Cathedral Chapters (Human Resources)

Oral Answers to Questions — Church Commissioners – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 7th May 2009.

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Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Opposition Whip (Commons) 10:30 am, 7th May 2009

What advice services are available to cathedral chapters on human resources matters affecting senior employees.

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Photo of Stuart Bell Stuart Bell Second Church Estates Commissioner

The Church Commissioners do not provide any such advice to cathedral chapters; nor do they provide funding specifically for this purpose. It is for each chapter to determine what human resources it requires. The Church welcomes the announcement by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform in January that employers will get a one-stop shop for guidance on employment legislation. We expect that cathedral chapters, like other employers, will find that helpful.

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Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Opposition Whip (Commons)

I am rather disappointed by that answer. It would be helpful to cathedral chapters if advice were available on how to recruit senior members of staff such as chief executives. The hon. Gentleman might be aware that there have recently been problems in a number of cathedrals over the appointment of senior staff and, when those appointments have not worked out, over the subsequent dismissal of those members of staff. Surely the commission could be more proactive in giving advice in that area.

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Photo of Stuart Bell Stuart Bell Second Church Estates Commissioner

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be encouraged by the fact that the number of dioceses employing human resources advisers is increasing following the passage of the Ecclesiastical Officers (Terms of Service) Measure 2009, which was passed by both Houses of Parliament and given Royal Assent earlier this year. Those advisers may give advice to cathedrals, but it is up to each diocesan board of finance to determine the area of responsibility covered by its human resources advisers. Unfortunately, the commissioners' remit does not go as far as the hon. Gentleman would wish.

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Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire

On the human resources department's page on the Church of England's website, the first stated objective refers to the

"development of a diverse workforce and a fair and just workplace".

How can we allow a position in which we constantly experience delays in relation to women bishops? We cannot have a fair and just workplace when really talented women who could successfully fill those jobs are being denied the opportunity to do so, and it is certainly not a diverse work force when we have an all-male bishopric.

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Photo of Stuart Bell Stuart Bell Second Church Estates Commissioner

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for keeping the question of women bishops in the public limelight, and certainly in the limelight of the House of Commons. As I have said many times:

"The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small;

Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all."

The Synod is making progress on this issue and, while it might be a matter of regret that the House will not be able to vote on the concept of women bishops in this Parliament, I am sure the matter will come before the next Parliament.

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Photo of Robert Key Robert Key Conservative, Salisbury

I declare an interest as a lay canon of Salisbury cathedral. Will the hon. Gentleman consider the trailblazing approach adopted by the cathedral, which has 80 full-time employees and 600 volunteers? It employs a fully qualified full-time human resources manager, who also advises Sarum college, the cathedral school and the diocese of Salisbury, which in turn share human resources management across the region with other deans and chapters. This means that, together, they have a completely professional approach to the issues raised by my hon. Friend Michael Fabricant.

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Photo of Stuart Bell Stuart Bell Second Church Estates Commissioner

As a canon, the hon. Gentleman will know that he is an office holder, not an employee, so he will not be covered by this aspect of the legislation. He has made an important, encouraging point, and I think that that approach is reflected in cathedrals up and down the land. I am sure that the hon. Member for Lichfield will find that his cathedral is also benefiting from the legislation and the announcement by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.

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