Priests (Ordination of Women)

– in the House of Commons at 9:38 am on 29th October 1993.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons 9:38 am, 29th October 1993

Before we commence today's business, it might be helpful to the House if I made a short statement.

In view of the business of the House order which provides that the Questions on both Measures are to be put at 2.30 pm, I propose to allow them to be debated together. The amendment to the first motion is not in order, but of course the arguments contained in the amendment may be deployed in the joint debate.

I am satisfied that all the necessary preliminary procedures relating to the Measures have been gone through and that today's motions are perfectly in order. Whether or not the Measures represent an appropriate way in which to make the proposed changes is a question of argument rather than a question of order for me.

I have been asked to consider whether the financial privileges of the House are being infringed by the financial provisions Measure. I have established that the payments that it is proposed to make out of the Church Commissioners' general fund do not require a money resolution of the House and that the Measure is perfectly in order in that respect.

Finally, an enormous number of hon. Members wish to speak and, alas, I am not in a position to place a 10-minute limit on speeches today. I therefore make a special plea for brevity.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bowden Mr Andrew Bowden , Brighton, Kemptown

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. If the motions are accepted today, they will have a profound effect upon the Church of England. I am a communicant member of the Church and I am distressed that Members of the House who hold other religious beliefs or who are agnostics, atheists or feminists will be able to influence the future of my Church. I therefore ask you, Madam Speaker, to consider ruling that it would not be proper for those hon. Members to use their votes today.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

I must tell the hon. Gentleman and the House that our proceedings are pursuant to an Act of Parliament and that all hon. Members are entitled to vote. May we now make progress?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree 9:40 am, 29th October 1993

I hope that I need detain the House for only a moment. I have two messages.

First, 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 Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure, has consented to place her prerogative and interest, so far as it is concerned on behalf of the Crown and the Duchy of Lancaster, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Measure.

Secondly, I have it in command from His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to acquaint the House that his royal highness, having been informed of the purport of the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure, has consented to place his interest, so far as it is concerned on behalf of the Duchy of Cornwall, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Measure.

J

An example of Prince's Consent

Submitted by John Cross

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby 9:41 am, 29th October 1993

I beg to move, That the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure, passed by the General Synod of the Church of England, be presented to Her Majesty for her Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament. The two Church of England Measures that I invite the House to approve are complementary—indeed, the first cannot be put into effect without the second, financial, Measure. I hope, therefore, that it will be for the convenience of the House if we discuss the two Measures in tandem, in accordance with what you, Madam Speaker, said. I remind the House of the second motion before us:

That the Ordination of Women (Financial Provisions) Measure, passed by the General Synod of the Church of England, be presented to Her Majesty for her Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament. The Measures are certainly among the most significant and, it must be said, the most controversial pieces of Church legislation ever to come before the House. Their significance goes far beyond their immediate provisions. They not only raise major questions of theology and Church unity and order but touch on issues of deep concern to very large numbers—probably millions—of people, ranging from regular Sunday churchgoers to those more loosely attached, whose links with the Church of England, if distant, are existent and real. I am grateful and glad that so many hon. Members, on behalf of their constituents, have recognised the importance of these matters by their attendance and by their desire to participate in the debate.

The process by which the Measures have reached the House cannot be said to have been either rushed or superficial. As long ago as 1975, the General Synod of the Church of England passed a motion to the effect that it considered that there were no fundamental objections to the ordination of women to the Anglican priesthood.

The legislation before us began its own journey through the Synod more than five years ago. Prior to its introduction, the justification for and shape of the legislation had been extensively considered by the House of Bishops and the Synod itself. In accordance with the General Synod's constitution, and before they could be considered for final approval by the Synod, the two Measures were referred to every diocese in the Church, and were discussed, I suspect, in every deanery and parish in the land. All but six of the 44 diocesan synods voted in their favour and they were finally approved last November by majorities of more than two thirds in each of the three houses—Bishops, Clergy and Laity—of the General Synod. They reach us, therefore, with a pedigree of timely consideration and immense support within the constituencies of the Church.

The process of careful consideration has continued since that time. The Ecclesiastical Committee—a Committee of this House—whose reports are before the House this morning, heard evidence on the Measures on several occasions and held a joint conference with our matching body in the General Synod, which is called the Legislative Committee. In a departure from past practice, we took evidence in the House from members of the General Synod who were opposed to the Measures as well as from those who supported them. Having deliberated carefully, the Ecclesiastical Committee has reported by a majority that the legislation and the motions before us are expedient.

Some hon. Members here today may, while applauding the careful consideration given to the legislation in the Synod, seek to argue that it is no business of this House to deliberate on matters that are so exclusively and intimately the concern of the Church of England. I suspect that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) may address himself to that point during a speech that we look forward to hearing.

To take that approach, however, is not only to ignore the historic role of the Church of England as the national church but to fail to realise how large our Church of England continues to loom in society today. Far from being the organisation in terminal decline that many commentators eagerly seek to depict, the Church of England remains an organisation with a vigorous life whose influence reaches into all corners of the nation. The active membership of the Church is currently increasing in many areas.

Moreover, the Church of England retains a significance far beyond those—still numbering more than a million —who regularly and weekly attend its churches. It is still the Church to which most of us and our constituents go on the big occasions of life—to have our children baptised, to be married or, less willingly, to be buried. The Church of England still ministers to every community in the land. In many of our inner-city areas, Anglican clergy are often the only residential professional people. Some 20 per cent. of our schools are of Church of England foundation. More than 800,000 young people take part each week in the Church's youth activities. Its pedigree in our national heritage—culturally, linguistically, architecturally and artistically—is simply immeasurable. I remind the House in passing that all the Chancellors of the Exchequer from the Norman conquest to the reformation were bishops, or sometimes deans or archdeacons. It is for consideration whether those bishops, deacons and deans did a better job than more recent performers, by which I mean, of course, those performing over the past 500 or 600 years at least.

Moreover, millions more of our fellow citizens and constituents than the comparatively smaller number of those who regularly attend Anglican Church services definitely identify themselves with and value our Christian heritage in Britain. The latest figures taken from the ninth British social attitudes survey of 1992–93 show that 61 per cent. of the entire population identify with one or other of the main Christian denominations. A much smaller proportion—35 per cent.—register no religion. Therefore, we are considering millions of people who identify themselves with and participate in the Christian denominations in our country.

Many of that 61 per cent. are members of other non-Anglican Christian denominations. For those millions of people, the Church of England, with its formal state link, is a kind of valuable stalking horse by which they can bring pressure to bear on the powers that be to promote or to maintain Christian standards in education, complex moral and ethical issues, and so on. Therefore, it is to this House and its elected Members that they expect to write and get a response in that context. Few would know how to get in touch with an elected Synod member, for example, so it is entirely appropriate for the House to debate matters of concern to so many millions of our constituents, whether or not they be members of the Church of England. It is also right for the House to manifest its proper function on an un-whipped Friday by the presence of such large numbers of hon. Members to reflect on, respond to and echo the intense interest of our constituents.

I shall briefly consider the controversy that has surrounded the motion that springs from the varying views in the Christian Church on whether the tradition of an all-male priesthood can be properly modified and whether the Church has authority to make such a change. Right hon. and hon. Members will not expect me as a layman to give an exhaustive and expert account of theological matters. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Since the arguments on both sides may well be referred to later, and in view of the response that that little tremor suggested, I shall include a bit of theology.

The case against the proposed legislation on theological and ecclesiological grounds falls in paragraphs 10 to 15 of the Ecclesiastical Committee report under three headings. First, it is argued that, in his incarnation as Christ, God manifested himself unequivocally as a male human being. At the Eucharist, the celebrant in his own person in called on to represent Christ and thus male priests only, it is argued, can properly and adequately do that. That argument is challenged by proponents of women priests on the ground that it is the humanity of Christ that is definitive and significant, not his maleness. To include women in the priesthood would indicate the inclusiveness of all humanity in the person of the celebrant. I shall tentatively follow that little theology byway a little further. We all understand that when one of Her Majesty's ambassadors is serving Her Majesty in a foreign posting in, say, Washington, that ambassador, if he is male, can properly represent Her Majesty. He does not have to be a representation of Her Majesty or, in other words, a women who looks exactly like the Queen. He can be a full representative of Her Majesty as a male. If one argues that it has to be a precise representation, one should argue that not only should the priest be male, but that he should be a Jew as well. [Interruption.] One sees the hazards that arise the moment one brings in the byways of theology.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , South Staffordshire

Does my right hon. Friend accept that there are many people in the Catholic and Apostolic Church—Anglican, Roman Catholic and orthodox—who would consider that a gross trivialisation of their argument?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

Certainly it is not an original analogy. It comes from one of the great doctors of the Church of England and I shall take that rebuke and pass on to him.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

Does my right hon. Friend accept that a number of Christian Churches have had female vicars for a long time, that they have behaved satisfactorily and to the great distinction of those Churches, and that many of us cannot understand the theological nonsense that has kept the Church of England behind other Churches for so long?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. I shall touch briefly on the extent to which other Churches have already trodden the path that today we are suggesting the Church of England should tread.

Those who lay the weight of the Church of England's tradition on deploying an all-male priesthood also argue that to admit women to that order of ministry would compromise its apostolic continuity. However, others see the Church of England as continually developing and do not accept that the apostolicity of the Church would be undermined by the ordination of women to the priesthood.

It is worth reminding the House that for the first 1,000 years of the history of the Christian Church it was normal for bishops and clergy to have wives—one wife only—and it was only after that period had passed that it became necessary for priests to be celibate. We do things in thousand-year tranches in the Christian Church and it may be that in the next 1,000 years we shall make another important change to the lot and scope of women. I do not believe that it represents a significant breach of the principle of continuity in which there is evolution over long periods of the Church's history.

The next main objection depends on the interpretation of certain passages in the Bible.

Photo of John Greenway John Greenway , Ryedale

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the arguments that he and others have advanced against the ordination of women are absolutely crucial to a substantial number of people in the Church of England who want the Measure to be passed and form part of the pressure on hon. Members? However, will he assure the House that those who have reservations—as far as I can judge from conversations I have had with them, they will not give them up in any circumstances—will be properly catered for under any new arrangements if the House were to pass the Measure?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I hope to be able to reassure my hon. Friend when I briefly expound the content of the Measures, with the safeguards that are written into them.

The next main ground of objection depends on the interpretation of certain passages in the Bible suggesting that headship within the Church and more widely rests with men and not with women. The main texts in question are referred to and set out in paragraph 13 of our Ecclesiastical Committee's report. There has been much debate about the precise meaning of the Greek word Kephale, which is translated as "head" in the biblical text. Many who are strongly committed to the supremacy of scripture cannot find in the passages quoted any bar to the ordination of women as priests.

The third main ecclesiological argument is that the Church of England is part only of the one holy and apostolic church and does not have the authority to make the change proposed. Such a change could be made only by an ecumenical council of the whole Christian Church. This argument overlooks the effect of the reformation and the sad but none the less real divisions that continue within Christendom.

Article 20 of the our Church of England's 39 articles of religion, one of our foundation documents, states that the Church has authority in controversies of faith". In spite of the considerable improvements in relations between the churches, an ecumenical council on this matter is not a realistic possibility at present.

The effect of unilateral action by the Church of England on its relations with other Christian denominations has been a constant concern throughout our debates. The ordination of women to the priesthood would undoubtedly represent a setback in the search for unity with the Roman Catholic and orthodox Churches. It would, however, not end the quest for unity with those Churches and would at the same time remove a barrier to unity with other Churches such as those from the Lutheran and reformed traditions.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Secretary of State for Environment

Will my right hon. Friend explain why, almost 10 years ago, the Church of England solemnly agreed with the orthodox Churches that no changes would be made affecting its association and relations without discussion and agreement, yet, in the long discussions, threw that promise to the winds at a time when the orthodox Church, especially in eastern Europe, looked to the Church of England for leadership? Is not that to put our own wishes ahead of the unity for which Jesus asked at the last supper? Why did we make that decision, and why did we not keep our word?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

My right hon. Friend will understand as clearly as I do that the Church of England is subject to synodical government, which includes a representational and—dare one use the word without theological, undertones—democratic factor. No fixed or final undertaking—my right hon. Friend will, I think, understand this—can be given by archbishops or bishops in ecumenical or other discussions with other churches that must stand firmly, fixedly and eternally in the face of the movement of the seas of opinion and, above all, of voting changes in their own church that are likely to shift the sands a little on the basic discussion of ecumenical matters.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Secretary of State for Environment

Does my right hon. Friend have some sympathy with the leader of the Russian orthodox Church, who found it impossible to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury in formal circumstances and had to ask, "By what authority does he come if he is not prepared to accept the authority of the whole Church but insists upon a unilateral decision by a part of the Church, having given us his word?"

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I do not think that I can properly respond on the relations of leaders of churches because I have not been privy to their discussions, but since the reformation there has been some division in the councils of Christendom and the Church of England was not extensively consulted by the Church of Rome on some of the fundamental doctrines—for example, the ascension and reception of the Blessed Virgin Mary bodily into heaven, a new doctrine promulgated without reference to the Church of England or its leaders. It is part of the divided framework of Christendom that churches develop their own positions and theological reflections and evolution in this area. We cannot continually be bound by decisions reached in other churches before we can go forward, otherwise no reformation would have occurred.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Eltham

The House will probably be able to hear some of the arguments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) later in the debate, but is it not a fact that the Roman Catholic Church does not recognise the orders of male priests in the Church of England? That does not prevent parishes—Roman Catholic, Anglican and free—from presenting Christianity jointly to people all over the country, and is not that the greater truth and greater cheerfulness?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I fully accept what my hon. Friend says. There is nothing significant from the point of view of the Roman Catholic Church in the possibility of women priests emerging in the Church of England, as the ministry of the male priesthood, in the view of the Roman Catholic Church, is null and void. No terrible sea change is implied in the relationship between the two churches if null is made nuller and void voider by the introduction of the feminine tense to these two words.

As well as considering our Church traditions, we should not overlook the fact that the Church of England is the mother Church of a worldwide Anglican communion of 70 million adherents. Within that communion, many provinces have already moved to ordain women as priests. There are now well over 1,000 women priests within the Anglican communion. While other provinces continue to adhere to the tradition of an all-male priesthood, the communion has already and clearly found ways of living with a variety of practices among its members on this issue.

Photo of Mr David Harris Mr David Harris , St Ives

I visited Hong Kong with the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and last Sunday I took communion in the cathedral. It was administered by a women priest, and although I could not sometimes understand what she was saying because she was an American, I could not help noticing that there had been a significant increase in the congregation for the eight o'clock communion since I was there years earlier. I hope that that woman priest has helped to bring about that increase.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for showing the extent to which communion is feasible and possible where women priests are ministering, certainly in the Anglican community.

The potentially divisive effect of the legislation within the Church of England has captured most attention within the Church and our own Ecclesiastical Committee.

The Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure—the main Measure—seeks to do two things. First, clause 1(1) makes it lawful for the General Synod to provide by canon for a woman to be ordained to the office of priest as long as she meets the other requirements of canon law for such ordination. Clause 1(2) makes it clear that the Measure does not open the way for women to become bishops. A further Measure requiring as elaborate a process of consideration as the present one would be necessary for that to happen.

Recognising the divided views in the Church on the issue, the remainder of the Measure provides an elaborate and comprehensive set of safeguards designed to ensure that those who, in conscience, cannot accept the ordination of women as priests are not asked to act against their conscience. Under canon law, a parish priest can already decide who may share in the administration of sacrament in his church and, if he wishes, he can exclude a woman from doing so.

Clause 3 enables a parochial church council to pass either or both of the resolutions set out in schedule 1. These are, first, under resolution A, that the parochial church council would not accept a woman to preside at or celebrate Holy Communion or pronounce the absolution in the parish—those acts that are specifically reserved to the ministry—and, secondly, under resolution B, that the council would not accept a woman as the incumbent or priest-in-charge of the benefice or as a team vicar for the benefice. Both this and clause 4, which relates to cathedrals, are continuing provisions without limit of time—built-in, permanent parochial safeguards.

Most attention has focused, however, on clause 2 of the Measure, which enables a bishop in office when the canon promulgated to make one or more of three declarations. As paragraph 2 of our Ecclesiastical Committee report explains, the first of those declarations would prevent a woman from being ordained as a priest within his diocese; the second would prevent a woman from being a parish priest or team vicar within his diocese; and the third would prevent a woman from being given any licence or permission to officiate as a priest within the diocese. By making all three declarations, a bishop could exclude women from being ordained or acting as priests in any capacity within his diocese.

A declaration made by a bishop under clause 2 could be withdrawn by him, but would otherwise continue in force until six months after the bishop's successor took office.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Chesterfield

Let us suppose that the House passes the Measure and that a woman is ordained. Let us suppose that she then goes to a diocese or a part of the country where the safeguards described by the right hon. Gentleman apply. What offence will that woman be committing, who will punish her with what authority, arid on what basis is that to be justified to the House?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

The woman would not commit an offence by travelling to any particular part of the country; but, by definition, she could not officiate without being invited to acquire the title of a benefice, or to accept whatever post she has been invited to minister to. The initiative, therefore, would not lie with the woman; it would lie only with the inviting body—a hospital, a parish or some other corporate body within the diocese. No offence would arise in the woman's simply considering an opening or opportunity.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Chesterfield

May I clarify this point? Holy Communion is given on a number of occasions. If, under the safeguards that the right hon. Gentleman has described, certain areas are to be no-go areas for women priests, what offence would be committed—and by whom—if a woman went into a no-go area and administered Holy Communion? What would be the penalty, and, if the Measure is passed, will Parliament today be endorsing such a penalty for a woman ordained into holy orders under an instruction arid agreement on the part of both Houses of Parliament?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

The question is whether what the woman did was covert and unauthorised, or whether such an administration of Holy Communion was authorised and supported by the parish priest concerned. We are necessarily talking about a formal liturgical service in a church. The woman could not administer the sacrament in a parish church without the clergyman—the occupant of the benefice—authorising her to do so.

It is conceivable, I suppose, that a group might get together, break the lock of the church in the small hours and hold illicit, covert communion service without the knowledge or authority of the parish priest; but I do not think that that is what the right hon. Gentleman means. He is concerned with some formal breach of ecclesiastical jurisdiction or law. I do not see how that can happen in the context that we are considering: as I have pointed out, the absolute discretion as to who may administer the sacrament and absolution in a parish church remains with the parish priest concerned. He could invite a woman to administer the sacrament in his church—if she was duly ordained as a priest—if he and his parish had opted, as the option arises in these Measures, to accept women priests. If they had passed a resolution not to accept women priests, he would never invite her in the first place, and the contingency would not arise unless it was done in a covert and underhand way. I do not think that problems of ecclesiastical law and punishment arise in this contingency.

The provision restricting clause 2 to bishops in office when the canon comes into force was requested by the majority of the House of Bishops in order to maintain their unity and collegiality. Since then, it has become a focus of criticism by opponents of women's ordination, who argue that, because the clause does not extend to bishops appointed after the promulgation of the canon, it is likely to prevent priests who share their views from ever becoming bishops in future. Opponents of the Measure therefore argue that the clause should either be extended to apply indefinitely whenever a new bishop comes in, or be scrapped completely. Supporters of women priests point out that to extend the rights given by the clause to future bishops would, in effect, be to legislate for the permanent geographical division of the Church into go and no-go areas for women priests.

The grounds for the argument over clause 2—which occupied much of the time of the Ecclesiastical Committee —have, I am glad to say, substantially diminished, as has the likelihood of diocesan bishops making any of the declarations under the clause, following publication of the pastoral arrangements which the House of Bishops has indicated that it wishes to operate once the legislation is in force.

The arrangements set out in the two statements of the House of Bishops—which appear on pages 21 and 22 of our Ecclesiastical Committee report—commit the bishop to ensuring that suitable episcopal ministry is provided for those in favour and those opposed to the legislation, while preserving the position of the diocesan bishop. The arrangements are to be embodied in an Act of Synod, which the General Synod will consider at its next meeting on 9 to 12 November.

An Act of Synod—which is the modern-day equivalent of an Act of the convocations—has no legally binding effect, but is regarded by the Church as morally binding. As paragraph 26 of the Ecclesiastical Committee's report records, some members of the committee have pressed, and will no doubt press today, for the Act of Synod to be given legal force by being enshrined in another Measure. While I appreciate the sincerity of those who argue that point, I do not think that their argument can be sustained; nor did the majority of members of the Ecclesiastical Committee.

Pastoral arrangements are about matters of confidence and trust, not law. Flexibility is needed to adapt to the many different circumstances that will affect individual priests and parishes. Nor can there be any guarantee that the Measure—which will, in any event, take two years to enact—could be carried through all its stages in the Synod.

