On 22nd March 2018 the Bishop of Rochester introduced five Church of England Measures for debate and approval in the House of Lords. The full text of the debate on each Measure is reproduced below and the House gave approval to each. The Measures were: the Legislative Reform Measure, the Mission and Pastoral etc. (Amendment) Measure, the Pensions (Pre-consolidation) Measure, the Statute Law (Repeals) Measure and the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and Care of Churches Measure.
Legislative Reform Measure
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Legislative Reform Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, the exodus from your Lordships’ House somewhat indicates that ecclesiastical legislation may not be a majority interest. None the less, this Measure and others that will be introduced this afternoon are important, albeit fairly technical. They all arise from the Church of England’s intentions through the work of the General Synod to make sure that our processes and procedures are fit for purpose in this current age and enable the Church to make its contribution to the common good in the communities across our land.
It was almost a century ago that Parliament passed the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919. In moving the Second Reading of the Bill in your Lordships’ House, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson, asked the House to give a Second Reading to a Bill to enable the Church of England to do its work properly. He spoke of,
“removing or diminishing, as we hope, hindrances which, by a kind of accident and not by anybody’s fault, have been at present constantly across our way”.—[Official Report, 3/6/1919; col. 974.]
Since 1919, 133 Measures have been enacted under the procedure contained in that Act. While some have subsequently been repealed, those that are in force constitute a substantial body of statute law relating to the Church of England. To these must be added several dozen Acts of Parliament predating 1919, when Parliament alone legislated on Church matters. The volume of Halsbury’s Statutes dealing with ecclesiastical law exceeds 1,400 pages, and that includes only legislation passed up to 2003.
The current situation as far as the Church is concerned presents some practical difficulties. Until very recently, far more detail was generally included in primary legislation than would be the case today. Today the practice is to leave much more of the detail to subordinate legislation or guidance. Since primary legislation, whether in the form of an Act or a Measure, can generally be amended only by further primary legislation, changes to Church legislation are time-consuming, costly and onerous. By way of illustration, it generally takes between two and three years for a Measure to complete all its stages in both the General Synod and Parliament. The period may then be further extended if, for example, a Dissolution of Parliament intervenes at some point.
For some legislation—for example, legislation that has constitutional implications or implications for the rights of individuals—it is, of course, absolutely right that there be a full legislative process, providing the opportunity, stage by stage, for careful consideration and revision. That is a necessary and proportionate way of doing things. But in the case of legislation to remove or reduce burdens of a financial or administrative nature or that present minor obstacles to the efficient working of the Church, a legislative process taking two to three years is rather too slow.
The Legislative Reform Measure, which is now before your Lordships’ House, seeks to address that issue by making it possible to reduce or remove burdens resulting from ecclesiastical legislation without going through the legislative process that applies to Measures under the 1919 Act. It does so by providing, in a limited range of cases, for some provisions of primary legislation to be amended or repealed by way of order of the Archbishops’ Council—that is, by subordinate legislation. I realise that subordinate legislation is not necessarily flavour of the month in all circles, but I can give a certain assurance that this is very particular and that, despite the Church of England’s history, the fingerprints of Henry VIII are not to be found. The Measure confers the power to make orders on the Archbishops’ Council, the statutory body whose objects are to,
“co-ordinate, promote, aid and further the work and mission of the Church of England”.
The proposals in this Measure are that, before an order is made, the Archbishops’ Council must carry out a statutory consultation exercise. A draft order must then be laid before the General Synod, where it will be subject to a scrutiny process, after which the synod will choose whether to approve or reject the draft order or refer it back to the scrutiny committee. If the synod approves the draft order, the Archbishops’ Council may proceed to make that order. It must then lay it before both Houses of Parliament, where it is subject to the negative procedure, as for statutory instruments.
At that point the language of statutory instruments, I know, raises some questions. The noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, has raised with me outside the Chamber the question of whether these orders fall within the scope of the convention whereby your Lordships’ House does not vote down statutory instruments. I am reliably informed that such an order does not fall within that convention, which relates mainly to government legislation and to the relationship between the two Houses. This is ecclesiastical legislation and, although it is like a statutory instrument, it is actually not a statutory instrument; it is an order of the Archbishops’ Council. Thus this House retains the power to annul a draft order.
