—though that norm itself may be relatively low—for responsibilities which are not exceptionally high in those particularly well-endowed parishes.
1057 As to the best development of its resources, I am quite certain that the existing system of glebe management by incumbents is not the most profitable way of making use, for the clergy, of the glebe asset which the Church possesses. We learn from these reports that at the moment glebe income amounts to just on £1,200,000 a year. From my limited knowledge, I venture to suggest that this amount of £1,200,000 a year could be very substantially increased if systematic management was introduced by the Church Commissioners and the diocesan authorities, as envisaged in this Measure. I find significant the fact that in seven dioceses there have been created voluntary schemes under which incumbents can hand over their glebe to be managed centrally by the diocese. This experience is already showing that glebe income can be materially increased by centralised diocesan management at relatively small extra cost in expenses.
My Lords, I know that there are some glebe-owning clergy who manage their glebes splendidly, and that no criticism can be made of them from whatever point of view, social or financial. But I think your Lordships will agree that these are a minority of the total number, nearly 5,000, of glebe-owning clergy. I am bound to say from my experience and knowledge that in a great many cases the glebe property is not handled and managed as sensibly, skilfully and farsightedly as it might be. Indeed, how should it be? When a man enters a theological college he is trained to assume his responsibility for the cure of souls in the parish to which he hopes one day to succeed; he is not trained to be a property manager, and although some people may thoroughly enjoy being property managers, it is surely not an essential part of the training of a clergyman. Consequently, I feel certain that the General Synod is right in believing that there is a considerable untapped resource here which the transfer of glebe to the diocesan boards of finance will secure, for the benefit of the parish clergy of that diocese generally.
I know that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, is taking objection to one single point. I hope he will forgive me for saying that the terms of his Amendment suggested, at any rate to me, that his objection to the Measure 1058 was much more broadly based. I see now that the one point which he wished to establish in our minds was that permission should be granted to existing glebe owners, if they so wished, to retain the management of their own glebe for the rest of their incumbency, or until such time as they might freely wish to hand it over. This is an interesting idea. I confess I was not aware that this is what happened in the last century in the case of the bishoprics. But trying to interpret this suggestion in practical terms now, it seems to me that it would put a very considerable brake on the speed with which the diocesan boards of finance could proceed with making more systematic and intelligent the management of the glebe which they were taking over.
In each diocese, the board would have to proceed with the knowledge that in a number of parishes they could not plan to touch any of the glebe in any way, by way of sale for example, until the existing incumbent died or retired. It would be impossible to forecast how long that time would last, and consequently they would be taxed with the unfortunate task of seeking to establish well-devised diocesan machinery for making the best use of all the glebe within the diocese, while being excluded from considering or touching a certain amount of glebe scattered somewhat arbitrarily among a number of parishes, which might revert to them at some unknown dates in the future. If we are taking seriously the need of the Church for more money, I do not really think we ought to envisage that kind of sacrifice of income and possibly capital, although I wish in no way to criticise the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, for calling the attention of the House to what is being done.
My Lords, I am not one of those who think that Parliament automatically should endorse every Measure sent forward by the General Synod. I believe that in your Lordships' House we missed a point with regard to a recent Measure which was subsequently rejected by another place because it failed to give personal right of appearance to incumbents who might be affected by it. Having said that, I must add that the figures which have been given this afternoon for the majorities by which this Measure was passed in all three Houses, the House of Bishops, the House 1059 of Clergy and the House of Laity, must be taken into account and carefully weighed by your Lordships, because, except for the most urgent reason, it would certainly not be for us in this House to act arbitrarily and send back a Measure which received such wide support in the General Synod. With respect to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, I do not think his argument adds up to that, and therefore I shall support the Measure so brilliantly introduced by the right reverend Prelate.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Lord CROSS of CHELSEA
My Lords, as chairman of the Ecclesiastical Committee, it is perhaps proper that I should say a few words on this Motion. Most of the Measures which come up to us from the General Synod for consideration are uncontroversial. The Measure which is the subject of the next Motion on your Lordships' Order Paper, the Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure is a wholly uncontroversial Measure. In such cases, the report of the Ecclesiastical Committee simply sets out the effect of the Measure and recommends to Parliament that Parliament give its approval to it. But this Measure is a highly controversial one. The Ecclesiastical Committee received over 100 written representations against it.
