Evidence submitted by the Department for
Constitutional Affairs in response to questions from the Committee
1. Historically, the ecclesiastical patronage
of the Lord Chancellor is part of the patronage of the Crown.
The poorest livings were passed to the Lord Chancellor in the
14th Century (those worth less than 20 marks) and in the 1530's
(those less than £20). The Crown retained those livings that
were worth more than the amount mentioned above.
2. The consultation paper, "Constitutional
Reform: reforming the office of Lord Chancellor" (CP 13/03)
was published in September 2003. The paper described the Lord
Chancellor's patronage (paragraphs 34-41) and suggested three
possible options for the transfer of the Lord Chancellor's power.
These were for it to:
transfer to another Minister of the
Crown, such as the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs;
revert to the Crown, with the Prime
Minister advising the Queen or;
transfer to the Church, whether to
the relevant Bishop, Archbishop or board of patronage.
How important is the future of the Lord Chancellor's
ecclesiastical patronage function to the existing, varied system
3. The two major ways that ecclesiastical
patronage is exercised across nearly 8,000 livings in England
are by the Archbishops and Bishops and by private patronage. It
is difficult to give an accurate breakdown of figures. The sharp
increase in the last 20 years or so of parish reorganisation means
that many more benefices (approximately two-thirds) now share
patronage between two or more parties.
4. We know that the Bishops and Archbishops
exercise patronage for around 49% of the total. But we do not
know precisely how many of these are sole patronage and how many
are shared. We also know that private patrons, including colleges
and universities, patronage trusts and private individuals, are
involved in over a third of all patronage but again cannot confirm
the proportion of these that are sole or shared. The Lord Chancellor
either exercises patronage solely or shares ecclesiastical patronage
for approximately 442 parish livings and 12 cathedral canonries
5. Although the benefices where the Lord
Chancellor appoints only make up 5.5% of English livings, it is
part of a system of varied patronage which helps maintain a variety
of Church traditions. It also serves a practical purpose in that
it helps to ensure that clergy who may not suit their own Bishop's
churchmanship have an alternative route to help them find a new
How does the exercise of ecclesiastical patronage
by the Lord Chancellor work in practice, and how does it differ
from the way other patrons exercise their powers?
6. Since 1964, the patronage rights of both
the Lord Chancellor and Her Majesty The Queen have been dealt
with through officials based in Number 10.
7. Essentially all patrons perform the same
tasks under the Pastoral Measure 1983 and the Patronage (Benefices)
8. The method of appointment is set out
in the Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986. The benefices where
patronage (or any share in the patronage) is vested in the Crown,
the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall or the Lord Chancellor are
exempt from the Patronage (Benefices) Measure 1986. However, despite
not being bound by it, the Appointments Office works collaboratively
within the spirit of the Measure with the respective parishes
(and for cathedral canonries, the cathedrals). The Assistant Ecclesiastical
Secretary (AES) advises the Lord Chancellor on all his ecclesiastical
appointments after due consultation with the Bishops, parishes
and dioceses concerned.
9. Where the Crown or the Lord Chancellor
is patron, the Appointments Office is notified either by the outgoing
incumbent, the Bishop or the Diocesan Registrar that a vacancy
has arisen or will soon arise.
10. If it is a straightforward appointment
without any reorganisation, the AES then writes to the outgoing
incumbent and the secretary of the Parochial Church Council (PCC)
about the procedures for dealing with the appointment. The PCC
prepares a statement describing the needs, conditions and traditions
of that parish. The parish or Bishop may request a meeting to
exchange views on this statement.
11. The AES routinely interviews clergy
looking for new positions and holds a database of clergy who are
actively seeking a move of around 200-250 at any one time, although
the names held on the AES files are more numerous. These names
come from a wide variety of sources, including the Clergy Appointments
Adviser to the Archbishops; Bishops, deans and other senior clergy;
institutions such as theological colleges and universities and
other knowledgeable sources. The AES uses the database to identify
suitable candidates for vacancies as they arise. The Bishop and
others may also volunteer the names of potential candidates. The
AES and the Bishop correspond about the candidates identified
and between them decide on their suitability.
12. The AES will then approach the preferred
candidate to gauge his or her interest. If the response is positive
the AES then writes to the candidate, the parish representatives
and the Bishop informing them that the person is under consideration.
The onus is then on the candidate to contact the parish representatives
to arrange a parish visit. The candidate also contacts the Bishop
to arrange a meeting with him.
