There are approximately 650 parochial appointments in the gift of the Crown, of which patronage for around 450 is exercised on the Crown's behalf by the Lord Chancellor. In some cases, the patronage right is shared in turn with other patrons of the benefice; 103 of those appointments are held by women.
There is clearly still some way to go. Does the hon. Gentleman agree with me that it really is time that the Church of England stopped discriminating against 50 per cent. of the human race when it comes to episcopal appointments? Can he imagine this House finding it expedient to agree to any Measure from Synod that sought to discriminate against women, in the hope that it was going to allow women bishops in the Church of England—but not at any price?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comments. He will remember that this House voted almost unanimously, but certainly overwhelmingly, for women priests way back in 1992. Given that he is a member of the General Synod, he will know that in July it will look at the options for progressing the ordination of women as bishops, informed by the recently published report of the legislative drafting group, chaired by the Bishop of Manchester. This House—in its majority, I think—supports women bishops and we urge the Church in this case to make haste less slowly.