HL Deb 15 July 1994 vol 556 cc2135-7

2.9 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 Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.

The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, when the care of cathedrals Measure was debated in this House in 1990, my brother bishop, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester, gave an undertaking to the House that a supplementary Measure would be brought before Parliament containing enforcement provisions relating to the procedure for the approval of works to cathedrals.

Both the Government and the national amenity societies considered that there should be statutory provisions preventing unauthorised works to a cathedral fabric, or where such works had occurred that there should be provisions requiring the fabric to be made good or reinstated without delay. The Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure, which was approved in 1991 by this House, contained enforcement provisions in respect of parish churches. Undertakings were given that similar provisions would be included in a supplementary Measure for cathedrals.

The Measure that is now before the House honours that undertaking. It builds upon the visitatorial powers of the diocesan bishop which already exist in relation to his cathedral. Under Canon law the bishop has the right to visit his diocese, for the supply of such things that are lacking and the correction of such things that are amiss".

The constitution and statutes of every cathedral church must provide that the bishop shall be the visitor and must make provision for his functions. The Measure also includes a power for the court of the vicar-general of the province to issue injunctions or make restoration orders.

The enforcement provisions of the Measure feature a two-stage procedure. First, the bishop will seek to remedy any apparent contravention of the care of cathedrals Measure 1990 by private interview and, if he considers it appropriate, take action through a special visitation. Only if those procedures are unsuccessful will proceedings be instituted for the issuing of an injunction or the making of a restoration order in the court of the vicar-general of the province.

There has been very full consultation with deans and provosts and with cathedral administrative bodies concerning this Measure. The general view was that enforcement provisions should be provided for, although the cathedral authorities do not believe that they would themselves be likely, knowingly, to contravene the provisions of the 1990 Measure. The Department of National Heritage, English Heritage and the Cathedral Fabric Commission for England have also been consulted about the provisions and are content with them. The Government have continued to attach importance to the legislation and have taken an active role in pursuing the proposals.

There are also financial considerations to be taken into account. Consultations have been carried out with the church commissioners and the central board of finance of the Church of England about the financial implications of this Measure.

The church commissioners' involvement arises because they have a general responsibility in respect of the expenses of bishops, including legal expenses. Under Section 4 of the measure, where legal proceedings are to be instituted against a cathedral authority, the bishop must first inform the commissioners, who will decide whether they would be prepared to meet some or all of the bishops' costs and expenses in respect of those proceedings. The provision builds on the statutory direction that the commissioners already have in deciding whether to contribute to a bishop's costs in court proceedings under the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963. The commissioners and central board are content with the proposed arrangements.

So far as the synodical consideration of the Measure is concerned, it was given general approval in November 1992 and then went to a revision committee of the General Synod, which made a number of amendments.

Final approval took place at the November 1993 group of sessions at the Synod where the Measure was approved in all three houses save for one vote against. As will be seen from the report of the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament, that committee is of the opinion that the Measure is expedient. Given, then, the support which the Measure has received from the Government, amenities societies and the Church, I trust that your Lordships will feel able to support the Motion. I beg to move.

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 London.)

2.15 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, may I first apologise for the absence of my noble friend Lady Nicol who cannot be here today although she would have been very pleased to be present. She authorised me to say on her behalf and on behalf of my noble friends Lord Strabolgi and Lord Williams, who served on the Ecclesiastical Committee, that the Measure is eminently satisfactory. The right reverend Prelate carefully explained to us the terms of the Measure and its history and purpose.

I took a great deal of pleasure in reading the Measure and listening to the speech of the right reverend Prelate. All of us as legislators understand the crucial importance of enforcement procedures. We can understand why they were left out as it was thought in the earlier Measure that they should be introduced at a later stage. We are certainly aware of the many ways in which enforcement might need to be operated.

I was interested in paragraph 7, where it is said that: The general view of the cathedral authorities is that enforcement provisions should be provided for, although they do not believe that cathedrals would be likely to contravene the provisions of the 1990 Measure". Well, they would say that, wouldn't they?

In the same way, many people who are affected by legislation say that it is not necessary, but that it might be needed. The right reverend Prelate undoubtedly has a store of knowledge about the history of these matters. He and his colleagues are satisfied that even on rare occasions when enforcement needs to be carried out, there should be a proper body of law to cover it. The last thing that we want to do is interfere in the manner in which the Synod and its various committees go about their business.

I was also interested in paragraph 11 where the definitive votes are laid out: Bishops 26—a full house; Clergy 132 —one against; Laity 115—none against. I can tell the right reverend Prelate that it would bring tears to my eyes and to the eyes of the Government Chief Whip if we were able to deliver votes of that kind.

The final word used by the right reverend Prelate was that the Measure was "expedient". That is the term used in the other Measure before us. That is eminently right. Powers are not needed unless it is felt that they are or could be necessary. I notice the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Peterborough nodding his head. He and I have had more than a nodding acquaintance for more than 20 years when he had the good fortune to be the Bishop of Edmonton and I had the greater good fortune to be the Member of Parliament for Edmonton. Many times we have talked together and represented our flocks in the other place and elsewhere. Neither of us could have dreamt that we should both be here together in this great House representing those who were kind enough to believe that we could help them.

We on these Benches warmly appreciate the spirit, intention and operation of the Measure that the right reverend Prelate brought before us.

The Lord Bishop of London

My Lords, I am very grateful for the noble Lord's contribution. The major point that he quite rightly made is that we hope very much that the provisions will not be necessary; but that in the event of enforcement being necessary, in our view it is entirely right that there should be a proper legal framework in place so that the enforcement can be appropriately operated.

On Question, Motion agreed to.