May I begin by expressing my thanks and gratitude to my hon. and learned Friend for enabling this brief Debate to take place on an extremely important Measure. It was from no discourtesy to the House that I introduced it formally, but usually the House is not much interested in these Measures, and I thought it would suit their convenience much better if I replied to comments and objections they might choose to raise. My hon. and learned Friend objected to certain portions or certain aspects of this Measure. He regarded it as a constitutional outrage and thought it was especially wicked that we should proceed with this outrage in the absence of a considerable number of people affected by the problem. As to constitutional rights he must read what the Ecclesiastical Committee has to say on the matter. It says quite openly that inevitably constitutional rights of His Majesty's subjects are interfered with on a large scale when we come to reconstitute these bombed areas.
They go on to say that the Committee are satisfied that proper regard has been paid to constitutional rights and provision made for compensation in appropriate cases. As regards absence overseas, that is really equally valid as an argument in relation to all our soldiers now overseas. There are all sorts of rights that will inevitably be very considerably varied and interfered with in any large scale scheme to reconstruct these bombed areas. That is inevitable. I think I shall have the House with me in suggesting that our soldiers overseas would much rather that we frankly faced this problem for them and did our best for them in their absence instead of waiting until they come back and then saying, "Sorry, we did not dare do anything at all. We have waited until we knew what you wanted." We know what the mass of these people want, and for my part, second to the duty of this House in doing all it can to win the war, I suggest is the duty of doing all it can to make the condition of this country satisfactory for the soldiers when they come back.
Then with regard to the dispossessed incumbent very special regard was paid to his position. The ordinary layman who has been bombed out of his occupation will come back to find his premises gone, all the good will of his occupation vanished, the population he served dis- tributed somewhere else; he will have nothing whatever other than war damage compensation. The incumbent, by this Measure, has preserved a large amount of the rights to which he was entitled. My hon. Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) asked, on that point, whether Clause 15 adequately provided for their full compensation. It was admittedly one of the most difficult problems we had in all this reconstruction business. Everybody sympathises with the dispossessed incumbent. Everybody wanted to do the best that could be done for him, but the precise method was one of great complexity. There was a suggestion that he should be guaranteed the endowments of the benefice. That broke down simply because the endowments are often grossly inadequate: in some cases they are quite a small portion of the amounts the incumbent is actually receiving; and to base compensation on that might well be quite unfair; and, anyhow, not a good measure of the compensation that should be paid. What the Measure actually does say is that he shall be given compensation such as the diocesan reorganisation committee or, on appeal, the special committee, may determine to be fair and equitable, regard being had to the income which the incumbent will lose, the expenses to fall upon him, and other things.