Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1-19)
The Rt Reverend Dr Thomas Frederick Butler, The Venerable
George Howe, The Rt Worshipful Timothy Briden, The Reverend Alexander
McGregor, Dr Colin Podmore and Mr William Fittall
25 NOVEMBER 2009
Q1 Chairman: Perhaps you could start
by introducing your team and then we can discuss how we will proceed.
Bishop of Southwark: Well, from my right-hand
side, the Rt Worshipful Timothy Briden, who is the Vicar-General
of the Canterbury Province, the Venerable George Howe, Archdeacon
of Westmorland, and the Reverend Alexander McGregor, who is the
Deputy Legal Adviser. I am Bishop Tom Butler, the Bishop of Southwark,
Mr William Fittall, who is the Secretary General of the Archbishops'
Council, and Dr Colin Podmore, who is the Secretary to the Dioceses
Q2Chairman: Can I thank you all, first
of all, for being with us and thank you, even at this stage, for
the great help we have had from the explanatory notes you have
provided. Perhaps the best thing would be for us to start taking
the three Measures one by one, starting with the Miscellaneous
Provisions Measure, and perhaps you might like to choose somebody
to say what lies behind that.
Bishop of Southwark: I think I will have
to ask one of my colleagues to introduce that one.
Mr Fittall: Well, as you know, the General Synod
does from time to time, usually once in each five-year period,
look at what are always, we hope, rather minor and uncontentious
matters of the law which need some tidying up, and what you have
before you here is a short Measure that deals with the matters
which are described in the explanatory note. I do not believe
that any of them were contentious in the Synod and, as you will
see from the voting figures at paragraph 16, the Measure passed
by 185 votes to one at the final approval, but obviously, if there
are any points of detail that you want to ask us on, then we will
do our best to respond. I think it is a collection of really quite
small adjustments and none of them is of the sort of significance
that is covered in the other two Measures that you may want to
quiz us on in more detail.
Chairman: Rather than my identifying the provisions
here which seem to be more important than the others, the right
thing would be to ask whether there are any members of the Committee
who would like to ask any questions in relation to the Miscellaneous
Q3 Lord Elton: I would like to know,
as a matter of interest and procedure, whether any soundings have
been taken with the Ministry of Justice as to the likely reaction
to your request that they should disapply regulations in certain
cases? I am talking about clause 10(3).
Mr McGregor: Yes, we have spoken to the Coroners'
Department of the Ministry of Justice about this and, in principle,
they are amenable to dealing with situations where there is dual
control by way of making legislative reform orders so that that
is not necessary and, when we have talked to them about other
various matters, they have indicated that they would be amenable
to that in other contexts too, so this would seem to be of a piece
with the general policy view which has been expressed to us by
that Department in the Ministry of Justice.
Q4 Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I declare
an interest in having an indirect link with Westminster Abbey.
We have touched on Royal Peculiars before. The relationship to
cathedrals, does this in any way overlap with the particular,
peculiar positions of Royal Peculiars, so to speak?
Mr McGregor: No, this will not impinge upon
the Abbey or St George's.
Q5 Chairman: The provisions which
struck me, as being the more important were, firstly, clause 1
dealing with the transfer of powers from the Commissioners to
the Diocesan Board of Finance. It seems perfectly sensible. Are
there any comments on that? I cannot see any difficulty arising.
Then the election of members to the Archbishops' Councilany
questions on that? Then, finally, that curious discovery that
the Church of England does not existas a corporate body,
at any ratebut again these are all miscellaneous provisions,
all of which seem to be very sensible. Are there any further questions
that anybody would like to ask?
Mr Fittall: I think it would be fair to say
in relation to clause 9, gifts to the Church of England, that
we have always found a way of ensuring that these do go to proper
charitable purposes, but this will remove a certain amount of
paperwork when these sorts of gifts appear.
Q6 Baroness Massey of Darwen: I have
a very simple question. Why was one person voting against?
Mr Fittall: Those with long experience of the
General Synod, and I have only been its Secretary General for
the last seven years, I think would testify to the fact that very
often there will be one or two people who put their hand up against
almost anything that is there, not that they have got any particular
Baroness Massey of Darwen: So it is nothing substantial.
Q7 Chairman: Can we then move to
the second of the two Measures before us, the Vacancies in Suffragan
Sees Measure. We can take this with, as I understand it, the third
Measure because we have only got one set of explanatory notes.
