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Ecclesiastical Commissioners (Pensions Of Church Estates Commissioners) Measure, 1930

Volume 237: debated on Thursday 3 April 1930

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

I beg to move,

"That, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners (Pensions of Church Estates Commissioners) Measure, 1930, be presented to His Majesty for Royal Assent."
In view of the late hour of the night, I hope that Members will forgive me if I do not enter into any long explanation. The object of this Measure is to remedy an omission that was made when the Act of Parliament was passed which laid down the salary for the post of Church Estates Commissioners. At the time, it was certainly not foreseen that the question of a pension must arise. The immediate cause of this Bill is the necessity of making provision for the First Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Lewis Dibdin, who has been in that high office for at least 25 years, and who has given great public and eminent service to the Church as Ecclesiastical Commissioner. The salary which was laid down many years ago has not only been entirely out of scale with the duties that the Commissioners are called upon to perform, but makes no provision for their requirements in case of old age, and I feel sure that as this Measure has passed the Church Assembly and has come here to get the authority of Parliament the House will give its assent. No public money is involved. This pension will not come out of the purse of the State, but will be provided for out of the funds of the Commissioners themselves, although Parliamentary sanction is necessary.

I see that in the report of the Ecclesiastical Committee a reference is made to the fact that no amount of pension is laid down, and it is suggested that it would have been wise to have fixed some specified proportion of the salary. It is the intention of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners to make it a definite and specified amount, although the exact proportion has not yet been settled, but it will be in the nature of two-thirds or possibly three-fourths of the salary, plus the cost-of-living bonus which has been added since there has been such a bonus. I, therefore, ask the House to pass this Measure.

I think it is a matter for regret that the hon. Member who moved this Motion was not in a position to give the House an exact statement as to what these pensions are to be. While it is true that no public money, as it is technically defined, is concerned in this matter, there are many towns, including that which I have the honour to represent, of which these Commissioners are the ground landlords. My own constituency has been owned for many years by the Bishops of Durham who have been succeeded in title by these Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and we have suffered many hardships because of the fact that we have been held in fee by these people. Four or five hundred years ago a Bishop of Durham directed that the men of Shields should keep no dogs because they disturbed the Bishop's rabbit warren; and, to come to modern times, we have been very effectively held to ransom by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. We feel, therefore, that they ought not to be given carte blanche to establish a pension scheme which the mover cannot get nearer than two-thirds or three-fourths of the salary. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would have been in a position to give an assurance that the pensions would be on the same basis as those usually paid in the Civil Service. To all intents and purposes those officers whom it is now proposed to pension are members of the Civil Service. Their positions are quite analogous, and to bring down a Measure like this to the House and ask us to give our consent is really not treating the House in proper respect.

I am sure that these highly paid officers have salaries fixed on a higher scale than those of Members of this House and are better paid than my hon. Friend for his share in their work. They were probably fixed at their present figure bearing in mind the fact that no pension attaches to them and had pension rights attached to them the probability is that they would have been fixed at a much lower figure. The Church Assembly should be made to understand that these Measures, when submitted to this House, should be the sort of measures that a ministerial department would submit to us if they were making a similar proposition. I do not think it is right that this matter should go through without protest, especially from the constituencies from where the great revenues of these commissioners are drawn, where for the past eight or nine years very severe depression has been suffered, and where, so far as I can see, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have never shown that sympathy for the present condition of the place that their connection with the Church might have entitled us to expect.

I desire to say a few words about the Motion, because it is well understood that it is necessary for the House to satisfy itself that the Measure brought forward is in the national interest. We have to look at it quite apart from anything that the Ecclesiastical Committee may say. We have to satisfy ourselves from careful consideration of the Measure that it ought to go forward and be passed. I would call attention to a passage in the Report of the Ecclesiastical Committee in which they say that it would have been more in accordance with the general practice of Parliament if the maximum amount of pension had been fixed at some specific amount of the salary at the date of the retirement. I hope the hon. Member will be able to indicate before the Debate concludes the actual sum which is going to be proposed by way of pension. I do not think it is at all right that a Measure of this sort should be brought forward in the vague general terms that it has been. I hope the hon. Member will be able to give us some assurance that the Report of the Ecclesiastical Committee will be taken into account by the Church Assembly and that the practice of Parliament will be observed in future in Measures brought here, and that the exact maximum amount of the pension will be indicated. I hope the hon. Member will be able to state that now, because otherwise some step might be taken for the adjournment of the Debate.