Hon. Members will be aware that a number of people in the Church feel that the arrangements intended by the House of Bishops already go too far in trying to accommodate those who are opposed to the present legislation. I am sure that the bishops are wise both in what they propose and in avoiding any attempt to enshrine their proposals in a further Measure.

Photo of Mr Timothy Renton Mr Timothy Renton , Mid Sussex

I very much agree with my right hon. Friend about these issues, and I admire the measured, reasonable and well-informed way in which he is presenting his arguments. However, although I have always strongly supported the ordination of women—I hope that it will happen soon, and I think that it will strengthen the Church of England when it does—I know that the point on which my right hon. Friend has touched worries a number of Anglican priests in my part of the world. The proposed Act of Synod is, in effect, designed to reassure opponents that their place within the Church of England is respected. As my right hon. Friend has pointed out, it has no legal force; its force is only moral and in-house. What guarantees can be given to such people that it will not be withdrawn later, in a different climate of opinion?

I agree with my right hon. Friend that it is not possible to legislate in perpetuity for what could be a perpetual division in the Church of England. However, if he can elaborate on that point, I will be able to reassure priests in Sussex with more certainty about an issue that is worrying them.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I shall do my best in a few seconds to reassure my right hon. Friend by reading out a short extract from the ecclesiastical bishops' report. As an old hand and as a parliamentarian, perhaps I can remind my right hon. Friend of some of the realities in that area. He will be familiar with the various Acts that we have passed.

Those Acts went through agonising Committee stages with the most minute discussion on the dots, crosses and t's of provisions about discrimination and anti-discrimination —anti-racial discrimination and anti-sex discrimination. A range of non-discriminatory Measures were introduced and, after agonising procedures, were put on the statute book. However, we must ask ourselves whether they have been fail-safe instruments for securing non-discrimination in race relations, non-discrimination in jobs available for West Indians or other minority immigrants in our community.

In spite of the splendid, detailed, agonisingly constructed statutory provisions that we have made, at the end of the day the small print, the cold legality, does not guarantee the moral impetus which is needed to eschew real discrimination. It depends on the good will, and the heart and mind, of those who live in the community.

If we attempt to turn the Act of Synod into a Measure, to begin with, it would have to go through a committee stage in the Synod, which would delay it by at least two years. The present form of the Act of Synod, as proposed, would be much modified, because immediately it would become a battle as it went through the committee stage and the small print and all the technical requirements were considered. What would emerge might be much less comprehensive and protective than what is already in the draft Act of Synod. Then it would go forth with less of the spirit of moral unanimity than might be the case. There would be no guarantee that it would secure the required objectives.

I think that the words that I shall now quote from our Committee will help to put the matter into perspective. Paragraph 40 reads: The preservation of the unity of the Church of England following the introduction of women priests cannot be achieved by legislation alone. Nor could legislation ensure that there is no discrimination against the opponents of women priests in the matter of preferment within the Church. These are ultimately matters which will depend on the good will of members of the Church at all levels and on the making of arrangements within the Church that are seen to promote fairness to all and toleration of different viewpoints. Such arrangements have already been proposed in the two Manchester Statements. As the House will have gathered, a number of provisions of the main Measure and the pastoral arrangements proposed by the House of Bishops are intended to provide continued room within the Church of England for the ordination of women to the priesthood. As I hope that my right hon. Friend will concede, the Church is trying, through the Act of Synod, to get to the heart of the necessary unanimity and good will spelt out in the Act of Synod. It is doing that in a compressive if necessarily broad-brush way, not with the kind of minute protection against litigious tendencies that is so much a feature of our legislation in the House and, to some extent, in the Synod.

The Measure is a broad-brush attempt to expand and explain the determination to give a breath of life to the skeleton of statutory provision that we are trying to introduce today to make the commitment to fairness and to allowing a hundred flowers to bloom and the two integrities to co-exist as a reality. That is the determination. That is the reason why the General Synod has wisely decided that it will go for an Act of Synod that can be introduced and passed rapidly in the General Synod and not go down the path of further detailed Measures.

I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker, for detaining the House for so long. I come now to the second Measure, the Ordination of Women (Financial Provisions) Measure. It recognises that, in spite of the attempts that we shall make to maintain unity and to include everybody if possible, there will be opponents who do not feel able to remain within the Church of England. The Measure is an attempted safety net to ensure that those who resign from service in the Church of England, by reason of their opposition to the ordination of women as priests, do not suffer financial hardship.

The Measure is discussed in detail on pages 35 to 37 of the report. It falls broadly into two parts. Clauses 1 to 4 and 9 provide a standard scheme of financial benefits to clergy and others who resign because of their opposition to the ordination of women priests during a period between six months before and 10 years after the promulgation of the implementing canon. That 10-year scope forward is not without interest, because it means that the clergy have a chance to find their feet, or not, in the new regime when we have women priests. It allows them 10 years to make up their mind whether they can stand the new arrangements or not, and apply for the financial benefits of having to resign.

Clause 5 gives a wide discretion to make payments both to those who are not entitled to benefit as a right from the standard scheme and by way of additional benefit to those who are so entitled. All benefits are to be administered by the Church of England Pensions Board with a right of appeal to a tribunal of five persons, constituted as provided by clause 10.

The Measures have been variously criticised as either mean or over-generous. In my view, the level of provision is fair and reasonable—indeed, it compares well with levels of provision in the secular field. The Church of England deserves great credit that, uniquely among these provinces of the Anglican communion who have ordained women as priests, it is making arrangements for those who do not feel able in conscience to remain in its service.

Some of those who have argued that the financial provisions are inadequate from the point of view of those who might receive them have also expressed concern that they are still too generous from the point of view of the Church's capacity to pay them. Depending on the timing of the resignation, the estimated cost of the provision could average £1 million per annum for each 100 resignations at current stipend levels. Illustrative figures on costs are given in the memorandum by the Church Commissioners, which is reproduced on pages 44 to 46 of the report.

As my colleagues will know, the Church of England, as with other institutions, is going through a period of financial hardship, and the costs will add to the burden of all the parishes that will ultimately have to bear them. The Measure was discussed in dioceses when the main Measure was referred to them. It received a 100 per cent. majority in the General Synod. In the House of Bishops, it received a majority of 96.98 per cent., in the House of Clergy a majority of 97 per cent. and in the House of Laity a majority of 95 per cent. The financial provisions Measures reached us with a virtually unanimous endorsement—more than many Measures that have reached us in the past.

Although there is still uncertainty over the number who will leave the Church of England as a result of the Measures, it now looks as though it will be substantially fewer than predicted in some of the initial estimates made in the immediate aftermath of last November's General Synod vote. There can, in my view, be no reasonable doubt either of the Church's capacity or of its will to live up to the commitments represented by the financial provisions Measure.

Photo of Ann Widdecombe Ann Widdecombe , Maidstone

Will my right hon. Friend comment, for the House's elucidation—he is giving us a thorough canter through the Measures—on whether the Measures cover serving missionaries abroad, serving chaplains to the armed services, serving chaplains to health authorities, and others who are not immediately in parishes?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I am happy to give my hon. Friend that reassurance. All the people in the categories that she has mentioned, whether they are lay members of such bodies or ordained members, will be eligible under clause 5 for the discretionary—

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

—provision which is part of the package that we are now offering. It is being left to discretionary provision precisely because, as my hon. Friend showed by the impressive list of individual organisations against which the waves of the changes might beat in the future, there is a considerable number of bodies and individuals which it would almost certainly be impossible exhaustively to list individually in the body of the Measure. To that extent, we might lose more, and people might be more disadvantaged, if we were to spell out every conceivable individual group that might be disadvantaged.

In those circumstances, it is entirely reasonable to have a prescribed set of provisions for those who are easily identifiable—that is, those in full-time registered ecclesiastical employment—to set the yardstick for all the others whom we wish to include in that broad category, and of whom it has been said that we wish to include them. For their sake, we shall not list exhastively lest we miss out some. The discretion will be available widely to include all who can make any kind of case, with an appeal.

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field , Birkenhead

The right hon. Gentleman knows that he is on the most difficult part of his brief. He knows that it would have been possible to say that the compensation measure should apply to all Church of England clergymen—full stop. We did not need an exhaustive list because that heading would have covered all of them. Hon. Members are rightly worried that some may not be covered because they will have to argue their case for compensation rather than, like others, gaining it by right.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

The hon. Gentleman speaks of compensation. We are not talking about a compensation package. We are talking about arrangements to help in conditions of financial hardship and difficulty. It is not a compensation measure in the sense that that might arise in secular contracts and conditions of employment precisely because there are so many people who do not have such contracts and conditions of employment in the Church of England. The hon. Gentleman's shorthand formula would definitely leave out some people who are likely to apply for compensation under clause 5—some of the people whom my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe) mentioned in her off-the-cuff recitation of possible beneficiaries. We cannot be exhaustive in a prescribed schedule 1 list.

Photo of Mr Roger Evans Mr Roger Evans , Monmouth

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is unsatisfactory, as a matter of legislative practice, to have a clause that gives a general discretion to make payments to office holders, employees or members of religious communities where such people need not, as a matter of definition, have any connection whatsoever with the Church of England? Purely secular office holders who are prepared to sign the declaration that they object to women priests as a matter of conscience are brought within that wide class. Why has it not been defined?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I attempted to explain that the definition would be difficult to contain—it would take up pages of schedules of the Measure and almost certainly leave somebody out. My hon. Friend overlooks the fact that there is, in the nature of the discretion, a capacity to be selective and discriminating with an appeals machinery and procedure. I cannot see how one can possibly behave more fairly than that, given the broad demonstration by the Church of England, through the Measure, that it is determined to help those who can show that they have real need and a reasonable title to such help.

Photo of Mr John Ward Mr John Ward , Poole

We are in uncharted waters. There have been many declarations of intent, which are welcome. Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that, given the broad estimate of those who may be covered by the Measures, the Church will have at its disposal the financial resources necessary, and still be able to carry out its work? Has there been an accountant's appraisal of the ability of the Church to meet its promises?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

My hon. Friend will find in the paragraph of the Ecclesiastical Committee report that I have already quoted a broad-band computation of the likely cost to the Church of England, depending on whether 10, 50, 100 or more clergy resign. We have said that the costs will fall on the parishes and the man in the pew. As with all Church finances, the ultimate cost lies on the individual contributors in the parishes. They do not put a vast amount of money into the plate every Sunday. My hon. Friend may know that the average is £2.50 a week. The need will quickly arise for regular communicants of the Church of England to dip slightly deeper into their pockets. There is plenty of scope in the parishes for them to do so, given that small sum.

The question is almost, how long is a piece of string? If a substantial burden of payments arises in parishes, I believe that they will cough up—to put it crudely—because their heart is behind the Measures, as is shown by their voting. My hon. Friend will understand that there will be some savings, if large numbers resign, in existing stipends for fully-fledged clergy. That will give the budget a certain resilience because of the fall away of some of the sums involved.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe , Kent Mid

Given what my right hon. Friend said about the time perspectives within which changes come about in the Church of England, he may be pleased to learn—if he does not already know—that the present Measures for looking after clergy compare favourably with the Measures made for those affected by the dissolution of the monasteries. Does he agree that we must both hope and expect that, within the 10-year period, large numbers of those who are present find it impossible to accept the principle of women priests will find that many of their fears and anxieties are not as great as they expected, and that they will come round, as many people have already, to the Measure?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I am grateful for that helpful, prophetic and constructive intervention.

I shall draw together the threads on the compensation provision. I shall listen with great concern and interest to what the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) says on the issue and to what all other colleagues say in their speeches. I shall hope to try to reassure them with a few further points at the end of the debate. I remind colleagues of the enormous majorities in the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy and the House of Laity in favour of the Measure. All those most intimately affected by the provisions and financial terms that we are discussing—those in the House of Clergy—voted 97 per cent. in favour. That means that they felt that those affected will be adequately provided for by the spirit and letter of the financial provisions Measure.

Throughout the debate in the Church of England on the Measures there has been clear concern to maintain the unity of the Church of England. That concern was shared by the members of the Ecclesiastical Committee. Those opposed to the ordination of women for priesthood naturally focused on the safeguards afforded to those against the Measure. As I have demonstrated, the safeguards provided in the Measure are, when added to the provisions of the existing law, extensive. When the pastoral arrangements proposed by the House of Bishops are taken into account, the protective provisions are formidable. No member of the Church in the worldwide Anglican Community has gone to such lengths to give those opposed to the decision a continuing place in the Church.

I pay tribute to the lead that the Archibishops of Canterbury and of York and other diocesan bishops have given in the matter. No doubt much will be made in the debate of the divisive effect of the legislation on the Church of England. I ask the House to remember how much more divisive would be a failure to pass the legislation against the wishes of so clear a majority in the Church. I urge the House to accept the considered conclusion of the majority of the Ecclesiastical Committee —a Committee of the House—that the Measures are expedient and to demonstrate that by voting for them at the end of the debate.

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

Before I call the next Member to speak, may I reinforce the plea that was made by Madam Speaker before she left the Chair this morning? There are many, many Members who wish to speak. Many will be disappointed if considerable self-restraint is not exercised.

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field , Birkenhead 10:39 am, 29th October 1993

Many are called; few are chosen. Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me. I shall be brief, not just because the Speaker has asked us to be brief to maximise the number of people who can participate in the debate, but because the Estates Commissioner has given such a good and comprehensive introduction to the measure.

We have already been reminded that there are no theological objections to the women priests Measure. Indeed, the Synod of the Church of England decided many decades ago that it had no such objections, though it would be in order for any hon. Member who wishes to tease the House today to try to put forward an argument to reject that measure on theological grounds. I do not do so. I shall speak briefly in support of the main Measure and against the compensation Measure.

Most of the objections to the women's ordination Measure are not on theological grounds, but on grounds of order. Has the Church of England the authority to make the change? People who object to the Measure hold that view passionately and I respect them for it. I do not agree with them. For we are not only an established Church—hence the debate today and the freedom of anyone who catches the Speaker's eye to participate in the debgate—but a catholic and reformed Church. It seems strange that people claim that a Church that has taken unilateral decisions to reform itself does not have the power to make further changes.

It is possible to argue that the changes that we are making today are of a different magnitude from those made at the reformation. Those made at the reformation were about whether clergy could marry, whether communion should be in two kinds and the meaning of transubstantiation. Whereas today we might think those issues trivial, in those days people were prepared to go to the stake for their beliefs. I wonder how many people would propose or oppose the Measure if the outcome might be the stake and the fire today—but that, fortunately, is not the test.

It seems to me that it is in the power of a catholic but reformed Church—a Church that has declared UDI and banished the Pope's jurisdiction from this realm—to make the change that we are considering, and I hope that the House will agree to the change.

Under the Church of England Assembly Powers Act 1919, the Ecclesiastical Committee—and, I would therefore suggest, the House—has a duty, not to judge the broad sweep of a Measure, but to judge whether the Measure is expedient or not expedient when considering the rights and liberties of Her Majesty's subjects. Therefore, it was appropriate that most of the time in the Ecclesiastical Committee was spent, within those terms of reference, considering how that Measure will affect some of Her Majesty's subjects, especially those who disagree with the Measure.

Not so long ago, those who disagree with the Measure were in the majority. They are not people with different views who joined the Church; they are people who, at one time, found themselves in the majority, and who now find themselves in the minority. The Ecclesiastical Committee, therefore, quite rightly, spent most of its time considering how that group should be protected. The Estates Commissioner has reminded us that the result of that has not been merely the passing of two statements from the House of Bishops meeting in Manchester, but the promise —not yet the fulfilment—of an Act of Synod. That Act of Synod was not offered; the information that Synod could pass such a measure had to be extracted from Synod witnesses and it was almost like getting blood out of a stone.

The starting point for enshrining the rights of the minority did not, therefore, kick off in the best posssible terms. I hope that the House will consider carefully what further measures may be necessary at some later date to protect the rights of the minority who disagree with the Measure.

Against that disappointment of the Synod's not coming forward gracefully and offering that safeguard, however, we have to set the behaviour of the House of Bishops. Two unanimous statements were made, the second strengthening the first, about how rights of that minority can be protected. The House of Bishops promised to support unanimously the idea of an Act of Synod when Synod has its next meeting. There has also been a clutch of appointments of suffragen bishops, and the majority of those appointments—those that were announced last week—have been of people who either oppose the Measure or have grave doubts about it. It therefore appears that, just as no Act of Parliament or Act of Synod can, by itself, guarantee the right of a minority if the majority wishes to persecute that minority, the House of Bishops and individual bishops have done things that are encouraging. I congratulate them on the lead that they have given.

It is a pity that the opponents on both sides have more recently made some wild statements about what they intend to do. I hope that when Synod considers the measure it will not be swayed by those extremist views, from whatever wing of the Church those views come.

The task that I set myself—to support the Measure—is nearly done, but I must draw the House's attention to the compensation Measure, in which we should take a careful interest. The Measure gives a statutory right to some and a discretionary right to others. It also has a formula by which compensation will be computed. Although we are not supposed to refer to it as compensation, it is a convenient shorthand which we all understand, so I shall continue to use it. The formula works against younger priests. Some of them who have been trained and are married are doubtful about the Measure and will not be compensated as the formula currently stands, because it does not take into account the years that they have spent training as ordinands, but only those that they have spent in post as deacons or priests. For that reason, and the fact that the Measure is vague with regard to a large number of other people who may wish not to continue as Anglican priests after the Measure is passed, I hope that the House, although it should pass the first Measure, will reject the second. If there is support for my view, I shall divide the House on that second Measure.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

What would happen if the second Measure were defeated? What would be the compensation situation?

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field , Birkenhead

It would concentrate the mind wonderfully, because the second Measure has to be passed for the first Measure to come into operation. We would get another order, meeting our points, so that the substantive motion would come into effect.

The Church may have some financial difficulties in meeting the cost of the compensation package, but, when Church Commissioners have lost between £3 million and £8 million by speculating on the American property market, we should not worry about whether there will be sufficient money to fund the form of compensation that we think desirable.

Photo of Mr Michael Stern Mr Michael Stern , Bristol North West

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. The Church does not have a power of taxation; to place an indefinite financial burden on it, as he suggests, and lightly to put on one side the fact it might not be able to meet it, is a recipe for potential chaos within the Church.

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field , Birkenhead

Most people who are going to leave are covered and will gain compensation, or whatever phrase we should be using. The minority will not be covered. It is not for the House to say that, because the Church has got itself into such a financial mess by speculating on the American property market, we should deny compensation to all those people who decide that they cannot continue to act as Church of England clergymen after the Measure is passed.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Chesterfield

I want to be absolutely clear about what my hon. Friend is saying. If his vote succeeds today, it would stop the ordination of women, unless the Church came back with something else. So, despite what he said earlier, the motion is designed to prevent the ordination of women on the basis proposed by the Estates Commissioner, and the House should know that.

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field , Birkenhead

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) may well read it that way. The alternative way to read it is that the will of the House will be that the main Measure should go forward, but that before it could be triggered into action, there would have to be a compensation scheme that we believed to be adequate. My action can be read both ways. I hope that the House will note that that is the way that I read it, rather than listen to someone else who wishes to shine a light into my soul and to decide what I am about. I do not think that that sort of behaviour is particularly helpful.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

I think that many of us understand my hon. Friend's motives over the compensation scheme. As I understand it, however, the discretionary part of the order applies to lay persons. Am I right in thinking that the statutory part, to which he referred, refers to the ordinands? Irrespective of that, if a subsequent adjustment dealt with the anomaly of the young priests, would that satisfy him?

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field , Birkenhead

No, because other groups of priests are not covered. Although I want the young priests to be covered by the Measure, there will also be others. The hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern), who intervened before I gave way to the right hon. Member for—[HON. MEMBERS: "Chesterfield."] Yes, I wonder why my mind went blank. The intervention of the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West was to the effect that we should leave the rest of those who disagree to discretion. When the Estates Commissioner was speaking, I said that the Measure is the equivalent to some sort of social fund procedure for some priests but not for the majority. All of us know about our constituents' experiences with the social fund, and the advantage of that fund is that it has a budget. After the Church Commissioners' gambling in the property market we are not sure what the budget will be to pay for any of the Church's actions, let alone the compensation scheme.

Let us be quite clear. I strongly support the Measure and am pleased that the Church has moved to protect the minority who disagree. At first, it was reluctant but now it is less so. We know perfectly well that the Church wants the Measure. If the compensation scheme is defeated, an order will be tabled in the new Session of Parliament to establish a new compensation scheme.