In those circumstances, we thought it right to make a detailed report setting out the arguments for and against the Measure as we understood it, and, in appendices, also including supporting figures explaining the position. Of course, that procedure involved a great expenditure of time. The Committee had to sit on three days. It also involved the clerks of the Committee and, if I may be permitted to say so, also the chairman of the Committee, in some additional work. But I hope that your Lordships will think that the time was well spent, because I do not see how your Lordships' House can debate a controversial Measure of this sort without the material provided by a report such as we put in.
My Lords, before I come to the details of the Measure, I should like to say a word on the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, as to the approach which we in Parliament should take in considering whether to approve or not 1060 approve a Measure. The enabling Act in 1919 gave the Church Assembly, which, of course, is now the General Synod, general legislative powers over matters affecting the Church of England, subject to the approval of Parliament. In those circumstances, it seems to me, as I think it seemed to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, that one should not simply ask oneself, "If I was a member of the General Synod, would I myself have voted in favour of this Measure?". That does not seem to me to be the proper approach at all. When a Measure has passed in the Synod, and especially by such huge majorities as in this case, there is a heavy onus on anyone who says that Parliament should reject it. One can conceive of cases where some measure, on grounds of principle, although passed by the General Synod, ought not to receive the approval of Parliament. But I do think that a strong case has to be made out.
Coming to the details of the Measure, I think one should distinguish—at least I found it useful to distinguish—between, first of all, the part of the Measure which provides for the management of glebes, the negotiation of leases and the effecting of sales, being transferred from the individual incumbent to the diocesan boards of finance, and the part of the Measure which provides for the pooling of all the rents of glebe and of the endowments of individual parishes vested in the Church Commissioners, the pooling of all that income at the centre.
So far as the management goes, undoubtedly, as my noble friend Lord Brooke has said, the evidence shows that there are some clergymen who enjoy managing their glebe and manage it very well, and they, naturally—and one can sympathise with them—do not like the prospect of their rights of management coming to an end. On the other hand, the evidence showed very clearly that there were many clergy who found it a nuisance to manage their glebe, and there were some at least who managed it very badly. In many dioceses there are voluntary schemes in operation under which individual incumbents can provide for their glebe being managed during their incumbency by the diocesan authorities. Those schemes seem to work successfully and a great deal of glebe in dioceses is being so managed.
1061 One case see the force of the argument, why not let that system continue? Gradually, more and more glebe will come to be managed centrally under these voluntary arrangements, and those clergy who like managing their glebe can continue to do so. One can see, on the other hand, that the existence of two parallel systems of management, parcels of glebe passing oil changes of incumbent from management by the incumbent to management by the voluntary body, would be unsatisfactory. It is a question of balancing advantages against disadvantages. The General Synod has decided emphatically in favour of central management.
My noble friend Lord George-Brown says, perhaps quite rightly, that I should say "Synod", but the pronunciation "Synod" has been used throughout the sittings of the Committee, and without going into the right and wrongs of it I shall continue to say "Sinod". I think this question of management is emphatically one which does not raise any question of principle, and it would be quite wrong, whatever one's personal view, to take a view different from that taken by the General Synod.
I come now to the question of the pooling of the income of parish endowments and the rents of glebe. That seems to me to raise a more difficult question. The present position, as the right reverend Prelate pointed out, is that under the Pastoral Measure schemes can be made diverting surplus income from parishes for use in other ways. But I would emphasise that under the Pastoral Measure it is only surplus income that can be treated in that way. There are a few parishes still left where the income enjoyed by the incumbent is, on any fair view, excessive or surplus—very much larger, shall I put it, than the ordinary diocesan average.
