HL Deb 21 April 1983 vol 441 cc671-3

5.24 p.m.

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

The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, the second Measure for which I seek your Lordships' approval to present to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent is the Pastoral Measure. This is a substantial Measure which is of considerable importance, for it touches at so many points the life and ministry of the Church of England. This is a consolidation Measure and consolidates the Pastoral Measure of 1968, the Pastoral (Amendment) Measure of 1982, and other related enactments.

It is the outcome of a lengthy and very thorough process of consideration which began as far back as July 1973. It so happens that I was then appointed vice-chairman, and later became chairman, of a large and representative working party to review the operation of the 1968 Pastoral Measure. We consulted the dioceses, inviting bishops' councils to submit evidence from the diocesan bodies, such as the Board of Finance, the Pastoral Committee and the Advisory Committee—all the bodies most closely concerned with the working of the Measure. We also received oral and written evidence from the Church Commissioners, from the Advisory Board for Redundant Churches, the Redundant Churches Fund, the Council for the Care of Churches and the amenity societies. All told, we examined more than 600 suggestions for amending the Pastoral Measure.

In July 1975 we reported to the General Synod that, broadly, the Pastoral Measure was functioning well but we believed it could be improved by a series of detailed suggestions—some of them far-reaching, others more technical. We also recommended a code of good practice to help those in the dioceses operate the provisions of the Measure with care and sensitivity. I believe that the code, which was authorised by the Standing Committee of General Synod, has been of very real assistance in this respect. After the Synod debate in 1975, the wheels were set in motion to prepare the Pastoral (Amendment) Measure. Those wheels turned more slowly than we had anticipated, but in due course the Measure was introduced and then very carefully revised by the Revision Committee of Synod. When I moved the final approval stage in February 1981, it was passed in all three Houses with no dissentient votes. The lengthy preparation and thorough discussion has, however, meant that we have been able to express the mind and will of Synod as a whole. The pastoral situation in our Church has changed considerably since the 1975 debate. There are, for instance, 2,000 fewer parochial clergy than there were eight years ago, and, of course, the whole financial balance of the Church has changed enormously as the living Church now provides substantially greater proportions for the stipends of the clergy.

The Pastoral (Amendment) Measure was carefully examined by the Ecclesiastical Committee, and it was debated in your Lordships' House on July 14th last year, on a Motion introduced by my friend, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester. Your Lordships, I imagine, will not wish me to go once more over ground which was covered in that debate: for example, in regard to the modification of the right to appeal to the Privy Council, or the transfer to the Church Commissioners of the final decision in regard to the demolition of a church when it is to be replaced by a new one, let alone the finer points of the Measure (I speak at random) in regard to pastoral committees, pastoral orders and schemes, definitions of interested parties, the membership of team ministries, the changes in relation to pastoral accounts and so on.

The broad issues of policy have been debated already, and the Pastoral (Amendment) Measure has received the Royal Assent. But in their report last year on that Measure the Ecclesiastical Committee drew attention to a number of minor defects in the drafting. They recommended that these should be amended on consolidation. Indeed, they felt that because the Measure was so lengthy and complex, consolidation was highly desirable. In the General Synod we were of the same mind. It is obviously essential that practitioners in the dioceses, administrators in central Church bodies and perhaps, most of all, those people in the parishes whose interests may be affected by it should be able to have access to a text which is comprehensive and complete. The consolidation Measure received final approval in the February meeting of the General Synod in all three Houses by 298 votes to 3.

The Ecclesiastical Committee have deemed this Measure to be expedient. In their report they have stated that it makes a number of minor corrections and improvements for a more satisfactory consolidation, and these include amendments to cure the small defects in the amendment Measure that they had previously noted.

My Lords, those of us who have lived with this Measure over the past 10 years have tried to keep before our minds the words in the Long Title of the 1968 Pastoral Measure, which are retained in the Measure before us today. It is, designed to make better provision for the cure of souls". That, in the beginning and at the end of the day, is what this Measure is for. Of course, we know that no legislation, no enactment by itself, can secure the effective ministry of clergy and laity, or provide loving pastoral care, sound teaching, reverent worship, a proper regard for buildings or a commitment to evangelism. We know that. But good legislation can help to provide a better and less cramping framework in which these desirable things can happen.

Just as it requires a good spirit to work the provisions of a Measure and a good code of practice (which is now in progress of preparation) to help people use it to best advantage, so in the end it requires pastors and lay people working as partners and animated by the Spirit of God to forward the ministry and mission of the Church. It is our hope that this Measure will provide a useful set of tools to help in that task, and it is in that hope that I beg to move that the Pastoral Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.

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

Lord Bishopston

My Lords, again I am pleased to support the Measure before us and, as the right reverend Prelate has said, it has come from the General Synod of the Church of England and is a consolidation Measure, including the Pastoral Measure of 1968 and the Pastoral Measure of 1982, which, as your Lordships will recall, was debated last July. As we have been told, there are other statutory provisions set out in Schedule 9. As we have been told, this is a consolidating enactment and does not amend the existing law except in regard to some rather minor and insignificant matters.

I am sure the House is pleased to hear from the right reverend Prelate of the need to keep Measures up to date in respect of desirable changes and of the assurances of consultation. Not least, of course, we can be assured by knowing of the very painstaking examination and work which various church bodies at all levels devote to all such measures. The Measure has been before the Ecclesiastical Committee and will be very convenient to all concerned with its operation. I welcome the Measure and invite your Lordships' support.

Lord Amulree

My Lords, I should like to support what the right reverend Prelate has said, and to support the Motion.

On Question, Motion agreed to.