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field , Birkenhead

I shall not give way, because I want to conclude with a few brief comments, as I know that many other hon. Members wish to catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The Measure is a dog's dinner. The way in which the Synod produces legislation allows Measures to be ambushed by one group and thereby changed. There does not seem to be any overall responsibility for a Measure. We understand that the next Synod may set up a commission to consider the relationships between Church and State. It has every right to do so, although whether this place will take much notice of its report is another matter.

I hope that the Synod will also consider its own house and the means by which it puts together major legislation, because this House only has the power to accept, not to amend or reject, such legislation. Most people who are fervently in favour of the Measure do not think that the details are as satisfactory as they could be.

Finally, on the Church's leadership on the issue, the Archbishop of Canterbury, showing considerable confidence in his post, asked the Archbishop of York to take the lead and he did so with tremendous skill. The fact that we have not had more difficulties with the Measure is a great tribute to him.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Secretary of State for Environment 10:54 am, 29th October 1993

I had the immense privilege to be born into a vicarage and to be brought up in the Church of England right from the beginning. However, my father was a convert to the Church of England, having been a Baptist minister.

Therefore, although I was brought up in an evangelical atmosphere, because my father had become an Anglican, I saw clearly that other aspect of the Church of England —its catholicity—as well as its reformed nature.

My father had chosen to become an Anglican to join the Church and to cease to be a member of a sect. I do not use that word in any offensive way but in the technical sense and I hope that no one will object to that. A sect is a group of people who surround a particular doctrine in which they passionately believe. They see themselves as the group of witnesses for that doctrine. It was because he saw the Church of England as the Church—not in its entirety but as part of the Catholic Church—that he joined it. I am sure that the House will understand that my upbringing was therefore in one sense very typically Anglican because I could not miss either of the two great streams of thought which have informed the Church of England down the ages.

I therefore must oppose the Measure for a fundamental reason which concerns authority rather than the ordination of women. I am entirely agnostic about their ordination —I do not know whether women can be ordained or not, but I know that the Church of England cannot make that decision unilaterally. I hope to be able to explain why I think that that is true. The issue is very clear. I am sure that the House will understand that many people like me will be excluded from the Church of England as a result of the Measure and so I am pleased to have the opportunity to explain why.

When a priest is ordained, in the ordination service of the Church of England, he is ordained as a priest in the Church of God, not as an Anglican priest. I noticed that the concept of a priest in the Church of England emerged for the first time in the document before us today. The Church of England is making a change and the Church Estates Commissioner noted that in his excellent introductory speech. I think that he made a slip by referring to a priest of the Church of England. There is no such thing.

At the reformation, the Church of England sought to continue the essential elements of catholicity so that everyone could be comprehended within the Church. There was no division between the pre-reformation and post-reformation orders, which is why the Church Estates Commissioner could make that pleasant allusion to the fact that some bishops were Chancellors of the Exchequer. It is perfectly right that we understand that continuity. The Church of England went to great trouble to ensure the continuity of orders. Some people in the Roman Catholic Church may not believe that, but that is up to them. The Anglican teaching has always been that there was continuity, which means that if one is ordained a priest in the Church of England, it is the same priesthood as that held by orthodox or Roman Catholic priests.

There were changes at the time of the reformation, but those were of a different kind, as the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) should realise. They were fundamentally different. At the reformation, the Church of England sought to return to what had been before, and to what they thought had been changed in the meantime—that was the reform.

The Measure is not expedient because it does not meet either of the qualities of the Church of England, reformed or Catholic. If one is Catholic one says that no doctrine may be taught that is not clearly taught from a biblical basis, and no doctrine may be taught that has not been believed down the ages by the Church. We in the Church of England have always applied the Vincentian canon, which said that orthodoxy of belief was measured by "Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus"—that which has always, by everyone and everywhere been believed. The difficulty with the ordination of women Is that it has been believed nowhere by anyone at any time until now. Therefore, it is difficult to say that it is part of the tradition of the Church.

The reformers argued that their reform was Catholic by saying that everything that they were doing was clearly part of the Church's tradition—they had clearly had married priests, it had clearly been possible to interpret what happened at the eucharist in a different way from that which had been the way, it had been possible to claim that one was a Catholic and not in communion with the See of Rome. They may have been right or wrong, but that was the basis of their argument. That is not the basis of the argument being presented to the House.

One does not have to hold this argument; all non-conformists do not hold it, which is perfectly' reasonable. However, one cannot change the argument without changing the nature of the Church of England fundamentally. It is now being demonstrated that the Church of England has said, for the first time in history, that it can change unilaterally the doctrine of the universal Church, and do that which has never been done before, not on the basis of the whole Church, but on the particular basis of a majority in the General Synod. That is the difference which we must address. That difference is a matter of fact and is driving a significant minority out of the Church of England. I think that the hon. Member for Birkenhead will agree with me when I say that many feel as I do and are placed in a fundamental difficulty over what is being proposed.

The Church of England says that by a two thirds majority of the General Synod it can change what has always been taught everywhere and by everybody. I warn the House that it will not be the only step in the process. That change is followed by a series of Measures which will be passed and presented to the House. The Church of England will move further and further away from the orthodox position. We must not think that the ordination of women is the last word.

I do not feel strongly about the ordination of women in itself. It is not an issue on which I cannot imagine the whole Church changing its mind. Jesus gave clear rights to the Church to bind on earth that which would be bound in heaven and to loose on earth that which would be loosed in heaven. I understand that the Church as a whole might make such a decision. However, I warn the House that we are participating in an action in which the Church of England has arrogated to itself a power, hitherto unknown in the Church of England or any other part of the Catholic Church—that a province can make unilateral decisions that run contrary to the long, historic teaching of the Church, and do so by a majority, albeit of two thirds.

There is a problem. It is all very well for those who always want to bring the issue down to political matters, as some people do. It is not a political issue; we are not talking about women's rights. Those of us who worked for a long time for a woman know a bit about women's rights. Those of us who read the memoirs of such women know a bit about women's rights, too. I do not accept the view that we cannot have a serious discussion in the House on the theological issue involved. We would have had such a debate had the Church of England decided by a two-thirds majority to take the virgin birth from the creed. No one in the House should think that such a change will not soon be on the list of things to come.

The issue involves how decisions are taken in the Church. We must face the reality that many will be forced out of the Church because of the change. The Church of England has made an immensely arrogant claim which has been beautifully, delicately and non-arrogantly presented by the Church Estates Commissioner. The Church of England is saying that, despite the fact that the rest of the Church which has priests outside the Anglican communion, all those who understand the priesthood in the way in which the Church of England understands it and every previous part of the Church of England has always believed it to be wrong, we can now, by a two thirds majority, put it right. That is devastating arrogance. I find it hard to accept that the Archbishop of York can say that a hundred of his predecessors were wrong and he is right. I could accept it were it not about a subject on which the Church had always been unanimous.

I should explain why the issue is important. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) feels strongly about it. I voted in favour of women deacons because they have existed in the past and the Church accepted that. Therefore, it is perfectly right to say that a part of the Church—the Church of England—can make the decision to reinstate that which the Church has had. A reformed Church can properly take such action. The question is whether a reformed Church can decide to make a necessary part of being an Anglican the willingness to believe that the Church of England can ordain women—a fundamental problem for a reformed Church.

The reformed Church of England said that it would have no doctrines of its own, but would teach only what was necessary to salvation. It said that it would not add to that central body of doctrine. If one had, until recently, asked an Anglican to state the Anglican doctrines he could properly say, "We have none of our own, but teach only the doctrines of the Catholic Church as expressed in the three creeds and we have only the orders of the Catholic Church —bishops, priests and deacons. We have nothing of our own and, in a sense, we are the stalking horse for future unity. We are here to bring people together; we are the bridge Church because we demand of nobody anything in addition to that demanded down the ages." Now, an Anglican will be unable to say that because he will also have to say, "In addition, we are expected to accept the ministries of women priests who are ordained not on the authority of the whole of the Catholic Church, but on the authority of the General Synod of the Church of England." That is the fundamental gravamen of the problem.

It is argued that one will be able to be an Anglican because one will not have to accept the ordination of women and will be able to live in a specific community linked to a bishop who takes a different view. I cannot imagine a less proper way of living the Christian life or a more sexist concept. If I were supposed to go past three or four Anglican churches in order to find one that did not have women priests, I would be saying something both to myself and my children that I should find intolerable. I would be saying that I belonged to a Church, but was in communion with only one third of it. That seems to be an intolerable way of belonging to the Catholic Church.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Eltham

I think that my right hon. Friend's argument is receiving a sympathetic hearing across the House because he is concentrating on specific issues, not taking them all together. Does he agree that the only part of the argument that might be described as unfair involves the two thirds majority in the Synod? Before 1919 the House, without the help of the Synod, would have been able to pass the legislation. The question is whether the habit of not ordaining women has been such an historic negative that it should rightly be described as a doctrine. To describe the two thirds majority vote of the Synod as rather unusual is to miss the point that the House allowed the Synod to have such a role in this Measure.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Secretary of State for Environment

I should not like to say anything about the Synod that would disturb my hon. Friend. I agree that that is how such decisions are now made. However, I disagree with him about the habit. The saints and fathers of the Church specifically and without doubt state that the mind of the Church is that women cannot be ordained. I shall not argue that case because it is not the one that I am putting to the House, nor the view that I hold.

Secondly, I am putting to the House the fundamental case that the decision changes the nature of the Church of England in a way which means that many faithful Anglicans cannot remain Anglicans. It is right for the House to understand that before it votes, although I accept that that will not change the result. I am grateful to hon. Members for their kindness in listening to me because I know that my argument is unpopular. But the House is the place to put minority views as plainly as possible when such decisions have to be made.

If the Church of England is changed in this way it will cease to be the comprehensive Church that it once was. The glory of the Church of England was that I could kneel at the altar as an Anglo-Catholic next to an extreme evangelical for whom, to quote Lord Boyle's words about my right hon. Friend, who introduced the motion, The word Protestant is a trumpet call. That quote covers many people in the Church of England but we knelt at the same altars—or holy tables, I had better be careful—and received the same sacraments from a priest whose validity we all accept.

The nature of the Church of England brought together that wide range of views and insights into God. It did so by insisting on only two things—the doctrines of the creeds and the orders of the Catholic Church. Once such orders are unilaterally changed, the range of people in the pews will be much more restricted.

Thirdly, it denies the whole basis of the Elizabethan settlement, which sought to create a Church of the nation in which everybody, except those who were at the extreme ends, could worship together. It did not succeed and perhaps it was wrong, but that was what it attempted, and that is what has made the Church of England so different. There has now been a denial of that attempt because a section of the population who could once be members of the Church of England now cannot be.

Fourthly, the Church of England had a real role in unity. I admired the speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) but on that issue he spoke rather oddly. It is not that anyone who argues my view says that somehow or other the Roman Church or the Orthodox Church has a veto on these matters because, of course, that is not so. It is that many of us feel that the Church of England's vocation was to recover that unity for which our Lord prayed at his last supper, that we should be one that the world might believe. That is what he asked for.

Therefore, for some of us unity is the most fundamental part of our vocation, and the Church of England seemed to us over many generations as the one Church that had begun to show how to hold together the insights of Catholic and Protestant, although we use the word reformed. It was a beacon of light in a world in which the Church shows the disaster and disgrace of division.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe , Kent Mid

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Secretary of State for Environment

I should like to finish this point and then I shall give way.

The Church should have sought unity first and from that unity sought the ordination of women, which would have been a proper thing to do. I do not mind the Church of England using the phrase from the Roman Church "in pectore", kept in its heart, meaning that it wished to ordain women but would seek unity first and try to convince the whole Church. Instead, it has gone for access religion. It takes the waiting out of wanting because it wants so much that it does not want to wait. That is the fundamental issue for many of us. We longed for the unity of which we thought the Church of England could be the harbinger, but that is no longer possible.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

Does my right hon. Friend accept that unity can mean unity between the Church of England and the free churches and that the free churches are happy to have women priests? Does he also accept that the only act of Christian unity has been the creation of the United Reformed Church in which women are allowed to be vicars?

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Secretary of State for Environment

I shall be careful in replying to my hon. Friend because I do not want to be rude. He is not speaking about priests, because the United Reformed Church does not claim to have priests: it claims to have ministers. It does not believe in the priesthood in the sense of the Apostolic priesthood that is taught and held in the Church of England. My hon. Friend's point is on a different issue. Any body such as the United Reformed Church or the Methodist Church can decide to have its own ministry and that is perfectly proper. My sister-in-law is a Methodist minister and I have no problem about that because that is the basis of Methodism, which does not claim to have the priesthood.

The issue is that the Church of England claimed to have the priesthood in the Apostolic tradition. Some Anglicans do not hold that view, but they accept it as the price of unity that many reformed Anglicans have accepted down the ages. That price is now being thrown away.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe , Kent Mid

Some of us are having difficulty with some parts of my hon. Friend's otherwise brilliant and lucid argument. I do not understand how he thinks that it is essential for the Church of England to wait until churches that have unilaterally added to the body of belief without consulting any other parts of the communion agree with it.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Secretary of State for Environment

There are two reasons. First, Christian disunity is the greatest disgrace to the Christian gospel, and we should think carefully before adding to that disunity. Secondly, whatever my hon. Friend's view of the Roman Church, he does not need to hold the same view of the Orthodox Church which has added nothing in these areas to the corpus of catholic faith. The Orthodox Church is the one which most needs the Church of England at this moment because it is trying to rediscover in Russia and elsewhere how to be a Church after being submerged by the communist authorities for so long. It looks and reaches to us.

In a sense, the biggest and most damaging comment about unity that I have ever heard was from the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church who felt that he had to say, "What authority does the Archbishop of Canterbury have now that he has given up the authority of the historic catholic church?" I shall end by concentrating on that.

The Church cannot teach the gospel unless it can point to its authority for doing so. It cannot teach the gospel unless it is clearly part of that body against which Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail. It cannot teach unless it can say, "Yes, we bind on earth what is bound in heaven, and we loose on earth what is loosed in heaven." That is the gospel authority given to the Church, and any doubt about our being part of that Church removes our ability to preach the gospel to the people of England, and that is what the Church of England is supposed to do. It was the way in which in the form closest to the people of England the gospel could best be preached.

During recent months and years, it has become impossible for a significant number of Anglicans to be members of the Church of England, because it has denied the basis of its authority. It no longer upholds the principles of reform—because it has insisted upon a doctrine that has no biblical foundation and has never been taught in the Church—and it has denied its catholicity because it has unilaterally decided that it can change its orders.

What does the Church of England intend to do to those who feel that they can no longer be members? I want to underline what was said by the hon. Member for Birkenhead. Young men who have trained for the priesthood, but who do not fit into the prescribed number of years—that is, they have been priests for fewer than five years—have no certainty of help for themselves or their families as they contemplate that terrible possibility for them—that the vocation in the Church that they thought they had is to be removed.

What about a school chaplain who is not directly employed by the Church? I think in particular of one man, an excellent school chaplain, who finds it impossible to remain an Anglican. He cannot continue in his job because that position is open only to Anglicans. He will lose his job because of his faith, yet he is not open—to use shorthand —to compensation, only to discretion. Therefore, I ask the Second Church Estates Commissioner, my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby, for a simple assertion. I want him to state, absolutely clearly, that anyone, whether or not he has been employed in a parish, no matter how long he has been in orders, and who in every other way fits the statutory requirements, will receive compensation—not as of right, because that is not possible under the law, but as though he had the right.

If my right hon. Friend can tell me that all such people will get the compensation that they would have received had they been beneficed clergymen of the Church of England, there can be no problem with what the hon. Member for Birkenhead said. However, if my right hon. Friend cannot tell me that, that is very worrying. All these matters have been the subject of enormous discussion within the Church of England but, so far, it has refused to make that very simple assertion.

I am very sad that the issue of authority should have arisen in this House on the subject of the ordination of women. It would be easier for the House to consider the nature of authority and the nature of the Church of England were the arguments not clouded by the perfectly proper desire to ensure that women are not excluded from an area from which many feel, for all sorts of reasons, they should not be excluded.

However, that does not mean that those of us for whom this is a matter of fundamental belief should not warn the House of one simple fact, which is that already in training in other denominations are significant numbers of Anglican priests who were formerly serving in the Church of England, but who now look to serve in other Churches. Significant numbers more have already said that they will have to leave the Church when promulgation takes place. Already, many lay people are in the same position.

Nevertheless, in a sense all that is much less important than what happens to those of us who want to bring up our children as Christians. We feel strongly that we cannot do so in a Church that says to them, "You are in communion with these people, but not with those people." One cannot be a partial Anglican. One cannot be a bit of a bit of a Church which itself, at best, is a bit of the Catholic Church.

We must take our Christian vocation seriously. For that reason, many of us have no choice but to say that when the Measure is passed we will be excluded from the Church of England and a great part of its way of presenting the gospel to England will be damaged. At the centre of the Church of England's appeal is the fact that it is comprehensive, that it is Catholic and that it is reformed. In the future, it will never again be able to claim to be Catholic.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Chesterfield 11:25 am, 29th October 1993

The speech that we have just heard from the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) must have been made many hundreds of times over many hundreds of years, for example, against the admission of Catholics into Parliament, against the admission of Jews into Parliament —[Interruption.] Of course it has.

The right hon. Gentleman failed to recognise that conscience is not the exclusive property of men. Many women moved to service in the Church have waited most patiently, not for five years but for 70 or more. The right hon. Gentleman said that his father was a Baptist minister who became an Anglican. My mother, an Anglican, was a member of the League of Church Militant in 1920. It was the predecessor of the movement for the ordination for women. Archbishop Randall Davidson, the Archbishop of Canterbury, summoned her to Lambeth Palace in 1925 —the year I was born—and rebuked her for advocating the ordination of women

. During the last world war, the Bishop of Chekiang ordained Miss Lee Timoi to give Holy Communion in that province of China. At the end of the war, the Church of England said to the bishop, "If you do not remove her orders to prevent her from giving Holy Communion we will stop giving money to the Church of China."

We are discussing human matters because matters of faith are deeply entrenched in the human soul. I had more happiness from seeing the young women outside Church House embracing each other when the news of the vote in the Synod came through than I have had from many of the decisions taken by this House over many years. Women have waited patiently for ordination. I have met—as I am sure others have—young women training for ordination, yet without any knowledge of when they would ever be ordained in the Church of England.

The arguments used by the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal—who, dare I say, has no theological qualifications—to persuade Parliament to turn down the Measure were absolutely invalid. As the Second Church Estates Commissioner, the right hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) said, the Anglican communion worldwide has already accepted the ordination of women. Bishop Harris —a woman—is an Episcopalian Bishop in America and she may come to the next Lambeth conference. Is that a breach of the unity on which we are so often lectured? A year or two ago, I met an American woman who had been ordained into the Episcopalian Church and she gave Communion in this country. That is one reason why I ask what offence would be committed. When she gave Communion, an Anglican vicar approached the Communion table and bit her on the thumb when she administered the sacrament to him.

We must recognise that at the heart of this debate, however it may be covered up in theological terms, is prejudice against women and the attitude that they are not numan beings. The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal says that the great thing about the Church of England is that it is comprehensive. What is the price of being comprehensive if the Church will not give women the opportunity to serve it through ordination?

As I have said, matters of faith are deeply felt. I have a great respect for people of all faiths. So few people believe in anything today that when we meet people of conviction, of any sort, we must respect them. The hon. Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe) has, I believe, left the Church of England. Of course, it is a fact that in America many Roman Catholics joined the Episcopalian Church when it ordained women. The hon. Lady must not rule out the possibility that, as a result of the ordination of women, Roman Catholic women will join the Church of England so that they, too, can be ordained.

I remind the House that in the Roman Catholic Church there is a movement called the League of St. Joan—rather like the League of Church Militant. I think it not improbable that when the present Pope dies—God rest his soul—there might be appointed a Pope who recognises that the strength of the Roman Catholic Church worldwide depends upon the ordination of women. I am not making any theological argument, because I do not pretend to believe in anything more than the priesthood of all believers. I have never believed in bishops, any more than I believe in regional organisers. All organisations in the world begin with a burning faith and end up with a bureaucracy more interested in burning and expelling people than in the faith that brought them into being. I will not go into that in any greater detail.

Should Parliament decide this matter? Of course, in law it must, because the Church of England is a nationalised Church. It is our oldest nationalised industry. The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal said that Henry VIII nationalised it so that it could be a Church of the people. In fact, he nationalised it because he had a row with the Pope, who was imposing too much taxation on Britain. The king wanted the tax instead of the Pope. It was what one might call a value added tax argument in theological terms.