Orders can be made under the Pastoral Measure diverting that income. But, of course, the point which was made by the objectors to this Measure is that the Measure goes much further than that, because it deals with the pooling of income which is not in any sense surplus to the requirements of the parish. Supposing, for example, a parish has endowment income of, shall I say, £2,200, the diocesan minimum being £2,500. There 1062 is obviously no surplus income there which could be diverted under an order made under the Pastoral Measure. But under this Measure that endowment income will be taken away and replaced by the guaranteed annuity of £1,000 a year to which the right reverend Prelate referred.
That sort of parish, of course, objects very strongly to the Measure and says that it is being deprived of an advantage, the possession of an income which it can offer to a clergyman, which might enable it to maintain its independence. The answer given to that by the witnesses of the General Synod and the answer given by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London is that it does not really make any difference to a parish whether it has an endowment income or not quoad its continued existence as an independent parish.
When the Pastoral Committee and the Bishop and the Church Commissioners have to consider whether or not to make a scheme amalgamating the parish with another parish they will not, the witnesses said quite clearly, as the right reverend Prelate said too, take into account the possession by the parish of an independent income. So although cannot help having considerable sympathy with parishes in the position I have described, on balance I think that there is no question of principle at issue, and as the General Synod has passed this Measure by such large majorities I would urge your Lordships to approve it.
§ 4.7 p.m.
My Lords, I was very glad to read in one of the leaflets distributed by the General Synod that they declared their present strategy to be to maintain the countrywide ministry. All sincere churchmen must be concerned with the maintenance of the countrywide ministry, which covers the recruiting, the pay and the deployment of the ordained clergy; and in so doing they must not forget the interests of all the Christian people who make up their regular congregations and beyond, who together make up the Church.
When looking at this problem it is all too easy to say that it is wrong that some parishes should be endowed generously, or perhaps less so, with glebe and 1063 other resources, while others, particularly new centres of population, should not have those advantages. But it is wrong to assume that up till today there has been no effort in the Church to be fair as between parishes. For long enough there have been augmentation funds which were intended to bring those parishes with small endowments up to a level which was accepted within the different dioceses. If it applies to parishes as well as to men that "those to whom much is given of them shall much be required", I would entirely agree. But I am disturbed when I see this new and egalitarian spirit which seems to have taken over one side of the Church's leadership. The new policy could be described as robbing Peter to pay Paul and the bureaucratic approach is disturbing, not least because the Anglican Church's administration is extremely complicated and its bureaucrats are very slow-moving.
The small parish in Cumberland where I live had trouble with its endowment in the Middle Ages and it appealed to the Council of Constance; I think it was in the early 15th century. We got a reply. Something similar happened recently and, while we have tried very hard to get the information, we are still waiting after 2½ years. Even allowing for the fact that the postal arrangements are sluggish today, that is overlong. With regard to the management of the glebe, which the noble Lord, Lord Cross of Chelsea, mentioned, as a former land agent I entirely agree that the management of glebe in the hands of an individual priest can present a problem which he is ill-equipped to handle. But if one does not want to take responsibility for glebe, I cannot see why it is so difficult for a successor who is interested to take over once again from the more central controlling office.
It is not reasonable to suppose that all parsons should handle the glebe, since the management of land can be a highly technical business, especially when there are buildings on the glebe. But I should have thought there was still merit in a country priest taking a real interest in the glebe if he felt so inclined and competent to farm it himself. To take away the glebe for all time in return for what is called "a guaranteed annuity" seems to me something different and there is no mention, so far as I can find, in any of 1064 these reports of what happens when the value of money changes. What we are asking incumbents to do is to exchange real property for a guaranteed annuity which has about the same value as undated Government stock. If it is intended that these annuities should be uprated in any way in accordance with any drop in the value of money, I hope that the right reverend Prelate will tell us when he comes to reply. I do not really think that all this is moving from the 19th into the 20th century, as he said in his opening speech.
I was very glad to hear the noble Lord opposite draw attention to the Christian people of old who gave endowments not to the diocese but to particular parishes and districts—often very scattered, often very poor districts—where the donors wanted the Christian message to be preached, and a church where Christians could meet. Now this is to be undermined because not only, as I said, is this Measure robbing Peter to pay Paul; it is going to mean robbing the country to pay the towns. If recent central Governments have set a bad example of this I do not think that that is a good reason why the Church should follow it, even though it may try to justify it by saying that it is not breaking new ground.