Further provisions to safeguard the role of Parliament and the constitutional position of the Church of England have been built into the Measure. First, the provision made by an order must be for removing or reducing a burden resulting specifically from ecclesiastical legislation. It is not a general power to legislate by order. Indeed, the power has been modelled to a large degree on the power that Parliament conferred on the Government to remove legislative burdens in the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006, but the model has been carefully adapted to meet the particular circumstances of the Church of England. Secondly, the order-making power can be used only to amend or repeal ecclesiastical legislation as defined in the Measure. Thirdly, a number of ecclesiastical statutes are expressly excluded from the order-making power. These include Acts of Parliament relating to the appointment of bishops, the Act of Uniformity 1662 and the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919. They also include a number of key Measures that make provision for the constitution of the General Synod, the worship and doctrine of the Church of England and this proposed Measure. Over and above that, there is a general exclusion for provisions of a doctrinal nature, provisions relating to the application of the Church Commissioners’ general fund and provisions of constitutional significance.
Following an innovative procedure under which the members of the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament were given the opportunity to comment informally on the Measure early in the process, amendments to the Measure were made at the revision stage in the General Synod to provide three further safeguards. First, before beginning a statutory consultation on a proposed order under the Measure, the Archbishops’ Council will be required to lay the consultation documents before both Houses of Parliament. This will mean that a notice will appear in House of Lords Business under papers laid, with an equivalent notice being given in another place. Noble Lords will therefore receive advance notice of any proposals to make such an order and will have the opportunity to raise any concerns at a very early stage in the process.
Secondly, the scope of the order-making power was further restricted by the changes that were made during the General Synod process. This was achieved by adjusting the definition in the Measure of ecclesiastical legislation so that it clearly excludes provisions contained in Acts of Parliament that do not form part of the ecclesiastical law of the Church of England. The power will not therefore be available to deal with burdens arising from general legislation of a secular nature.
Thirdly, a sunset provision was inserted into the Measure. The order-making power of the Archbishops’ Council will expire five years after the first draft order is laid before the General Synod. The power can be continued in force after that five-year period only under a special procedure that involves an affirmative resolution in both Houses of Parliament. This sunset provision will in due course provide your Lordships’ House with the opportunity to consider how the order-making power has been used before deciding whether to agree to extend its life beyond the initial five-year period.
The Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament expressly mentions these additional safeguards in its report and is of the opinion that, with these safeguards, the Measure is expedient. The order-making power that is conferred by this Measure will provide the Church with a procedure for making uncontentious legislative changes within what should be a maximum period of 12 months from start to finish. The existing procedure for passing Measures provided for in the 1919 Act will continue to be available and, indeed, will continue to be used for legislative change that goes beyond simply removing legislative burdens, and your Lordships’ House will, of course, continue to consider such Measures as it does now. The powers contained in the present Measure will nevertheless go some way to meeting those concerns first raised by Archbishop Davidson in 1919 by making it easier for the Church to do its work properly. I beg to move.
Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB): My Lords, I am chairman of the Ecclesiastical Committee. As the right reverend Prelate has said, we have declared that this Measure is expedient, but I have to tell the House that that was after a prolonged process.
The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury informally told members of the Ecclesiastical Committee that he was extremely anxious to deal with obsolete and unnecessary legislation within the Church that had been running for years and years and was quite simply impeding the modernisation process. We took the extremely unusual course of inviting members of the Ecclesiastical Committee to come informally—not as the committee, because we are a statutory committee—to discuss with the members of the Church of England what they really wanted from us. They produced for us a draft that was not quite the same as the present, which was quite simply too wide. I made it very clear to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury that I could not get it through the House and nor should it get through the House. That was totally understood by the Church of England, and the lawyers took it away and tidied it up. They reduced that part, as the right reverend Prelate has explained to noble Lords, which, at the start, made it possible for the synod to change our laws that were not ecclesiastical laws, which is not of course ever what they intended. Consequently, we held some further informal meetings and the absolutely splendid secretariat of the Ecclesiastical Committee—particularly the lawyer advising and the House of Lords clerk of our very large committee—took a lot of trouble to discuss this. We were satisfied that what was required by the individual members of the committee, not sitting as a committee, was in fact found within this present draft.