That is the position, is it?
Bishop of Southwark: If I may just introduce
briefly those two Measures, they are two Measures that inaugurate
really quite narrow changes, but what they are doing is regularising
practices which have been followed for some time. Neither was
at all contentious in Synod, as can be seen by the voting figures
in paragraph 22, but they do touch on the historic relationship
between Church and State, so, although they are limited deliberately
in effect, they are of significance. They have to be seen in the
context of the long-term trends of giving the Church the decisive
say in the full range of its appointments rather than the final
decision being managed from Downing Street by those supporting
the Prime Minister in that role of advising the Crown. In particular,
this legislation flows partly from a Church initiative, the Pilling
Report, and partly from Her Majesty's Government initiative of
July 2007 to reduce the role of the Royal Prerogative not just
in Church appointments, but more generally. The most significant
change to come from that Government Green Paper of July 2007 was
the then Prime Minister's decision that in future he would recommend
to the Crown the Church's first choice for diocesan bishop appointments,
including the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and that, in
itself, did not require legislation, and these two Measures do
not affect that. These two small Measures deliver changes that
do require legislation and they concern the appointment of suffragan
bishops and the role of parish representatives in Crown livings,
and they address arrangements that now would, arguably, be somewhat
anomalous, given the wider changes that have been ushered in by
the Green Paper, but, as I say, they are essentially regularising
practices which in fact have been followed by Church and State
for some time.
Chairman: I think we all understand that and are
very grateful. Once again, perhaps we could start with suffragan
bishops. Are there any questions on that?
Q8 Mr Swayne: If you have been doing
it anyway, why do you need the change?
Mr Fittall: I think it is important to take
each of these in turn. In relation to suffragan bishops, the reality
is that for more than a century the Crown has always accepted
the first name that has been put forward. Nevertheless, it is
the case that, as a matter of form, two names do have to go forward,
so, although this is not going to make a change in reality because
the Prime Minister has always, since the 19th Century, recommended
the first name, it does mean that we have to put forward two names
and, as our processes become more transparent, (we have interview
processes and so on), having this formal requirement, which does
not really have any substantial value, is becoming increasingly
difficult. Also, in relation to the delegation to a suffragan
or area bishop of the Crown's right to appoint while there is
a vacancy in the diocesan see, that, in practice, is done at the
moment and this would be formalising it. There are one or two
things in these provisions, particularly when we come on to the
final Measure, the Crown Benefices Measure, where there is a change
of substance. We will, for the first time, be giving the parish
representatives effectively the right of veto in relation to the
appointment to a living. Now, in practice, it is not a big difference
because the Crown already always endeavours to find agreement,
and it is exceptionally rare, I think, and in modern times it
has hardly ever happened, that somebody has been appointed despite
the wishes of the two parish representatives. Nevertheless, this
does create a new right. There is one other areaand it
is a particularly arcane onesection 3 of the Suffragan
Sees Measure, which is a genuine change and it is a small and
technical one. This is the circumstance in which a vacancy is
created as a result of the Crown making somebody a diocesan bishop.
To take an example, a few years ago the Dean of Derby was appointed
Bishop of Gloucester. Now, the Crown does not normally appoint
to the Deanery of Derby, but, because the vacancy arose through
the appointment to Gloucester, that became a Crown appointment.
Now, it is an oddity and it happens very rarely. A Church Committee
recommended that should be changed about 45 years ago and we have
finally, as part of this package, done it and we have consulted
those in Government and everybody was entirely happy with it.
There are the one or two changes of substance but, by and large,
it is regularising what we have been doing for quite a long time.
Q9 Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: On
the Prime Minister, who, as we all know, has abandoned the Crown
Prerogative, was this discussed with the Leaders of the opposition
Mr Fittall: Well, I cannot say what consultations
the Prime Minister and his staff may have had with the other parties.
There were consultations with the Church before the announcement
in July 2007 was made. It was of course a Green Paper from the
Government and there was a statement made both in the Commons
and the Lords on the day of the Green Paper.
Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: But, if we agreed to
it, it is agreed for ever, whatever a future Prime Minister might
think. In other words, it is possible that a future Prime Minister
might want to reassert the Prerogative.
Mr Swayne: Quite.
Q10 Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: We
are abandoning something quite big here.