We have all had experience of group parishes and most of us would agree that such groups are likely to get larger, and the services in these remote churches fewer. I have often thought about what would happen over the years in the parish where I am a church warden. We are now one of a group of three, and in the course of time we may be part of a larger group. Then there could well be a move to close a small church like ours, which like many others, was founded and endowed in the Middle Ages. With the profits of our glebe I believe that the parishioners and church wardens together would not find it so difficult to maintain the building and regular services. Without the glebe it would be very much harder.
The arguments behind this Measure—and we have heard them this afternoon from several noble Lords—seem to me too facile. The life of the church in country districts is not likely to be strengthened by this Measure, not least because there are two important questions that have not yet been touched on. First, what is 1065 to be the future of the parson's freehold? I believe it is crying out for some amendment, and it is a question that cannot be entirely detached from the issues we are debating this afternoon. Secondly, what greater part should the church warden and other laymen be encouraged to take in the holding of our regular services? I do not mean preach, my Lords; most laymen do not want to preach—although sometimes they might do it better. But there are many who feel that they could do more if only the lead were given; but the result of this Measure, I fear, will be that they will be encouraged to do less.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Lord GEORGE-BROWN
My Lords, will your Lordships forgive me for speaking before the right reverend Prelate replies. I have asked the noble Lord, Lord Cross of Chelsea, whether he was in fact speaking for a committee which my secretary insists on calling "The Eccles Committee" and I keep saying is the "Ecclesiastical Committee". We meet in the Moses Room. He said perfectly fairly that he was speaking for himself, which leaves me free to say that during the course of consideration of this Measure in the Ecclesiastical Committee, which is a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament, I was in fact an objector. I think it would be unfair if I did not make it clear that I am still an objector, as a member of the Anglican Church, for reasons which seem tome to be fairly strong.
I agree in part with the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, and in part not; I agree in part with other objectors, and in part not. We will leave out the personal argument as to whether the Church is more involved in "sin" and therefore insist upon calling it the "Sin.od", whereas I, as a classical scholar, insist that it is really called "Sie.nod". We will leave all that on one side. The real issue is one which the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, brought up at the beginning of his argument. If we wipe out the rights of parishes to use their income for the reasons they think are right, I must say to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London (who is, I should think, the outstanding bureaucrat in the Church) that we are in fact doing what every bureaucrat everywhere wants to do; as in the Labour Party, as in the trade unions, as in the Church 1066 of England—hand it all over to Jack Jones, Ron Hayward, or the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, and all will be well. The fact of the matter is that all is not well. It just becomes a bureaucrat's paradise.
If we down there in Jevington in Sussex, like the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, up there in Cumberland in some distant place I know not of, wish to do it our way, why, for simple, mathematical, bureaucratic reasons should some fellows down here tell us, Nay? They will take this over from us; they will take the money away; they will give us whatever, and then the next thing is that they will close our church and merge it with the next one, and it is all beautifully done according to books. But, like the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, I think you preach Christ to people, and you have to go where people are. If somebody long since past left us some money which we can use for that purpose, why—I was going to say "why the devil", but even looking at the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London I think that is possibly exaggerating—should we not be allowed to do it the way we, the laymen (and this is a layman's Church; even though I call myself a Catholic, one of the differences between us and the Romans is that this is a layman's Church), have done it and the way we still try to do it?