I am extremely happy to tell the House that we took this very unusual, rather interesting step and that it turned out to be most successful. I hope that we might repeat it with other important pieces of legislation to make sure that we are all, if I may say so, singing from the same hymn book. I am very happy to say to the House that the committee at its most recent meeting, within just 10 or 15 minutes of discussion, said that this was expedient.
Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, I would like briefly to support what has just been said by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, who is an admirable chairman of the Ecclesiastical Committee. I am not sure about singing from the same hymn book—in Lincoln Cathedral we have two; some days it is ancient and modern and on others it is the English hymn book—but the point that she made is entirely valid.
I have served on the Ecclesiastical Committee for 42 of the last 48 years, during 36 of which I have been a church warden of three separate churches, so I know a little bit about these matters. I also served on the General Synod for 10 years. I approached this initially with a degree of real apprehension, because I was extremely concerned that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury should not be seen—not that it was his intention—to be taking on the mantle of Henry VIII. That, in the Church of England, would not necessarily be the most appealing stance for an Archbishop to take. The representations that we made—informally, as the noble and learned Baroness described—were taken on board. There was a degree of sensitivity over a series of controversial proposals that could well point the way to the Government of the day on another issue that is frequently occupying your Lordships’ House at the moment—but I will leave it at that.
The right reverend Prelate introduced this Measure with thoroughness and clarity, for which we are grateful. We have to beware, as I said in that very different context yesterday, of authority taking power unto itself. But the General Synod has a continuing role here and, as the right reverend Prelate has indicated, so does Parliament. Because of that, I am very glad to give strong support to our admirable chairman and I hope that, the committee having deemed this measure expedient, the House will not take a contrary view.
Baroness Harris of Richmond (LD): My Lords, I too thank the right reverend Prelate for a very clear exposition of this Measure. I echo the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, in saying how fortunate we are in having the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, as our chairman. She can indeed cut through obfuscation.
We on these Benches are extremely happy to deem this Measure expedient. My concern was exactly that expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, about the possibility of having Henry VIII clauses. I was concerned at the extent to which the preservation of power by way of special order made by the Archbishops’ Council could be regarded, in effect, as negating a sunset provision. However, I was happy to be assured that an order cannot be made by the Archbishops’ Council unless a draft of the order has been laid before both Houses of Parliament subject to the affirmative procedure. On that note, I am very happy to support this Measure.
Baroness Sherlock (Lab): My Lords, before I begin, I should draw the attention of the House to my registered interest. I am an ordinand in the Church of England, so I have an interest in these matters, but in fact my interest today is about the role of Parliament and not about the role of the Church.
I have no intention of opposing this Measure and am not seeking to get in its way, but I want to put a couple of points on the record. When I first read these provisions, on the face of it they looked rather like Henry VIII powers—in fact, they are Henry VIII powers. However, I am reassured by the work done and the comments made by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and I thank her and the Ecclesiastical Committee for the work they have done.
I can see that there are a number of safeguards. Obviously, there is a limitation on the types of Acts to which the Measure can be applied. Certain key Acts are excluded. There are a series of checks and balances to make sure that orders do not remove protections or take away rights and benefits. All of these are good safeguards which make this just about palatable at a time when, normally, I think we would not want to see these kinds of powers come through. It is worth having that on the record.
I was left with a question as to whether or not this House could annul an order. I cannot imagine it would wish to, but one never knows what these kind of orders are going to be until they come forward. It is a novel procedure. I heard what the right reverend Prelate said about the convention not applying, but I do not quite understand his argument. I think he made reference to the fact that it would not apply because the convention that this House does not strike down secondary legislation was about the relationship between us and another place. In fact, secondary legislation is not about the relationship between us and another place; it comes to both Houses from the Executive at the same time. Either House may strike it down; if so, it goes nowhere else.