Do not let us be told that it was because, in the Elizabethan settlement, the king suddenly was moved to provide spiritual comfort. There is not a word of truth in that.

The Act of Uniformity has been very brutal in its implications. A Rev. William Benn—I do not know whether he was an ancestor, but I hope to God that he was —was ejected from his living in Dorchester in 1662 under the great ejectment because he would not accept the provisions of the Act of Uniformity. Everyone knows that that the Church has been most intolerant as a nationalised Church.

I mentioned earlier that at one time, Catholics and Jews could not sit in the House. Everyone must know the story of Charles Bradlaugh who was elected to represent Northampton. He said, "I cannot take the oath because I am a Humanist." The House said, "Sling him out." There was another election and he was returned again, and the same thing happened. On the third occasion—being a reasonable, moderate man—Bradlaugh said, "All right, I will take the oath." The House told him, "You can't, because you are not a Christian." At that point, the Speaker intervened with the sort of discretion that only Speakers have and said, "I instruct the hon. Gentleman to take the oath." The Church of England should not be presented historically as anything other than it was—a state Church which was sometimes enormously intolerant but which has gradually come to recognise that there are other views as well.

Today, we are asked to comment on the matter, and that raises in my mind the absolute absurdity of the Establishment of the Church of England. I have always been interested in three nationalised industries. One is the Church of England and another is the Post Office. When I was made Postmaster-General, I wondered what great socialist spirit had moved Charles II to nationalise the Post Office. I discovered that it was because he wanted to open everybody's letters, and he could only do that by setting up the royal mail.

The third great nationalised industry is the BBC. Just as Henry VIII wanted a priest in every pulpit in every parish every Sunday, telling parishioners that God wanted them to do what the king wanted them to do, a Conservative Government nationalised the BBC because they wanted a pundit on every channel every night, telling the public that there was no alternative to what the Conservatives wanted to do. I do not want it to be thought that nationalisation is the prerogative of the left. It has been used by the right to control our thoughts and to open our letters for many centuries.

The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal spoke from the Government Back Benches—as is appropriate for this debate—of the role of the bishops as part of the united Catholic Church. Has any right hon. or hon. Member read the homage that a bishop must recite before he is ordained? It reads: I … do hereby declare that your Majesty is the only supreme governor of this your Realm in spiritual and ecclesiastical things as well as in temporal"— bishops do not even recognise democracy— and that no foreign prelate or potentate has any jurisdiction within this Realm. The Maastrich treaty will be ratified today, yet every bishop has taken an oath that no foreign prelate or potentate has any jurisdiction within this Realm. Let us be clear. If the Queen became a Catholic this afternoon, the throne would be vacated. Something else will happen—she will become a citizen of the European union. Perhaps she could go to the European Court and say, "I have lost my job because I have changed my religion." Let us be sensible. It is time to be rid of all that.

I heard that the Queen had to give her consent to the Measure—and I know that because I have often sought her consent to establish a republic and to other minor measures of that kind—before we could discuss the ordination of women, yet she is supposed to be the supreme spiritual governor of the Church. What are the Prince of Wales's theological qualifications in this matter passes beyond belief, but he owns some benefices in Cornwall, so he had to consent, too.

A couple of days ago, the judges intervened with a judicial review of the ordination of women. On Monday, I wrote an angry letter to the Speaker because I thought that the arrogance of the judges had gone beyond control. I was reassured by the Clerk that the judges did what they ought to have done. What nonsense that is.

There is no spiritual requirement for being a Member of Parliament. I should be surprised if any right hon. or hon. Member put in his last election address, "If elected, I will vote against the ordination of women" or mention the matter in any speech. No one has the political mandate:, spiritual authority or denominational requirement to do that.

As to the House of Lords deciding the matter, the last 10 Prime Ministers put 800 people in another place. Are those party placemen to judge whether women are qualified to become ordained? That is an impossible position.

I believe that the Church of England will free itself before the end of this century, and I hope that it does so by agreement. If we turn down this Measure, then, candidly, I believe that it will accelerate disestablishment because the Church will not have it—rightly so. But I do not want the freedom of the Church of England to come as a result of a row, but by general agreement.

There is one other matter that I find offensive. I know that the Church Estates Commissioner has a job to do, but I found it offensive to be told that the House need not worry because there will be safeguards for male priests against ordained women coming into their parishes. Safeguards? My God!—what sort of man wants a safeguard in case a woman gives communion in his parish?

I will vote for the Measure because I do not believe that we have any right in the matter. As to offering safeguards and financial compensation, if it is a matter of conscience, how many people have gone to the stake for exercising their consciences? Would Cranmer have withdrawn if the Church had offered him a cheque? Are we to believe that in a deeply spiritual matter, conscience can be overcome with money? Are we to believe that a chaplain in a private school that requires an Anglican cannot carry on because of the thought that a woman might approach his school with the sacrament, and that money would settle his conscientious objection? The House is facing an absurdity.

If any compensation is to be given, it should be given to the women who have waited so patiently for the right to be ordained and to be called to serve. Compensation for the promotion of women is not an unattractive idea. When Mrs. Thatcher became Prime Minister, we might all have been compensated for the awful business of seeing her exercise supreme power. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) was made deputy leader of my party, I would have been happy—having once aspired to that post—to receive some beneficial bounty from Walworth Road. Even when the Labour party ceased to be a socialist party, I did not ask for compensation. I do not see why Church of England vicars should obtain it.

I hope that I have not detained the House or diverted it from a very important decision. I hope to live to see the day when a woman Archbishop of Canterbury greets a Pope in a Church that has ordained women. If that sounds a little extreme, it is no more extreme than a Member of Parliament telling a male-dominated House of Commons 90 years ago that one day, a woman Speaker would preside over its proceedings.

Photo of Mrs Peggy Fenner Mrs Peggy Fenner , Medway 11:39 am, 29th October 1993

As somebody said to another performer, "Follow that". I hope that I shall keep to Madam Speaker's request for brief speeches.

Although history relates that the unbroken tradition of a male-dominated Church has been under pressure since the second world war, it is from about 1962, however, that the question of the ordination of women has gained some momentum. The House of Bishops, the Archbishops Commission and the General Synod have all made reports and passed motions on the subject. It seems that the Church has arrived at a conclusion after, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison), who represents the Church Commissioners, said, long, careful consideration and sometimes controversial debate. Surely after such a long traumatic journey the decision is due.

I deeply respect the views of those in the Anglican Church who cannot agree to the ordination of women. They hold that belief because of 19 centuries of tradition and they do not believe that that should be set aside. I do not agree. I hesitate to say that they are wrong, because Christians cannot always feel themselves to be right, but can only pray to take the right decision. I believe that they are wrong because when the barriers against womens' ordination were erected, the role of women was so very different. In the past, women were not expected to be educated; they were expected to be at home and to be subservient to their husbands.

Christians believe that Jesus is alive and here today, although we know that he is not present in the form of man, as he once was. Who can doubt, however, that if he were on earth and was naming his apostles and calling his disciples, there would be some women among them?

I have been delighted to note that hon. Members on both sides of the House have spoken today about vocation. Over the years in this secular establishment, we have discussed the issue of equal opportunities. I believe that many tasks that are carried out in various professions and jobs—call them what you will—are a vocation. It has become unfashionable to refer to a vocation, however, because that is seen as an excuse for inadequate pay and discrimination against women. Who can doubt that the calling to be a priest is a real vocation? If God called, would he discriminate? I do not believe that he would.

In these secluded surroundings, secular as they are, we have passed laws, sometimes painfully and, I regret to say, still in the teeth of some remaining male chauvinism, to ensure equal opportunities, equal pay and equal educational opportunities for women to ensure that we do not waste that superb asset, which makes up half of our population.

How very much more important it is that women who feel themselves to be called to serve in the Christian Church as priests should be able to do so. They should not be put off by being told that they can be deacons or can carry out some purpose in the Church. If they are called to be priests, they should be priests.

The World Council of Churches noted in a document produced in 1982 that those churches that have accepted women into ordination have found that women's gifts are as wide and varied as men's and that their ministry is as fully blessed by the Holy Spirit as the ministry of men. Women have found it very sad and hurtful that they have been excluded from serving the Lord and their faith in parishes and dioceses where undoubtedly they have a calling and could bring such love and service tok that calling.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 11:44 am, 29th October 1993

I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Medway (Dame P. Fenner), who made a clear and concise speech as the first woman to contribute to the debate.

I may be the only member of my party to speak in the debate and, as has already been said, we are all speaking as individuals today in a way that is not constrained by party obligations in this matter. However, I believe that all my colleagues support the Measure and I add one qualification. Some of my colleagues who are not here are absent only because they are at the funeral of Lord Grimond, Jo Grimond, a former member of this House. It would be inappropriate for me to commence my speech without paying my tribute on behalf of colleagues in this place to that great parliamentarian who was an inspiration to many of us on many issues.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) has asked today, and on many other occasions inside and outside the House, should Parliament be dealing with this major question? Whether or not we should have to do so, we are. I am proud to be a member of a federal party which, at a recent English conference, passed by a significant majority a motion in support of disestablishing the Church of England. That is a view I share. I just wonder whether, given that it was a Liberal Government who disestablished the Church of Ireland and a Liberal Government who disestablished the Church of Wales, we shall not have to wait for a Liberal Democrat Government before the Church of England is also disestablished. As the right hon. Member for Chesterfield has said, the pressure for disestablishment is mounting fast: that may be the sign that the other scenario may not be far away.

I welcome the fact that the Church is likely to set up an inquiry into the relations between it and the state. That is timely and I hope that the Synod will decide on that at its sessions the next month.

I am strongly in favour of the Measure. I was present at the cathedral in my constituency, Southwark, a few years ago, at the first ordination of deacons after women were allowed to be deacons in the Church of England. I saw for myself that those first ordinations revealed a representative tide of womanhood who were waiting and ready to fulfil a vocation in the Church.

I am all for, as the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) put it, taking the waiting out of wanting for the hundreds of people who have been called —they know that for sure—to serve in the leadership of the Church. At the moment, they cannot fulfil that calling and I want the Church to allow them to fulfil their clear vocation. They have been stopped so far by the barrier of legislaiton which does not allow women to be priests in the national church of this land.

On the Ecclesiastical Committee, we asked ourselves whether we had the legal right to go ahead and propose that it was expedient that women should be ordained as priests. We took advice and we were clear that we were entitled to do so, just as the courts confirmed in their judgment this week.

We asked ourselves whether the decision was theologically justified. We came to the view that, to be honest, we were not equipped to answer to that question and that it could always be subject to dispute. It is abundantly clear to me, however, that if there can be a scriptural dispute, as there is among Christians—the most avid Bible readers and competent theologians among them —about who can be a priest and whether there should be a priesthood, as well as differences of interpretation about the meaning of what Christ said, it is not surprising that there is a difference of interpretation, then and now, about whether women should be priests, if priests are a specific category of Ministers of the Church. Because there is no clear authoritative scriptural answer, the churches of each denomination in different parts of the world have had to seek their own minds on this matter. The Church of England has done this with integrity and with honesty.

We had to ask ourselves the question posed by the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal: should we, the Anglican Church, wait until the worldwide Catholic Church agreed that we should go ahead? I understand the argument made by the right hon. Gentleman. Can we be Catholic and reformed and yet be true to the rest of the church if we are to break with the traditions of some parts of it? But many parts of the Church have already made the decision. Many parts of the Christian Church have women in leadership as ministers. Many parts of the Anglian Church have already made the decision to allow women to be priests. For example, I happen to be a member of the Church in Wales, which has made the decision. It does not appear to have caused grief, angst or any significant hardship.

I want to pick up on another point made by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield. I know, because I have heard them say it, that many women in the Roman Catholic Church are desperate for the Anglican Church to make this decision. They feel that it is important that moves are made towards having more women in leadership. They feel also that, in time, the Roman Catholic Church will also ordain women as priests. We will not just be leading in our church or in our denomination, but we will be leading in the Church as a whole.

As the Church is that diaspora of views, the decision will no more break our links with our sisters and brothers in the universal church than other decisions break those links now. I am sad every time I am told that I cannot take communion in a Roman Catholic church in my constituency with my constituents, neighbours and friends. I regard that as a barrier to Christian unity and I hope that the Roman Catholic Church and other denominations break down those barriers between churches, just as we are trying to do today.

The last question we asked ourselves was whether the Measure was reasonable. It is not perfect, and that is clear. However, at the end of the day we had to decide a simple question. Was the Measure expedient, meaning was it timely, appropriate and suitable overall? The answer to the question by a clear majority was yes.

The road to today has not been a short one for the Church. The Anglican Church in England has taken 20 years to decide on the matter, up until and including our debate today.

I hope that the House will not be distracted by the fact that there may be—there probably will be later—a debate on whether women should be bishops. That may come to us to decide, but it is not the matter for today. I hope that the matter will be judged on its merits and that the House will leave its judgments about the other matter to a later date, although some of us see no barrier to that either.

Let us look at what the Church is saying to us. The Church overwhelmingly has endorsed this proposition. If they had been repeated in the House, the majorities in the Synod would have given the Measure majorities of 325, 260 and 222. Each of those majorities would be more than that for the Third Reading of the Bill to endorse the Maastricht treaty which was passed just before the summer.

It was clear that there was a majority on the Ecclesiastial Committee in favour of both the main question and the financial question. I have to make a fairly obvious constitutional point. The majorities in the Church for the measure are far more substantial than the majority the Government have in the House. The majority in the Church is far more substantial than the 42 per cent. of the population who are represented on the Government Benches. The majority in the Church is far more substantial than the majorities that are usually given to any measure in the House. Over two thirds of the Church at all levels—in rural and urban areas and in nearly every diocese in the land—has said yes to the ordination of women priests.

I hope that the House will realise that our duty, as well as expressing our views, is to respond to the wish and witness of the Church. We were careful in the Committee to try to be fair, because whatever our views—those are given in the report—our job was not to adjudicate in theology, but to make sure that the rights and liberties of Her Majesty's subjects were protected. The Committee spent most of its time on the minority rights questions. For that reason, the Committee insisted that opponents of the Measure were included in the deputation from the General Synod. The right hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) said that that was unusual and it was done so that the Committee could hear every view on the questions. We felt a particular responsibility to those who were and are still unhappy with the proposal. They are unhappy either because they believe that the Church is changing a position which they accepted and which they thought it had to a new position with which they disagree, or because they believe the position is fundamentally wrong.

The Committee looked at the financial implications also. We cannot amend the Measure. This is not a revising Chamber. This Measure is not like the rail privatisation Bill that will come before the House next week, where their Lordships have looked at that Bill and said that the House should think again. All that we could do on the Committee was say yes or no, but we did better than that. We said to the Church that there were areas in which we were unhappy. The Manchester Statements of the House of Bishops at the beginning and the middle of the year and the proposal for an Act of Synod currently before Synod have now addressed some of those concerns. The Committee insisted on extra protection for those who will be in a minority in the church if the Measure is passed.

We did one other thing as well and I should like to draw the attention of the House to one paragraph in the report. The Committee addressed the question whether—whatever our views—we wanted the Church to try to hold together and to remain united. The Committee wanted to make sure that, whatever the differences of view, the Measure did not break up the Church.

That is why paragraph 44 of report says: The Manchester Statements have manifestly been formulated and issued with an earnest desire to preserve unity of the Church of England and to allay the fears and doubts of the opponents of the measure. The majority of the Committee see the proposed Act of Synod as a demonstration of that desire. As already indicated, the preservation of the unity of the Church of England following the introduction of women priests will need goodwill on all sides and cannot be secured by legislation alone. It is the fervent hope of the whole Committee that that unity will be preserved. There was only one dissentient from the report and from the proposition that the Church should remain united even though its practice was about to change. Those espousing the majority view have for a long time been denied the enactment of what they believe to be right, but they have stayed within the Church. Women who want to be ordained have argued their case and prayed and stayed within the Church. Eventually, last November, the Church responded to a generation and more of commitment to change. I hope that those who still hold the view that women cannot be priests will remain in the Church after the decision has been taken, just as those in favour of the ordination of women remained in the Church before it. The Church is not saying to them that they must change their view or that they will not be regarded as equals in the Church. The Church is not denying the holders of such beliefs the opportunity of promotion. The Church is simply saying, "We have sought over 20 years to discern the will of God. We have come to a view—it is a human view, a fallible view, perhaps even a wrong view—but we ask you to accept that it is clearly the considered view of the Church. Retain your own view. Argue your case. Hold your position. But do not do anything different from what you did when the other side of the argument prevailed."

The Church needs both traditions. Whatever views we hold and however strongly we hold them, our duty is to hold them together. A local priest whose curacy was in my constituency and whose living is just over the river came to see me earlier this year to talk the issues through on behalf of many people in the Southwark diocese. He was most helpful. He drew attention to the Manchester House of Bishops' statement, which says: Differing views about the ordination of women can continue to be held with integrity within the Church of England and that the views of those who do not accept women as priests will continue to be held within the Church of England and … those who hold them remain valued and loyal members of the Anglican family. In the future, as in the past, we must have, in that priest's words, the two eyes of the Church trying to bring Christ into focus. The Church has told us that there is no theological objection, that there is precedent and that there is an overwhelming will among its members that the Measures should be implemented. We are still the national Church and because of that we have a particular responsibility to lead the way. We have the precedent of the ordination of women as deacons and the leadership of our national Church has clearly benefited from the participation of women. The leadership of our national Church should be a role model for society and therefore should include women. It should be representative of society and therefore include women. It should be a practitioner of the equality and justice that the Gospel preaches and therefore should include women. It should reflect the feminine values and characteristics of humankind as created by our creator and therefore should include women. Finally, the leadership of our Church, if it is to be anything, should be inclusive, comprehensive and united. It can be those three things only if no one is excluded, either as a member or as a leader of the Church.

I hope that we will vote resoundingly in favour of the Measures. If we do, this will be a great day of liberation not just for women in the Church, for the Church itself or for the nation but for the cause that many of us feel that above all we are here to serve: those of us in the Church want the Gospel better to be preached and people to be saved for eternal life. In the view of the overwhelming majority of members of the Church, that will be achieved if women can play their full role—an opportunity which many of them have for too long wanted and have for too long been denied.

Photo of Ann Widdecombe Ann Widdecombe , Maidstone 12:03 pm, 29th October 1993

First, I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) on the extremely comprehensive and moderate way in which he introduced the Measures, which I believe will have won the respect even of those who profoundly disagree with the reasons that he advanced. I also congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) on giving a clear and moving exposition of the reasons why those of us who believe in the authority of a universal Church find it quite impossible to stay within the Anglican Church if the decision to allow the ordination of women is taken and if this is now to be the nature of the Church. My right hon. Friend's speech was extremely profound, as well as being extremely learned and lucid, and I for one regretted the amount of what I considered to be inappropriate barracking that greeted his extremely serious attempt to try to get away from the secular debate and instead to explain the theological objections that some of us hold most strongly.

Let me deal first with what this issue is not about. It is not about women's rights in the secular sense. I believe that those who would promote the role of women within the Church, of whom I consider myself to be one, have to ask a rather different question from the question on which we have been concentrating. Instead of talking about women fulfulling the sacramental role of the priesthood, to which I shall return, we should ask a much more basic question: has the Church—I use the term in its broadest sense, to mean not just the Anglican Church but the Church universal—got its balance of authority right as between the clerical and the lay? There are many positions of authority held in the Church universal that do not necessarily have to be held by the priesthood. If we consider that rather more fundamental question, the role of women in the Church could be increased. None of us who object to women holding the sacramental priesthood have ever objected to the fact that the Queen is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, have never objected to women deacons, have never objected to women in the ministry, as opposed to the strict definition of the priesthood, and in the Church to which I now belong, I see no reason why there should not be a woman Papal Nuncio. After all, a nuncio is an ambassador and I do not see why a nuncio has necessarily to be a priest.

Let me make it clear from the beginning, I ant not opposing the Measure because I do not want to see women fulfulling an important role in the Church. I am opposing it because I believe that it is theologically impossible for women to perform the specific role of the sacramental priesthood. If a woman represents Christ as victim and priest at the Holy Communion, there may just as well be a man who represents the Virgin Mary in a nativity play. Considering the way that the Church of England has been going over the past two or three decades, it would not in the least surprise me if one day I attended a nativity play and found that the Virgin Mary had a beard.

The Church is surrendering its moral authority to purely secular arguments. I am not at all surprised in following today's debate that there is a concentration on women's rights issues—the House is a secular body, but the Synod is not. The debate in the Synod appalled me because Church matters were being determined with reference to secular approval. As a reason for voting women into the priesthood, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to whom one should be able to look for spiritual, moral and theological leadership, advanced the argument that it would make the Church more acceptable to the secular world. It seems that the Church of England has not yet learned the basic message that the secular world has been sending back for the past 20 or 30 years, that compromise and a sacrifice of creed to compromise and of doctrine to doubt, and of faith -to fashion does not increase congregations or the approval of secular world but decreases congregations, decreases the standing of the Church and undermines its moral authority. Until the Church can send out the straight, simple uncompromising, courageous and at times unpopular gospel message, all the other compromises that it regularly makes come down merely to rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

I could not share the rosy view of the health of the Church of England to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby subscribed in his excellent and able speech. He rightly said that when choosing to be baptised, married or, as he put it, reluctantly to be buried, the majority of the people in the country choose the Church of England medium through which to conduct those ceremonies. However, the fact remains that during the rest of their lives, there is a minimal number of people in the country who find spiritual sustenance from the Church of England. I will not embarrass my right hon. Friend by drawing comparisons with the ways in which congregations have grown or have been decreasing less in other denominations. One of the reasons for that failure is the way in which the Church looks to the secular world for approval instead of taking its message to the secular world.

I cannot improve on the exposition of my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal on the issue of authority, but I should like to deal with one point that my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby made. He said that, if the Church of Rome could take decisions on the immaculate conception and glorious assumption without reference to the Church of England, the Church of England could take decisions on orders without reference to the Church of Rome. He entirely ignored the point that my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal made about the agreement over the last decade between the various members of the Church universal not to take decisions that will damage the united base of those churches. The decisions to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby referred were taken by the Roman Catholic Church many decades ago and they precede this agreement. He very cleverly said that it does not make any difference because the magisterium says that Anglican orders are null and void. It does not make any difference whether those orders will be held by men or women. That is not the point. The difference is the taking of the decision in isolation. I grieve for members of the Church of England who have devoted their lives to the Church but who cannot stay as a result of that single departure from the united Church.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), in a very amusing but not always relevant speech, said that he hoped the day would come when the Roman Catholic Church would ordain women.

Photo of Ann Widdecombe Ann Widdecombe , Maidstone

I point out to the right hon. Gentleman and to those who are uttering sedentary approval that it has taken us 400 years to get round to forgiving Galileo and I do not think that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield or I will see a Roman Catholic Church that ordains women.

I now want to deal with the package of compensation for those who have been driven out of the Church by this Measure. If I have derived any amusement from this terrible, grievous and serious subject it is the sight of so many hon. Members who always cry out for employees' rights and for justice and equity brushing aside the inequity and injustice of this provision. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield asked whether Cranmer would have gone if instead of facing the stake he had faced a cheque. Even before this compensation package is in place or any money is available, at least 60 priests have left the Church of England, some of whom are married and have family responsibilities, having sacrificed their rights to that compensation in many cases. There may be no stake for them, but there is no cheque either. I find any condemnation or ridicule of the consciences of those who could not stay utterly offensive and out of keeping with the way in which we should be debating this.

I find the financial provisions Measure entirely inadequate. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby said, it does not cover, except in a discretionary sense, a man who has spent five years studying at theological college, a further two years as curate, who has been ordained for 30 years in the Church of England, whose wife has given up her career to support his priesthood but who is, instead of an incumbent of a parish in the Church of England—[Interruption.]

Photo of Miss Janet Fookes Miss Janet Fookes , Plymouth Drake

Order. The hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) knows my views about seated interventions. It is the strength of this place that we listen to views with which we may profoundly disagree.

Photo of Ann Widdecombe Ann Widdecombe , Maidstone

A man who has served for 30 years as an ordained member of the Church of England but who is not an incumbent of a parish because he is a serving missionary overseas is not covered by this compensation. The case I cite is an actual one, not a theoretical one.

There is no coverage, except under discretion, for those who are serving as chaplains—for example, to the armed services or to regional health authorities—although such people might previously have been parish priests. There is no protection for them. Nor will they have protection under ordinary law as a result of the Measure. If they feel that they cannot stay, they will have no protection against constructive dismissal if they are employed by a third party —for example, a regional health authority.

If monks and nuns in religious orders, who have taken vows of poverty and have no resources of their own—and who had reasonably believed that, at the end of their lives, they would be cared for by their order—feel, as a result of this Measure, that they cannot stay, they too will have no automatic compensation.

I believe that this Measure is unpassable as it stands. I had originally thought that I would be obliged to vote for the compensation Measure because the worst of all worlds would be that we pass an order in favour of ordaining women but not an order for compensation. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) for making it clear that that will not be the result of voting against the compensation Measure. The one cannot be valid without the other, even if there is a huge vote in favour of the ordination of women.

Those who believe in justice and equity for the people who have no resources of their own, and who will not be covered by this Measure, should know that if the compensation package is rejected, it will not mean that no one will get compensation; it will mean that the legislation will have to be reworked.

I very much regret the inadequate compensation package. We have had a year since the Synod decision last November. Too little was done in advance of that decision; the attitude was, "Oh well, we have another five years. The Measure will not be passed." No sense of urgency was shown before that decision to have in place, at the time it was taken, a proper package that people could respect and take into account when voting for the main Measure.

There has been no sense of urgency since then. There has been ill-concealed panic and some hasty patch-ups, but no great sense of urgency to get to the bottom of the compensation provisions and present them to the House in a form which at least meets our standards of justice, whatever our doctrinal objections to the main Measure may be.

I have listened to the glowing accounts of the Ecclesiastical Committee's work—which was indeed difficult and complicated—but if the early Apostles had shown the same sense of urgency as the Church of England in its approach to moral issues and this compensation package, we would still be worshipping Zeus. The Church of England has failed its own members.

We have heard a lot, particularly from those in favour of the Measure, about the women who have waited patiently within the Church, sat it out and prayed for the resolution that they desired. Those in favour ask why we should be sympathetic to people who have lost the argument when those women have waited patiently for all these years. The answer is that the terms were never changed for the women who waited patiently. When they came into communion with the Church, when they took confirmation, even when they took ordination as deacons, they knew the terms that the Church was setting out. Those who were confirmed and ordained decades ago—like the clergyman to whom I referred, who is now a serving missionary and excluded from compensation—came into the Church on one set of terms and on one doctrine to which they subscribed, which has now been changed over their heads. That is the fundamental difference.

If those who exhibit disagreement with what I am saying were not so wholly taken up with the argument about women's rights—which is not the main argument here—they would feel strongly about the injustice and inequity of the compensation package.

Photo of Ann Widdecombe Ann Widdecombe , Maidstone

Before I give way to the hon. Gentleman, let me make a plea to hon. Members. The way, in which they vote on the first Measure must be a matter of conscience, but the second Measure is another issue. The people to whom I have referred look to us to ensure that the position is somewhat better than it is now: only the House can afford them protection.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The hon. Lady is right to identify the distinction between those who joined the Church under the old order, as it were, and those who joined, and find themselves in a different position, under the new order. The answer to the anxiety that she has expressed is that the Church will exclude no one if we change the rule. The Church will allow those who object to remain in it, to have their views respected and to be promoted in the Church. They are not being driven out in any way. If they choose to leave, that is their choice; but the Church wants them to stay.

Photo of Ann Widdecombe Ann Widdecombe , Maidstone

When I said that such people were excluded from the Measure, I was talking about exclusion from the compensation package. Many of us, however, would regard ourselves as being excluded by the Measure. I was one of those who said, right at the start, "This is the nature of the Church of England. I shall not stay in it, and cause a division; I will go, because I accept that this is the direction in which the Church is now going—although there may be a few setbacks on the way for proponents of the Measure. Once that was decided, I went; but, at the time, I felt that I had been driven out.

I strongly sympathised with what the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) said earlier about the need for Churches to be in communion with each other. I spent four months in technical communion with no one; even when I believed myself to be in communion with the Holy See, I was still out of communion until all the formalities had been completed.

I am a member of the laity. It is relatively easy—in physical and financial terms, if not in spiritual terms—for members of the laity to leave the Church. The struggle that I have described however, is deep rooted: it will not simply disappear, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) seemed to suggest. Many serving members of the clergy in the Church of England—missionaries, monks, nuns and chaplains—will say that they have been excluded.

The way in which my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby proposed the motion showed, in large measure, the attitude that I hope the House will adopt. Even if hon. Members cannot understand the reasons involved, I ask them to understand that the matter goes well beyond rights and secular concerns. The sacramental nature of the priesthood is precious, and some people will never be able to come round to the change. At least 60 clergy have already left the Church, and I believe that many more will go when the Measure is passed and the first priestess is ordained—because they will then be confronted with the utter reality, and will know that there is no turning back.

Members of the laity can make the decision that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield suggested was so easy. We can just go, albeit with a huge struggle; but the clergy cannot, and they are not well covered by the compensation Measure. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey and my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby have more or less admitted it. What will determine whether those people receive any protection is the amount of money that the Church Commissioners have—and, as we know, the Church Commissioners are facing a black hole of £800 million, which is not entirely accounted for.

Photo of Ann Widdecombe Ann Widdecombe , Maidstone

I shall not forget my hon. Friend. I shall give way to him at a convenient time, and he must remind me quickly if I end my speech without having done so.

I think it important that we do not, at any rate, vote for the second Measure. As for the first, I seek to persuade no one. I think that the issue of the sacramental priesthood is very personal: it is based on a person's own spirituality, belief, prayer and receipt of the Holy Spirit and guidance. I do seek to persuade the House, however, to recognise the grievous position that those in holy orders who share my views—there are some in my own family—now face.

I do not believe that the Church has yet done all that it may. I do not believe that the provisions outlined by my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby, which will sustain the freedom to dissent, are sustainable. They are okay for an immediate transition, but I do not believe that the conscience clause will be worth the paper that it is not written on in 10 years' time in the Church of England.

I think that we shall find a self-selecting Church where vocations are not recognised by priests who do not believe in the ordination of women, where preferment is denied to bishops, or would-be bishops, who do not believe in the ordination of women. The transition period may be quite satisfactory, but it is unsustainable. The Measure, as drawn, is designed to be unsustainable. It is designed not to be written down as legally binding for ever. I think that we have given them a raw deal. Before I sit down, I shall give way to my hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe , Kent Mid

My hon. Friend's powerful case has been weakened by the contempt that she pours on the Church that she has recently left. I should like to ask her whether she has such a low opinion of the Church of England that she does not trust its discretion, for example, in the case of the ordained man about whom she spoke who has been in the church for 30 years. It seems inconceivable to me that, under the discretionary powers, such a person would be excluded from the compensation package.

Photo of Ann Widdecombe Ann Widdecombe , Maidstone

If it is so inconceivable, the Church had a simple option. It could have included certain specified categories of people and still had an open category for discretion. It could have included those people within the statutory compensation package. It did not. I am not respectful of the way that the Church of England has put its message across in recent years. That is no secret to anybody. I do not feel contempt, and the hon. Gentleman has failed to recognise that. I feel deep grief, deep disappointment and, yes, deep anger.

Contrary to the views of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield and the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey, who spoke as a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee, although the division between myself and the Church of England is very deep, although the disrespect that I feel for a lot of it—but not all of it—is deep, I never want to see that Church disestablished. If the price that we have to pay for having an established Church is that unbelievers and others will be voting on Anglican Measures, it is a price worth paying, if the other option is finally to remove the tenuous spirituality of this country, where only the recognition of an established Church, through having a crown which holds its authority as a result of a coronation by an Archbishop of Canterbury, gives us religion in schools. If we cut those links, it will be the death of spirituality in Britain. I do not believe that the Church of England has done much to promote it.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood 12:27 pm, 29th October 1993

Like many, I would imagine, I found the speech of the hon. Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe) sad. Obviously it is sad for someone to feel such dislike of a Church that they cared about, but the hon. Lady has joined my ex-Church. She should be celebrating that. If she joined the Catholic Church full-bloodedly, why is she so bitter? Why does she not celebrate her new Church? I am absolutely confident that there will be women priests in the Catholic Church before long.

Photo of Ann Widdecombe Ann Widdecombe , Maidstone

I must say to the hon. Lady that she is not hearing bitterness. She cannot discern between the two. It is utter grief and anger, which sometimes sound like bitterness. It is utter disbelief at what has been going on, that we have not only managed to consecrate bishops who do not believe in the resurrection and the virgin birth, but that we cannot get our moral message across. Yes, I am very angry.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

I am sorry that the hon. Lady feels like that. I hope that she will feel better soon and that her new Church will comfort her.

Some of us find ourselves in an odd position in this debate. The Church of England has decided by an overwhelming majority in its three houses—Bishops, Clergy and Laity—after a debate lasting many years, that it wishes to ordain women as priests. Obviously, in the House of Commons there are many of us of other religions and faiths, and of none, who do not believe that we are entitled to tell the Anglican Church what it should do. However, because it is the established Church in Britain, we are having the debate and we have a right to vote.

It would be deeply wrong for the House not to uphold the decision made by the Synod of the Church of England. Many of us who are not of the Anglican Church have received all sorts of letters and messages from people in our constituencies who are deeply committed to that Church asking us to vote for the Measure and thereby uphold the decision. I am sure that that is the right way to proceed, and anyone who is fair about such matters will vote in that way.

Many hon. Members wish to speak in the debate, so I shall try to be brief. Yesterday, I met briefly Mrs. Caroline Davis of the Movement for the Ordination of Women. She made clear something that the hon. Member for Maidstone denied—that the argument within the Anglican Church has been conducted not as an argument over women's rights but as a theological argument. The issue is theological.

The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) hides his true reasoning. He cannot say that a woman or a girl can be a full member of the Church, can be baptised and welcomed into it, but that if she had a vocation cannot become a priest. By saying that, he is saying that women cannot be full members of the Church and cannot be fully baptised and belong to the Church. Let me take the right hon. Gentleman back to the days of slavery in the Caribbean. It was an offence for anyone to baptise a slave because baptism recognised full humanity. Once girls are baptised and are members of the Church, if they have a vocation, they must have the right to become a priest. If not, one would be saying that they are inferior and that there is something different or wrong about them.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Secretary of State for Environment

I do not think that it is right for any of us to try to understand each other's motives. I do not know what the hon. Lady's motives are. She is a former member of the Roman Catholic Church and is taking part in the debate, as all of us have a right to do; that is perfectly reasonable. My motives are simple. I do not have a view about whether women can be ordained because my theological position is that that is a decision that can be made only by the whole Church. That is a straightforward theological view. We may have different views on other matters, but on that she must not say that I have a hidden agenda.

Happily, many members of the Movement for the Ordination of Women have been kind enough to accept, even though they may be ardent feminists, that there is no reason to doubt the position of many of us on the issue. We would hold it if the Church of England had changed the creed or any other orders. The hon. Lady must accept the bona fides of those who try to put a logical theological case before the House.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

The right hon. Gentleman must indeed make his own argument. Everyone respects that. It would be extraordinary if a Church that changed so much at the time of the reformation could not change now. I could not comprehend that; it would not make any sense. There is no logic or reason, but I accept that the right hon. Gentleman thinks that there is reason and logic in it.

The theological reality touches on women's rights because it is a profound acceptance of women's equality as human beings. How can anyone who believes that Jesus Christ came to earth to save men and women say that he was representing men and not women? The more one continues with the argument, the more intolerable it becomes. It does not stand up.

I have here a quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu which makes this argument. He said in 1992: I am more convinced than ever before that theologically, biblically, socially, ecumenically, it is right to ordain women to the priesthood. The most radical act that can happen to any human being is to become a member of the body of Christ. If gender cannot be a bar to baptism, then gender cannot be a bar to ordination. The Bible is quite clear that the divine image is constitutive of humanity, irrespective of gender. I cannot have stuggled against an injustice that penalises people for something they can do nothing about, their race, and then accept with equanimity the gross injustice of penalising others for something they can do nothing about, their gender. That says it all, and says it finely, and it is a fine and brave man who says it.

I must put a couple of other arguments before the House. First, the first Anglican woman to be ordained a priest was ordained 50 years ago, and half the Anglican Church worldwide now has women priests. That is not a new step. In Ireland—north and south—the Church of Ireland, which is the Anglican authority there, has women priests.

Secondly, women were first ordained deacons—the first stage in holy orders—in 1987. That was when the General Synod and Parliament first agreed to the important extension of the ministry to women, that women could be deacons. There are now about 1,500 women deacons in England. They work in the Church of England as vicars, curates, chaplains, preachers and teachers. They baptise and take weddings and funerals. They are in charge of parishes, university chaplaincies, hospital chaplaincies and so on. They are the priests to their people in all but name.

Parishes want—the figures are clear—the deacon who works in their parish to be a priest. People do not want to continue having to import a male priest to say the one prayer in the Holy Communion that must be said by a priest. It makes nonsense of the pastoral care given by the women deacons all this time.

The Measure writes itself. We have got there. The Anglican Church has had its argument. There are women out there doing it. This is a democratic decision; it is right in principle. But it is also right that the Church should be generous to those who are wrong. It is always right that we should try to be generous to those who disagree with us and who are, in my view, profoundly wrong.

The arrangements that have been made and carefully organised so that everyone can be cared for are fine and are to be respected. I believe, as does the hon. Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe), that when the situation settles down the numbers of people who leave the Church will be small. The Church of England has conducted itself with great dignity in the argument and in the arrangements that it has made. It has come to the right decision, and those who are wrong should accept it and uphold the democratic decision of the Church.

Photo of Mr Michael Stern Mr Michael Stern , Bristol North West 12:37 pm, 29th October 1993

I am grateful for the opportunity to make a few brief comments in the debate. Like the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms Short), I come to the debate as a non-communicant in the Church of England; indeed, I come to the debate as a lapsed Jew.

The first question that I ask myself is one that was brought out by the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden) at the beginning of the debate: what role does someone in my position have in debates on matters affecting the Church of England? That aspect of the debate has not been questioned for some time.

Let us recall a measure that caused as much controversy in the Church as has the ordination of women—the introduction of the new prayer book in 1927. I am heartened by the comments that were made in that debate by Sir William Joynson-Hicks. He was approached by hon. Members who felt that there was something wrong in their taking part in a debate on Church matters when they were not part of that Church. He told them: '…you are sent here as Members of Parliament. You have no right in, perhaps, the most difficult and dangerous vote that this House has ever given, to disfranchise your constituents.'…every Member who comes into this House has a bounden duty to consider for himself the great issues which are put before him and to decide those isues in what he believes to be the interests of right and justice."—[Official Report, 15 December 1927; Vol. 211, c. 2550.] In a House that, after many years of vilification and abuse, finally admitted Catholics, non-conformists, Jews, atheists and today, I believe, Muslims, there must surely be as valid a role for every Member of Parliament in debates on the Church of England as there is for communicants.

The next question that I have to ask myself is not what is the role of Members of the House within and without the Church in such debates, but what is the role of the House? We are considering this Measure not as members of different religions but as Members of the House of Commons. Our role is difficult to define, but I find it easy to define what it is not. It seems clear that in a multi-faith —increasingly no-faith—House of Commons we must not attempt to take on the role of redefining or defining the doctrine of the Church of England. Doctrinal matters do not play a part in this debate. With all affection towards my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) and my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe), under that definition the major part of what they had to say—however interesting—was out of order.

If the House defines matters relating to the Church of England by reason of doctrine, the House is also saying that there are first and second-class Members. No matter what our doctrine, we must decide the matter as Members of this House. It therefore seems to me that we must decide it on the basis of what is the good governance of the established Church. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone. I find it inconceivable that the House will ever concede the disestablishment of the Church, just as I find it inconceivable that a tree that is many hundreds of years old can hack away one of its major roots.

If we are to conclude the matter on the basis of what is right and proper for an established Church, we must conclude that the Measure must be passed. The Church is part of this country's constitution in every other part of which women are given an equal and full part to play. Male and female monarchs have alternated, we have had a female Prime Minister, and we now have a female Speaker. I find it difficult to imagine that we can set aside one part of the constitutional fabric that makes up the United Kingdom and say that there, and only there, women will not be permitted to play their full role. I therefore feel that the Measure must proceed on that secular basis.

Photo of Mr Peter Hardy Mr Peter Hardy , Wentworth 12:42 pm, 29th October 1993

I think that the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern) and I will vote in the same Lobby. My only criticism is that he seemed to suggest that the arguments of right hon. and hon. Members should be restricted and that spiritual or theological aspects should not impinge on our debate. Hon. and right hon. Members must be free to choose their own topics. If they wish to make arcane, bitter, or even extremely well-informed speeches, they must be allowed to do so. For me, the one light moment in the speech of the hon. Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe) was her reference to the impossibility of a male impersonating the Virgin Mary —in boys' schools they have to, which is why I am in favour of co-education.

I shall be brief. I was a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee and I thought deeply about the subject, although I said little because most of the words were spoken—sometimes exhaustively—by people who opposed the Measure. I am not criticising some Conservative Members who take an entirely different view from my own, but I have three reasons for my view and for the votes that I cast in favour of ordination and the principle of decent treatment for those who find that they cannot accept the decisions.

The first reason is that I believe that it would be outrageous for Parliament and the country to disregard the decision made by the Synod of the Established Church, not least because of the overwhelming number of votes cast in the Synod. In November 1992, 553 votes were cast in all three houses, of which 384 were cast for and 169 were cast against. A two-thirds rule applied—I wish it existed here as it would have meant that we would not have some of the legislation which has been passed through our establishment in the past few years. The Synod's vote was decisive. It would be catastrophic for the Church and damaging for the House if we sought to stem that tide of democracy on an issue that had been under consideration for a long time. The House would do the Church a profound disservice if it sought to stem that development.

The second reason for my vote is that the position that we are seeking to change was established because in biblical times and for much of not only the first millennium, but the second, it was impossible for women to gain equality. They were little more than chattels. It would have prevented the development of Christianity if forward-looking decisions had not been made. We are not talking about forward-looking decisions now, but about more than 51 per cent. of the population. As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) reminded us, gender is not a bar to baptism, and gender should not remain a bar to ordination, as an inhibition and restriction on the pastoral work of the female deacon.

I am a nonconformist who clings to and enjoys attendance in the established Church, and the third reason for my vote is that it would be entirely wrong for us to vote against the ordination of women when there is no clear biblical authority to deny that. I have not found any spiritual authority to justify a different decision.

Photo of Mr Peter Hardy Mr Peter Hardy , Wentworth

The hon. Lady may have a different view of the scriptures, but when the day of Pentecost came, the decision was unavoidable. By 1992, the historic limitations on the role of the female in our society were being gradually removed. It would be wrong for the House to say that the clock must remain for ever in medieval times.

We need a Church that is vigorous and attractive, and is seen as having a modern and realistic purpose. In recent years, we have seen a great deal of greed, and privilege has been given a high priority. There has been a little less concern than there should be for those who are underprivileged or disadvantaged. The voice of the Church needs to ring out and to spell out not only the old message, but the modern judgment. A Church that did not allow women to echo that judgment would be failing its tradition and its future.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , South Staffordshire 12:47 pm, 29th October 1993

I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) who, like me, serves on the Ecclesiastical Committee. I am sorry that I shall have to cross swords with him, but he will not be surprised at that.

A disappointing theme which has run through the debate and has come from those who support the Measure has been the implicit suggestion in so much of what has been said that, historically, women have not played a crucial role in the history of the Church. What about Mary Magdalene, Hilda of Whitby, Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila and Teresa of Calcutta? The idea that a woman has to be a priest in order to fulfil her spiritual role in the Church is a gross distortion and misconception.

I do not oppose the Measure on grounds of equality or ability. I yield to no one in my admiration for women and in welcoming the fact that they now play such a full and vibrant part in the life of our community in all spheres and at all levels. I am delighted that our Speaker is a woman. Over 14 years, we had the interesting experience of a woman Prime Minister. I viewed that with delight on some occasions and with less ecstasy on others, but nobody could deny that she was a great Prime Minister.

For me, this is not a question of equality, still less a question of ability. Nobody suggests that women do not have the ability to answer the highest calling and to fulfil all manner of roles. The issue is not that, and anyone who suggests that it is, as did the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms Short), is doing the cause of women a disservice.

I have been an Anglican all my life and sang, perhaps not altogether well, in a choir as a boy. I have rung the bells, served at the altar, and have been a sidesman and a church warden. I also think that I have served longer than any other hon. Member on the Ecclesiastical Committee. Throughout, I have been proud, and remain proud, of my membership of the Anglican church.

It is on this that, to some extent, I cross swords with my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) and my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe), both of whom I deeply respect and greatly admire. My hon. Friend has left the Church of England, and I inferred from my right hon. Friend's speech that a decision in his case is imminent about whether the Church of England can any longer contain him if we take this step. I respect their views, because I have wrestled with the matter and continue to do so.

But there is another way. I hope that the Church of England can continue to provide a home for people like me who are distressed by the Measure. At stake is the survival of a broadly based national Church. There are many virtues in having an established Church, but I shall not expand on that because it has been well dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison), who introduced the Measure, and by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), who dealt with it hilariously and who supports the Measure.

Suffice it to say that I wish to see this broadly based national Church remain established. But it can only be broadly based and national if it is characterised by tolerance and can say to those of us who have not changed, "You are still welcome." It should also say to priests and those who have the vocation to be priests that the highest offices of the Church are still open to them.

This is a difficult issue over which many people have agonised for a long time. I do not pretend that the majority of the thousands of letters that I have received on the issue were not in favour of the measure. There was a small majority in favour, but many hundreds of people were not. I shall not bore the House by quoting at length, but I should like to quote brief extracts from two letters, one from a layman and the other from a group of clergy. The layman said: People like me, who have just continued to believe the traditional teachings of the Church of England as set out in the 39 Articles of Religion and the Ordinal of the Book of Common Prayer, find ourselves marginalised and discounted by the vociferous campaign of those in favour. A group of clergy in the dioccese of Exeter wrote: The division will be felt not only in the relationship of the Church of England to the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, but also locally within the Church of England, and within every diocese, wherever bishops choose to embark on this course of action …Those of the clergy and laity who understand the Church of England in the light of Scripture, the Creeds, the Fathers and the early Councils, cannot put aside their deeply held, conscientious convictions …They seek the peace and unity of the Church on Apostolic and Catholic foundations. They desire that the offices of bishops, priests and deacons, as they have existed since the Apostles' time, be continued, and reverently used and esteemed. No one can pretend—and I hope that no one who has studied the subject would pretend—that there are not deep feelings among some of the most profound believers.

Although it is true that 70 million people belong to the Church within the Anglican communion, we must accept that many more millions belong to the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. However, the overwhelming view of those of Catholic and Apostolic belief is that it is not possible for a woman to be a priest. In using the word "possible", I ask those hon. Members of the female sex to accept that it is a question not of equality, but of difference. I do not believe that a woman can be a priest any more than she can be a father. To me, it is as simple as that—[Interruption.] My hon. Friends may mutter in disagreement, but that is a view which is held by the vast majority of practising Christians in the Church. If we want to be tolerant of people's beliefs, we must recognise that fact.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , South Staffordshire

It is true. Whatever the hon. Gentleman does with his head—and he can gyrate it backwards, forwards or sideways—it is a fact. He may regret that it is a fact and he may profoundly disagree with that view, as he is entitled to do. A number of Churches have ministers, not priests, who are women. There is a difference between the minister's role and the priestly function.

If, in future, the Church of England is to contain both those who believe in the ordination of women and those who cannot accept that, there must be a realistic accommodation. Most of the debate in the Ecclesiastical Committee centred on the issue of safeguards for those of traditional orthodox persuasions and what could be done to encourage them to remain within the Church of England. When we first began our deliberations, it was with just the Measure before us and in the immediate aftermath of the first meeting at Manchester and the statement that has become known as "Manchester 1". In Manchester at the beginning of the year, there was already a recognition among bishops that the traditional orthodox believers were far more deeply distressed than the bishops ever thought they would be. I speak of not only the clergy but the laity. I am glad that the hon. Member for Wentworth agrees.

When the Committee met, we inevitably fastened on to that. As an Ecclesiastical Committee, we decided that while we would recognise the theological differences, we would not become bogged down in them, but would concentrate on the safeguards issue. We did precisely that. It is partly, if not largely, a result of cross-examination in that Committee that we had the promise of an Act of Synod. That was incorporated in the second Manchester statement, which came to be known as "Bonds of Peace".

While many of us on that Committee, which voted fairly consistently, welcomed the Act of Synod, 11 of us did not feel that it went far enough—lacking as it does the full force of a Measure and, therefore, not affording the same legislative protection. We begged the archbishops to think again. The 11 of us who voted against the Measure wrote to the archbishops in the summer: We hold to the orthodox Christian doctrine on these matters and we hold to the view that if there is to be a movement in this direction it should be on the basis of a decision taken on behalf of the whole of the Catholic and Apostolic Church. Nevertheless, our main concern now is for the continuation of the Church of England as a broadly based and national Church, and one in which there is indeed not only a present but a continuing and welcome place for those who think and believe as we do. We begged the archbishops even at that late stage to contemplate another Measure—not to delay this one, but to promise that another would follow.

Even at this stage, I beg the archbishops to think of that. I do not doubt their integrity or good faith, but they will not be in office for ever. If we are to preserve the Church of England's continuity and the possibility of a continuing role for traditional, orthodox believers, two things must happen. First, such believers must be made to feel welcome. That is difficult to achieve by legislation. Secondly, there must be positive steps and movements. Last week, three suffragan bishops were appointed who hold to traditional and orthodox beliefs, but one of the most eminent theologians in the Church of England, the Warden of Keble, has gone to Basingstoke. That is a wonderful place, but I shall not believe that we are on the way until one has gone to Durham when the Bishop of Durham retires this year.

Durham has a tradition of lively, off-centre and perhaps rather eccentric bishops, so perhaps that would be the place for a real advocate of what I acknowledge to be a minority point of view. Nevertheless, let us have one or two senior diocesan bishops, and then we shall really believe that there is continuity, that we have a welcome place and that there is a future for the Church of England as a broadly based national Church.

My second appeal is not to the archbishops but to all those in the House and outside it who are worried, questioning and concerned believers who hold the Church of England dear, as I do, and who have a deep and abiding affection for it. Let us at least give the archbishops a little time to deliver. Let us test their resolve and good faith and not leave unless we really feel forced out. But if Basingstoke is succeeded by Basildon, Basildon by Barnsley, and if Durham and Winchester and the other high points within the Church of England go to those who are prepared to contemplate only one view—the ordination of women—we shall believe that we are excluded.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

The Bishop of Winchester does not support the ordination of women.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , South Staffordshire

That may be so, but, sadly, Winchester will become vacant soon, as will Chichester. Those are some of the key bishoprics that must give the continuity that we seek. If we have that, I believe that there is a future for a broadly based Church of England. If not, I am sad to say that within a year or two I will feel as my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal and my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone feel now. I hope that, from the outside, they will look in and that their prayers will sustain us as we struggle to maintain a Church of England that is a true national Church.

Several hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

Order. Before I call the next hon. Member I must tell the House that 11 hon. Members are trying to catch my eye to speak. In this debate of all debates, it is important that I try to call as many hon. Members as possible. I therefore make a plea for succinct speeches.

Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay , Thurrock 1:05 pm, 29th October 1993

It was not my intention to attend this morning, not because I consider this matter to be unimportant, but because I deeply resent the fact that parliamentary time and energy are being spent on one Church of the country. I also resent the fact that a Question Time is devoted to Church of England matters, which also takes up the energy and resources of Parliament. It is time that people paused and thought how ridiculous it is that Parliament is considering matters which should be the exclusive concern of the Church of England.

Reference has been made to the national Church. We should remember that we are the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is, therefore, important to remember that the Church of Wales and the Church of Ireland are disestablished. The legislation of the Church of Scotland is not dealt with in this place and we do not have a Question Time devoted to it. It is, therefore, wrong for us to discriminate in favour of the Church of England. Why should we spend the time and energy of this place on a supposed national Church when it is the Church of England exclusively?

I turned up today because the overwhelming consideration in this matter is justice. My women constituents have written to me because they feel strongly about this issue. I do not believe that there is any theological impediment to prevent women from becoming priests. On this occasion, I will support the Measures, but I hope that this will be the last time that other hon. Members and I are distracted from the more important issues of social justice, unemployment and constraints on the national health service. Those are the issues which should be the business of this place, rather than legislation governing the Church of England.

When we discuss such matters, we cannot help but trespass into matters of theology and doctrine. Hon. Member after hon. Member has done just that and there is a danger that I, too, have fallen into that trap, because I said that I do not believe there is any theological impediment against the ordination women priests. When we debate such Measures, we will always end up discussing theology, but is it not crazy that the legislature of a modem-day parliamentary democracy should be discussing this issue when so many other matters should be pre-occupying our time?

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Secretary of State for Environment

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that, for many of us, there is no subject more important than eternal truth. The day that this Parliament considers any of the subjects that he has mentioned to be more important than that is the day that this Parliament has denied its entire history. The hon. Gentleman does not understand that this Parliament is what it is because of its Christian background; without that, it would be of very much less value.

Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay , Thurrock

I object to the whole thrust of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks. The matter of seeking truth is one with which we are all charged, but it is a matter of individual conscience and not a matter for a national legislature. It is ridiculous that the matter is raised here. If it is correct for Church of England matters to be raised in the House, why is not it correct for every other denomination?

Photo of Mr Roger Evans Mr Roger Evans , Monmouth

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it was an appropriate course for the House to intervene and to pass legislation twice in this century that enabled different creeds of the Methodist Church to unite, and to allow the Baptists and the Congregationalists to become the United Reform Church? Were not those interventions proper parliamentary activities?

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it correct that the Baptists and Congregationalists did not unite? Was not it the Presbyterians and the Congregationalists who united?

Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay , Thurrock

It is obvious that the House passes legislation on a whole range of issues. There are private Bills and public Bills and there are occasions when it is necessary for legislation to be passed. On exceptional occasions, there are Acts that relate to the Church of Scotland. If it is necessary that legislation be facilitated at the request of certain churches, because there is no other way, I would welcome that.

The matter today is one where the Church of England is trespassing on important parliamentary time and energies at some cost in resources. That is an irritant to me, and others believe it to be archaic. If it continues, and there is no attempt to repatriate the business of the Church from this place to the Synod, it will become an impertinence. I want hon. Members and anyone who reads our debates subsequently to pause and reflect that surely the next Measure to come before the House should be a request from the Synod to repatriate or to devolve these parliamentary duties from here to that Synod. I would support that.

Before speaking today, I spoke informally to one of my hon. Friends, who told me that I was talking about disestablishment. With respect, I am not. I am agnostic on the question of disestablishment. It is not a corollary of the House removing its jurisdiction and responsibility for Church of England matters. The Church of Scotland is a national Church which has some constitutional relationship with the monarch and with the head of state. However, we do not discuss Church of Scotland matters in the House.

I am angry that the matter is before the House. It is a constitutional anachronism, but I did not want the debate to pass without registering a protest. The Measure is before us and, as an hon. Member, I feel obligated to attend and vote on it because of the interest of my constituents. I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern) who pointed out that once a Measure is before the House, every hon. Member is obliged to address themselves to it.

The Measure should not be before the House. For that reason, I hope that this will be the last occasion on which the time and energy of the House are taken up. I wish the Church of England well. I am not an Anglican, and the fact that I am voting on the Measure makes it even more barmy. I hope that the Church will decide that such matters are exclusively for the Church. The Synod, and then the Church as a whole, should come knocking on the door of Parliament, asking us to devolve to the Synod in future all matters that relate to the Church. Then, we could move on to other, more pressing and important national business.

Photo of Miss Emma Nicholson Miss Emma Nicholson , Torridge and West Devon 1:13 pm, 29th October 1993

I should like to thank the Whip who is on duty and to mention to him the remarkable speeches that we have had on a one-line Whip on a matter that affects us all most profoundly. Generally, such matters tend to be concerned with life and death, and I would put this great spiritual debate in that context. There have been some remarkable speeches, several of which I profoundly disagree with. I would not wish that disagreement to denigrate the quality of the speeches. I am referring to the speeches made by hon. Members who are opposed to the Measure.

Let me sound a less comfortable note for a moment. Although the quality of speeches has been high, the point of order that preceded the debate left a sour taste in my mouth. My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden), who raised the point of order, claimed that hon. Members who did not belong to the Church of England should not have the right to debate this issue. He referred to the great religions and to those who did not belong to any religion at all, be they atheists or agnostics. He defined the Christian denominations, and said that only communicant members of the Church of England should participate, or words to that effect. The argument that the matter should not be before the House at all has been exhaustively and effectively explored by the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) and others.

But my hon. Friend the Member for Kemptown—in a way that I found unsatisfactory, unattractive and denigratory of many hon. Members and millions of people outside the House—added feminism to his list of the religions whose members should not participate in the debate. I found that profoundly shocking, not just for the obvious reason that feminism is clearly not a religion—neither a faith nor a belief in God—but because my hon.

Friend, perhaps without realising it, sought to debar from the debate on this important subject, and presumably also on other matters, men and women who would argue today that women can be doctors, lawyers, sailors, bus drivers, Members of Parliament, peers, Prime Ministers, queen, Cabinet Ministers, stockbrokers and teachers.

Photo of Miss Emma Nicholson Miss Emma Nicholson , Torridge and West Devon

My hon. Friend has had her turn and I know that time is short, so I shall not give way for the moment.

I suggest that, although the question of the authority of this House to debate such matters has been explored, the proposition that all of us should debate it with honour and propriety has not been properly explored. One of the greatest women to live in the last century wrote: I would have given the Church my head, my hand, my heart. She would not have them. She did not know what to with them. She told me to go back and do crochet in my mother's drawing-room; or if I were tired of that, to marry and look well at the head of my husband's table. 'You may go to Sunday School if you like it', she said. But she gave me no training even for that. She gave me neither work to do for her, nor education for it. That was a letter from Florence Nightingale dated 1852.

Women of Florence Nightingale's quality have been debarred by the Church of England from participating in the life of a priest and in 1852 would have been debarred from debating in this Chamber. Such a woman would not have been allowed to put her name down to speak this morning. Indeed, she would presumably have been classified as a feminist and therefore not allowed to speak on those grounds alone.

Those who believe, as I do, that women should be ordained as full priests in the Church of England have conducted a high-ground debate. But the level of debate among those who oppose the ordination of women—apart from those who have spoken this morning—has in many cases been abominable. The word "priestess"—with the implied pagan connotations that that term carries—has consistently been used in Church of England newspapers. It is implied that there is a connection with human sacrifice, or with something squalid, or with the Roman religion, by which, of course, I mean the religion of Julius Caesar.

I suggest that the basis of those people's argument is fear. What is it that people are so worried about in the concept of women standing at the altar saying the prayer of consecration? The reasons are complex and, in my view, frequently beyond the realm of human understanding and debate. It has a lot to do with fear of women and power.

One of my constituents heard an opponent of the Measure describe his nightmare scene of a monstrous regiment of Thatcheresque women. That merely shows that the curious and conflicting views of people in opposition to this Measure are in some way connected with fright. The trouble is that when part of the debate is based on fright rather than reason, people's views become so deeply entrenched that they cannot think rationally.

We cannot escape from the theological debate at the core of the argument, and we should not do so; I agree with the hon. Member for Thurrock on that. If we are to debate religion, we must talk about theology. Theology means "the Word of God," and it is the purpose of religion to explore and to dissiminate the word of God and, if we happen to be Christians, to live the life of Christ.

Alas, the debate also has to be related to gender, but not, in my view, to feminism, which is something different. I agree that feminism is a secular matter. It is about equal rights and opportunity for all people—men, women, children, young, old, black, white or any other colour. Feminism is a strand of the human rights debate, but not a strand of the theological debate. I wish to put the theological points, which are of necessity concerned with gender because we are talking about the gender of Christian priests. I do not subscribe to the argument that if priests represent Jesus Christ, they must of necessity be male as Christ himself. If Christ is to be the salvation of men and women, it is not as easy as that. Christ was born to represent humanity, not just one gender. Surely the critical aspect of Jesus Christ as the leader of the Christian faith is not that he was male or had a certain hair colour or was unmarried or was a Jew or had a certain facial colour or was a certain height or was a certain size or had a certain eating habit. As Christians, the point must be made that he embodied God; he was God made man. The English language is sometimes sparse. Since it is the common, leading language of the world, many words are less complex than the words they translate. In Greek, there is a distinction between "anthropos" and "homos", as in Latin between "homos" and "vir".

God was made man not as a male but as the human being representing humanity. Who can say that one group of human beings can uniquely claim to represent he who represented the Word made flesh, not the Word made gender-identified man? The Word made flesh is not somebody who is defined by the physical mechanism of procreation. It is nothing to do with human fertility; it has to do with relationships between us and God. If one believes that only one particular group of human beings can represent Christ, those people must not only be male, but to be Jewish, unmarried, have a certain hair colour, be the same age as Christ when he died, and be the only son of God. In addition, all priests would have to be perfect and flawless, which clearly they are not.

It is a heresy to say that the priest representing Christ has to be a man physically akin to Christ, and of the same background. That was the heresy to which the Archbishop of Canterbury referred on which he was misquoted in Reader's Digest. I suggest that transubstantiation is the key. It is, for an Anglican, proper to choose to believe that the body and blood of Chirst, when consecrated, become Christ in actual essence but not that the priest carrying out the consecration is also transubstantiated. We are indeed pagans, if that is the view that we hold.

The other function that a full priest can carry out that a partial priest, as many women are today, cannot is to give the blessing. Yet over many decades, the wording of the blessing has been fractionally altered so that women can and do deliver it. Who in this Chamber will dare to suggest that a man of the human species is uniquely equipped to be the only link with God, the only transmitter of the Almighty's power in delivering the full blessing? Is that the way in which we deliver the logos and honour the Word of God?

Photo of Ms Jean Corston Ms Jean Corston , Bristol East 1:25 pm, 29th October 1993

I agree absolutely with the point that was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn). It is inappropriate that the House should be discussing the matter at all. The Church has agonised over the issue for most of my lifetime and has now reached a clear decision, which we should all respect.

I should want to identify myself with the comments of the hon. Member for Medway (Dame P. Fenner). If Christ were to come to earth now it is inconceivable that he would not choose women as his apostles. The Bible shows that the treatment Christ accorded to women must have been remarkable, given the time and place. He treated them with an equality that was found lacking in this country until probably only 100 years ago.

I base my support for the Measure on my experience of growing up in the Church of England. As a child, I was required to go to church three times on a Sunday. By the time I had become a young woman, I felt that the Church had nothing to say to me at all. I felt excluded. In fact, I concluded that the Church would rather I arranged the flowers and sang nicely, because there seemed to be no other way of my influencing it.

When my children were growing up, I encouraged them to go to Sunday school and my daughter eventually took the same view as me. I believe that the Church has lost a great deal in making so many women feel the same. One of the most liberating aspects of the Church's decision was that for the first time in my lifetime I felt that the Church to which I was supposed to belong, but with which I have had little to do in my adult life, included me for the first time. It is all very well for some Conservative Members to say that they feel excluded. I have felt excluded for most of my life, but the Measure will exclude no one because, for the first time, the Church of England will be inclusive.

The Bible tells us that Christ was not a misogynist, but many people who purport to spread his doctrine certainly are. I give as an example the fact that, when my first child was born more than 30 years ago I was asked whether I was going to be "churched"—cleansed because of what had happened to me. I was outraged and am pleased that the Church has now cast aside its pagan attitude to women, but the attitude still survives. There has been talk about who should succeed the Bishop of Durham, and whether he takes a particular view on the ordination of women. I should like his successor to be succeeded by a woman.

I was pleased as a young woman to see on television a woman called Una Kroll speaking about the ordination of women. That is when I realised what was wrong and why I felt so alienated from the Church. I am pleased to be here to support and congratulate the people who have argued so patiently and persuasively for such a long time for the body of the Church to be universal.

My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms Short) referred to comments made by Archbishop Tutu. He said that if race was not a bar to the priesthood, gender should not be either. That must be right.

I am informed by the Bishop of Bristol that there is a large majority in favour of the Measure in the city. In a letter to me, he wrote: You will already appreciate the importance of this legislation to the Church and, indeed, its wider significance. In the Diocese of Bristol in which your constituency lies there was a 92 per cent. vote in favour of the legislation at our Diocesan Synod. There are thirty-seven women deacons awaiting to be priested as soon as the legislation is passed. It is not within the gift or power of any Member of Parliament to deny those 37 women—and many others in the same position—the right to fulfil what, for them, is a vocation. If it is about anything, the Church should be about the true fellowship of humankind. I am proud to support the Measure.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party 1:30 pm, 29th October 1993

In 1927 and 1928, two historic debates were held in the House of Commons on the revised prayer book. In one sense, today's debate reflects those debates; in another sense, it flows from them. It may interest hon. Members to learn that I read three Roman Catholic newspapers every week and that I follow carefully statements made by the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church.

During the controversy, Cardinal Hume made it clear in a statement that, although he did not like the controversy, it could be a way of securing his aim—the return of England to Rome, and the ending of the Church of England as a separate church. In 1928 a Scottish Member, Mr. Rosslyn Mitchell, reminded the House of the aim of the Church of Rome in this country, in the words of one Cardinal Manning.

Cardinal Manning said: It is good for us to be here in England. It is yours, right reverend fathers, to subjugate and subdue the mind and break the will of an imperial race, a will which, as the will of Rome of old, rules over nations and peoples, invincible and inflexible. It is the head of Protestantism, the centre of its movements and the stronghold of its power. Weakened in England, Protestantism is paralysed everywhere. Conquered in England, it is conquered throughout the world. Once overthrown here it is but a war of detail."—[Official Report, 13 June 1928; Vol. 218, c. 1126.] I find an echo of that in the words of Cardinal Hume. In the same debate, a man with a strange name in that context—a Mr. Bridgeman—said that people viewed the Church of England as far too narrow for the religious life of the present generation. That view has been widely echoed in today's debate.

At the opening of the debate, the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden) lodged a strong objection: he told the House that those who were not members of the Church of England should not dare to speak. Everyone knows that I am not a member of the Church of England; in fact, I belong to one of the "sects" referred to by the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) in loving, gracious and tender tones. It occurred to me that the right hon. Gentleman would make a very good Pope: he would be able to excommunicate all the other religious bodies, telling them that they were only sects. I wonder what the Church of Scotland thinks about having been relegated to that minor spiritual level. However, I happen to believe that it is the relationship of the human soul personally to Jesus Christ that settles eternal things, not the relationship of a human soul to any Church body, no matter what its claims may be.

The hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern) quoted partially what was said in that debate. Sir William Joynson-Hicks stressed the great importance of the House of Commons. He said: As long as the Church is established, the final right lies with Parliament. To-day, the final right lies with the Commons of England. In another place, there was a Division which disposed of the matter there, but the final appeal which the Protestants, the old-fashioned believers in the Church of England, make to-day is to this House of Commons. I am told that some hon. Members do not wish to vote in this matter because they are not members of the Church of England. I say to those Members: 'You are not sent here as Nonconformists, you are sent here as Members of Parliament. You have no right in, perhaps, the most difficult and dangerous vote that this House has ever given, to disfranchise your constituents.' Vote against me if you wish, vote for the new Prayer Book if you wish, but every member who comes to this House has a bounden duty to consider for himself the great issues which are put before him and to decide those issues in what he believes to be the interests of right and justice."—[Official Report, 17 December 1927; Vol. 211, c. 2550.] I think that that is a basis on which we should have this debate. No matter what their views may be, whether they are believers or unbelievers, they should have the right to say.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) said that no one at their election ever mentioned that. In my election I mentioned it and said that it was an issue. I said that it would be an issue that would be coming to the House of Commons. Needless to say, the people knew the attitude that I would adopt in such a debate as this.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

Did my hon. Friend mention in his election address which way he would be voting at 2.30 pm on the Measures?

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

I must tell the right hon. Gentleman that it will be no surprise to him how I vote. Let him read how we voted in the Lobbies and he will see which way I voted. That will give him a little extra homework to do.

The hon. Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe) spoke with great depth of feeling, naturally, and made a valid and important point. She said that the heart of this issue was the sacramental priesthood. Let us not allow anything to cover over that. The great divide comes 'when one believes in the sacramental priesthood or when one rejects it.

Some hon. Members spoke about figures in the Reformed Church. The Reformed Church is an amalgam of the Congregational Church and the Presbyterian Church in England. It does not have vicars. It has ministers. There is a distinction that must be drawn between the conception of a minister and the conception of a priest. No one will ever hear me claiming to be a priest. But for 47 years I have exercised a ministry right in the heart of Belfast. The priesthood, however, as envisaged by the hon. Lady, is the priesthood that has been seen in the Roman Catholic Church.

In canon 11 of the Council of Trent, Rome states: If any one shall say that in these words 'do this in remembrance of me', Christ did not appoint the apostles to be priests, or did not ordain that they and other priests should offer His body and blood, let him be accursed. The Church of Rome anathematises those who do not hold to that sacramental priesthood. When a bishop of the Church of Rome ordains a person to the priesthood, he says: Receive thou power to offer sacrifice to God and to celebrate Masses both for the living and the dead. The catechism of the Council of Trent further says: when the Bishop makes that offer to the person being ordained by these words he is committed to becoming a mediator between God and man. That is the basis of the Roman Catholic priesthood as it is the basis of the Anglo-Catholic priesthood. I do not want to be unfair to them, but I take an entirely different view. I do not see anything about a sacrificing priest in the New Testament. I have never read in the New Testament that the Apostles or those whom they ordained to the gospel ministry ever made priests in such a ceremony.

The Bible also talks about the choosing of Apostles. I resent the suggestion that the Lord Jesus was afraid to go against the feelings of his day and therefore did not appoint one woman apostle. The Lord Jesus Christ was God incarnate. He was fearless and He was without sin. If He felt that the apostleship should have been shared by womenfolk, He would have set that in train and established that foundation for the ministry. He did not. As we know, when the apostle talked about ministers in the Christian Church he said that a minister had to be the husband of one wife. I do not understand how that can be transferred to the other gender. I believe that womenfolk have a place in the ministry of the Church, but it does not happen to be in that particular phase of gospel ministry.

I was rather amazed when the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal said that the Church of England doctrines were contained in the three creeds. I wonder what he does about the 39 Articles. Does he completely jettison them? They have a lot to say about transubstantiation and about the Lord's supper. I shall not weary the House with all of them, but let me quote article 31. It is entitled: Of the one Oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross. It says: The Offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits. That is not my language. That is the language of the Book of Common Prayer, which is opened every day in the House and from which we have our prayers. Here we have the divide, and it is a great divide.

A member said to me, Will you be in the Pope's Lobby today?" I said to him, as I said some years ago when a Labour Member asked me the same question in a debate about abortion, "If the Pope wants to join my Lobby, he is very welcome. Hon. Members have said today that the New Testament has nothing to say about the matter, but it has everything to say. The Lord Jesus Christ certainly elevated women and where the Christian message is heard women will be elevated, but the Bible states clearly that the man is the head of the woman and Christ is the head of the man. My right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) explained that away in a few sentences.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Secretary of State for Environment

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the occasion in which God showed his particular favour towards womanhood was when God chose Our Lady to be his mother, and that the position of the blessed Virgin Mary shows clearly the very particular way in which God and his Church have upheld womanhood down the ages?

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

I find it difficult to follow the right hon. Gentleman, for God had no other way in which he would bring about the incarnation because it was based on a promise: The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman, however, that my saviour is Virgin-born, and certainly God chose the Virgin to be the mother of Our Lord's flesh. That is revealed in the Word of God, which I accept.

Let me return to the subject of authority. The authority, to me, is the Holy Scripture and there is specific teaching in the Holy Scripture that cannot be argued away about these matters. If I am to accept one part of the 39 Articles, which I do, I must accept the other part about the authority of Holy Scripture. The authority of Holy Scripture is above councils, above Synods, above Parliament and above every other authority. The scriptures alone bear the Word of God and they should be heeded and harkened to.

This is a solemn day for the House. Changes in the national Church are serious for everyone, not only members of the Church of England. The spiritual life of the nation has to a degree been held together by the cement of an established Church.

The Presbyterian Church in Scotland is an established Church. The Scottish Presbyterians learnt the bitterness of royal rule over them in the crusade of the covenanters and the reformers. They came to the conclusion that, although they could be established, they would not brook any state interference.

The Church of England has a different set-up. Henry VIII was mentioned today. I do not think that he was a Protestant. I believe that he continued to be a Roman Catholic to the end, but he thought that he would be a better Pope than the Pope so he de-poped the Pope and took the Pope's job. That does not mean that he set the basis for the Church of England.

Thomas Cranmer was mentioned today and it was said that if he had received a cheque he might have reneged. He certainly would not, because Thomas Cranmer was prepared to die for what he believed. The prayer book largely owes itself to the work of Thomas Cranmer.

Before we touch eternal truths that refer to the spirituality of our nation we need to be careful. I read carefully the "red book", as I call it. I read what the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) said. He asked the bishop, "Does eternal truth change?", and I was appalled at the answer. According to that bishop, it can change on every occasion. The bishop was confronted by the hon. Gentleman about the fact that it was said when a deaconess was ordained in the Church that it would go no farther, yet now they are going to have women as priests. They say that there will never be a woman bishop, but we all know that there will be if they go on.

However, other things worry me far more, for example, the fact that the Bishop of Durham denies every tenet of the gospel and everything that is in the Bible, yet he is supposed to chase false doctrine away from his diocese. He is the greatest propagator of false doctrine. That is the sort of thing that should concern legislators. Whatever any hon. Member says, the fact that people in this country have the opportunity to go and listen to the Word of God will help us to get over our difficulties. It is an anchor of the soul. I trust that, even out of all this controversy, He, who can make the wrath of man to praise Him and the remainder of that wrath restrain, will prevail and that all things will work together for good to those who love God.

Photo of Mr Roger Sims Mr Roger Sims , Chislehurst 1:50 pm, 29th October 1993

When the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) rose to his feet, we anticipated that he would approach the issues and discussion from his own unique angle and he did not disappoint us.

My son's wedding was the highlight of my summer recess. When discussing it a few weeks beforehand with my bishop, I commented that my niece would be marrying my son, which caused raised eyebrows until I explained that my niece is a deacon of the Church and would be performing the ceremony. I need hardly say that she did it very well. It was a very happy occasion and I look forward to attending her ordination as a priest in the Church before many months elapse. Incidentally, Opposition Members will be interested to know that the wedding took place in Tolpuddle and that my daughter-in-law comes from the Loveless family.

The House will, therefore, not be surprised where my sympathies lie, and they are confirmed by the voting record of the Ecclesiastical Committee, of which I have been a member for some years.

As the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) said, the Committee has not gone through any Measure more thoroughly than the Measures that we are discussing today. Usually, we spend one or two meetings discussing the Measures that come to us from Synod. We met no fewer than 11 times to discuss these Measures, including a full conference between our Committee and the legislative committee of Synod. As has been said, the Synod representatives included two people who were against the Measure, as well as those who had promoted it. The Committee concluded, by a clear majority, that both of the Measures are expedient—an expression used to show that we recommend to both Houses that they be approved.

On the theological issues, the Committee took the view that it was not for us as a body to pass judgment. Personally, I am not persuaded that there is any theological objection to the ordination of women. One of the weakest arguments that I have heard against their ordination is the Apostolic succession which, it is alleged, would be broken by women's ordination. That succession is defined as an uninterrupted transmission of spiritual authority, through a succession of bishops from the apostles downwards. In other words, the Apostles ordained others, who became bishops and in turn carried out ordinations, and so on until the present day. I fully understand that, but I do not understand why spiritual authority can pass on when a bishop lays his hands upon a man's head but not if he lays his hands on a woman's head. I put that question to one of the bishops who had expressed opposition to these Measures. I was not surprised when I received no response.

It can be argued, as it has been by the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay), that it is not a matter for Parliament, but we know that, for historical reasons, as the law stands, it is a matter for Parliament. Our task is to satisfy ourselves on three issues.

First, does the Church want the Measures? The fact that it does is clearly shown by the vote of the General Synod and by support for the Measures throughout the country. That support is clearly tabulated on page 20 of the Ecclesiastical Committee report, which lists the votes in the various diocese.

Secondly, are there any practical objections to the ordination of women? Clearly, there are none. It can be argued that there are some jobs, for example, those of police officers, where in certain circumstances, a woman is not ideally equipped to deal with all the situations that may arise. However, that is not the case with women priests. There have been women deaconesses for many years—for some years, there have been deacons—and their qualities have proved ideal for the job. They are particularly suited to pastoral work.

Thirdly, are the concerns of the minority who take a different view adequately protected? That question has naturally taken up much of the Ecclesiastical Committee's time and of today's debate. I venture to suggest that the position of bishops who do not want to ordain women priests and of those parishes that may object to having women priests is fully covered in the provisions, in the two Manchester statements and in the proposed Act of Synod.

The Committee certainly satisfied itself that the Measures include appropriate safeguards and financial provisions for those clergy and lay people who feel unable to remain in the Church of England. The provisions were carefully analysed. It is fair to say that while some felt that the financial provision was inadequate, others felt that it was over-generous, particularly given the Church of England's financial state. I believe that the balance is about right. It is my fervent hope that those provisions will be little used.

The Measures are not about splitting the Church; they are about enriching it. The Church is not a body separate from the rest of the community—it is part of it. It is possible to maintain the eternal truths on which the Church is founded—truths to which my hon. Friends, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), have referred—while adapting its structures and practices to reflect the influences and climate in which it exists. The role of women in our society is different, as the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) said, from when the Church was founded and from only a few decades ago. I do not believe that the Measures are the product of some sort of militant feminism, with which some are seeking to associate them.

The Measures are a recognition of the increasing momentum towards sex equality in society generally. That equality has already been gained in a number of spheres, including this place, certainly in quality and achievement, if not yet in numbers. The Measures are also a recognition that women have very much to offer to the priesthood. Nor is it right to link the issue with certain trends in the Church, which have led to its ambivalent attitudes towards homosexuality and its incongruous recognition of gay priests, which I find a contradiction in terms.

The Measures stand on their own merits. They have support in the majority of what might be called the active Church and among those who simply call themselves Church of England, and whose church attendance may be sporadic. I do not deny that endorsing the Measures will cause pain to some, but failure to do so will cause pain to many more.

I hope that the House and the other place will support the Measures and will endorse the final paragraph of the Ecclesiastical Committee report. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey quoted it, so I shall repeat only the final sentence which states: It is the fervent hope of the whole Committee that unity will be preserved. Perhaps the appropriate words to add are "Amen to that".

2 pm

Photo of Glenda Jackson Glenda Jackson , Hampstead and Highgate

I think that I am an agnostic. I know that I deeply believe in a spiritual energy which finds its expression in many ways. There is no limit via gender to the expression of that spiritual energy in every aspect of our national life. Although I think that I am an agnostic, I am privileged to represent a constituency in which many people are absolutely clear about their passionate commitment to practice within the Church of England.

Well before this issue came to the House, I received from men and women, from laity and clergy, by letter, by telephone, by being stopped in the street and by a lobby tin this place, an expression of the desire of my constituents to assure and reassure themselves that when the issue eventually came to the House I would vote for the ordination of women.

I was somewhat surprised that my constituents were not aware of my passionate and spiritual commitment to equality for women in every aspect of our national life.

The debate has been of a remarkably high quality, although I found it rather odd that those hon. Members who oppose the ordination of women tend to be opposed because, for example, a woman cannot be a father. The hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), who said that, did not say that a man cannot be a mother. The harsh realities of life in these islands are that 1–5 million women have to be both father and mother to their children.

The central issue is who is privileged to hear the voice of God? Who is privileged to have delivered to him or her a call from the Supreme Being? I find utterly unacceptable the idea that the Supreme Being speaks exclusively to those of the male gender. For a long time, many women have patiently remained in the Church of England and have never threatened to leave it if they could not be ordained. They have completely acknowledged that that burden was part of their spiritual progress towards responding in full to the voice of God. Excluding the issue of equal rights for women, that is the strongest possible argument and it concentrates on the spiritual and theological dimensions of the matter. That is why I shall vote in favour of ordination for women and why I urge all hon. Members to do the same. God has called upon those women and no one in the House or outside has any right to deny their response to the Supreme Being's call.

Photo of Mr David Atkinson Mr David Atkinson , Bournemouth East 2:03 pm, 29th October 1993

As a Roman Catholic, I hesitated somewhat before taking part in the debate. However, having listened to the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), I do so with less hesitation. He will not be surprised to learn that, like my Church, I oppose the ordination of women. In addition to the more sophisticated theological arguments, I hold the view, however simplistic, that if our Lord had meant there to be women priests—and certainly women bishops will follow—he would have chosen women to be among his Apostles and would have invited them to participate in the last supper to celebrate the first Holy Communion.

Of course, his women disciples were present at the foot of the cross, but the roles of Mary his mother, of the other Mary, of Martha and of his other women disciples, although important, were also different. So were the roles of those women who held important positions in the early Christian Church, so many of whom were martyred. Women have never been precluded from very full and fulfilling positions in the Christian Church.

There are three reasons why I oppose the Measures. They have been influenced by my meetings with local Anglican clergy, whose clear distress in wrestling with their consciences in trying to respond positively to the Measures concerns me greatly. First, it appears that the overwhelming consensus for the Measures claimed by Archbishop Carey is far from true at the grassroots of his Church. I understand that in the voting in the deanery synods, a two thirds majority was achieved in only 300 deaneries—it failed to reach two thirds in 424. If true, that is hardly a consensus for such an important change in doctrine that it requires this Parliament to approve it. It is certainly not the two thirds majority in the Church as a whole claimed by the General Synod.