I am unrepentant in that I was about the only one who voted against the Measure all the way through. I should tell noble Lords that I still think that it is wrong. I still think that what will be achieved by doing what the Measure provides is so little that we might just as well leave matters alone. By doing what is proposed, we shall be failing to do the real thing, which is to persuade Anglican churchmen like me that we have to support our Church out of our own funds. This looks like a way round it, but it is not; it misleads people. I am, for all sorts of reasons, with which I will not burden your Lordships now, against this, mostly because what it will achieve will be so little and because it will be so misleading. Of course the Bishops—at least those who are bureaucratic Bishops—will be so pleased to have got something through, but what they should be doing is facing we laymen in the Church with what we should do. I beg noble Lords' pardon for interrupting.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ The LORD BISHOP of SOUTHWARK
My Lords, my intervention will be very brief, and I would not intervene at all were it not for the fact that the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, may have given the impression that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London stands alone as the bureaucrat of the Church of England. I would tell your Lordships that the right reverend Prelate represents I think all of us except one so far as voting is concerned, and that he has expressed the views of the majority of the Bishops: not only of them, but of the majority of the clergy and the majority of the laity. Many hours of time, thought and prayer have been given to this matter, and there has been an overwhelming vote in all three Houses in the General Synod in favour.
It so happens that in my diocese there is an interesting mixture at which perhaps some of your Lordships might be surprised. One probably thinks of Southwark in terms of Battersea, Bermondsey, Rotherhithe and Deptford, or the concrete city where I am going this evening; namely, Thamesmead, but I also have two little village churches in the Surrey Hills which, I think, are still lit by candles and oil lamps; I suspect that they will soon be the only churches which can afford to have lighting. I was in one of these parishes quite recently when I asked the rector about his glebe, and he said, "I am not quite sure—the parish goes back hundreds of years—whether it is 11 acres or more or perhaps less. There are two fields here where they are claiming squatter's rights". He added, "Nobody who has known anything about the management of land has been here for years". That is one half of the diocese, and then there is the other half—places like the concrete city of Thamesmead. The rector of that parish was certain that the Measure was right and would get the matter on a sound and sensible basis.
Thus, as the Bishop of a diocese who sees both sides—little parishes and vast modern housing estates—and as one who sees the needs of the people and sees (I hope the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, will believe me) the desperate need of proclaiming the Gospel to all sorts and conditions of men, I believe that the Measure to which the right reverend 1068 Prelate the Bishop of London has spoken will go a long way to meet the needs of the Church of England. I shall support it and I hope that noble Lords will support it, too.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of LONDON
My Lords, I am sure that all of us who sit on these Benches and all who care for the welfare of the Church of England will be deeply grateful to noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, even though they may disagree with the terms of the Measure. It is, indeed, encouraging that these matters are cared for in the way that is illustrated by this debate, and we are grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. Perhaps I may come at the end of my reply to the points which were made by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley. I wish, first, to thank the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, very much for his sympathetic and understanding statement about the meaning and purpose of the Measure.
I am sure that what the noble Lord, Lord Somers, said is something that moves us all very much, and indeed I mentioned those very points in my opening speech. But he will know—because he was a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee—how very small a part of the endowments of the clergy come from individual gifts. As noble Lords will see in Appendix 4, of the original of Benefice Endowment Income payable by the Church Commissioners, the total is £7,300,000 of which only £800,000 consists of gifts and bequests paid over to the Commissioners and to their predecessors since 1704. It is a very small amount of the total available for the endowment of the clergy that comes from these small individual gifts. Moveover, he will know that if in the future any individual wishes to give an endowment to a parish by private trust, it will be open to individuals to do that and such money will not be involved in these schemes.
The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, made a very important speech and I think and hope that his reply to the noble Lord, Lord Somers, will meet many of the objections. The Church of England must have a general strategy for the payment of the clergy if it is to be able to pay a living stipend to them, and these are 1069 endowments for the benefit of the whole Church. It is the responsibility of the Church to see that those endowments are used as correctly and as well as possible. Moreover, Lord Brooke made a very important point when he said that in these days when people want to help the Church they will not do it by capital endowment but by direct giving year by year. This is the way in which the Church is being helped at the moment. This is the way in which the Church has most courageously met the enormous challenge of inflation; namely, by direct giving. This is what the Church believes to be right and this is what the pattern will be in the future.
I am very grateful to my noble and learned friend Lord Cross of Chelsea for the sympathetic way with which he dealt with the many objections that the Committee had to deal with. There is, in fact, no advantage to a parish to have large endowments these days, because only but a very few have sufficient endowments to meet the modest standard of £2,400 a year which, again, has got to go up this year and which, again, will go up next year if we are to keep pace with inflation.
