Moved by Lord Faulkner of Worcester
At end insert “but that this House regrets that the Ecclesiastical Committee was not given the opportunity to consider the report of the investigation carried out by Dame Heather Steel into the handling of safeguarding issues by the church in Jersey.”
My Lords, I have taken the unusual step of tabling an amendment of regret to the Motion moved so ably by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham, because it is demonstrably clear to me as a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee that a senior and distinguished member of the clergy, the very reverend Bob Key, the former Dean of Jersey, had suffered a grave injustice at the hands of the Church of England during the events that led up to the decision on
That followed publication of an investigation carried out for the Winchester diocese by a psychotherapist called Miss Jan Korris. Her report was highly critical of the dean but contained serious flaws. As the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Chartres, said in his brilliant report on the relationship of the Channel Islands to the wider Church of England:
“That there were flaws may, in significant measure, be attributable to the fact that the draft report was published on the diocesan website before the participants could take advantage of the offer provided by Ms Korris to give them the draft report” before publication.
Adding to the hurt caused to the dean and to others on Jersey, it remained there until 2016 and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester and the dean never met to discuss it. The dean was reinstated on
In the next month, a further inquiry was commissioned by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester under the chairmanship of Dame Heather Steel, a former judge of the High Court of Justice and the courts of appeal on Jersey and Guernsey. A full-page advertisement in the name of the right reverend Prelate was inserted in the Jersey Evening Post on
Within three months, the right reverend Prelate was able to say that, based on what he had seen of Dame Heather’s findings to date, he would not be taking disciplinary action against any member of the clergy, but had decided not to publish the Steel report. It was not until May 2016 that the Bailiff of Jersey was told that he would not get a copy of the report, and that prompted the response from him that
“the decision will come as a disappointment to many in and outside the islands.”
As someone who knows the Channel Islands well— I declare an interest as a vice-chair of the Channel Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group—I can tell the House that that was quite an understatement. The view on Jersey about how their much-loved and respected dean, who served ex officio in the States Assembly and had a commission under letters patent from the Queen, was one of hurt and outrage.
One example—there are many others—is a letter from Senator Sir Philip Bailhache, a former Bailiff, to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury on
“It is a sad fact that no pleasure has been expressed, either publicly or privately (to the best of my knowledge), by the Bishop of Winchester that the clergy in Jersey have been exonerated.
Furthermore, no expression of regret has ever been forthcoming for the unjustified humiliation and distress visited upon the Dean and his wife.”
A press release issued on
“Dame Heather telephoned the Bailiff this morning as she too had received notice from the Bishop of Winchester’s lawyers of his decision not to publish her report. She said that she had written to the Archbishop some months ago to say that the Dean and the other member of clergy concerned were good men who should be exonerated. She told the Bailiff that ‘This exoneration should now be made public. It is totally inappropriate that my report should be suppressed without reference to this fact.’”
On the same day, the Bailiff received a letter from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, in which he said that he had
“met the Dean and his wife at Lambeth on 11th May.”
“I remain deeply conscious of the enormous personal stress, hurt and uncertainty which Bob and Daphne have suffered” and referred to Dame Heather’s public statement that
“no blame for the handling of the original complaint … can rightly be attributed to them.”
He also said that he offered
“an apology for the hurt and the treatment which they have received over these past years”.
The most reverend Primate’s generosity of spirt will come as no surprise to those of us in your Lordships’ House who admire him and regard him as a friend. It is a pity, though, that not everyone in the Church hierarchy has shown a similar understanding towards the former dean’s difficulties. Had they done so, it might not have been necessary for this measure to be brought before us and for the Channel Islands to move from the diocese of Winchester to the diocese of Salisbury after 451 years. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham for setting out so clearly the background to and information on the Motion. I can see that this is extremely complicated and distressing; I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, for setting out the distressing background to this measure.
The Church of England, of which I am a member, has some very obscure mechanisms for dealing with its internal operations—something that Trollope would still recognise if he were alive today. I am well used to parishes being moved to different deaneries as the number of worshippers changes and the availability of clergy in post diminishes. I am also used to some deaneries disappearing altogether and the boundaries of others being extended, but this is the first time I have come across a transfer from one diocese to another. Of course, it may be much more common than I imagine and just has not crossed my radar before.
