Church Land

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd March 1988.

Alert me about debates like this

Mr. Alan W. Williams:

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received from the secretary general of the General Synod of the Church of England on his policy on the use of agricultural land.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

None, Sir, and nor has my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales received any such representations from the Church in Wales.

Mr. Williams:

Has not the debate in the Synod on the use of agricultural land been crowded out by the Minister's obsessive attacks on the bishops and archbishops? Is it not about time that he decided whether he wants to be a churchman or a politician?

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

It is a new doctrine of constitution that one cannot be both a churchman and a politician. As an elected member of the Synod of the Church of England, I say no to the hon. Gentleman, and as a Minister I say that that is not an agriculture question.

Photo of Robert Key Robert Key , Salisbury

Will my right hon. Friend make representations to the General Synod to continue the policy of privatising glebe land, which has been entirely successful in the dioceses that have adopted it? Will he also mention to the General Synod that it would greatly help the social fabric of this country if the dioceses in possession of agricultural land that is surplus to requirements could make it available below the market price for housing projects?

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

I shall certainly take that opportunity. The Church of England has a good reputation in its handling of both tenants and glebe land.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

Is it not the case that the Synod has not made representations because its members have completely lost confidence in the Minister because of his savage attacks on the clergy and his bishop-bashing? Does the Minister understand that tens of thousands of churchgoing people all over the country are tired of the way that he persists in meddling in the affairs of the Church and tries to impose his will—

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. This question is about agriculture.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

—and the will of the Government on an independent Church? Keep out.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

As an elected member of the Church of England I have more right to comment on those views than has the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours). The hon. Gentleman demands the right to be robust in his views. Why does he stop other people from being roboust in theirs?

Several Hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I remind the House that although there are a number of questions on this general topic, questions must be linked with agriculture.