One might argue that orders of this type would not be of the category of thing to which that convention would apply, should circumstances ever mean that it were applicable. However, I do not know that, and I do not know who does. I have thought to get some advice, but it really occurred to me only late this afternoon, so I have not given anyone the opportunity to think about it. I wanted to clarify that that was the nature of my question, and any light that could be shed on it would be appreciated.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: I am very grateful to noble Lords and noble Baronesses for their contributions. I am particularly grateful to the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, for her assurances on behalf of the Ecclesiastical Committee and for the way in which she enabled that process to take place in such a novel but constructive way. I share her aspiration that maybe this provides a model for other engagements as well.
I am grateful for the various comments, particularly around the safeguards and their adequacy. This is intended to deal with relatively non-controversial matters. Anything of any substance would need to be in the form of a Measure, which would still be subject to the full process through the General Synod and both Houses of Parliament.
On the final point, I too am not an expert in these matters, but I think that part of the distinction lies in the fact that the so-called Cunningham convention explicitly dealt with statutory instruments with a capital S and a capital I. These are not statutory instruments with a capital S and a capital I. They may be similar to statutory instruments, but they are not. They are a different animal, namely an order of the Archbishops’ Council, which is a thing in its own right and would not, therefore, be caught by that convention which was established at that time. Certainly, the intention is that this House, together with the other place, would still have the right to annul an order. If it did so, that order would not take effect.
I am grateful for all those contributions and for the support of noble Lords. In closing, I invite and encourage the House to approve this Motion.
Mission and Pastoral etc. (Amendment) Measure
The Lord Bishop of Rochester, That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Mission and Pastoral etc. (Amendment) Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, the Mission and Pastoral etc. (Amendment) Measure implements proposals that were initially formulated by a simplification task group established by the Archbishops’ Council. It makes various amendments to provisions of existing legislation concerned with pastoral reorganisation and other related matters to make those provisions more effective and more efficient.
Pastoral reorganisation within the Church of England is brought about by pastoral schemes and pastoral orders made by the Church Commissioners. That, at least, is how its legal aspects are dealt with. Before anything ever reaches that stage there is of course hard work to be done on the ground by clergy and laity and others within dioceses to bring forward proposals. The types of changes that we mean when we talk about pastoral reorganisation include, for example, the creation of new benefices and parishes, the closure of churches and the designation of new parish churches, the allocation of rights of patronage and miscellaneous other matters.
This Measure amends provisions in the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011 that set out the process for making such pastoral schemes and orders. The amendments will streamline the process by removing duplication and making the consultation process more effective. The rights of parishioners and others to be consulted and to make representations in relation to proposals for pastoral reorganisation clearly remain in place, but the consultation process will become focused on the substance of proposals for change, irrespective of whether the proposals take the form of a specific recommendation or of issues that have been identified as needing to be addressed.
There is a new provision: where a deanery synod has, after consulting interested parties, formulated a deanery plan for pastoral reorganisation—and that, by definition, covers more than one parish and is an increasingly common occurrence—the Church Commissioners will operate a presumption in favour of giving effect to the proposals contained in such a deanery plan. The Measure introduces a new type of instrument called a “bishop’s pastoral order”, which will be available to provide for a very limited range of administrative matters: for example, something as simple as changing the name of a parish or creating a new deanery. The bishop will be able to make orders providing for this limited range of matters without going through the more involved procedures for pastoral schemes and pastoral orders. None the less, the bishop must in these circumstances consult the diocesan mission and pastoral committee and anyone else whom the bishop deems ought to be consulted.
Provision for compensating clergy who lose office as a result of a pastoral reorganisation will be replaced by this Measure. This inevitably has been one of the more contentious elements of this Measure and there has been much discussion around it. The existing provisions provide, in effect, for a member of the clergy who is displaced and who does not find another post to receive compensation for loss of stipend and housing until they reach the retirement age of 68. In practice, this provision is so expensive for dioceses that pastoral reorganisation that would have the effect of displacing clergy is not contemplated, even where it is clearly needed to further the mission of the Church.
