The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—
Clergy Working Group
The clergy working group, on which the Church of England was represented, produced a statement of good practice setting out minimum standards for the terms and conditions of service for ministers of religion. The Church of England has committed itself to those principles and the General Synod has drafted legislation that has been sent to DTI officials, with whom we regularly communicate.
Even accepting that the wheels of the Church grind slowly, does my hon. Friend agree that, given that we have been talking about this for some 10 years, it needs to move more quickly than it has? In so far as he can, will he encourage, through the clergy working group, other churches with similar problems to move equally quickly?
With regard to my hon. Friend’s latter point, I certainly agree to do that. He has campaigned consistently on this and is understandably impatient about the synodical timetable. I can assure him that the Church has made excellent progress with these complex matters, and with his support, and that of the House, we will ensure that they reach legislation as quickly as possible. I have to tell him, however, that within the Church “quickly as possible” means “not before 2009.”