HL Deb 22 April 1993 vol 544 cc1716-7

3.39 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill)

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

There have been so many inquiries from various noble Lords that I should give the House an explanation. This Bill is promoted by His Holiness Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin. Dr. Burhanuddin is the 52nd incumbent in the office of Dai al-Mutlaq and as such is the supreme head of Dawat-e-Hadiyah, a worldwide religious body comprising members of the denomination of Islam known as the Dawoodi Bohras.

Adherents of this denomination are required by their religious beliefs to be patriotic and loyal to their adopted nation and to participate in its economic, cultural and educational development. They are known as industrious and peace-loving citizens traditionally engaged in commerce.

The Bill provides for the incorporation of the Dai al-Mutlaq as a corporation sole; that is, a corporation consisting of one person only who, together with his successors in office, is incorporated by law. A shining example of a corporation sole is among us in this House—the Clerk of the Parliaments. The corporation is to be called Dawat-e-Hadiyah (England). Various benefits attendant upon incorporation would be enjoyed by the Dai al-Mutlaq, which as a natural person he would not enjoy. In particular, the continued existence of the corporation during the lifetime of successors to the office of Dai al-Mutlaq would obviate the necessity for specific conveyances of religious property by one incumbent to the next.

As there are no Petitions against the Bill, it will go to the Unopposed Bill Committee which will look at it with care.

Moved, That the Bill be read a second time.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

Lord Elton

My Lords, having exercised less than the degree of vigilance expected of a Back-Bencher of this House, I noticed this Bill on the Order Paper only a short time ago, although I understand that it has been on the Order Paper for four working days. I shall be grateful if my noble friend can tell your Lordships whether the Bill is precedented of its kind for other religious denominations, and whether the language in which the legislation is expressed is precedented on the English statute book.

I have no position of animosity or favour towards this piece of legislation; but if it sets a precedent, I suggest that particularly careful attention should be given to it by the Unopposed Bill Committee. Your Lordships will wish to look at those deliberations with similar care on Third Reading.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I fully understand what my noble friend has said. As I remarked previously, the Unopposed Bill Committee will look at it with great care. We shall ensure that that happens. I commend the Bill to the House.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to an Unopposed Bill Committee.