Mr Fittall: Well, I think it is important to
distinguish two things. One is the Prerogative in relation to
diocesan bishops and the Crown deaneries. Now, that is not directly
affected by the legislation you have before you and that was the
more significant area. I have to say, on the day the statement
was made, neither of the two opposition parties made any comment
on what was proposed and I am not aware that there is any opposition.
Certainly, so far as the Church is concerned, the move, in many
respects, gives the Church what it asked for back in the 1970s
which was the decisive voice in the choice. Obviously it would,
in principle, be open to a future Government to take a different
view on those matters. But, so far as suffragan bishops and these
parochial appointments are concerned, our view is that, although
we are doing them in consequence of those changes and they are
logical in the light of that, we would argue that these are sensible
changes, irrespective of what future changes there might be for
cathedral or diocesan bishops.
Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: But it is absolutely
Q11 Chairman: As I understand it,
the changes in relation to suffragans, you say, stand on their
own feet, although they can be said to be supportive of the decision
taken by the Prime Minister?
Mr Fittall: Yes.
Bishop of Southwark: We deliberately framed
the legislation in a narrow way so as not to open up the wider
questions. As diocesan Bishop of Southwark, in my 11 years there,
I have nominated three suffragan bishops. In each case following
the pattern, I have produced two names, but in each case, as for
the past 100 years, the Prime Minister has automatically chosen
the first name, so there will be no difference there, except,
as William says, increasingly we are getting more transparent
in our appointments system and we feel it becomes increasingly
difficult signalling to a second candidate that his name has been
submitted when there is in fact no possibility of his being appointed,
so, in a sense, although this makes no practical change, it does
better fit our transparent processes.
Q12 Lord Pilkington of Oxenford:
The reason I raise this, and I accept the fact that you have reassured
me about diocesan appointments and deaneries, is that we are going
to live in a rather controversial period in the Church of England
and it is true that in the past 40, 50 or so years people have
not raised a problem of suffragan appointments, but we are going
to live in a hotter climate and of course we traditionally have
the position of preserving you from the sort of controversy that
could occur. It has been accepted, I accept, for many decades
that bishops can appoint their own suffragans, but, I assure you,
it is going to be a bit like Lebanon in the future and I am just
making sure that you have thought of that.
Bishop of Southwark: If I may, one of the ways
in which our pattern of appointments has become more transparent
is that a diocesan bishop now has to appoint an advisory committee
to actually advise him on advertising, on short-listing candidates
and on producing, therefore, the preferred candidate. So, if anything,
a diocesan bishop is far more constrained now than has been the
case in the past and I think there is the opportunity for people
to make their voices heard.
Q13 Mr Swayne: Well, can I answer
the question that was asked earlier? No, there has not been any
consultation and, secondly, as the Leader of the Opposition's
Parliamentary Private Secretary, I did ask him about this today
and he is not content that this should be done. In answer to the
points that have been made, first, whilst two names have always
been presented and the Prime Minister has chosen the first name,
that does not mean that the choice was automatic. Secondly, with
respect to the transparency of appointments, I fail to understand
the difficulty if you have been through a selection process and
an interview process and you have come up with a name and presumably
someone who came close to it. I just do not accept that there
is some difficulty in presenting the second name.
Mr Fittall: If I could just comment on the history
of this, this is about suffragan bishops. The Suffragan Bishops
Act was passed in 1534, but suffragan bishops died out in the
Church of England by the following century and there were no suffragan
bishops in the Church of England until Mr Gladstone revived them
in 1870. Within a very few years of that, certainly by the end
of the 19th Century, it had become a convention that the Prime
Minister accepted the first name, but nobody went to the trouble
of amending the Tudor legislation, so it is actually since the
19th Century in relation to suffragan bishops. There is quite
a different set of arguments about diocesan bishops, I do accept
that, and I think that may lie behind some of the comments that
have been made, but that is not what this legislation is about;
it is only about suffragan bishops.
Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: Could I say, the point
I made is that we are looking at a different future than has existed
for a very long time and the Leader of the Opposition is quite
entitled, bearing this in mind this and of course we, as guardians
of the situation, have to bear this in mind. Basically, in the
late 19th Century, as you know, they balanced the ticket, Anglo-Catholic
here, another there, and there was quite a complex system, as
anyone who knows any Church history knows about, so my colleague
on the Committee is raising a legitimate point, and just quoting
that it had not occurred until 1870 is not entirely relevant.