The Channel Islands are a very distinctive community. Guernsey and Jersey have their own legislatures. They are beautiful, interesting and have a good climate. Most of us know this, and know that they are the only UK soil to have been invaded during the Second World War. Therefore, it seems all the more poignant that they should have suffered the sorry tale of the events that we are debating today. Safeguarding can be a thorny problem; if it is not handled well, there are ramifications for a number of people on the sidelines.
There are sure to be differences of opinions on both sides about the outcome, and having read the briefing paper, I believe that moving the Channel Islands from the Winchester diocese to that of Salisbury is the right way forward. Following the report of the commission of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Chartres, on
I am content that this matter has been dealt with properly. I am afraid I do not support the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, in his Motion to go back through the process of engaging the Ecclesiastical Committee, four members of which are taking part in this debate. Having long been a passive supporter of the disestablishment of the Church of England, especially when dealing with faculties, I am not persuaded. It is time to move on. I support the right reverend Prelate in the Church of England’s wish to move the Channel Islands to the diocese of Salisbury.
My Lords, unlike other distinguished Members of this House who have taken part in this debate, and who in some cases have enormous experience of these issues, I have no interests to declare of close connections to the hierarchy of the Church of England, and I have been a not too regular communicant over the years. However, I am a lawyer, and am most interested to see equity and justice.
At one level this is a simple transfer of oversight over the Channel Islands or bailiwicks from one mainland diocese to another—from Winchester to Salisbury—but to me, as a relative outsider, it raises a number of questions, especially now that I have read the papers and reports, from the commission of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, so ably chaired by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Chartres, and the Ecclesiastical Committee’s evidence session on
Also, it appears that there has been a long period—some seven years—with no proper relationship in place between the islands and the mainland Church. Was this not detrimental to the care and protection of the islanders? Looking at the historical issues, the link with the Winchester diocese has, as the right reverend Prelate pointed out, been maintained since 1569, through war and peace, so simply replacing one diocese with another without the same long connection needs a good reason. As the commission’s report also states, none of this should be agreed without a more thorough examination of the legal and constitutional relationships between the Channel Islands and the mainland in Church matters. Again, the excellent report of the commission highlights that mere understandings going back 400 years were not really sufficient to handle disciplinary matters or changes in international human rights rules, and not sufficiently precise in direction to deal with disputes between islands and mainland, and, more practically, between different grades in the Church hierarchy.
I am interested in hearing the right reverent Prelate’s responses, but I am forced to conclude that we must be very careful not to make such radical changes in institutional structures for what might appear, to the layman at least, to be situations which surely are soluble in some other way.
My Lords, I am very glad to follow those comments by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope. He raises some very pertinent questions, which I shall attempt to address as someone who chaired this commission, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham said in his excellent introduction. I was very fortunate in my fellow commissioners, to whom I pay tribute. One is a distinguished Member of your Lordships’ House, the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, and the other is the eminent and learned judge, Sir Christopher Clarke.
The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, very properly described the painful sequence of events. There had been a breakdown in relations between the diocese of Winchester and the church and deaneries of Jersey and Guernsey. We discovered, through our visits to the islands and interviews with the various interested parties, a desire for reconciliation on all sides, but a general agreement that there was no going back. The noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope, very properly asked what the interim measures were. As a matter of fact, interim oversight of the church in Jersey and Guernsey was given to an assistant bishop in the diocese of Winchester, Bishop Trevor Willmott, to whom I pay tribute and who did some extraordinarily good work.
The hope is that this new structure will enable us to move forward and, in course of time, will lead to a healing of memories. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope, suggested, it is clear that much of the difficulty arose because of a lack of clarity about the respective roles of the diocesan bishop and the deans of Jersey and Guernsey in the context of the very particular constitutional and legal traditions of the Channel Islands. It was our task as a commission not to pass judgment on the controversies of the past but to identify a clear way forward that would both recognise the enhanced responsibilities of modern bishops in contemporary culture—particularly for matters such as safeguarding—and respect the particular traditions of the Channel Islands.
As we debate this afternoon, there is a great deal of work going on to amend the canons and to establish a much clearer set of protocols to enable a fruitful partnership between the deaneries and other parts of the Church of England. By supporting this Motion, noble Lords will be creating a foundation for the trust and the certainty that are necessary if we are to learn from the painful experience of the past. This measure will ensure that, as far as possible, there is a structure within which the Church of England in both the diocese of Salisbury and the deaneries of Jersey and Guernsey can flourish.
