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Clergy (Ordination And Miscellaneous Provisions) (No2) Measure

Volume 258: debated on Wednesday 13 May 1964

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9.34 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I must apologise to your Lordships for raising this matter at such a late hour, and after the feast of oratory, lasting over six and a half hours, to which we have listened with such great interest. I can only relieve the minds of your Lordships by assuring you that I propose, except for one detail, to deal with this matter quite formally.

This Measure arises out of the revision of the Canon Law and is really a tidying-up operation dealing with certain specific points which affect the clergy. They are all set out in the report of the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament, and your Lordships will find the exact details in that document. The Measure passed through all its stages in the Church Assembly without any Division and without any vote being cast against it. Therefore I think it is properly to be regarded as purely formal and uncontroversial.

There is, however, one unusual aspect about the Measure to which I must draw your Lordships' attention. When the Measure originally came before the Ecclesiastical Committee it had one more clause in it than it has at the present time. The clause concerned a technical point. By law, the parish priest alone has the right to minister to the people who live within the territorial boundaries of his own parish. That is the law of the land to-day. But the situation has been very much changed since the Enabling Act and the setting up legally of parochial church councils and of electoral rolls in each parish; because if a person does not live within the territorial boundaries of a parish he may put his name on the electoral roll of that parish and virtually become a parishioner of that parish, even to the extent of being able to be married in the church, although he does not live within the parish itself.

That being the case, it seems very reasonable that when, for instance, a person falls sick, the parish priest of the parish on whose electoral roll that person is should go and minister to that person in his or her home, even though it is not technically within his parish. As the law stands at the moment, however, if a clergyman were to go into another parish to administer to someone who was on his electoral roll he would be breaking the law. Therefore, we included in the Measure a clause making it legal for a parish priest to minister to those who were on his electoral roll but did not live in the parish. The Ecclesiastical Committee, however, considered that the clause as drafted in the Measure opened the door too wide, because they envisaged a situation in which there might, as is perfectly possible, be 25 people living in another parish who were on the electoral roll of a next door parish, and if one of them happened to have a nice large drawing room, according to the clause in the Measure, he would be able to go into that other parish, gather his 25 people on the electoral roll and have regular services in another person's parish. As a result, there might be a very real cause of tension between the two parishes concerned.

The framers of this Measure did not feel that that was a very real danger, but they take the point and they see the force of the observations of the Ecclesiastical Committee who have recommended that that clause as it stands is not expedient. The Ecclesiastical Committee have therefore taken the powers, which are given to it under the Enabling Act, of splitting the Measure, and they have presented it to Parliament in two Measures—namely, the Clergy (Ordination and Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Measure and the Clergy Ministration to Non-Resident Electors Measure, 1964. I am, therefore, moving the Clergy (Ordination and Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Measure, and it is the intention of the Legislative Committee of the Church Assembly not to proceed with the other Measure, but to provide for the subject matter of this Measure in a different form in future legislation. Therefore this second Measure has already been withdrawn in another place, and it is proposed to withdraw it likewise from this House. I accordingly move the Resolution which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Clergy (Ordination and Miscellaneous Provisions) (No. 2) Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.—( The Lord Bishop of Chester.)

My Lords, may I ask the right reverend Prelate this question? I am not acquainted with this proposal, but is it suggested or intended that a visiting priest, going outside his parish to visit a parishioner—as it were, an extra-mural parishioner—should, as a matter of courtesy before actually visiting, ask the permission of the other priest into whose territory he was moving?

My Lords, for practical purposes the situation at the moment is that legally he cannot go into another parish, but what in fact always happens is that there is a general understanding between the clergy that that may take place. But it is technically illegal. We hope, therefore, to redraft this clause and reintroduce it in some other general Measure, to meet the objections which the Ecclesiastical Committee have made.

On Question, Motion agreed to.