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Church Of England (Miscellaneous Provisions)

Volume 951: debated on Friday 9 June 1978

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3.38 p.m.

I beg to move,

That the Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure, passed by the General Synod of the Church of England, be presented to Her Majesty for her Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament.
When I bring Church measures to this House, they are usually concerned with one major subject that affects the Church—worship and doctrine, endowments and glebe, parish registers and so on. But occasionally the General Synod produces a miscellaneous provisions measure which, in common with the measure before us today, picks up a number of smaller matters, none of which would merit a separate measure all to itself. The present measure consists of 13 clauses. I shall not weary the House by going in great detail through the clauses. I shall try to mention the main points contained therein.

Clause 1 is the most important clause in the measure. Under the Worship and Doctrine Measure, which the House approved in 1974, the General Synod may approve a new service only if there is a two-thirds majority in favour of it in each of the three houses of the Synod—that is, bishops, clergy and laity. If, however, the General Synod wishes to alter the service in the Book of Common Prayer it has to come to Parliament with a measure. As the law stands, such a measure could come to Parliament even if it had a majority of only one in the General Synod. That surely is not enough for a measure that would alter the Prayer Book services of Baptism, Holy Communion and Ordination. Accordingly, the clause extends to measures which alter services the two-thirds majority principle that applies to the authorisation of services.

I give the House an example. If ever the General Synod wished to enable women to be ordained in the Church of England, it would be necessary to bring a measure to Parliament that would, among other things, alter the Prayer Book Ordination service. Clause 1 would ensure that such a measure could come to Parliament only if there were a two-thirds majority.

Clause 2 protects a clergyman who was appointed to his living before 1976, in a case where that living is subsequently affected by pastoral reorganisation. The 1975 measure, which laid down that clergyman must retire from their livings at 70 years, was not retrospective, and so the clergyman appointed before 1st January 1976 is exempted from the rule of retirement at 70. However, if his benefice is included in a pastoral reorganisation scheme, it is doubtful whether he retains his exemption. The clause ensures that he does.

I do not think that Clauses 3, 4 and 5 need much explanation from me. Clause 3 allows the Church Commissioners to alter their financial year to the calendar year. Clause 4 makes some minor changes in the Commissioner's constitution. Clause 5 seeks to ensure that whoever represents a diocese on the Central Board of Finance of the Church of England should also be a member of his own diocese board of finance in his own diocese.

Clause 6 implements an undertaking that I gave to the House when the Parochial Registers and Records Measure was before Parliament. It sets a ceiling to the search fee that may be charged when parish registers are deposited in an independent repository, namely, a records office that is not under the control of a local authority. We gave an undertaking that that would be done at the time of the passing of the measure.

Clauses 7 and 8 deal with rather obscure matters. Clause 7 enables the Church to sell land which it does not need but which under the tightly drawn provisions of the New Parishes Measure 1943 is at present inalienable. Clause 8 enables the Church to comply with a compulsory purchase order in respect of land vested in an incumbent even if the benefice is vacant.

Clause 9 widens the scope of the Inspection of Churches Measure 1955. It enables the bishop to direct that buildings that are licensed for public worship but have not been consecrated shall be liable to inspection by the diocesan architect every five years on exactly the same basis as consecrated buildings.

Clause 10 concerns the honorary canons of Christchurch Cathedral, Oxford. The cathedral is outside the general provisions of the Cathedrals Measure because of its special relationship with the College and with the University of Oxford. In most other cathedrals honorary canons are required by the cathedral statutes to vacate their canonaries on retiring from full time ministry or on reaching the age of 70. In Oxford there has hitherto been an exception in the case of canons who continue to reside in the Oxford diocese when they retire. In practice, so many of the Oxford honorary canons have continued to live in the diocese after retirement that the Bishop of Oxford has found himself with fewer opportunities than other diocesan bishops to confer honorary canonaries on clergymen actively involved in the full-time ministry of the Church.

The clause, which will not apply to existing honorary canons, will bring Oxford into line with other dioceses in this matter. It is, of course, customary for an honorary canon who retires to have the title of canon emeritus conferred upon him, and this practice will be followed in Oxford when the clause takes effect.

Clause 11 makes a couple of technical corrections in the Endowment and Glebe Measure 1976, and Clause 12 relieves the Church Commissioners of a quite outdated requirement to have certain property transactions enrolled in the High Court.

This is an unexciting and, I believe, quite uncontroversial measure. When it was given final approval in the General Synod, 38 bishops, 124 clergy and 124 lay people voted in favour of it. Only one vote—that of a member of the House of Laity—was recorded against it. I hope that the House will see fit to give this modest but useful measure an affirmative resolution.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That the Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure, passed by the General Synod of the Church of England, be presented to Her Majesty for her Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament.