HL Deb 21 December 1989 vol 514 cc354-6

11.44 a.m.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a third time. —(The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne.)

The Earl of Lauderdale

; My Lords, before the House passes from this Bill perhaps I may say that a number of noble Lords have asked me whether I want to say anything. The reason is that, despite one or two regrettable lapses, my family have adhered to the episcopalian tradition —that is, the application in Scotland of what was once known down south as the Elizabethan Church Settlement.

Ever since the Reformation events of 1560 my predecessors have urged such a solution, among them the illustrious Lord Chancellor John Maitland, who, as a treasured adviser to King James VI, was among the first to put that solution forward. From then on my family was pretty constant in supporting the episcopal form of government in the reformed Scottish Kirk. Despite some Whig and Covenanting propaganda from time to time, this was after all a Stuart solution upheld victoriously, I may say, on the slopes of Killiekrankie Pass in 1689, only to be dashed later under the usurpation of the House of Orange.

Then followed the tragic split between supporters of the episcopal and of the presbyterial type of government in the reformed Scottish Kirk, as also between the traditional and ancient Catholic and the new Calvinist theology. It is my adherence to that proud (and at times persecuted) tradition for which we are often still branded as Dissenters, which caused some noble Lords to ask my opinion.

Since none of the legal or theological leaders of my Church has sought to brief me, I have little to say. If the Bill had had any theological or ecclesiological content, I have no doubt that the eminenti in my Church would have done two things. They would have briefed someone competent to speak and would have hoped that I would keep my mouth shut. Since neither of those things has happened, I merely call attention to the fact that the Bill bears the superscription of the Secretary of State for Scotland, whose party I support and whose direction of Scottish civil policy I applaud.

However, before wishing all blessings on the Bill and on my Church, perhaps I may revert to that tragic split between the episcopalian and presbyterian forms of Church government in the days after the usurper, King William of Orange. One of the most exciting events in Scotland's quarrelsome religious history and experience is proceeding now with a singular healing of the memories under the benign but sometimes suspect influence of the ecumenical movement. It is reflected in pilgrimages to my family chapel, which adjoins the parish kirk of Haddington St. Mary's in East Lothian, where each May Roman Catholics, Church of Scotland and Episcopalian ministers, clergy and bishops, and people join together —a mere 30 of them two decades ago but about 3,000 in 1988. Under a presbyterian roof the ministers and bishops of the several traditions lay the hand of blessing on scores of sick and disabled people and some remarkable favours are on record. The pilgrimage now attracts coach parties from County Durham, Cumbria, Lancashire, Derbyshire and, believe it or not, even from London, as well as from all over Scotland.

A joint church oversight of the goings-on in my family chapel has been achieved and accepted by an ecumenical trust embracing the Dean of the Chapel Royal in Scotland (Church of Scotland), the Archbishop of St. Andrew's and Edinburgh (Roman Catholic) and the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church. That Chapel of The Three Kings is open for use by all Trinitarian Churches.

It would have been a pity to miss this opportunity of conveying such good news of God's Church in my country as we approach recollection of the greatest good news of all human history —of God's incarnation and God's revelation in Christ at this tide.

11.51 a.m.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, the noble Earl will be aware that there was no discussion at Report of the Bill largely because we had no representatives of his church here. I am most grateful to him for the brief but interesting history that he has given of his Church in Scotland. I come from the other side of the country. I am not religious. Nevertheless, I was very conscious of Killiecrankie in Scottish history and such matters as the silver bullet. To call King William of Orange a usurper may be all right down here; in parts of Scotland it is not a phrase that would most readily come to the lips.

However, I am grateful for the points that have been raised by the noble Earl. It has given me an interest in looking more thoroughly into the history of the Episcopal Church in Scotland.

I also had no respresentation from any bodies. Having considered the Bill it appears to be a convenience that will be of benefit to the Church. We should all be grateful for that.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne

I thank my noble friend Lord Lauderdale and the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, for their remarks and opinions. I have taken note of them. I commend the Bill.

On Question, Bill read a third time, and passed.