Ecclesiastical Committee Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Synod Representatives (Questions 40-48)



  40. At law a child does not have any age attached to it and normally if the word "child" is used in any relevant context then an age is given. So I am wondering whether in clause 1 "child" is meant to be progeny or whether it is meant to be under 21 or under 18 or something like that.
  (Sir James Nursaw) My Lord Chairman, could I suggest the Committee leaves this for further consideration later? I suggest one possible answer is that as this is a discretion given to the Board it would use that discretion to support young children but possibly also children who had reached adulthood but were in need of help because they were handicapped or disabled in some way. So perhaps there is advantage in the flexibility of the term.

  41. I do not think there is any age attached to "child", if I may say so, unless one is put in by statute or measure.
  (Sir James Nursaw) I am suggesting that is perhaps the right way to leave it, because of the possibilities and the fact there is a discretion.

Lord Brightman: I only ask the question in order to find out what was in mind.

Baroness Rendell of Babergh

  42. Also, my Lord Chairman, what is a "dependant"? Surely that should be defined?
  (Sir James Nursaw) Again I suggest, my Lord Chairman, since this is a discretion given to the Board they would not act unless there is a dependency which is obvious and manifestly in need of help.

Lord Brightman

  43. The third question is, am I right in thinking that the General Purposes Fund will hereafter be applicable for (a) to (d) in section 1(2) plus the existing purposes of the General Purposes Fund and, if so, what are those purposes?
  (Mr Slack) My understanding of the effect of the provision is that the fund will in future be applicable by virtue of sub-clause (4) for the purposes specified in sub-clause (2).

  44. And not the existing purposes of the General Purposes Fund?
  (Mr Slack) That is as I understand it.

  45. Do you know what those purposes are?
  (Mr Slack) My Lord Chairman, yes, as I understand it they are in substance the same, that is to say the General Purposes Fund was established for the collective purposes of the three funds which are referred to in clause 2, and those purposes are, in the aggregate, those set out in sub-clause (2) of clause 1, with the addition of a reference to former spouses of some of the beneficial classes in order to reflect the amendment that is made in clause 3 of the Measure.

Chairman: Would it be the view of the Committee that we should now ask Dr Turnbull if he has got anything he would like to say by way of reply to all the questions which have been asked, and then perhaps we might ask him, with our great good thanks, to retire while we deliberate?

Mr Gummer

  46. My Lord Chairman, there is the important issue of the clergy wives, particularly those who have been divorced. It really follows on from the point Mrs Dunwoody made about the nature of this fund. I can understand how the sums are up-dated but let us assume that the Church of England became conscious of the need to support rather differently the wives of clergy who operate their pensions under the old system and decided they ought to be more generous, let us say, without discussing the issue, to the divorced wives. Is there a means whereby under this fund, which we now think of as a closed fund, alterations can be made of that kind? Many of us on this Committee, as I think Dr Turnbull knows, have been very unhappy about the way in which the Church of England has dealt with divorced wives, particularly in view of its doctrinal position. Therefore, if it were to have a change of heart, which I devoutly hope that one day it will have, and treats them better, will it only be able to treat decently those who are under the new system, or will it be able to go back and say, "We are now going to look after those people better who have borne the heat of the day and been dumped just at the wrong moment by their errant spouses", to put it in an entirely unbiased way?
  (The Reverend Dr Turnbull) Of course! My understanding is that the discretionary funds of the Pensions Board are able to be applied in support of any clergy pensioner and, after the passing of this Measure, the divorced spouse of any clergy pensioner, and it makes no difference at all whether the pension of the particular cleric is funded by the old scheme or the new scheme. I am told that is correct. It is a discretionary fund of the Pensions Board covering all pensioners and dependants and spouses.

  47. Can I take comfort from the fact that there is a specific reference, although it appears to refer to housing, to the divorced wives of clergy, that there may be some consideration of their pension position? In the past, the answer I have got is that the Church follows the best example of the world, which always seems to me to be the wrong way round, I would always hope the Church would lead the world in setting the best example. Are we to hope that something better will now be done as a result of the kind of language we now have?
  (The Reverend Dr Turnbull) I would just like to take some advice on that, if I may. (After taking instructions) My Lord Chairman, the advice from the Secretary of the Pensions Board is that the position as it currently stands is that a divorced spouse can be assisted now on the grounds of low income, but cannot be assisted now in respect of housing. So what this new provision will do is correct that anomaly in respect of housing.

Mr Gummer: Thank you very much.


  48. Dr Turnbull, it remains for me to thank you very much and all your colleagues for helping us in the way you have. Did you wish to add any final sentence or two for our consideration?
  (The Reverend Dr Turnbull) I would simply like to thank the Committee for your graciousness and welcome, and wish this Committee all the best in its deliberations over the rest of this Parliament. Thank you.

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