Secondly, as the Measures stand, there will be an undoubted split in the Church, but that can be avoided if they are amended to include a more protective conscience clause. I am appalled to learn of the attitude being taken by some, including bishops, towards those clergy known to be opposed to the Measures. Apparently, there is rarely any practical chance of promotion for them. In my area, 40 priests covering 30 parishes have told their bishop that they can no longer look to him as their father in God. They have formed their own chapter, which meets regularly. I find that very sad.

Finally, I oppose the Measures because they will undoubtedly delay, perhaps even prevent, the ultimate unification of the Catholic Churches in this country. They will encourage Anglican clergy, as well as laity, to seek integration in the Roman Catholic Church, but it will be for the wrong reason. I want both Churches to be reconciled as the result of a successful outcome of the ecumenical process at the top of those Churches, not through disillusionment at the bottom of one of them.

I hope that the Measures will be defeated today. I hope that the General Synod will think again. It remains a challenge to both Catholic Churches in this country to find ways to develop the ministry of women in this modern world, but it does not lie in the priesthood.

Photo of Mr Michael Bates Mr Michael Bates , Langbaurgh 2:07 pm, 29th October 1993

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this historic debate, to which I have listened with interest. Many people have said that, perhaps, it is not the responsibility and role of this place to debate such issues. I profoundly disagree with them and I suggest to those hon. Members who have participated in and sat through the debate that that view will be proved wrong. This has been one of the most edifying and uplifting debates in which it has been my privilege to participate during my brief time in the House. From time to time, it is a good thing, even in this House, to consider matters spiritual as well as temporal, and that we have done.

I am sure that many people at this time have great anxiety about the ordination of women to the priesthood. I am a believer in the sacramental priesthood and I have no problem squaring that with my belief that women should be part of the priesthood. The emancipation of women in this country has brought great variety and different strengths to our society and has been a great success. It should have been introduced here some time ago.

There will be friction and division. My right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) kindly alluded to his background in the Free Church as being part of a sect. I, too, have a background of growing up as a member of a small Evangelical Church. One difference that I notice as a member now of the Anglican community, of which I am very proud, is that at least the Anglican Church divides over matters of substance, such as the ordination of women and transubstantiation. In my

previous Free Church capacity, we divided over matters such as whether women should wear hats and whether the organ should be played to accompany hymns.

It is essential to focus on the issue of where authority is vested. Some believe that it is vested in the structures here on earth. That is not true. As we know from Matthew, chapter 28, verse 18, Jesus said: All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Therefore, we believe passionately that all authority is vested in Jesus Christ. We try to dilute that authority in to our human structures at our peril. That is the central plank of our belief. That passage from Matthew is from the great commission, and in it Jesus tells his disciples what is their role on earth. It serves as a warning, because the threat of division in the Church is real.

The Church of England is taking part in a decade of envangelism. It would be tragic if this great decade, which is fulfilling the mission and great commission set out so clearly in the Bible in the context of authority, were to be diluted by the effects of any division. I urge archbishops, bishops and individuals to make every effort at reconciliation, so that their great mission in this decade will not be diluted in the slightest.

Inconsistencies remain. If one believes that women can be baptised into the Church of England and be ordained into the priesthood, as we do, a division remains in the sense that women may not become bishops. We have been told that that matter will be dealt with at some future time —but if one accepts that women should be ordained into the priesthood, the entire structure of the Church of England should be open to them. That aspect should be addressed as a matter of urgency.

I am honoured by the opportunity to speak in this debate. It has proved how reflective the House is of the views of the public. The contributions made were broadly in line with views expressed in three houses of the Synod and by many of my constituents.

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby 2:13 pm, 29th October 1993

The time is slipping away and it would be a courtesy to the House, in view of the large number of speeches made in the debate, if I were to attempt to make one or two comments in response.

In the light of the enormous constituency interests represented by the Measures, the House must be glad that so many right hon. and hon. Members found it worth while to attend on a Friday, without any Whip, to contribute so eloquently and passionately. Many old hands will recall debates of earth-shattering national or international importance attended by only two or three Back Benchers on each side of the House, a Minister, a Whip and a few others on the Front Benches. For today's debate on an eternal theme there was only a one-line Whip, yet right hon. and hon. Members are present in large numbers to argue the case—if only that we should not be here arguing the case. That paradox always arises in such debates.

I should like to address first the significant points which the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) raised about the compensation provisions. I want to counter the suggestion that the financial provisions Measure and the financial assistance that it seeks to introduce are in some way niggardly, grudging or limited. They are not. They are specifically tailor-made to help as many people as possible who might suffer financial hardship as a result of their personal and private decision to resign from their official position in the Church of England.

The provisions in the financial assistance Measure are unique in the Anglican communion where, as the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms Short) said, women priests have already been readily accepted. Those priests were accepted, however, without the benefit of the financial provisions that we are seeking to introduce.

The financial assistance takes the form of substantial housing grants, a large resettlement lump sum and regular payments that could last for as long as 10 years in certain circumstances. They are markedly more generous than secular compensation figures.

If hon. Members refer to paragraph 13 on page 49 of our Red Book, they will see that had we tried to introduce something comparable to the unfair dismissal terms that are provided for under secular law, the basic and compensatory awards would not exceed, in a typical case, one year's stipend (or some £12,000). This, it will be seen, is less than one-third of the value of benefits available under the Measure. The terms offered under our voluntary scheme are way ahead of anything that is available in the secular sphere.

Photo of Mr Roger Evans Mr Roger Evans , Monmouth

In the secular sphere if one has an employment contract for life up to the age of 72, which is the equivalent of a freehold incumbency, full compensation would be much greater. Is that not the appropriate comparison?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I always think that my hon. Friend would have made a formidable advocate if we had sought to include in the Measure tight and detailed provisions for particular circumstances, individuals and categories. I could just imagine hearing my hon. Friend arguing his case before a judge and trying to get the last squeeze out of the compensation lemon.

It is precisely because we do not believe that we should introduce such a watertight, technical compensation package that we have gone for the broad-brush approach in an attempt to help people in different circumstances. That is why the compensation provisions have not been spelt out as definitively as my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) would have wished.

I will remind the House of the reason why we have made two separate provisions in the compensation Measure, a standard scheme and a discretionary scheme, the latter under clause 5. The schemes are entirely designed to try to maximise the scope for inclusiveness. Many variations will occur in individual circumstances, even under the tailor-made scheme for incumbents. However, there will be so many variations of the sort that my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone referred to in her illustrative example of a missionary with 30 years service abroad, so it will be much better to have a discretionary scheme alongside the model scheme.

Hon. Members will not have failed to notice that the standard scheme makes provision for application for those who are included under the standard scheme for application to the compensatory scheme. Those in the standard scheme can have that topped up with further discretion. That means that the discretionary scheme will be able to offer more than the model scheme.

Several hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I feel that, because of the limit on time, I shall give way to the hon. Member for Birkenhead, who first raised the matter. I shall also give way—for fear of the wrath of womanhood—to my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman).

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

Order. I clearly heard the hon. Gentleman say that he would give way to the hon. Lady. I am sorry if he has changed his mind, but will he clarify to whom he is giving way?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I am sorry if there has been some indecision. I will give way to my female colleague first, and then to the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

Is not it correct that if the report simply included those who had been ordained many cases would be covered?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

It is not confined to those who have been ordained. There will be individuals and lay people in organisations outside the parochial ministry. The scheme will also apply to those who are ordained in those extra-parochial ministries and to those fixed in the full model scheme. There will be interplay between both structures so that the maximum amount—a generous amount, far exceeding the compensation available in secular schemes—can be offered to those who are suffering real hardship. It is a good scheme for those suffering real hardship.

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field , Birkenhead

The concern of those who have raised the issue of compensation has not been whether people will gain the basic compensation plus top-up payments, but whether some people will be excluded altogether.

I wish to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman that may determine how some of us vote, although not on the major motion. He has given a number of examples of people who will not be covered by any statutory entitlement. Does he expect those examples which were cited in the debate to gain compensation under the discretionary proposals which he has described?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has made clear to me—I hope I have got it right—that he is worried that the discretionary scheme may exclude certain categories or individuals. That does not mean that they will not get enough money if they manage to get into the scheme, but rather that their particular category will not fit in with the discretionary scheme.

I can reassure the hon. Gentleman on the matter. The report mentions on page 35, for example, missionaries serving abroad, forces chaplains, school and college chaplains and lay employees of organisations in which membership of the Church of England is a condition of employment. I can assure my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal that the individuals about whom he is concerned will undoubtedly secure financial assistance under the discretionary scheme. The same applies to the case that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone.

Several hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

I must press on, as I have only six minutes before we reach the end of the debate.

I will pursue the point made by the hon. Member for Birkenhead. If we had tried to make an exhaustive list of those who might be eligible under the discretionary scheme, it would have run into several pages of schedule and would almost certainly still leave out someone whom it was necessary to include.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , South Staffordshire

Cannot my right hon. Friend accept that what we are asking is that the provision should state that clerks in holy orders are eligible—not may be eligible or may apply for, but will be eligible—to receive a sum not specified? Should not the provision apply to all ordained clerks?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

That is implied in the statement on page 35 of our report, which not only refers to missionaries, school chaplains and others who are ordained but goes wider, to include laymen. I cannot see what other category or group of individuals—either lay people or non-lay people—one could possibly include without extending the provision to, for example, the animal liberation movement. One can only be ordained or non-ordained and people in both categories will be eligible for discretionary help.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Secretary of State for Environment

If it is true that every clerk in holy orders will have the same eligibility as those who are eligible at the moment, why will not the Church say that in the legislation, and go on to say that there are other categories to which it will extend discretion? Does not my right hon. Friend understand that there is a suspicion—I do not want to use the word, but I must—that every time the matter is pressed, the Church refuses to say what we all believe it ought to mean if the discretion is to be extended to all those people?

Photo of Mr Michael Alison Mr Michael Alison , Selby

My right hon. Friend seeks a special discriminatory selection of or emphasis on the ordained ministry as such. Why should it be necessary to highlight the ordained ministry given that its members are automatically highlighted by the standard scheme, which can apply only to incumbents? Why should it be necessary to mention both the ordained and the non-ordained in connection with the discretionary scheme? The essential aim is to make the provisions as inclusive as possible and that inclusiveness is secured by the discretionary element, especially in the light of the categories that have been spelt out.

I remind the House that, in that context, votes in the General Synod—from the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy and the House of Laity—were very nearly 100 per cent. in support of the whole of the financial provision Measure. The House of Clergy, in particular, felt that the kind of assistance that we are anxious to secure was properly and fully available.

The financial assistance scheme is a generous one by Anglican standards and an extremely generous one by the secular standards applying to our communities.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal expressed his anxiety about the future of the Church of England, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack). My right hon. Friend made the point that we have no authority to make fundamental changes such as this. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) referred to the 39 Articles and I felt that it was somewhat disingenuous of my right

hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal—I do not mean to be insulting to him—to refer to the changes that we propose in the Measures while overlooking the changes that were made in the 15th and 16th centuries in the 39 Articles, including the repudiation of transubstantiation, the repudiation of clerical celibacy and the reduction in the number of sacrements from seven to two, all of which were fundamental. My hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South was especially anxious that the broad base of the Church of England includes as many people as possible and should not be undermined by what we are discussing today. I refer especially to paragraph 3 on page 24 of the report that he joined me in publishing. It says that we hope to enter a process in which it is desirable that both those in favour and those opposed should be recognised as holding legitimate positions". I cannot think of a more comprehensive or promising statement than that made by the bishops at the Manchester gathering in June.

It being half-past Two o'clock, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Order [22 October]:

The House divided: Ayes 215, Noes 21.

Division No. 376][2.30 pm
AYES
Abbott, Ms DianeCoffey, Ann
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Cohen, Harry
Alexander, RichardColvin, Michael
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Allen, GrahamCorbyn, Jeremy
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Corston, Ms Jean
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)Couchman, James
Arbuthnot, JamesCousins, Jim
Armstrong, HilaryCryer, Bob
Ashby, DavidCunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyCurrie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Austin-Walker, JohnDavies, Quentin (Stamford)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Baldry, TonyDavis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I)
Banks, Matthew (Southport)Denham, John
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Dobson, Frank
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Dowd, Jim
Barnes, HarryDurant, Sir Anthony
Barren, KevinDykes, Hugh
Bates, MichaelEagle, Ms Angela
Battle, JohnEnright, Derek
Bayley, HughEvennett, David
Beith, Rt Hon A. J.Fenner, Dame Peggy
Benn, Rt Hon TonyField, Frank (Birkenhead)
Bennett, Andrew F.Fisher, Mark
Benton, JoeFoster, Rt Hon Derek
Bermingham, GeraldFoster, Don (Bath)
Berry, Dr. RogerFox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Betts, CliveFox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Boateng, PaulFraser, John
Boswell, TimFreeman, Rt Hon Roger
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)Gale, Roger
Boyce, JimmyGapes, Mike
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterGarrett, John
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)George, Bruce
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)Gerrard, Neil
Browning, Mrs. AngelaGodman, Dr Norman A.
Burt, AlistairGolding, Mrs Llin
Butler, PeterGordon, Mildred
Byers, StephenGorman, Mrs Teresa
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Gorst, John
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Greenway, Harry (Eating N)
Chapman, SydneyGriffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clapham, MichaelGunnell, John
Clappison, JamesHall, Mike
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)Hanley, Jeremy
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Hannam, Sir John
Clwyd, Mrs AnnHardy, Peter
Harman, Ms HarrietO'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Harris, DavidO'Hara, Edward
Harvey, NickOlner, William
Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyOttaway, Richard
Heald, OliverPattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Heppell, JohnPendry, Tom
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.Pickthall, Colin
Hill, Keith (Streatham)Pope, Greg
Hoey, KatePowell, Ray (Ogmore)
Hordem, Rt Hon Sir PeterPrentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Primarolo, Dawn
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)Quin, Ms Joyce
Hutton, JohnRandall, Stuart
Illsley, EricRaynsford, Nick
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Johnston, Sir RussellRowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Jones. Martyn (Clwyd, SW)Ruddock, Joan
Jowell, TessaRumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldSainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Key, RobertSedgemore, Brian
Kilfedder, Sir JamesShephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Kilfoyle, PeterShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Knapman, RogerShore, Rt Hon Peter
Knox, Sir DavidShort, Clare
Lait, Mrs JacquiSimpson, Alan
Leighton, RonSkinner, Dennis
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Lidington, DavidSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lilley, Rt Hon PeterSoley, Clive
Livingstone, KenSpearing, Nigel
Lloyd, Tony (Stratford)Spellar, John
Luff, PeterSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir NicholasSteen, Anthony
MacGregor, Rt Hon JohnStern, Michael
Mackinlay, AndrewStreeter, Gary
Me William, JohnTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Madden, MaxTaylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)
Maddock, Mrs DianaTemple-Morris, Peter
Mahon, AliceThomason, Roy
Malone, GeraldTipping, Paddy
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)Tyler, Paul
Marshall, John (Hendon S)Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Martlew, EricWaller, Gary
Meacher, MichaelWalley, Joan
Meale, AlanWard, John
Mellor, Rt Hon DavidWicks, Malcolm
Michael, AlunWilkinson, John
Miller, AndrewWilshire, David
Milligan, StephenWinnick, David
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)Wise, Audrey
Morley, ElliotWolfson, Mark
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)Yeo, Tim
Mowlam, MarjorieYoung, Rt Hon Sir George
Mudie, George
Mullin, ChrisTellers for the Ayes:
Newton, Rt Hon TonyMr. David Madel and
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)Mr. Roger Sims.
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
NOES
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)Neubert, Sir Michael
Bowden, AndrewPaisley, Rev Ian
Carlisle, John (Luton North)Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Channon, Rt Hon PaulRoss, William (E Londonderry)
Cormack, PatrickWaterson, Nigel
Gummer, Rt Hon John SelwynWiddecombe, Ann
Hunter, AndrewWiggin, Sir Jerry
Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Kirkhope, TimothyTellers for the Noes:
Leigh, EdwardMr. Michael Trend and
Merchant, PiersMr. Roger Evans.
Nelson, Anthony

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,That the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure, passed by the General Synod of the Church of England, be presented to Her Majesty for her Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Order [22 October],That the Ordination of Women (Financial Provisions) Measure, passed by the General Synod of the Church of England, be presented to Her Majesty for her Royal Assent in the form in which the said Measure was laid before Parliament.—[Mr. Alison.]

The House divided: Ayes 195, Noes 19.

Division No. 377][2.41 pm
AYES
Abbott, Ms DianeDurant, Sir Anthony
Alexander, RichardEagle, Ms Angela
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)Enright, Derek
Allen, GrahamEvennett, David
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Fenner, Dame Peggy
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)Fisher, Mark
Arbuthnot, JamesFoster, Rt Hon Derek
Armstrong, HilaryFoster, Don (Bath)
Ashby, DavidFraser, John
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyFreeman, Rt Hon Roger
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Gale, Roger
Austin-Walker, JohnGapes, Mike
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)Garrett, John
Banks, Matthew (Southport)George, Bruce
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Gerrard, Neil
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Godman, Dr Norman A.
Barnes, HarryGolding, Mrs Llin
Barron, KevinGordon, Mildred
Bates, MichaelGorman, Mrs Teresa
Battle, JohnGorst, John
Bayley, HughGriffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Beith, Rt Hon A. J.Gunnell, John
Benn, Rt Hon TonyHall, Mike
Bennett, Andrew F.Hanley, Jeremy
Benton, JoeHardy, Peter
Bermingham, GeraldHarman, Ms Harriet
Betts, CliveHarvey, Nick
Boateng, PaulHattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Boswell, TimHeald, Oliver
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)Heppell, John
Boyce, JimmyHiggins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterHill, Keith (Streatham)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)Hoey, Kate
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Browning, Mrs. AngelaHughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Burt, AlistairHughes, Simon (Southwark)
Butler, PeterHutton, John
Byers, StephenIllsley, Eric
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Chapman, SydneyJohnston, Sir Russell
Clapham, MichaelJones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Clappison, JamesJowell, Tessa
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Clwyd, Mrs AnnKey, Robert
Coffey, AnnKilfedder, Sir James
Cohen, HarryKilfoyle, Peter
Colvin, MichaelKnox, Sir David
Cope, Rt Hon Sir JohnLait, Mrs Jacqui
Corbyn, JeremyLeighton, Ron
Corston, Ms JeanLester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Couchman, JamesLidington, David
Cousins, JimLilley, Rt Hon Peter
Cryer, BobLivingstone, Ken
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)Luff, Peter
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Denham, JohnMackinlay, Andrew
Dobson, FrankMadden, Max
Dowd, JimMaddock, Mrs Diana
Mahon, AliceSainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Malone, GeraldScott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Marshall, John (Hendon S)Sedgemore, Brian
Martlew, EricShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Meacher, MichaelShore, Rt Hon Peter
Meale, AlanShort, Clare
Michael, AlunSimpson, Alan
Miller, AndrewSkinner, Dennis
Milligan, StephenSmith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Morley, ElliotSoley, Clive
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)Spearing, Nigel
Mowlam, MarjorieSteen, Anthony
Mudie, GeorgeStern, Michael
Mullin, ChrisTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Newton, Rt Hon TonyTaylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)Temple-Morris, Peter
Oakes, Rt Hon GordonThomason, Roy
O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)Tipping, Paddy
O'Hara, EdwardTrend, Michael
Olner, WilliamTyler, Paul
Ottaway, RichardWalker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyWaller, Gary
Pendry, TomWalley, Joan
Pickthall, ColinWard, John
Pope, GregWicks, Malcolm
Powell, Ray (Ogmore)Wilkinson, John
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)Wilshire, David
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)Winnick, David
Primarolo, DawnWise, Audrey
Quin, Ms JoyceWood, Timothy
Randall, StuartYeo, Tim
Raynsford, NickYoung, Rt Hon Sir George
Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Roche, Mrs. BarbaraTellers for the Ayes:
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)Mr. David Madel and
Ruddock, JoanMr. Roger Sims.
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
NOES
Bowden, AndrewMerchant, Piers
Channon, Rt Hon PaulNelson, Anthony
Cormack, PatrickNeubert, Sir Michael
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)Paisley, Rev Ian
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Gummer, Rt Hon John SelwynRoss, William (E Londonderry)
Hunter, AndrewWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame ElaineTellers for the Noes:
Kirkhope, TimothyMiss Ann Widdecombe and
Knapman, RogerMr. Roger Evans.
Leigh, Edward

Question accordingly agreed to.