Q14 Mr Marsden: This is really from
the point of view of clarity and not least in view of the remarks
which have been made about transparency, but the nature of the
responsibilities of a suffragan bishop and possibly even the qualities
required by a suffragan bishop may vary from those required for
a diocesan bishop and, therefore, if we are going to sign off
on what seems to be a perfectly logical change, it would be interesting
to know what discussion there was in General Synod as to the distinctiveness
of the appointment of suffragan bishops and the process, and the
Bishop of Southwark has referred to the need to have a committee
that advises. It would just be quite helpful to know whether in
fact those factors were taken into account, given that you now
want to formalise a process which has been going on for some time.
Bishop of Southwark: Yes, I think the mood of
Synod in the debates, and those questions have been raised, is
that it is likely to become less automatic for diocesan bishops
to be appointed from the ranks of suffragan bishops, and we already
are beginning to see that, partly because of the processes being
more transparent. It is far more possible for somebody who, let
us say, is a dean of a cathedral or indeed a parish priest to
be appointed straight as a diocesan bishop rather than serving
his time as a suffragan bishop, which has the implication that
a suffragan bishop is likely perhaps to serve longer as a suffragan
bishop than might have been the case in the past. They certainly
are different responsibilities and, I have to say, there are different
responsibilities in different dioceses regarding suffragan bishops,
depending on whether it is an area system or not.
Q15 Lord Judd: I must say, my Lord
Chairman, what I find interesting is this concept of a second
name going forward. If the process is becoming increasingly transparent
and, therefore, the weight of authority is behind the first name
that goes forward, what is the basis on which the second name
goes forward? Does the second candidate know that their name is
going forward? It seems to me a rather humiliating experience
for somebody to go through just as a formality. If, in fact, the
way it is being handled is that it is all geared to one candidate
going forward, I do not myself, as an Anglican, find it very enhancing
to belong to a church that goes through such a caper.
Bishop of Southwark: If I may say, Chairman,
of the three suffragan bishops I have nominated, with the first
two the second name did not know that his name was included for
that very reason. The third one, the latest one, as we began to
get more transparent, did know and it was not helpful because
it naturally disturbs a person's ministry.
Baroness Perry of Southwark: It might be helpful
to say I have just been a member of the Bishop's Advisory Committee
in Liverpool for the appointment of the Bishop of Warrington and
I was extremely impressed by the openness of the process and by
the hugely wide consultation. Everyone in the diocese was free
to write in, we had a complete analysis of all the comments that
were made and it fed very directly into the discussions as to
who should be appointed, what kind of person we were looking for.
I have to say, I did not find it all helpful that we did, at that
stage, have to tell our second choice that he was a second choice
because there was a very, very clear first choice and the first
choice is now happily installed as of last month, and I do think
that this is a very sensible Measure to rectify what in fact has
been the practice for 30 years or so.
Q16 Mr Swayne: Is not the obvious
answer, if that is the problem, not to inform the person who came
second that their name is going forward, as has been the case
in the past? It seems to have worked adequately then.
Mr Fittall: Perhaps I could just comment on
the different procedures between suffragan and diocesan because
I think this may help. If somebody is being considered as a diocesan
bishop, which is not touched on by this Measure, that is considered
by the Crown Nominations Commission and people do not know they
are being considered. They are not interviewed and it is entirely
secret and, therefore, the question of the two names is in a very
different context there. As the Bishop of Southwark has said,
it was the case, frankly, years ago that in relation to suffragan
appointments people often did not know because the bishop had
a wide measure of latitude in terms which were not standard. But
we have moved away from that and we have moved to a system where
for suffragan appointments there is a much more open process.
So this difficulty does immediately arise because you have got
people who have been seen, who have been interviewed, you know
that the first name that has emerged is the one that is going
to come through and yet you have to go through this rather artificial
procedure. So I think the arguments in relation to suffragans
and diocesans are really rather different and it is only the former
that we are dealing with today.
Q17 David Taylor: I think this is
a question, Chairman, to the Bishop of Southwark. Is it commonly
the case that someone who is the second name on a particular appointment
is the second name again, again and again on future appointments,
always the bridesmaid and never the bride, or does it tend to
be that, once they have served their time as a second name and
never been called, they will quite quickly appear as a first name
in the near future?