The new compensation provisions are more workable and, I think, more in line with what happens in other walks of life, replacing compensation until retirement with compensation based on 12 months’ stipend and pension contributions—but with the important discretionary power given to bishops to authorise additional payments and with the right of the individual concerned to apply for a review on the grounds that the bishop’s decision would cause exceptional hardship for that person or their family. In relation to this particular provision it is perhaps worth underlining that, when the General Synod voted on this, there was substantial support in the House of Clergy, which is the place where you would have expected there not to be if this was a problematic provision. I think that indicates that there is in the wider Church a recognition that we need to find ways of giving ourselves the possibility of making such reorganisations when we need to.
The Measure also makes amendments to the rules concerning so-called “lapsed patronage”: the statutory provision dealing with the situation where the patron of a vacant benefice has not made a formal presentation of a priest to the bishop within the time allowed, which at present is nine months. Instead of unexercised patronage lapsing to the archbishop of the province— which is what happens at the moment, and then the archbishop invariably passes it back to the diocesan bishop—it will pass directly to the diocesan bishop unless the PCC of the benefice concerned passes a special resolution that the archbishop alone should take the decision. The time allowed for patrons to exercise their patronage is increased from nine to 12 months, so it is hoped that the number of cases of lapse will thereby be reduced in any case.
Additionally, the Measure strips away a number of rather overprescriptive provisions, and various other provisions have been tidied up. Again, the Ecclesiastical Committee, to which we are very grateful, has reported that it is of the opinion that the Measure is expedient. I beg to move.
Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB): My Lords, we took the precaution, in the Ecclesiastical Committee—since we were asked to look at several Measures together—of allowing a considerable period of time to reflect on them before we actually met as a committee. So all of these documents were sent—the next ones coming along, together with the present one; I will only speak once on this—to committee members before Christmas, although we did not meet until some time in January. The result was that there were a number of very sensible—if I might respectfully say so—and practical questions asked of the Church of England in relation to each of these subsequent Measures. Each one of those questions was very appropriately and adequately responded to, so that by the time of the Ecclesiastical Committee, we dealt with all the Measures within an hour, including the one that we have just been discussing, because we had been given such good help by the lawyers of the Church of England in particular that we were able to understand and be entirely satisfied that they were expedient. Therefore, I support the present Measure on the basis that the Ecclesiastical Committee found it expedient.
Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, for reasons which the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, knows, I could not attend that meeting. I certainly do not wish to rehearse arguments that I might have advanced then, but I will make two or three simple points. We have to recognise that, in England, we have an established Church and everyone in the country lives in a parish and is entitled to the services of the parish priest. We also have to recognise that the landscape of the organisation of the Church of England has altered very significantly since those days some 70-odd years ago when I first sang in a church choir—I promise your Lordships that I will not do it now.
In those days, almost every parish had a parish priest resident. A lot of not-necessarily-large parishes had a curate, as we had in the parish where I grew up. Now, in Lincolnshire, where we began the amalgamation of parishes with the South Ormsby Group many long years ago, it is not unusual for a parish priest to be responsible for five, six, seven, eight or even a dozen parish churches, many of which are historic buildings of enormous importance. It is important to get these things on the record and to recognise that another thing that has changed very much is that now, very few incumbents enjoy the freehold. Now, it is much less likely that a parish priest will have the freehold of the parish in which he or she lives. This inevitably leads to a great deal of extra power and authority going to the bishop of the diocese. Most bishops exercise that with care and sensitivity and understanding—but I have come across cases where that has not been so, and we need to be alive to that fact.
I will make another point. The right reverend Prelate, in introducing this Measure—which, again, he did extremely cogently—referred to retirement age. In the final debate initiated by the then Archbishop of Canterbury—now the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Williams of Oystermouth—who was stepping down in his early 60s, I made the point that we should be more relaxed about retirement in the Church of England. Many a man or woman in their late 60s or even 70s—I speak as one who will enter his 80th year next year—can minister very effectively, and with great care and thought, as I am sure the noble Baroness will do when she is ordained; we are lucky to be able to look forward to her ministry. I therefore appeal to the right reverend Prelate to take back to his colleagues in the House of Bishops the fact that there is some degree of disquiet in and around the Church of England—I know this to be a fact in Lincolnshire, and in the diocese of Lincoln—that men and women who could well still conduct a vigorous ministry often do not feel that they are sufficiently regarded, even though we rely on the ministry of retired priests, even in the cathedral, when there is a vacancy or illness. I hope that the right reverend Prelate will take that away—and there is of course the added bonus that the right reverend Prelates might then be able to sit in your Lordships’ House a little longer.