13. Once these visits have taken place,
the respective parties decide whether or not they would welcome
the appointment. Where there is a positive and unanimous agreement
from all concerned, a recommendation is submitted to the Lord
Chancellor together with a Fiat that the Lord Chancellor offers
the appointment to the successful candidate if he is content.
14. Where there is not a positive and unanimous
response, that candidacy does not proceed any further. The AES
informs the various parties and the next candidate is approached.
This process continues until the appointment is made. While neither
the Bishop nor the parish has a formal veto on an appointment,
appointments are not made unless all parties give a positive response.
15. In the case of Crown benefices, the
process is the same as for Lord Chancellor except that the AES
recommends to the Prime Minister who in turn recommends to The
Queen. As a matter of course Crown and Lord Chancellor benefice
vacancies are not usually advertised, though is has been tried
with a mixed response.
16. In the case of other patrons, when a
post becomes available the patron will have nine months to fill
it otherwise it lapses to the Archbishop of that Province. The
Diocesan Bishop formally notifies the designated officer and Registrar
of the Diocese, who in turn notifies the patron. The patron must
make a written declaration that he or she is a communicant of
the Anglican Church or appoint an alternative who is willing to
make that declaration.
17. Within four weeks of receiving notice,
the PCC is required to prepare a statement describing the needs,
conditions, and traditions of that parish. The parish, Bishop,
and patron, or their representatives, then meet to exchange views
on this statement. This meeting also elects two PCC members to
co-ordinate the selection of a new incumbent. In a multi-living
parish, each PCC can elect two members unless there are more than
four parishes, and then a compromise has to be reached between
agreed representatives of each parish. In addition, the parish
or patron can request a written statement from the Bishop on the
wider needs of the Church and Diocese. The patron may decide to
advertise the vacancy in the Church Times or The Church of England
Newspaper, or to circulate it through the Clergy Appointments
Office. In many cases a wide spectrum of knowledgeable clergy
and societies are consulted on suitable people who might be considered.
Potential candidates are interviewed and meetings held with all
interested parties until the patron is satisfied that a clear
candidate has presented himself or herself.
18. The patron cannot offer the benefice
without the approval of the Bishop and the PCC. On receiving acceptance
of an offer from a priest, the patron sends notice to the Bishop
presenting the priest to him for admission to the benefice. The
Bishop in turn consults the PCC and if all are agreed the Bishop
institutes the new incumbent of the benefice. In all of the above,
where the Bishop is patron, these processes follow the same rules
but tend to take less time.
19. In addition to the appointments work,
the (AES) advises the Lord Chancellor on issues associated with
matters relating to major changes of pastoral reorganisation,
and to the parsonage houses in the livings in his patronage.
Which of the three Government options for the
future of the Lord Chancellor's Ecclesiastical Patronage function
is preferable? Are there other options that the Government has
20. The Government plans to announce proposals
for the reform of the office of Lord Chancellor next month. This
will include its decisions on the future of the Lord Chancellor's
21. The summaries of responses to the Consultation
Document will be published later this month. Responses were mixed.
The majority of benefices chose not to respond (more than two
thirds). Of the responses received 44% wanted the patronage to
revert to the Crown, 7% to another Minister and 43% opted for
the Church. Other respondents proposed alternatives to whom the
right of patronage could be passed; these included the Provincial
Episcopal Visitors or the Dean and Chapter.
22. The Lord Chancellor exercises his patronage
on behalf of the Crown. The Government's view is that once the
office of Lord Chancellor is ended, this patronage should only
be exercised through or on the advice of a Minister, or it should
transfer to the Established Church. It did not therefore propose
transferring this patronage to any other office, or to other current
or potential patrons. The decision on who in the future should
exercise the Lord Chancellor's patronage is an important one which
should lie with Ministers and not one to be made on a parish-by-parish
If the Lord Chancellor's ecclesiastical patronage
responsibilities were transferred to the Church, who should assume
them? Would such a change be seen as a step towards disestablishment
of the Church?
23. If the decision were to transfer the
patronage of the Lord Chancellor's benefices to the Church, the
clear preference from respondents to the consultation paper preferring
the Church option is for it to pass to the Bishops.
24. The established nature of the Church
of England is not based solely on the patronage exercised by the
Lord Chancellor. The Government has not yet decided its preferred
course in relation to the Lord Chancellor's ecclesiastical patronage.
However, the options described in the Consultation Document are
not intended to affect the fundamental status of the Church of
England. In making this decision, ministers will have in mind
its possible impact on that status.
Department for Constitutional Affairs