My Lords, we are used to seeing some fairly strange-looking bits of legislation coming from the Church of England and going through Parliament but, when I first looked at this, I wondered what it was and did a quick double take, because it is not usual to move control from one diocese to another. Then a little bit of digging seemed to expose something that was basically—well, the cock-up school of history is what comes to mind. There has been a huge row that it seems could not be resolved except by a huge change in management. I may be oversimplifying it and missing one or two of the finer points, but I do not think so.
The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Chartres, has just give us more background, and my noble friend Lady Bakewell summed up what would probably be my attitude at the end of this—but the questions initially asked by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope, need reiterating. So, when he sums up, can the right reverend Prelate say what lessons have formally been learned and what processes will be brought into place to stop this sort of thing happening again, or at least make it less likely?
If you have something where information is not coming out and people do not know exactly what is going on, reputations are getting damaged and it is going on for longer, that is basically a failure of the system, regardless of the initial complaint. Can we have an assurance that, at the end of this, the Church, which is the established Church and an official part of our nation, will have better management processes in place? That is what we deserve to get out of it, as do all those involved and all the parishioners.
It may be further complicated because of the status of the Channel Islands but, with such a process and knowing that the institution itself has taken these things on board and is looking at them, we can take away from this at least some reassurance that it will not happen again or, at least, if it does, things will be dealt with that little bit quicker.
My Lords, it is fairly clear that all this sprang from obscurity of legislation, so it is very proper that we should use these processes to bring legislation into clarity. One thing that must be done is that the ledgers, tomes or articles of recollection that are kept in the bailiwick and the new associated diocese must be inscribed with advice to successive holders of the three offices that they must maintain close communication with each other as a matter of course and immediately bring to light any case where there is disagreement about the meaning of the legislation or the other documents that regulate the procedures.
In essence, the Ecclesiastical Committee seems to have agreed to a new body of law, and that is how it should be maintained. It is deeply regrettable that it was such a painful experience that brought the ambiguity to light. It will be small consolation to those who have suffered that things have now been arranged so that it is unlikely to occur again. However, the debate that we are having now offers them the same solace that the Archbishop of Canterbury has done, and that is the least that can be said now.
My Lords, this is a sad situation. However, when a relationship goes off-kilter, it is sometimes best to move on rather than attempt to repair the irreconcilable. I therefore believe that the pragmatic course has been followed. The detail of why Portsmouth might have been more geographically expedient than Salisbury has already been satisfactorily considered, so this formality should be endorsed.
However, I have broader question. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, put it succinctly but in a different manner. Is there any concern that a precedent will have been established whereby the Synod or any other relevant body regrets this measure as being a mechanism that could disrupt tried-and-tested current arrangements in future, should other independent law-making jurisdictions—I am thinking particularly of Crown dependencies, but it could possibly be extended to the Church in Nigeria and elsewhere—feel so inclined?
The last church meeting I attended was 40 years ago, when my concluding comment was that Church politics made even the Labour Party transparent in its operations—so it is a bit of a mystery to be participating as a new Member of the House of Lords in working through where the tax avoiders of Jersey ought to be linked in terms of the Church of England. It seems to me that at some stage, just as we give Ministers huge powers without making them come back to Parliament, greater powers, if not the entire power of the Church of England, ought to be given to the Church of England, which should not be required to come to Parliament—whether that requires disestablishment or not.
This issue arose because of allegations of child abuse, and Jersey has a particularly bad reputation for its approaches, systems and attitudes—so it is hardly a surprise to see the Church of England getting itself into such a tangle when allegations are made. However, it should be said that the approach of the Church of England in tackling child abuse over the past 10 years has been better than that of many other institutions in this country. There has been honesty and integrity in the way in which the leadership of the Church of England has faced up to many problems, and that should be part of the context of this debate. Frankly, if the Church of England wants to go in this particular direction, it should be allowed to do so. At some stage, we need to change the law so that it is not required to come back to Parliament to be authorised to make organisational changes of its own choice.
My Lords, in almost 50 years on the Ecclesiastical Committee, I have never come across a Measure quite like this. It has my complete support. There was clearly a total breakdown in relationship between the former Bishop of Winchester and the Channel Islands, with regard to the dean in particular, and I believe this is the right way forward as it offers a clean break.