Baroness Harris of Richmond (LD): My Lords, this will also be my last and brief comment on these Measures. In supporting them from these Benches, it was interesting to hear that the amendments were based on proposals by a Simplification Task Group, established by the Archbishops’ Council. I could not help feeling that we might do well to adopt a similar task group for some of our legislation.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, again, I am grateful for the various contributions and for the support of noble Lords. To respond to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, on his point about retirement, I apologise for a slightly misleading use of words. There is a pensionable age of around 68, but in fact the statutory retirement age for stipendiary clergy remains at 70. Interestingly, however, there is now a provision by which bishops may, under regulations, extend a priest’s tenure beyond the age of 70 in particular circumstances for defined periods. I have done so three times recently in my own diocese, and I suspect that we will find ourselves using that provision in an appropriate way. But again, it is important not to arrange things such that clergy who would like to retire feel unable to do so because there is an expectation that they will continue. So there is a balance in those things. However, I am grateful for those comments and for the opportunity to clarify that point. Other than that, I am grateful for the support of those who have spoken.
Pensions (Pre-consolidation) Measure
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Pensions (Pre-consolidation) Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, this is my last prepared speech, because it will cover the other two Measures which are also in this final group.
The three Measures in this group each contribute to bringing the statute book up to date. The Pensions (Pre-consolidation) Measure makes amendments to various Measures and regulations as the first stage in a process of consolidating the large number of Measures and regulations which deal with Church of England pensions. The amendments are mostly of a minor or technical nature.
Perhaps the only exception to that is a provision that will permit the Church of England Pensions Board to transfer the Clergy (Widows and Dependants) Pension Fund into the Church of England Funded Pensions Scheme—the main scheme that covers current service by clergy. That will mean that any excess sums in the widows and dependants fund can be applied to clergy and their dependants under the funded scheme, while at the same time providing increased security for the beneficiaries under the much smaller widows’ and dependants’ scheme by bringing them within the larger scheme.
The Statute Law (Repeals) Measure repeals a number of ecclesiastical enactments that are spent, obsolete, unnecessary or otherwise not now of practical utility. Such an exercise is the first that has been undertaken since 2004, at which time some 40 ecclesiastical enactments were repealed as a result of recommendations from the Law Commission. On this occasion, the Legal Office of the National Church Institutions has undertaken its own exercise to identify enactments for repeal. Following a consultation, the final list includes some 62 enactments for repeal, either in their entirety or in part, beginning with an enactment dating from 1534 and concluding with one from 2001.
Finally, the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and Care of Churches Measure is a consolidation. It consolidates, with corrections and minor improvements, some 36 enactments relating to ecclesiastical jurisdiction and the care of churches and other places of worship. The oldest of the enactments consolidated in the Measure is the Parochial Libraries Act 1708. I do not know whether anyone has a grand attachment to it—maybe they do, but that is the oldest one. The newest is the Care of Churches and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction (Amendment) Measure 2015. The result is that all the statute law relating to ecclesiastical jurisdiction, other than the disciplinary jurisdiction over the clergy, and all the statute law relating to the faculty jurisdiction and associated matters is contained in a single Measure. That will make it much easier for anyone who needs to use this legislation to find out what the law is and thereby to apply it.
Again, I am grateful to the Ecclesiastical Committee for its consideration of this Measure and the other two which will follow. The committee has reported its opinion that all three Measures are expedient. I beg to move.
Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB): My Lords, these three Measures were much simpler to deal with and took very little time. I simply point out that the third one is purely consolidatory. Unlike the other Measures with which this House is concerned, it makes no changes at all; it simply puts things under one umbrella. The Ecclesiastical Committee had no hesitation in finding all three Measures expedient.
Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, I just want to put on the record something that I believe is terribly important. I entirely agree with what the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, has just said. Of course, the third Measure is a consolidation but it covers an exceptionally important group of buildings in this country. Sixteen thousand buildings are in the care of the Church of England, most of them parish churches. Most are listed, and a great many in the top category. Collectively, these buildings, together with our cathedrals, are the most important public buildings in the country, and we all have an affectionate care for them.
As a church warden I have sought to raise money, as I did, for instance, when we raised £1 million for St Margaret’s, Westminster, in the early 1980s. From that, I know that the people who do not often, and sometimes never, go to church still regard the building as central to their lives. For them, it is a focal point on the landscape—the one public building in the town or village to which they can easily resort. Many of them are now used, very properly, for a variety of other recreational and community purposes.
It is crucial that, in recognising that consolidation Measure, we recognise the importance of the buildings to which it refers. It is no easy task to maintain ancient and fragile buildings. Having been a churchwarden three times, and as the former president of the Staffordshire Historic Churches Trust, as the only vice-president of the Lincolnshire one at the moment, and as a trustee for over 40 years and then vice-president of the Historic Churches Preservation Trust—now the National Churches Trust—I know that we all have individual and collective responsibility. I do hope that those present in your Lordships’ House today will have a look at this Measure and see what the Church is doing, and that whenever the occasion offers, will make their own contributions in whatever form they take to ensure that these buildings, which define our land and our history, are not at greater risk than they are at the moment. The fewer that have to close, the better.
Lord McKenzie of Luton (Lab): My Lords, it is with a degree of apprehension that I rise on this issue, but I spotted the word pensions—and I even spotted the word Europe, but I do not propose to go there this afternoon.
Can the right reverend Prelate confirm that at the moment there are three pension arrangements? There is the Church of England (Pensions) Measure, for service before January 1998, funded by the commissioners; the Church of England Funded Pension Scheme for service from January 1998, which is funded by the members; and the Clergy (Widows and Dependants) Pension Fund, which was closed to new entrants a long time ago, and there are no current contributions being made to it. I think that the proposition here is to transfer resources from that fund to the other pension scheme. I understand that, if it is a consolidation. What I was looking for was the requirement for the Church of England Funded Pension Scheme to take on the mantle of the obligations that previously would have rested with the widows and dependants scheme.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I am grateful for the contributions and grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for his encouragement to us in the stewardship of that priceless inheritance we have in our parish churches across the land. I hope that the consolidation of this Measure might make it easier for those who wish to engage with that to discover the frameworks within which that happens. We also, of course, have responsibility not just for those historic buildings but for providing forms of Christian presence in areas of new housing. In my diocese we have a huge housing development which will have a population of 40,000 new people in a few years. The responsibility extends there and we seek to fulfil it. Many of these legal frameworks are to help us to do that.
In relation to the specific point about pensions, the noble Lord is absolutely correct that the historic scheme is funded by the commissioners out of their general funds and was non-contributory. There is the funded pension scheme, which is not funded by the members, but in effect by the dioceses on behalf of the members, as part of the clergy remuneration package. The Clergy (Widows and Dependants) Pension Fund, as the noble Lord said, has no new entrants, and is now being brought within the larger funded scheme, which will, we hope, give it more weight. The responsibilities transfer absolutely from one to the other. Therefore, those who are the beneficiaries of that scheme will continue to receive the benefits to which they are entitled under that scheme. The lawyers are nodding to say that I can give that assurance.
This will be the last moment that I am on my feet for any substantial time. It gives me the opportunity to reiterate my thanks to the Ecclesiastical Committee and especially to the noble and learned Baroness for chairing that committee, and to its members for their careful consideration on this occasion, as on others. I am very grateful. Can I also express my thanks for the support that I and my fellow Lords Spiritual receive from our legal team and our parliamentary advisers, not least in relation to technical matters such as we have before us today? In relation to this Measure, I encourage your Lordships to approve the Motion.
Statute Law (Repeals) Measure
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Statute Law (Repeals) Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.
Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and Care of Churches Measure
The Lord Bishop of Rochester, That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and Care of Churches Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.