HL Deb 16 February 1981 vol 417 cc483-5

2.54 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of London

My Lords, in inviting the House to give a Third Reading to this Bill, I wish to take the opportunity of thanking the House for giving it a fair wind. This Bill is completely uncontroversial and its sole purpose is to extend to other religious communities in this country the powers which are already possessed by the Church of England in dealing with disused churchyards. In the Pastoral Measure the Church of England legislating for itself took powers whereby disused churchyards could be dealt with by Pastoral Measure. We obviously had not the power to legislate for other religious communities, and they still have to labour under the difficulties and disadvantages that if they want to deal with a disused churchyard they have to proceed by way of Private Bill in Parliament. That is a long drawn-out, a complicated and an expensive procedure.

This Bill seeks to extend to other religious communities the same privileges which the Church of England possesses. It will mean that there is much less burden laid upon those other Churches, especially financially, and it means also that we shall be able to deal more effectively and more quickly with places, very often in the middle of cities, which are an eyesore unless they can be properly provided for. That is the purpose of this Bill. I thank this House for the favourable reception it has given to it, and I hope that it will receive an equally favourable reception when it reaches another place. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—[The Lord Bishop of London.]

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, I should like from this side of the House to congratulate the right reverend Prelate for bringing this Bill to this stage of the proceedings. As I have said throughout, it is an excellent Bill, and, if I may say so, seems to be a good example of an ecumenical measure. I hope that, after your Lordships have passed it, it will have a speedy passage in another place.

Lord Soper

My Lords, it would be a courtesy and a privilege for a member of one of the other religious bodies to express our sense of gratitude to the Church of England for this Bill. Though we have approximately the same number of people dying regularly as those in the Church of England, we have been incommoded by an inability to bury them properly in consecrated ground, and therefore I think I speak ecumenically for the other non-Anglican communities in saying how much we appreciate the purpose and the significance of this Bill.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, the Government are sympathetic to this Bill and have adopted a neutral position. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London explained to the House at an earlier stage that there are rights of objection and other safeguards in the Bill for the relatives of those buried in the disused burial grounds concerned. The Bill also provides for recording the removal of human remains and memorials, and for the copying of inscriptions. The technical amendments agreed to by your Lordships in Committee now make it quite clear that the duties and obligations in the Bill apply equally to a subsequent owner, if the land is disposed of by a Church before the prescribed procedures are completed.

The Bill is a useful contribution to those areas of burial law which remain in need of modernisation. It would, if enacted, enable the Churches to put such land to uses which they now feel are more appropriate, or to dispose of it in order to realise much-needed finance for their work in other directions. If the House is happy for the Bill to be read a third time, the Government will certainly do nothing to obstruct the passage of the Bill in another place.

Lord Janner

My Lords, may I add one word in respect of those of the Jewish community, to thank the Government and the right reverend Prelate for this step that they have taken?

Lord Greenwood of Rossendale

My Lords, I am a vice-president of the Institute of Burial and Cremation Administration, but I think I should tell your Lordships that I speak in a purely personal capacity today. Nevertheless I have no doubt that the institute itself would share the enthusiasm which I feel for the Bill which the right revered Prelate has introduced. Some years ago when I was still at the Ministry of Housing and Local Government this was a Bill about which many discussions were taking place. It has taken a long time for those discussions to bear fruit, but I am delighted today that the House has with such acclamation received the proposal that this Bill do now pass. However, of course my real purpose in rising today is to say how much we have all appreciated the contribution which the right reverend Prelate has made to the discussions in this House during his membership of it, and to say that when he leaves it he will take with him the affection and respect of noble Lords in all parts of the House.

On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed, and sent to the Commons.