I am sure that we were all very much moved by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, speaking from a country parish. I would assure him that the question of the distribution of the very limited number of clergy is not a matter of money but of pastoral policy and, therefore, the way that the noble Lord should see that his parish is protected is by seeing that the pastoral committee of his own diocese is acquainted with the needs. If it is decided by the diocese through its pastoral committee that a particular parish should continue, then he can be assured that the diocese is under an obligation to see that that clergyman is properly paid. The fact that there are large or small endowments will riot make any difference because we shall very soon have run up to the standards of even the highest endowments which are still left and we are still making up the lower ones.
The noble Lord put two particular points to me: the first concerned the future of the parson's freehold. I hope that what I have said indicates that this Measure does not affect the parson's freehold. What is happening throughout the Church 1070 is that, with union of benefices, with group and team ministries and so on, the parson's freehold is becoming less and less important. I have always been a great upholder of the parson's freehold, but I believe that if the noble Lord were to consult especially the younger clergy he would find that they do not attach as much importance to this as do clergymen of my generation.
The noble Lord also asked about the use of churchwardens to take services. More and more shall we have to use the services of laymen or of people who are ordained to what is called the auxiliary pastoral ministry—men who are earning their living in the secular world but who are ordained to the priesthood and are able to minister to congregations. The office of Reader is a very important one and women are ordained to that office. There are the deaconesses who help very greatly throughout the Church. I am sure that more and more the ministry of lay people to augment that of the clergy will become of increasing importance.
The noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, made a fighting speech. I only wish that, if he feels so strongly about these things, he would stand for membership of the General Synod and there make these important points rather than making them at this late stage. The General Synod of the Church of England sometimes needs a certain amount of liveliness, and I am sure that if the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, were a member of the General Synod he would contribute greatly to its life and vitality. However, the noble Lord kept using a phrase which is simply not true. He spoke of, "If we wipe out the right of the parish to use its income as it wishes". We are not talking about the income of the parish. All we are talking about is what belongs to an individual benefice. This is money which belongs to the clergy and, even if it were available in some other way, it would not be available to the parish to do what it thinks right because it is the property of the benefice.
§ Lord GEORGE-BROWN
My Lords, the right reverend Prelate used a rather dangerous phrase. He said that I had said something that was "simply not true", In the mouth of a Prelate, that is a very dangerous remark. Now the right reverend Prelate is, if I may say so, equivocating 1071 between a parish and a benefice. In fact, it is for the benefit, the right reverend Prelate might like to say of the benefice and I might like to say of the parish. But does he really mean that I am saying something that is not true when I assert that that money was for that parish?
§ The Lord Bishop of LONDON
My Lords, I am sorry if I have hurt the noble Lord's feelings and I immediately withdraw if he feels that I have said he has said something which is not true. However, I believe that it was a verbal inaccuracy and it may be because we do not exactly understand the terms we are using. The word "benefice" means the clergyman and what attaches to his office as clergyman. And, when we are talking about endowment and glebe income, we are talking about money which is attached to the person of the incumbent. It is not, therefore, open to the parish to have any say as to the way in which that particular area of Church finance is administered.
May I finally come to the plea of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, and to his Amendment. I believe that we must use the words "natural justice" in their direct terms, because it is important to recognise that Parliament has the right, by legislation, to remove from people something which they possess. It has done this generally in secular legislation and it has frequently done it in ecclesiastical legislation. The noble Lord makes the point that in "an earlier draft of the Measure "—I believe that those were the words he used—some discretion was given. I do not know to what he is referring. My advice is that there was no mention of this in any of the official documents. Partners in Ministry was going to provide for a transfer of existing owners to a central authority, not to the diocese. It is the Terms of Ministry Committee which provided for a glebe to go to the diocese and, as far as I know, no draft of the Measure ever provided for this alternative scheme whereby some clergymen could opt in and some out. I should be grateful if the noble Lord could tell me about that.
