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Care of Places of Worship Measure

Lord Carter: My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Care of Places of Worship Measure, has consented to place her prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Measure, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Measure.

8.52 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of London rose to move, That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.

The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, I am grateful for the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Carter.

At the outset, perhaps I may refer to a printing error in the version of the Measure that comes before your Lordships. In line 9, Clause 1(2) should say,

At this stage in the evening, your Lordships' House may be pleased to note that the Measure is modest in length and does not compel anyone to do anything unless they wish to. However, it helps to fill in a gap in the existing arrangements.

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Noble Lords will know that while churches belonging to the Church of England are in use for ecclesiastical purposes they and their graveyards are covered by the faculty jurisdiction controls. That is a rigorous system, although it takes account of the need to use the building for its primary purpose of Christian worship and mission.

However, there are certain buildings of an ecclesiastical nature that, under the Ecclesiastical Exemption (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Order 1994, are subject to neither Church nor secular controls. Those buildings include ecclesiastical peculiars which are outside the jurisdiction of diocesan bishops, buildings belonging to religious communities, chapels belonging to educational institutions and some buildings shared with other Christian denominations.

In view of some of the anxieties expressed by some members of the Ecclesiastical Committee, I should stress that the Measure relates only to places of worship linked to the Church of England, not to those that belong wholly to other Christian Churches or other faiths.

It is clearly unsatisfactory that there should be such a gap in the regulatory system. I pay tribute to the officials from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport who, together with English Heritage and representatives of many of the institutions that would be affected, have shaped the Measure.

In brief, the Measure provides an opportunity for those responsible for places of worship in the above categories to opt into the faculty jurisdiction should they desire to do so. Otherwise, and if the buildings are listed or in a conservation area, they will normally come within secular control when the relevant sections of the 1994 order are revoked.

The Measure provides that if a place of worship falls within the definitions offered in Section 1, the appropriate authorities can have it entered on a list kept by the Council for the Care of Churches, which advises the Church of England on the use, care and conservation of places of worship. The process is not irreversible and the same authorities can request that their place of worship be removed from the list. Copies of the list will be available to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, English Heritage and local planning authorities and it will be open to public inspection.

It will therefore be clear to all which system of control is in force for any particular place of worship. This modest Measure will enable the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to make progress in revoking the temporary exemptions under the 1994 Order. Based on extensive consultation, the present Measure proved uncontroversial in Synod and has been welcomed by many of those whose buildings will come within its scope. I ask the House to give sympathetic consideration to this further measure of protection for a significant part of this country's cultural and religious heritage.

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Moved, That this House do direct that, in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.--(The Lord Bishop of London.)

8.56 p.m.

Viscount Brentford: My Lords, as I stand up for the second time this evening, I am racking my brains for the correct word to describe being the jam between the sandwich of two senior Bishops. I have not been able to find an answer.

I warmly support the Measure, which brings a number of buildings, as detailed in Clause 1, within the faculty jurisdiction if those responsible for the buildings so wish, as the right reverend Prelate, whom I thank for so clearly introducing both Measures this evening, said.

One point that I hope that I clarified correctly in the Ecclesiastical Committee was that the Measure deals with the exemption from listed buildings consent and does not in any way affect legal planning consent provisions. There is no financial obligation on the state as a result of the Measure.

I warmly appreciate the wide consultation that went on through Synod with the different organisations that the right reverend Prelate mentioned. The Measure has the support of the Government. It will clarify but keep flexible the position of faculty jurisdiction for the buildings concerned. I warmly support it.

8.58 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, I speak in support of the Measure, as an interested party in at least three respects and in relation, at the latest count, to at least 14 buildings. I have visitatorial or quasi-visitatorial responsibilities in relation to five Oxford colleges, all with medieval chapel buildings, two public schools, one Church college of higher education, one 12th century alms house charitable institution, four religious communities and the medieval chapel with a restoration interior of the official house of the Bishop of Winchester. All are in regular, if not daily, use for worship according to the rights and ceremonies of the Church of England. It seems to me entirely appropriate, indeed necessary, that those who are responsible for all the other buildings and I in relation to the chapel of Wolvesey should have this opportunity. The Measure offers the option for the care and development of such buildings to be regulated by an appropriate body with an understanding of the subtleties and delicacies of historic buildings whose purpose continues to be the worship of almighty God. I hope that noble Lords will support the Measure.

9 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I echo the right reverend Prelate's reference to "subtleties and delicacies". I am a member of both the Church of England and the National Trust. Those, however, are different bodies. Important problems arise for a church that has to take care of a large number of historic

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buildings but also use them as "living" buildings for worship, as community centres and as centres of college life.

I remember a rather bitter debate within the governing body of my own college, King's College, some time ago, when a rather beautiful picture, which now hangs at the east end, was presented to the college. One of the Fellows said that he saw no reason why that perfectly decent concert hall should be converted into an art gallery. There are, however, other uses for colleges at Oxford and Cambridge and elsewhere. This Measure tidies up the arrangement.

I am learning the complexities of faculty jurisdiction as my own church, in the diocese of Southwark, attempts to reconstruct some minor elements of a rather beautiful Victorian church. I recognise that the subtleties and delicacies of changing habits within the Church, and efforts to give reality to the needs of

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worship, often come up against the problems of historic buildings. Passions are always raised. This Measure makes a useful contribution.

9.1 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, I am grateful for the subtle and delicate way in which noble Lords have responded. I am deeply envious of the right reverend Prelate's portfolio of medieval chapels. I am grateful for the general support that the Measure has received, and I ask the House to approve the Motion.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty Bill [H.L.]

Reported from the Grand Committee with amendments: Bill ordered to be printed as amended.

        House adjourned at one minute past nine o'clock.

29 Jun 1999 : Column CWH1

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty Bill

Tuesday, 29th June 1999.

The Committee met at half-past three of the clock.

[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux) in the Chair.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux): Before I put the Question that the Title be postponed, it may be helpful to remind your Lordships of the procedure for today's Committee stage. Except in one important respect, our proceedings will be exactly as in a normal Committee of the Whole House. We shall go through the Bill clause by clause; noble Lords will speak standing; all noble Lords are free to attend and participate; and the proceedings will be recorded in Hansard.

The one difference is that the House has agreed that there shall be no Divisions in the Grand Committee. Any issue on which agreement cannot be reached should be considered again at the Report stage when, if necessary, a Division may be called. Unless, therefore, an amendment is likely to be agreed to, it should be withdrawn.

Title postponed.

Clause 1 [Purposes of designation of areas of outstanding natural beauty]:

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