I support my hon. Frend. I strongly object to these measures being brought forward at this time and in this manner. For that reason, I beg to call attention to the fact that there are not 40 members in the House.

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted; and 40 Members being present

I rise to protest once again against these Measures coming forward in this way. We have heard very little or nothing about this particular Measure from the proposer, and I think the report of the Ecclesiastical Committee itself shows that this matter ought to have more attention from the House. In the Measure it is proposed that the amount of the pension is to be determined by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and no limitation is fixed. It would have been mare in accordance with the general practice of Parliament that the maximum amount of the pension should be fixed at some specific proportion of the salary at the date of the retirement. I do urge that consideration on the mover and that we should have further information before we pass this Measure.

I appreciate the point of view put by the last speaker, and there is no doubt that it was only from consideration for the members at

Division No. 253.]


[12.59 a.m.

Arnott, JohnGibbins, JosephLlewellin, Major J. J
Beaumont, M. W.Gibson, H. M. (Lanes, Mossley)Longden, F.
Bellamy, AlbertGlassey, A. E.MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)
Bennett, William (Battersea, South)Gossling, A. G.McElwee, A.
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)Gray, MilnerMcShane, John James
Bourne, Captain Robert CroftGreene, W. P. CrawfordMarshall, Fred
Bowen, J. W.Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)Mathers, George
Brooke, W.Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)Milner, Major J.
Burgess, F. G.Gunston, Captain D. W.Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)
Church, Major A. G.Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)Moses, J. J. H.
Cocks, Frederick SeymourHaycock, A. W.Muggeridge, H. T.
Compton, JosephHayes, John HenryOliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)
Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd, Henley)Parkinson, John Allen(Wigan)
Daggar, GeorgeHollins, A.Phillips, Dr. Marion
Dalton, HughJowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.
Edmunds, J. E.Kennedy, ThomasSanders, W. S.
Edwards, C.(Monmouth, Bedwellty)Lang, GordonSawyer, G. F.
Elmley, ViscountLawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)Shillaker, J. F.
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.Leach, W.Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)

this late hour that I refrained from saying more. It is not my fault or that of the Church Assembly that the Measures had to be taken at this late hour. With regard to the criticism of my hon. Friend the Member of South Shields (Mr. Ede), I must demur from his description of the Church Estates Commissioners as being analogous to civil servants. The duties and the office of the First Estates Commissioner are more analogous to those of one of His Majesty's judges. They are bound to be men appointed late in life. There is no possibility of earning pensions in the ordinary way like a, civil servant. The right way to do it—like the case of the judge—is to pension a man in a manner that will enable him to live in that state of life to which he was accustomed while in office. With regard to the amount, it is unfortunate that the amount is not stated in the Measure. So far as I can give any assurance, the pensions will be £1,000. That is the figure in the mind of the people who proposed this, and it will represent something like two-thirds or three-quarters of the salary plus the cost-of-living bonus. In my view, it is a very modest figure. I should have liked to have seen the Ecclesiastical Commissioners proposing a figure equal to the full salary and bonus. But that would be an unfortunate precedent perhaps, and the figure is likely to be what I have stated. I hope the House will now give us this Measure.

The House divided: Ayes, 67; Noes, 3.

Simmons, C. J.Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S.W.)
Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)Toole, JosephTELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)Tout, W. J.Mr. Middleton and Major Sir John
Smith, W. R. (Norwich)Wallace, H. W.Birchall.
Smithers, WaldronWatkins, F. C.


Kelly, W. T.Young, R. S. (Islington, North)TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Morgan, Dr. H. B.Mr. Ede and Mr. Scrymgeour.


"That, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act, 1919, this House do direct that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners (Pensions of Church Estates Commissioners) Measure, 1930, be presented to His Majesty for Royal Assent."

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

It being after half-past Eleven of the clock upon Thursday evening, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at six minutes after One o'Clock.