On Wednesday 28th January 2015 the Fourth Delegated Legislation Committee of the House of Commons met to consider three Church Measures relating to simplification of the faculty process, management of church pensions and management of parish property. The committee approved all the Measures which now proceed to the floor of the House of Commons to receive final approval and be sent for Royal Assent
Fourth Delegated Legislation Committee
[Mr James Gray in the Chair]
Consideration of the Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction (Amendment) Measure, Ecclesiastical Property Measure & Church of England (Pensions) (Amendment) Measure
The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Tony Baldry):
I beg to move, that the Committee has considered the Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction (Amendment) Measure (HC 914).
The Chair: With this it will be convenient to consider the Ecclesiastical Property Measure (HC 915) and the Church of England (Pensions) (Amendment) Measure (HC 916).
Sir Tony Baldry: I hope that I will not have to delay the Committee for very long. I am grateful for the attendance of right hon. and hon. Members. For those who want to know about the relationship between Church and Parliament, I recommend they read the lecture that I gave in the Speaker’s lecture series just before Christmas on Parliament and the Church, which can be found on my website at www.tonybaldry.co.uk.
The Measures have been before the General Synod of the Church of England, where they have to be approved. They then came to the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament—a Committee made up of Members of both Houses—which scrutinised them again. The Ecclesiastical Committee had to agree that the three Measures were expedient, and it has published reports stating that it did deem them to be expedient. It is also noteworthy that not a single Member of either House or of the General Synod voted against any of the Measures, so they were all carried without a single vote against.
The Church of England (Pensions) (Amendment) Measure is extremely short and simple. It extends the Church Commissioners’ power to spend the capital of their general fund on the payment of clergy pensions for service before 1998. In 1997, when the legislation that transferred responsibility for future service to the Church of England Pensions Board was passed, a power was conferred on the Church Commissioners to use part of their capital to meet their historical pension obligations. That power was initially conferred for seven years. It has been renewed twice since then, on each occasion for a further seven years. The Measure before the Committee extends it for a further seven years to the end of 2025.
The continuing availability of the Commissioners’ power to spend capital on pensions enables them to use the returns from their general fund for a wide range of other purposes, including payment of stipends for bishops and deans, and, very importantly, to support the ministry in poorer parishes. The Measure will preserve the flexibility that they need to manage their endowment effectively and provide the greatest possible support for the Church.
The Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction (Amendment) Measure amends two existing statutes: the Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1991 and the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963. It is largely concerned with simplifying and streamlining various proceedings that take place within the faculty
jurisdiction—the Church’s system for regulating works and other proposals that affect church buildings and churchyards.
Before any works to a church or in a churchyard can be undertaken, legal authority in the form of a faculty has to be obtained. The faculty jurisdiction has developed so that proper account is taken of the views of all those who have an interest, including all the residents of the parish, as well as bodies such as English Heritage and the national amenity societies.
The Measure gives legislative effect to proposals that were formulated by a simplification group established by the Archbishops Council, which reported to the General Synod in July 2013. The proposals were the result of extensive consultation with parishes and a wide range of other interested parties.
A central plank of the proposed reforms was the establishment of a national list of
works that could be undertaken without having to go through the judicial process of obtaining a faculty. There would be a statutory list of minor works that could simply be undertaken locally without the need for any authority, provided that any prescribed conditions were complied with, and there would be a further statutory list of more substantial but routine works that could be carried out without a faculty, subject to a light-touch regulatory regime involving approval by the archdeacon, who would be able to seek advice as needed from the diocesan advisory committee.
The Measure gives effect to these welcome proposals for deregulation and its other provisions are aimed simply at tidying up the existing system and removing obstacles and anomalies.
The Ecclesiastical Property Measure makes some modest changes to the regime for parish property. First, it removes the requirement for a parochial church council to obtain the consent of the diocesan authority before bringing legal proceedings. Secondly, it extends the length of lease that can be granted without reference to the diocesan authority. Thirdly, it provides that the consent of the diocesan authority is required only for transactions with a value in excess of a figure to be specified in an order made by the Archbishops Council which will be laid before the General Synod and Parliament.
With that explanation, I am sure that the Committee will have confidence and pass the Measures without delay.
Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): It is a pleasure to serve under your Chairmanship, Mr Gray, and to sit opposite the right hon. Member for Banbury, whom I have got to know through many other issues during my time in Parliament.
It is a pleasure to speak briefly from the Front Bench; it is the third time I have done so. Unfortunately, on this occasion it is because my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda is indisposed—I know that he would be here with us otherwise.
I am sorry to have missed the right hon. Member for Banbury’s lecture. I will definitely look it up. I take an interest in these matters as a member of the Church in Wales. Anglicans do things slightly differently in Wales, but, as a former parishioner within the Church of England, I take an interest and I will look at the lecture.
As the right hon. Member for Banbury explained, these matters are uncontroversial and have been passed by the Synod. I had thought to ask a few questions, but he has done such a wonderful job in explaining the Measures to us this morning that I do not propose to do so.
Question put and agreed to.
Ecclesiastical Property Measure
That the Committee has considered the Ecclesiastical Property Measure (HC 915).—(Sir Tony Baldry).
Church of England (Pensions) (Amendment) Measure
That the Committee has considered the Church of England (Pensions) (Amendment) Measure (HC 916).— (Sir Tony Baldry).
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