§ Lord BEAUMONT of WHITLEY
My Lords, I apologise if I used the term "draft" Measure. I think I said, "when the matter was first discussed". In 1960, when the matter was discussed, and 1072 particularly when it was discussed in a debate in the House of Clergy, admittedly the scheme was a very different one because it was then to go to a central authority to be administered by the Church Commissioners, if they would undertake to take it on. But, at that stage, it was specifically said that, if such a scheme were to go through, there would be an option for incumbents to opt out. Between then and now there was a twilight period when I believe many people assumed that that assurance still held good. Latterly, it has been quite clear that it did not, but it has never been made at all clear why what was regarded by the authorities in 1960 as just, right and a proper thing to do to help incumbents should have been withdrawn in the period since.
§ The Lord Bishop of LONDON
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord. However, that was 16 years ago, in a very different situation and with a different scheme. I hope the noble Lord will forgive me for thinking that he gave the impression that we had been discussing this particular option in relation to the present Measure. I am glad to know that that is not the case. All that is being taken away from clergymen who at the moment have glebe is the right to manage it. As I have already pointed out, they will get the income from it from different sources; they will not get the augmentation that may come since, if it was a very considerable amount, it would be removed by a diversionary order in any case. So it is really only the management of glebe that the noble Lord appears to be raising.
My Lords, regarding the £1,000 a year, when inflation is at the rate of 10 per cent. per annum, the value of £1,000 is halved in ten years: is there any plan for making up that figure? The rental value of the land is likely to increase whereas the other will not.
§ The Lord Bishop of LONDON
My Lords, these sums will be held by the Church Commissioners and will be disbursed as they have to do by Statute to the dioceses for the use of their Diocesan Stipend Fund. Therefore, if there is a decrease in the value of money, the increase will presumably be within the 1073 funds held and administered by the Church Commissioners and will come back to the diocese in a different way for the use of the whole diocese.
The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, said that I had not described the advantages of the pooling of glebe. I can do so very quickly. For the first time the Church will have a full record of this important asset which helps it to provide clergy stipends. Secondly, there will be less risk of glebe being lost, as it has been, because of inadequate local records and because of successive incumbents losing touch with their tenants. This has happened, and it is obviously something we want to avoid. Thirdly, clergy stipends as a whole and the holders of glebe in particular will benefit from realising the true potential of glebe, both as regards its true rental and its market capital value when this is realised. There are always great difficulties for the clergy when they are administering their glebe.
I can speak from my experience when I was Bishop of Chester. There were some clergy who had glebe in the South of Cheshire, and those of you who know that delectable part of the country will know how magnificent is the fertility of the soil. Some ten years ago it was fetching in the region of £10 an acre per year. Now it fetches very much more. I remember a particular case in which the glebe was let to the churchwarden for about 30 shillings an acre, and the vicar did not like to tell his churchwarden that he ought to be paying more because he feared that there would be difficulty of relationships between the two. Therefore the Church was losing out on the value of a very proper asset. By getting the administration of glebe into the hands of the diocese—and not the Church Commissioners or anything as impersonal as that—one will be able to see that these matters are administered properly.
Fourthly, I remind your Lordships that over 90 per cent. of clergy who have glebe have to have their benefice income augmented in any case. With regard to my last point, from the general point of view I again make the point that, if we are to ask the laity to give generously, they are entitled to expect of us that the assets of the Church will be used wisely and profitably. As regards the incumbent, 1074 he himself will be guaranteed his existing income from the glebe irrespective of future expenditure made or required of him for repairs and improvements of his glebe. He will receive that income in regular monthly payments, instead of in arrears, on due dates (probably half-yearly) and he will not have to worry about late payment of rents or non-payment, as frequently happens.
Finally, he will not be caught up in financial arguments with tenants, who may be parishioners, in respect of regular rent reviews and the carrying out of repairs and improvements, and indeed in what may involve him in legal transactions. Therefore I hope that your Lordships will feel that these provisions are to the benefit of the clergy as a whole, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, may feel that he can withdraw his Amendment.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Lord BEAUMONT of WHITLEY
My Lords, I think your Lordships will agree that the debate has produced an extremely interesting and useful discussion about some of the wider aspects of this Measure. In particular, I think we are very privileged to have heard the views of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, and the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, because what they are saying represents a very important voice which is not now a very fashionable one. When I was a member of the Church Assembly their voices were in the majority. They are no longer so, as we can see by the votes which have gone to this Measure. But I still think that what they are saying is of immense importance and it has seldom been said so well as it has been in your Lordships' House this afternoon.
