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Ministers Of Religion Etc

Volume 897: debated on Saturday 16 August 1975

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Lords Amendment: No. 11, in page 14, line 41, leave out "any" and insert "a significant number".

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

With this we may take Lords Amendment No. 19, in page 22, line 34, leave out "any" and insert "a significant number".

It has been clear from the debates on these clauses both in this House and another place that many hon. Members and noble Lords have taken the view that the phrase "any of its followers" was too wide and open to misinterpretation. The amendments, therefore, replace the word "any" by the words "a significant number". We believe that, while safeguarding the position of those Churches in which there exist genuine disagreements as to what are or should be the received doctrines, these amendments should go some way to reassure those who fear that change might be held up by a single objector.

Will the hon. Lady give some indication of what "a significant number" means?

It certainly would be for them to decide, but there must be some reason for inserting the words. The Government must have some idea what they mean, otherwise they would not have made the alteration.

Although the religious susceptibilities test has been modified by these amendments, it is still an essential one to avoid placing on courts and tribunals the difficult and invidious task of making decisions on questions of religious doctrine, and also to give sufficient flexibility so that genuine religious feelings which fall short of religious doctrine may be respected.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 12, in page 14, line 41, at end insert:

"(2) Nothing in section 13 applies to an authorisation or qualification (as denned in that section) for purposes of an organised religion where the authorisation or qualification is limited to one sex so as to comply with the doctrines of the religion or avoid offending the religious susceptibilities of a significant number of its followers."

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

The amendment ensures that in so far as ordination to the ministry—and its equivalents in the case of the non-Christian Churches—amounts to the conferring of a professional qualification under Clause 13, the Clause 19 exception will apply to such ordination as well as to employment under Clause 6.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords amendment agreed to.