What concerns me particularly is the time it takes for the Church of England to handle this sort of issue. Nobody can minimise the importance of safeguarding. It is, of course, essential that we have a proper system. If somebody is accused of something, it is very important that the matter is dealt with expeditiously, fairly and justly. Here in Lincoln, where I live, we have had an unfortunate period over the past almost 18 months now. I make no comment on details, save to say that I just wish we could have these things handled more expeditiously. One must not forget that it is not just the individuals against whom accusations are made whose lives are turned upside down; parochial life, and sometimes diocesan life, are effectively put on hold, and that is not good.
So I give this Measure my support unreservedly. I hope that there will be good relations henceforth within the now expanded diocese of Salisbury; I hope that one of the suffragan bishops will be given a specific and particular responsibility for the Channel Islands so that he or she can visit regularly and give a real pastoral oversight; and I hope, above all, that we have no more protracted delays within the Church of England when such matters are being discussed.
My Lords, I am chairman of the Ecclesiastical Committee. Although the committee did not see the report of Dame Heather Steel, it heard compelling evidence in support of this Measure, which has been strongly supported by the synod. There was unanimous agreement that the Measure was expedient and should pass. I do not, therefore, support the amendment.
My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate for introducing this measure. The Channel Islands are very special places. I had the privilege of some responsibility for them as they came under the Ministry of Justice when I deputised for the lead Minister, my noble friend Lord McNally, during the coalition Government. I also have a personal link. My mother, who taught in London in the Blitz, wanted to go abroad after the war—“abroad” meant Jersey—to teach at St Ouen’s primary school, formerly a parish school, where she fell in love with the islands and their people. She took the Jersey Weekly Post throughout her life, as she followed what “her children” then did with their lives.
I therefore read the September 2019 report of the commission chaired by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Chartres, with a sense of sadness. The different and independent status of the Channel Islands clearly played a major part in the conflict here. The spark for the problem was a possible safeguarding issue and the apparent desire of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester to respond to concerns in a way that over the years has not always been the case. However, what emerges is the uneasy relationship between the deans in the islands—almost mini-bishops—and their links with the mainland Church.
It is sad that in the end the historic link with Winchester, which dated back to Reformation times, has been severed, but I can see that it makes sense that the islands may now be linked with the equally historic Salisbury. I regret how long this has taken and the breakdown of communication, and I hope that relationships can be mended.
I note that the legislatures in the islands need to approve this change. I am concerned, however, about why the second report, by Dame Heather Steel, which exonerated the dean and after which he received an apology from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, was not made public. I note that the original complainant has said she did not wish the report to be published, but was that right? It is necessary now, more than it ever was, to be so much more transparent. As has been noted, the non-publication of the Steel report further undermined trust.
The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, made a very compelling case, which I hope will be of some comfort to the dean and the people of Jersey. The unique relationship of the Channel Islands with the United Kingdom made a difficult situation much more problematic, and I hope that the clarity of the 2019 report and the measures it proposes will assist. Human struggles in the Church, as elsewhere, of course echo down the years. I wish the Church in the United Kingdom and in the Channel Islands the very best in resolving this matter.
My Lords, I start by thanking the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham for giving us a bit of a history lesson in his introduction. That is always a useful addition. However, I hope that what he is proposing is rather more successful than No. 10’s apparent desire to move us to York—a matter that we discussed yesterday.
In the present case, unlike the No. 10 briefings, which so upset your Lordships, there has clearly been much discussion with and involvement of all relevant stakeholders, together with the thoughtful report of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Chartres, and his colleagues, and the thoughtful process that followed from that. I regret that any of your Lordships’ committees should not have access to any of the documents that they feel they need to do their work, but, as we have heard from the chair, the committee feels confident that it had sufficient information to make this recommendation, and I fully support this Measure. I hope that its implementation can now flow smoothly and quickly.
If the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham has some spare time, he might try also to persuade people that we should follow Section 4(2) of what is before us and put all our 16 year-olds on the electoral roll for Parliament and not simply for Church matters.
My Lords, I am grateful for the detailed care that each of the participants in the debate has taken over what is a complex and sensitive matter. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, for bringing forward his concern from the Ecclesiastical Committee. Of course, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, has just said, it is regrettable that the committee does not have access to everything that it thinks it needs. Winchester Crown Court made an anonymisation order on the report in question and therefore it has still not been published.