I still think that, by and large, this Measure is right. I still think that, by and large, their views are mistaken, but I must confess that I am no longer as sure that I am right as I used to be 10 or 12 years ago. The whole organisation of the Church and the whole question of the bureaucracy of the Church needs great examination; I will not say "greater" examination, because I know that the Church is involved in this in a very great way. But this question needs great examination. I tend to think that one of the key answers is to have much more and much smaller dioceses and that that would 1075 do away with much of the distrust between the bishop and the parishes which still unfortunately exists. But that is by the way.
I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, if my Amendment was drafted rather misleadingly. My only excuse is that I had a great deal of difficulty in drafting it at all, and I am sorry if it went too wide. I thank the noble Lord for his very wise and very generous contribution to the debate. I was very interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Somers, had to say. The only point which rather baffled me was why his vote was not going to follow his voice, seeing that it did in the Ecclesiastical Committee. I hope that this does not presage a new doctrine of the collective responsibility for the Ecclesiastical Committee and that, once it has put forward a collective decision, all its members must abide by it. I say this because we must remember that in the Ecclesiastical Committee there was a singificant vote against saying that this Measure should go forward.
I turn to the arguments about the point which I was specifically putting forward. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London has answered—or at least largely answered—the point about what happened to the original 1960 suggestion that incumbents should be able to opt out. I still have not been given a reason why they should not be allowed to opt out now. The argument of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, that it would make for extreme administrative difficulty, seems to be overstated. Anyone who has to manage land is quite aware that if he takes up a policy of taking land in hand—as the phrase is—he may have to take it in by dribs and drabs over a period of time. That is not tidy, but neither is land nor its administration tidy; nor should it be so.
I was enormously disappointed over the feeling that if people were compensated by money for the money they would get from the income of their glebe that was enough and they suffered no loss. This was put most starkly in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. I think it very strange that in your Lordships' House, where there are so many people who are attached to the land, who have 1076 heritage and who understand the traditions of land and of the Church, we should not realise that when we take away the management of the glebe—or I would go further and say the actual concept of ownership of the glebe—we are taking away something which may be valued extremely, and judging by the letters of my correspondents, who are incumbents managing glebe, is valued very highly. I am very disappointed indeed that the Church should not have gone out of its way—even what I should have thought would be just a little—to see that the present incumbents were not treated in this way.
Nevertheless, I realise that this is a Measure which has the overwhelming support of the Church as a whole, because whether or not we agree with it there were enormous consultations and there were overwhelming votes. I still think that the point I have made was worth making. I still regret that I have not received enough support in your Lordships' House, but it is quite clear that I have not. Therefore in begging the leave of your Lordships to withdraw the Amendment standing in my name I should merely like to say that I wish the Measure as a whole well and I hope that it will go some way to help the work of the underpaid, underprivileged and overworked clergy of this country.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Viscount Goschen)
Is it your Lordships' pleasure that the Amendment be withdrawn?
The DEPUTY SPEAKER
I think the Contents have it—I will put the Question again. Is it your Lordships' pleasure that the Amendment be withdrawn?
§ Lord BEAUMONT of WHITLEY
My Lords, your Lordships will forgive me if I am wrong—and I hope we may get some guidance on this matter—but my understanding is that, although I asked for my Amendment to be withdrawn, if any noble Lord wishes it not to be withdrawn it should stand and be voted on: and I would certainly not seek to refuse 1077 the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, that right if he so wishes.
§ Lord AIREDALE
My Lords, I think the appropriate next Question would be, That this Amendment be agreed to.
§ Division called.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER
My Lords, Tellers for the Contents have not been appointed pursuant to Standing Order No. 50. A Division therefore cannot take place, and I declare that the Not-Contents have it.
§ Amendment negatived accordingly.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.