Bishop of Southwark: I really am not in a position
to reply to that because in the past nobody knew who the second
name was, except the diocesan bishop concerned, so it might be
that somebody was the second name in several dioceses, but we
would not have known. As things become more transparent, we perhaps
might know and I am not sure whether that is happening or not,
it might be so. We are a very `flat' organisation with 8,000 (stipendiary)
parish priests and perhaps 110 bishops and 111 archdeacons, so
we do not have a kind of normal career ladder that other organisations
have, so it does not necessarily follow that, because somebody
has been considered seriously for a senior appointment in one
diocese, his name would come up again.
Robert Key: My Lord Chairman, unfortunately, until
a few minutes ago, I was not aware that the Leader of the Opposition
was seeking to make an issue of this proposal. If I had known,
as a member of the General Synod, the Synod of the Diocese of
Salisbury and the Council of Salisbury Cathedral and as a regular
member of the Church of England, I would have sought to explain
to the Leader of the Opposition that the Church of England has
been struggling for many years with a lot of extraordinary rules
and laws, including the Suffragan Bishops Act of 1534, which have
made the Church of England look rather ridiculous. Having sat
through the debates on this in the General Synod and observed
the process throughout which has ended with this proposal, I am
convinced that it has been taken very seriously by all the representatives
of each house of the Synod and that it would really not be helpful
to seek to oppose this proposal for no good reason other than,
if it ain't bust, don't fix it because we can fudge it. You cannot
go on fudging these things decade after decade, century after
century. And, when the Church of England seeks to move into the
21st Century to take account of new human resources methods, issues
and legislation, it is not helpful, frankly, for the Leader of
the Opposition to take this particular view. So I regret that
I did not know that this was the Leader of the Opposition's position
because I would have asked to see him to explain. Therefore, I
find it hard to agree with my honourable friend for my neighbouring
constituency, although a different diocese, on this particular
issue and I certainly support this Measure.
Chairman: Could I just say that I do not think it
has been suggested that the Leader of the Opposition has expressed
any sort of view on the particular Measure before us, but it is
on the much wider question of diocesans.
Q18 Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: Perhaps
I could say a word in favour of the Leader of the Opposition,
and he certainly has not consulted me! The Church of England,
and I will not give you a history lesson on this, has existed
on the basis of compromise. Mr Gladstone was a case in point,
but he balanced the ticket. The Church itself has gone democratic
and, as you will know, when there are great divisions in an institution,
and I mentioned Lebanon and I could mention Northern Ireland,
there is always tension when democracy or a general feeling works
and, therefore, I am not going to vote against this or anything,
but the business of balancing the ticket is terribly important
in the decade that is going to lie ahead.
Bishop of Southwark: If I may just say, my Lord
Chairman, and it may not be helpful, I was appointed Bishop of
Willesden by Margaret Thatcher, Bishop of Leicester by John Major
and Bishop of Southwark by Tony Blair, so I do not think political
factors very often impinge on these appointments.
Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: Well, they do not, unless
the Prime Minister happens to be a believer. That creates bigger
Q19 Chairman: I think it is probably
time we moved on to the third Measure. But before we do so I ought
to say, since the discussion has been very much about second names
being put forward, that I once allowed my name to be put forward
as the second name not, I may say, as a diocesan bishop, but on
the strict understanding that I would not be appointed. That seemed
to work, though not very transparent, you may feel! Perhaps we
can move on to the third of our Measures, which is the Crown Benefices
Bishop of Southwark: That, my Lord Chairman,
makes provision for the appointment of lay parish representatives
of Crown benefices to approve the selection of incumbents. In
other words, it gives them the same rights as lay representatives
of all other patrons have already, but it is a departure. In fact,
I understand that mostly it has been the custom in recent years
for those making the appointments to consult with lay parish representatives
and indeed ask for two names to be nominated, so, in a sense,
it is regularising the way that Downing Street have operated in
the last few years, but it puts them in the same position as the
lay parish representatives of any other benefice. What it does
not do is give the diocesan bishop any kind of veto, which he
does have over other benefices, so it does not affect the right
of the diocesan bishop, but it gives lay parish representatives
more rights in the appointment.
Chairman: That does truly seem to be uncontroversial,
but can anybody think of a question on that? No, so I think you
have persuaded us on that. If there are no final questions anybody
would like to ask, I would like to thank you, Bishop, and all
of your colleagues for all the help you have given us on this