Referring to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, it is also right that the former dean of Jersey, the very reverend Bob Key, should be known to have been exonerated and to have had a very personal profound apology for the distress that he and his wife experienced during that time. As we know, for both respondents and complainants in the area of safeguarding in particular, it can be an extremely painful time for everyone concerned.
I am very grateful to those who are wrestling afresh with the Church of England and its mechanisms, both legal and pastoral, for their understanding that a Church governed by the law of the land, as well as by canon law, can sometimes have a slow and laborious way of dealing with urgent and painful problems. I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for mentioning that in his remarks.
The noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope, got a clear and helpful response to his concerns from the chair of the archbishop’s commission, the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Chartres, who said that this complex set of relationships between the different jurisdictions in the two bailiwicks, and the Church of England and Parliament, needs to be resolved. I think the word “cautious” was used to describe the nature of the approach to it, which is sensible. The depth with which the commission went into the matter shows not only caution but profound understanding that something needed to change, particularly for the good of the Channel Islands.
The noble Lord, Lord Addington, asked that lessons be learned. I am grateful for his challenge on that. As a Church, we are in continuous learning, particularly around the needs of those who are weak or vulnerable. Although the noble Lord, Lord Mann, mentioned child abuse, in this case, the report of Dame Heather Steel mentioned allegations involving vulnerable adults. Everyone at some point in their life is vulnerable, and the Church and the law seek to make justice work for everyone. In summary, the process we are trying to exercise is that, first of all, everyone is safe, and, secondly, justice is done on all sides. However, deep reconciliation and bringing broken relationships back together can take a considerable amount of time and courage, and this important work may be still ahead of us.
The noble Lord, Lord Elton, with his great experience, helpfully said that this looked like a clarification of legislation and therefore, although it seems complex, it should enable both the law of the land, and its improvements in safeguarding and the way that discipline is exercised, and the local traditions of the two bailiwicks to come together in a new, transparent and open way, as your Lordships have said.
The noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, was concerned that this might set a precedent. I am grateful to him for mentioning this but reassure him that the only other area that the established Church of England has a connection with in this respect is the Isle of Man. There has been a diocesan bishop in the Isle of Man since medieval times. The bishop is a Member of the Tynwald, and there is no possibility of an English diocesan bishop having jurisdiction in that area. The Crown dependencies, which he mentioned, and other countries are not subject to the established Church of England.
I am grateful to those who have spoken in support of this Measure. I hope that those who have thought about it carefully will reject the amendment and support the Measure in its entirety. Before I close, I pay tribute to all those who have worked so hard to bring the Measure to fruition, in what have sometimes been, as we have heard, very painful circumstances. I thank the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Chartres, who chaired the commission, helped ably by a member of staff, Jonathan Neil-Smith; the Second Church Estates Commissioner, who did his bit in the other place in the past 24 hours; the Ecclesiastical Committee itself, and its members from the other place and here who work tirelessly; and our own Church of England Legal Office.
The archbishop’s commission concluded its report by remarking that the islands draw on a “strong reservoir” of loyalty and good will towards the Church of England. With those who work so hard and those such as the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, who have strong family ties with the islands, I pray for the forging of relationships that both acknowledge national policies—such as on discipline and safeguarding, which I have referred to—and release energy for mission in a way that will enable the islands and the wider Church to flourish.
My Lords, I shall be very brief. I thank particularly the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham for his remarks just now. The most important thing, as far as I am concerned, is that the people who were hurt by the events of the last few years on Jersey will have gained some comfort from the remarks made in this debate tonight, and particularly from the support of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, to whom I referred in my earlier speech.
It was never my intention to divide the House tonight, or to force a vote that would send an issue back to the Ecclesiastical Committee. My purpose in tabling the amendment was to give your Lordships an opportunity to hear some of the background to the circumstances which led to this conclusion being reached and the moving of the Channel Islands from one diocese to another. I have spoken to the former dean, Bob Key, on two occasions—once this afternoon as well as earlier in the last couple of weeks—and I have been in touch with the islands. I can say that everybody concerned is content with the proposal and supports this Measure, as indeed I do wholeheartedly. However, it is important that, when individuals are unfairly singled out for criticism and there is no proper redress or a proper apology given, that should be brought to light; we should have the opportunity to express those views and put those concerns on the record, as we have done in this short debate.
Above all, I support the Measure. I congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham, and I thank him and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Chartres, in particular, for the kind of things they said about my contribution. With that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.